Intel’s Alder Lake CPU is watershed product for the company. It’s the company’s first hybrid CPU design and also the first serious shot across AMD’s bow to let them know their days of CPU dominance might be numbered since the ill-fated Rocket Lake. The desktop version of Alder Lake launched in late 2021 to effusive praise, effectively handing the “fastest desktop CPU” crown back to Intel, with the caveat that AMD still performed well in terms of power efficiency. Today the next stage of the battle has commenced. Intel has released the high-powered mobile version of Alder Lake, the Core i9-12900HK. The company sent its most powerful Alder Lake mobile processor to reviewers care of a monstrous MSI Raider E76 notebook, and the verdict is unanimous: Intel has reclaimed the “fastest mobile CPU” award for its trophy room. It’s not even close.
A variety of media outlets received an MSI notebook to review, and it is a serious piece of kit. Aside from Intel’s newest 45w mobile CPU, it’s packing a GeForce RTX 3080 Ti GPU, 32GB of DDR5-4800 memory, two 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSDs, and every I/O option under the sun along with a 1080p 360Hz panel. This behemoth weighs a lap-crushing 8.8lbs, and costs $3,600 with just one SSD, according to Anandtech. The 12900HK is also rather audacious for a mobile part, boasting six hyper-threaded Golden Cove performance cores that can turbo boost up to 5GHz, and six Gracemont efficiency cores, for a total of 20 threads. The efficiency cores are single-threaded, and top out at 3.8GHz. It’s built using the Intel 7 node, which is a rebranding of its 10nm Enhanced SuperFin process.
Every review of Intel’s newest part is crystal clear on the 12900HK’s dominance, as nothing can even touch it across a wide range of productivity, rendering, and gaming benchmarks. Not even Apple’s newest M1 Max CPU can top it, though it is close depending on the benchmark.
Starting with our sister publication PCMag.com, it compared the Alder Lake chip to Intel’s previous Tiger Lake platform as well as AMD’s Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU, which is a 45w 16-thread chip running at 3.3GHz base clock, 4.6GHz boost clock. Now, obviously nobody expects a new chip with a new design to be slower than Tiger Lake, so we’ll skip that portion of the discussion and proceed directly to how it performs against AMD’s current top-shelf CPU, the 5900HX. To put it bluntly, it doesn’t.
Though the 5900HX is obviously a powerful CPU it can’t compete with Intel’s latest. Whether it’s Cinebench, Geekbench, Handbrake, or Photoshop, Intel’s chip dominated every single benchmark, so it wasn’t much of a contest. PCMag summarized the results of the matchup as, “Alder Lake CPU trouncing the Ryzen chip in every test.”
Comparisons with Apple’s platform are obviously tricky, as it’s apples to oranges really, but putting the 12900HK up against the M1 Max CPU is still “the best PC parts compared to the Mac’s,” and in that battle Intel also comes out on top in every test, but it is a close fight in some benchmarks. Though Alder Lake was only faster than the Max silicon by .07 seconds in its Handbrake test, and 21 seconds faster in Blender, it easily outpaced the Max chip in Cinebench, Geekbench, and Photoshop.
Over at Anandtech, the site summarized the results of their 12900HK’s benchmarking bluntly, saying, “Outright performance easily exceeds everything else on the market.” One interesting area of testing they explored that’s both interesting and relevant is the 12900HK’s power consumption. Despite it being a 45W CPU, they found in testing it was more like a 75W part, and it was even able to consume up to 110W using MSI’s “Extreme Performance” mode, which is an MSI software utility that lets users choose from Extreme, Balanced, or Silent system configurations.
Another interesting Alder Lake technology its Intel’s Thread Director, which examines the workload on each core and assigns tasks to mitigate any potential slowdowns. According to Anandtech it works beautifully, and allows the 12900HK to keep its performance quite high even when the CPU is under 100 percent load. To test it they ran PCMark 10, which tests an entire system (memory, CPU, GPU, storage) while also running Cinebench and Handbrake in the background. The results (below) show that all systems’ performance dropped, naturally, but the Alder Lake’s system performance dropped the least. They also claimed that even under full load the system always felt responsive, which is a pretty big deal. It should be noted that the Thread Director in Alder Lake only works with Windows 11.
Of course, “New CPU is faster than older CPUs” isn’t exactly breaking news, but it is still a significant achievement for Intel as the company has officially backed up its recent bragging about regaining its former glory in the CPU world. That said, the real test for Alder Lake mobile will be AMD’s upcoming Zen 3+ mobile CPUs, which it announced at CES. However, since Zen 3+ doesn’t offer any architectural improvements over its current chips, it seems less likely that AMD’s newest mobile offerings will help it turn the tide against Alder Lake.
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