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AMD has been the leader in CPU performance since the release of its Ryzen 5000 series, with every version of their CPU lineup dominating their Intel equivalent in all kinds of tasks, including gaming, until the release of the Intel 12th Gen processors.
Instead of the typical "moar cores moar pow3r" approach that saw companies try to squeeze as many of the same cores on a single processor, the 12th CPUs basically mix different types of cores, in what is known as the big.LITTLE design.
Being personally interested as to why Intel adopted this approach, I took it upon myself to use both the 12900K and 12600K for my daily usage and gaming, and I must say, I have been thoroughly impressed so far.
So impressed, in fact, that I have moved away from AMD on my main PC, because the Intel 12th Gen fits my usage much more than their AMD counterparts.
When it was launched, a lot of reports of the Intel 12th Gen lineup revealed that these CPUs were power guzzlers. A Core i9-12900K could draw upwards to around 300 watts when running benchmarks and fully utilising the CPU.
That narrative was so big that people glossed over the fact that the 12th Gen processors are actually very efficient when they are not overclocked and pushed to the brim, due to the big.LITTLE architecture.
For those who might not be familiar, the big.LITTLE design combines high performance cores with low powered efficiency cores into one single CPU.
For example, Intel's 12900K comes with 8 performance cores and 8 efficiency cores, instead of the typical full-performance 12 to 16 cores that can be found in the AMD Ryzen 9 lines.
Wouldn't that make the 12th Gen processors less powerful than the Ryzen 5000 line of CPUs?
Well, that depends on what you are using them for.
The 12th Gen Intel processors are definitely less powerful if you compare them core for core against their AMD's Ryzen 5000 counterparts.
For example, the 12900K will still be outclassed by the 5950X if you are comparing its raw power in multithreaded workloads (if you enable AMD's PBO, or Precision Boost Overdrive).
No matter how buffed the performance cores have become on the Intel chips, they still aren't able to overcome the 5950x's efficiency in multithreaded tasks such as video rendering, due to the sheer amount of actual 'performance cores' on the AMD while using the same power draw.
If you are purely using your computer to its maximum all the time, then I would definitely recommend the 5950X. But the win for AMD stops here.
The 5900x, however, is sadly outclassed, even if you compare it to the 12900 (without the K, which is the cheaper, non-overclockable version), simply because it has fewer cores. It does go toe to toe with the 12700K however.
But wait a minute, doesn't the 12700K have only 8 performance cores with 4 efficiency cores as opposed to the 12 full cores of the 5900X? Yes, yes it does.
This just proves how strong the Intel performance cores have become. The 8 performance cores and a little help from the 4 efficiency cores are enough to best the 5900X. And because of this increase, Intel has once again reclaimed the throne to gaming performance.
Still, the biggest kicker of all definitely goes to the efficiency cores and, well, their power efficiency. Here are a few graphs to explain what I mean.
As you can see, at idle, the Intel 12th Gen uses much less power than their Ryzen 5000 equivalents.
Under light load, the Intel 12th Gen processors are still much more power saving than the Ryzens.
When loading a game and with some heavy usage (like streaming) however, you start to see the power usage between both brands enter similar territory.
On another note, I have enabled PBO on the AMD processors for this test simply because chips like the 5950X have a hard power limit of 125 watts without PBO enabled.
This doesn't help the performance of the CPU, especially when it is power starved. It will even compromise performance (like FPS in games), especially when running multiple things at the same time.
The Intel chips, however, are perpetually unlocked, so I kept them running at stock settings.
If you are constantly bombarding your PC with heavy workloads, you will definitely use less power on the 12th Gen processors. You can always keep the stock power limit of the Ryzen chips on, but that is a big trade off in performance, in my opinion.
Intel even wins at gaming
The win for Intel doesn't stop there.
When it comes to gaming, I noticed a quirk that made my experience very jarring on AMD even with PBO enabled.
I never noticed this previously (also because of the fact that anything from Intel prior to 12th Gen couldn't keep up at high FPS), but once I started to game on the 12th Gen processors, I can finally say that Intel has taken the crown back as the gaming king.
Here are some graphs to illustrate what I mean.
All games were played at medium settings.
While in some games, the 5950X manages to beat the 12900K in raw average FPS numbers, the 1% low FPS is the figure you want to take a look at.
The 1% low basically refers to the lowest 1% of all the recorded FPS data during the testing. Lower 1% numbers indicate that the game frequently dips to lower numbers in FPS.
When playing competitive games like VALORANT and Apex Legends on the Ryzens, I frequently came across in-game stutters which were very disruptive.
This can be attributed to the 1% lows, while gaming on the Intels provided a smooth experience comparatively.
Even if the Ryzens outperform the Intels for average FPS, I will take Intel's stable framerates any day of the week.
Just in case anyone is wondering, here are the specs of the test rigs. I kept the variables to a minimum, with the exception of the motherboard.
AMD motherboard: MSI X570S Ace Max
Intel motherboard: MSI Z690 Edge Wifi DDR4
Asus ROG Ryujin II 360 AIO cooler
Corsair Dominator Platinum 3600Mhz CL16 DDR4
Western Digital SN850 2TB
Seasonic Prime GX-1300 PSU
Asus ROG Strix RX 6900XT LC
These test results are enough reasons for me to switch to Intel's 12th Gen for my use cases. It doesn't use up a lot of power for menial tasks, while also being extremely stable for high FPS gaming.
It gets even more convincing when you take a look at their prices (this may depend on where you live though)
Despite the price cuts from AMD's camp, in Singapore, the 12900K can be found for as low as S$850 (US$626), while the lowest I have seen the 5950X is at S$899 (US$662).
The 5900X is even more of a terrible buy when you compare its S$700 (US$516) price tag to the 12700K's S$600 (US$442)
In the 6 core category, however, the 5600X can be found at S$350 (US$258), while the 12600K is still retailing at about S$400 (US$295).
However, when you take into account that the 12600K actually has an extra 4 efficiency cores (effectively making it a 10 core part), it is up to you to decide if the extra S$50 spent is worth it.
If your main purposes for your computer are gaming and multitasking, the Intel 12th Gen processors are your best choice for now.
Even if you choose to couple it with DDR4 memory, you are barely sacrificing any performance compared to having DDR5 in your system (and even if you think you are, you are looking at a very minimal number).
The processor saves quite a bit of power at idle and light loads, while using the same amount of power as the Ryzens in heavy workload.
Sorry, not sorry, if this article came across as being a 'fanboy'. If there is anything I am a fanboy of, it is of absolute performance and efficiency. At this point of time, Intel wins this fight.
AMD might might have a shot at this, though, when the Ryzen 7000 series processors hit the shelves. But till then, if you need to buy a CPU for gaming and daily use, I will direct you to Intel.
Dominic loves tech and games. When he is not busy getting headshotted in VALORANT or watercooling anything he sees, he does some pro wrestling.