Intel Core i5 12600K and Core i9 12900K With ASUS ROG Maximus Z690 Hero Review
Published: 4th November 2021 | Source: Intel | Price: i5 £289.99, i9 £579.99, Z690 Maximus Hero £519.99 |
We think it's fair to say that the 11th Generation of Intel CPUs was a bit of an aberration in their history. When you think back to famous processors in the past they are, almost without exception, Intel models. The 486, E8400, i7-920, Core i5-2500K, Core i7-7700K, the list goes on. AMD have had their successes too, the Barton Athlons, Thunderbird 1.4, the first generation Ryzens, and the current 5000 series are all superstars. Whether Intel had been resting on their laurels or what we don't know, but we do know that their history is one of rarely getting it wrong, but the 11th Generation unquestionably did.
Thankfully it was merely a temporary misstep. The 12th Generation Alder Lake is here and it's a stormer in both Core i5-12600K and Core i9-12900K guise. The Core i9 is probably best equated to the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X, both being twenty four thread CPUs. However the Core i9-12900K also has the 8 cores we saw on the Core i9-11900K, but with 8 addition Efficient-Cores. So the truth of it in core terms lies somewhere between the Ryzen 9 5900X, and the 16 core Ryzen 9 5950X. As you could see from our graphs though the new 12th Gen Core i9 is making the most of everything that is available to it, and the only times it's not sitting at the top of our graphs are those benchmarks where the 16 full-fat cores of the 5950X outperform the 8+8 arrangement on the Intel, and those are all 3D rendering/calculation-heavy ones. Everywhere else, including the claimed "Worlds Best Gaming CPU", the cards fall in favour of the new Core i9. Whereas the Core i9-11900K was outperformed by its predecessor, the Core i9-12900K smokes that and even the Core i9-10900K.
The good that came from the 11th Gen was the Core i5-11600K. A processor which sold in huge numbers and really stamped its mark on the mid-priced rigs of this world. It was a blinding gaming CPU and had more than enough performance to make those all-round system users happy too. The Core i5-12600K therefore has less of a gap to what came before than the i9 does, but it still makes good on the extra 4 Efficient-Cores it has alongside the Performance-Core six, to up the ante even more. It should prove a massive seller for those without infinite resources but who still want something that doesn't leave them gnashing their teeth in frustration.
What helps both of these processors perform so well, and also assist in dragging Intel up to the current leading edge hardware, is the inclusion of support for DDR5 and PCI Express 5.0. PCIe 5.0 is something that will help in the future perhaps a little more than the present as graphics cards don't require that much bandwidth - similar to what we saw from PCIe 4.0 - and storage that can make full use of all that bandwidth will be prohibitively expensive for the immediate future. DDR5 is slower in latency terms than the DDR4 which preceded it, something that has been true for generations now, but has enough speed to negate that disadvantage and actually make your system go even faster in the sternest tests. It is massively pricy, £115 more than the equivalent DDR4 kit, and DDR4 is hardly slow, so like PCI Express 5.0 it's a technology best thought of as something for the future rather than the right now. However, with cross compatibility you aren't forced to upgrade that bit just yet in the same way that a PCIe 4.0 M.2 will still run happily.
Special mention has to go to the ASUS ROG Maximus Z690 Hero. Whenever we're reviewing a new technology you want the first one to be an easy experience so you can quickly determine the best settings and configuration to maximise the performance. Like all ASUS products the Hero proved to be a smooth experience which greatly assisted our ability to get so much content ready for you to read at launch. It has a great set of features and more than enough power, and cooling, to have everything running without issue, including the blazing speed available to us from the latest Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR5 5200 MHz. The pricing is aggressive too, and so we'll actually be looking at the Maximus Hero in a separate review, despite covering the meat of it here. It deserves a spotlight.
With more performance from the regular cores, the addition of the Efficient-Cores to give a further boost to your productivity, and a whole raft of high bandwidth connectivity options the 12th Generation of Intel CPUs is everything we were hoping the 11th Generation would be. The Core i9-12900K is monster if you're a power-hungry user, whilst the Core i5-12600K is a great gaming CPU at an affordable price point. Welcome back, Intel, from your temporary break.