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The Intel Core i9-12900K vs AMD Ryzen 9 5900X and Ryzen 9 5950X rivalry is a heated battle for supremacy at the top of the mainstream desktop PC market. Make no mistake, Alder Lake represents a cataclysmic shift in Intel’s battle against AMD’s potent Ryzen 5000 chips, throwing the AMD vs Intel wars into a state of disarray. We’ve become accustomed to easy wins for the Ryzen chips — they’ve absolutely dominated our list of Best CPUs for gaming and our CPU Benchmark hierarchy for the last year — but Intel’s new design philosophy is a game-changer.

Alder Lake’s new hybrid x86 design represents Intel’s most disruptive architectural shift in a decade. The chips combine big and fast Performance cores (P-cores) for latency-sensitive work with a smattering of small and powerful Efficiency cores (E-cores) that chew through background and multi-threaded workloads. Alder Lake’s new next-gen connectivity technologies also bring big increases in throughput via DDR5 memory and PCIe 5.0 interfaces, outstripping AMD’s venerable AM4 platform.

But pricing trumps all. Intel has decided to be incredibly aggressive with its newest line of chips, perhaps looking to smash the Ryzen revolt once and for all. As a result, the $589 Core i9-12900K’s pricing lands between the $799 Ryzen 9 5950X and the $549 Ryzen 9 5900X. Still, it regularly trades blows, and even beats, the 5950X in many threaded applications that have become Ryzen’s uncontested stomping grounds, like Cinebench.

But it isn’t all sunshine and roses for Alder Lake. Intel made a few decisions that impacted the value proposition, like launching the chips without the affordable B- and H-series motherboards that tend to be the favorite for mainstream gamers. The new hybrid design also has a few early teething pains in Windows 10.

All of this means this is anything but the clear-cut victory it appears to be if you look at just the benchmark charts. Below we’ve put the Core i9-12900K vs Ryzen 9 5900X and Ryzen 9 5590X in a six-round faceoff to see which chip takes the crown in our gaming and application benchmarks, along with other key criteria like power consumption and pricing. Let’s see how the chips stack up. 

Features and Specifications: Intel Core i9-12900K vs Ryzen 9 5950X and Ryzen 9 5900X 

Intel 12th-Gen Core Alder Lake-S and Ryzen 5000 Specifications and Pricing
U.S. Price Cores | Threads P-Core Base/Boost E-Core Base/Boost TDP / PBP / MTP DDR4-3200 L3 Cache
Ryzen 9 5950X $799 16P | 32 threads 3.4 / 4.9 GHz 105W DDR4-3200 64MB (2×32)
Core i9-12900K / KF $589 (K) – $564 (KF) 8P + 8E | 16 Cores / 24 threads 3.2 / 5.2 GHz 2.4 / 3.9 GHz 125W / 241W DDR4-3200 / DDR5-4800 30MB
Ryzen 9 5900X $549 12P | 24 threads 3.7 / 4.8 GHz 105W DDR4-3200 32MB (1×32)

Intel’s hybrid architecture brings what we would normally consider ‘odd’ thread arrangements. That’s because the P-cores are hyper-threaded, while the E-cores only have a single thread.

As a result, Intel’s $589 16-core Core i9-12900K comes with eight P-cores that support hyper-threading, and eight single-threaded E-cores for a total of 24 threads. That’s a 33% increase in thread count over the previous-gen Core i9-11900K. The P-cores have a 3.2 GHz base, and peak frequencies reach 5.2 GHz with Turbo Boost Max 3.0 (this feature is only active on P-cores). Meanwhile, the E-cores have a 2.4 GHz base and stretch up to 3.9 GHz via the standard Turbo Boost 2.0. The chip is also equipped with 30MB of L3 cache and 14MB of L2.

The 12900K comes with the integrated UHD Graphics 770 engine with 32 EUs that run at 1,700 MHz. That’s a big advantage over the graphics-less 5950X and 5900X so, if you don’t plan to use a discrete GPU, Intel wins by default. Intel also has the Core i9-12900KF, which is identical to the 12900K but lacks the Intel UHD Graphics 770 engine, for $564.

Intel has replaced its old TDP rating and now uses a Processor Base Power (PBP) value (PL1) in place of TDP and a secondary Maximum Turbo Power (MTP) value that represents the highest power level during boost activity (PL2). You can read more about that change here.

The 12900K comes with 125W PBP (base) and 241W MTP (peak) power ratings, but be aware that Intel changed its default boost duration for all K-series chips to an unlimited value. This means the chip can always operate at the 241W MTP when it is under load, though the actual power use will vary with application intensity.

The 12900K faces off with the 12-core, 24-thread Ryzen 9 5900X and the 16-core 32-thread Ryzen 9 5950X. These chips come with 32MB and 64MB of L3 cache, respectively, only have high-performance cores, and have a 105W TDP rating. Both chips support DDR4-3200 memory and the PCIe 4.0 interface.

The Core i9-12900K has a big lead in terms of connectivity. All Alder Lake chips support DDR4-3200 or up to DDR5-4800 memory (odd DDR5 population rules apply). Alder Lake chips also expose up to 16 lanes of PCIe 5.0 and an additional four lanes of PCIe 4.0 from the chip for M.2 storage. These new technologies add cost to the Z690 motherboards that house the chips, and the current pricing for DDR5 memory is eyewatering. However, Intel’s Z690 supports DDR4, too, but it appears that you’ll only find DDR4 support on lower-end Z690 boards. Intel hasn’t launched the value-centric B- and H-series chipsets yet, so platform pricing will be high for now.

Intel also added 12 lanes of PCIe 4.0 to its chipset (in addition to its 16 lanes of PCIe 3.0), and now offers a total of 28 lanes. Intel has also widened the DMI connection between the chip and the chipset, which now serves up twice the throughput. The increased DMI throughput is also beneficial for Z690’s bolstered connectivity options, like the new second USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 20 Gbps connection (other new features are listed here).

Winner: Intel