Are Intel 12th Gen Alder Lake CPUs Worth It?

Intel has finally graduated from its meme-worthy 14nm process, even adopting a brand new hybrid architecture to mark the beginning of its comeback against AMD in terms of technological improvements in the CPU market.

But, as much as we can view this development as Team Blue’s “Ryzen 1000 moment” given the performance we have seen from Apple’s hybrid architecture, could we truly consider Alder Lake CPUs are worth the price of early adoption that they demand? Well, the answer depends on when this question is asked. Right now, maybe. But a bit later down the line in a generation or two? Most likely yes.

General considerations for Purchasing Intel 12th Gen Alder Lake CPUs:

  • Are you still using a PC from five or more years ago?
  • Do you already have an Intel 8th/9th/10th/11th Gen or AMD Zen 2/3 system?
  • Do you want the best performance money can offer right now?
  • Do you like adopting fresh new technologies early?
  • Are you building a PC mostly for modern gaming?

Are you still using a PC from five or more years ago?

If you currently use a system from more than five years ago, then Alder Lake will be a very compelling upgrade from Team Blue, simply on the basis of it having Intel’s first brand new architecture at this moment. As such, even if you are to spend a bit more on expensive Z690 motherboards and purchase DDR5 memory, the tremendous performance margins that you are about to experience easily make the investment totally worth it.

Even if AMD entices you to the efficient and price-stable performance ratio of Zen 3, the tables have basically turned around. AM4 is at the end of its life. Sure, a B550 + R5 5600X combo could save you a couple of hundred dollars right now, but it would be a safer bet to just wait for Zen 3+ (Ryzen 6000) if you’re that dedicated to sticking to AM4’s final year in 2022.

Answer: Yes, you should consider upgrading to an Alder Lake CPU now if your PC is more than five years old.

Do you already have an Intel 8th/9th/10th/11th Gen or AMD Zen 2/3 system?

The allure of Intel’s 12th Gen CPUs may be irresistible to some who already have an Intel 8th Gen or Zen 2 AMD CPU or above, but the upgrade to a 12th gen CPU may not be worth it to completely abandon your current system. Of course, if you must, then higher IPC improvements and better performance await. But do remember that your Coffee, Comet, or Rocket Lake CPU is still within the ballpark of what’s considered as perfectly usable in late-2021.

Yes, even if you are still rocking that Core i5-9400(F) “mid-range” build from 2019. Besides, if you are someone using a PC for professional purposes, chances are you still have either a Core i9-9900K, or at least a Core i7-10700K from the past few years, which is still more than enough for anything that you throw at it today, and sometime after Alder Lake has been superseded by either Raptor Lake or Meteor Lake.

By the way, the same logic also applies for all AMD Rzyen CPUs released during the same generation (R7 2700X, R5 3600, etc.), so even if you’re on Team Red, it may still be not worth the trouble of spending a fortune for the early upgrade.

Answer: No, Alder Lake CPUs aren’t worth upgrading to currently if you already have an Intel 8th Gen or Zen 2 AMD CPU or above. If you’re a casual user, your 6C/12T build is still more than enough. If you’re a professional user, your 8C/16T CPU still rocks.

Want the best performance money can offer right now?

If you want the absolute best performance Intel has to offer that money can buy for desktop machines right now, then Alder Lake is definitely worth it. Not only does it considerably surpass the best of what AMD Zen 3 can do in various theoretical workloads (sometimes even one-upping a tier higher), but it simply leaves all other previous Intel generations to dust.

There’s of course the well-pointed-out issue of Alder Lake CPUs still utilizing a lot of power. But it’s definitely not as bad as Rocket Lake, and the new power specification labels are accurate enough that customers can know exactly what to expect of their high-end Alder Lake systems when it comes to their “Base” and “Turbo” power draw.

In addition, users of high-end desktop machines hardly ever complain about power draw in practice, as pointed out by one Alder Lake CPU reviewer. And for the Core i5-12600K, such issues are hardly even present even if the benchmarks do point out a 50-watt or so difference in power draw against the 5600X for production workloads.

Answer: Yes, if money is not a problem and you want the best performing CPUs Intel has to offer, Alder Lake is indeed worth it right now.

Do you like adopting fresh new technologies early?

Brand new LGA 1700 socket, DDR5 memory, even PCIe 5.0. Assessing the worthiness of Alder Lake CPUs would inevitably also evaluate the worth of these new technologies, to which the general consensus is… it depends. For PCIe 5.0, it’d still take quite a while before that one becomes fully relevant, so you can probably count that out. The more important ones are the LGA 1700 socket compatibility and future DDR5 memory modules.

If you have invested in a nice, mid-range Z690 or B660/H670 motherboard, then you can adopt lesser costly Alder Lake CPUs in the next few months. This will then give you the proper platform that can immediately optimize the presumably more exciting Raptor Lake CPUs later in 2022.

If you chose a DDR5 motherboard, newer modules in the future might prove to be more efficient, though in terms of maximum capacity you’re still pretty much stuck to the technical limits of your Alder Lake platform.

Answer: If you are eager to test the new technologies that come along with the Intel 12 gen Alder Lake CPUs and money is not a problem, then yes they are worth it. This is especially true if you want to be an early adopter of Intels new hybrid architecture including technologies such as DDR5.

Building a PC mostly for modern gaming?

If you’re building a PC mostly for modern gaming, then the much cheaper, but still architecturally relevant Comet Lake is your most cost-effective choice on the Intel side (9th Gen Coffee Lake is actually also enough, but its die design is somewhat considerably outdated at this point).

Even as recent as a couple of months ago, many of the top tech sources including Linus and Hardware Unboxed have pointed out that 4-core 8-thread CPUs are still more than enough to meet gaming demands. While the number of cores does affect performance in a few CPU-intensive titles, it’s the basic architecture, frequency, and L3 cache that still affects frames and visual quality in games the most. It’s also the multi-tasking aspect of modern gaming, and not gaming itself, that’s an issue for lower-tier (not lower-generation) CPUs.

But it is also important to pay attention to current and future games such as BF 2042 as they have proven to be quite a CPU-dependent game.

Answer: No, Alder Lake CPUs are not worth it currently if you are building a PC mostly for modern gaming unless you fall under the two previous categories. But once the price starts to decrease, it certainly will be.

Recommended 12th Gen Alder LaKe CPU

Core i5-12600K: We recommend the core i5-12600K if you are looking for a great mid-range option for both gaming and productivity workloads as it has proven to be of good value when paired with a motherboard such as the MSI PRO Z690-A. Though the 12900K and 12700K are better options in terms of performance, however, you will have to pay a heftier price when taking all the components into account.

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