There sure are a lot of “world’s fastest” gaming CPUs around these days. Just two weeks after AMD confirmed a date and price for their own champion, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, Intel have formally unveiled the Core i9-12900KS: a new addition to the 12th Gen Alder Lake lineup that promises superlative performance and up to 5.5GHz clock speeds.
That’s all less than five months since the launch of the original Intel Core i9-12900K, which as far as I can tell actually is the best CPU for gaming right now in pure performance terms. And the Core i9-12900KS is even set to beat the Ryzen 7 5800X3D to shelves, releasing on April 5th to the Ryzen’s April 20th street date. No brakes on the top-tier processor train, it seems.
The Core i9-12900KS, of course, isn’t part of an entirely new CPU generation. First teased during CES 2022 in January, it uses the same hybrid architecture as the Core i9-12900K, matching its count of eight powerful Performance cores and eight power-saving Efficiency cores. It’ll have the same LGA 1700 socket and Intel 600 series chipset compatibility too. The new model’s 150W base power eclipses the Core i9-12900K’s 125W, mind, and Intel have apparently been more picky about which silicone it uses, enabling the sky-high maximum boost clock speed of 5.5GHz. The Core i9-12900K, by comparison, maxes out at 5.2GHz on its Performance cores.
This is a more traditional approach to achieving MAXIMUM POWER than AMD’s, which involves stuffing the Ryzen 7 5800X3D with stacks of extra L3 cache to help speed up number-crunching. I suppose we’ll have to wait until later in April to find out which one works better, though AMD can already claim a victory on price. The Core i9-12900KS will launch with an RRP of $739, making the $449 Ryzen 7 5800X3D look like lost sofa change. I haven’t found UK pricing yet, and after seeing how much Intel’s latest will cost in the US, I’m not sure I want to.
There’s also the question of whether the Core i9-12900KS will be worth such expense even if it fulfils the “world’s fastest” promise. It may well outpace the Ryzen 7 5800X3D and will almost definitely beat the Core i9-12900K, but in games specifically, really high-end CPUs can produce diminishing returns. The Core i9-12900K was never more than 10fps ahead of the much cheaper Core i5-12600K in our games benchmarks, and was on mere equal footing just as often. That’s not to make assumptions on how the Core i9-12900KS will perform, but let’s just say that extra clock speed will need to do some seriously heavy lifting.
In any case, it won't be the only PC hardware Intel reveals this week. Tomorrow, March 30th, Intel will finally give some meaty details on their Arc Alchemist GPUs - though we're expecting the livestream event to focus on the laptop versions, not the desktop graphics cards.