Overall and Final Verdict
With all of the testing out of the way, we can finally sit back and look a little more at the overall picture with both the i9-12900K and the i5-12600K. I mentioned it earlier but Adler Lake or what is now officially the 12th Gen Core CPUs was a huge departure from what Intel has been doing for a few years now and it couldn’t come at a better time. AMD has been chipping away at their gaming performance lead and pushing the limits for mainstream-focused CPUs with high core counts. The new hybrid design that these CPUs offer more flexibility and a way to get closer to matching those high core counts by using the e-cores which are smaller and more efficient to take up workloads that don’t always need the big monster cores performance. In my testing, both the i9-12900K and the i5-12600K impressed nearly across the board in CPU performance with the exception of wPrime. In wPrime, the classic benchmark stumbles with the mixed CPU types, you actually see better performance with the e-cores turned off. I suspect and hope that Intel Thread Director will see updates in the future for cases like that. But overall gaming performance is back on top with impressive single-core and thread performance and I was really impressed with the rendering performance in Blender and both X264 benchmarks. Both CPUs show a big improvement over last year's 11th Gen CPUs, a much bigger improvement than the last few generations have seen.
Both CPUs tested have access to a few new technologies with DDR5 support being added as well as PCIe 5. DDR5 isn’t a requirement, they do also support DDR4 as well depending on which motherboard you go with. But that does lead me to one of the downsides of the new platform. You are most likely going to invest more to move to this generation than in the past and I don’t mean because of the shortages that everything has seen for the last two years. A majority of the motherboards are DDR5 and not only that, DDR5 helps give better performance making it the better option. So even if you have upgraded in the last few years you are looking at a CPU, motherboard (which aren’t cheap), and new more expensive ram. But the new socket size also means that your old cooler may not have a bracket for the new larger socket. Thankfully on that one, a lot of companies are giving new brackets away or selling them. But as an example, Corsair which is one of the most popular AIO brands doesn’t have those brackets available for sale yet.
Both heat and power testing were interesting as well. The i9-12900K is a monster when it comes to power usage. This was even with the CPU wattage limits capped which most mid to higher-end boards leave those uncapped. This translated to the temperatures running hot as well. Even testing with a 240mm AIO cooler which in the past has been enough to handle things, the 12900K was up in the 88c range when doing the AIDA64 FPU which is extremely demanding to be fair. When gaming things weren’t as bad, but overall it was running much warmer than the 11900K (with MCE off). The i5-12600K was better, running 25 degrees lower in temps and 137 watts lower in power but it was pulling power that would have been unheard of for an i5 in the past. The power and heat can both be dealt with and both are less of an issue when you aren’t throwing a crazy workload like AIDA64’s FPU stress test at it, but you should keep it in mind. If you are planning on running a monster video card and the 12900K for example, you are going to want a big power supply and to look at the biggest cooling option your case will handle. The i5-12600K on the other hand is looking more like the sweet spot for my favorite SFF builds.
Then we finally get to pricing and this is an area that Intel did well with on both CPUs. The i9-12900K is priced at $589 for its MSRP though right now I’m seeing it sitting at $619.99. For a high-end CPU that is trying to compete (and competing) with AMDs 5900X and 5950X, it is priced a little above the 5900X and well under the 5950X. At around $600 I wouldn’t call it a value, because that is a LOT of money. But you are getting a lot for that price, especially considering how much the prices on things have gone up over the last few years. The i5-12600K on the other hand is reminding me of the i7-2600K from 10 years ago which many consider to be one of the best CPUs Intel has ever launched. It is priced with an MSRP of $289 and is selling for $319.99 right now and in our tests, it was competing and often outperforming the i9-11900K from last year. Talk about value! Both of these and the i7-12700K all come with onboard graphics as well which right now could be very important. But you can save money going with the KF versions of all three CPUs if you don’t need that. Going with a KF CPU will save $20. As for what my overall opinion of both CPUs is, well the 12900K is a monster, and if you want the latest and greatest that is what you need. But the 12600K is looking even better with last year's flagships performance at i5 pricing.
Live Pricing: HERE
Live Pricing: HERE