The 12th generation Alder Lake processors are ushering in a new era of desktop computing. It’s the first time we’ve seen a hybrid architecture and it marks a change in the leadership of the blue team. Even so, a great red glow hangs in the battle of the Intel Core i9-12900K vs. AMD Ryzen 9 5950X.
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Both the Core i9-12900K and the Ryzen 9 5950X are top-notch 16-core processors in their respective product ranges, and are among the best chips you can buy. To find out which is better, we put them through a series of benchmarks and comparisons. Although there is a lot to talk about, one is clearly better than the other.
Pricing and availability
The Ryzen 9 5950X and Core i9-12900K are available now, but the Core i9-12900K is out of stock at the moment. The processor has just been launched, so naturally it is difficult to find.
Even with the shortage, processors have quickly become available again, so you should be able to find one within a few weeks after the November 4 launch.
The Core i9-12900K and Ryzen 9 5950X have an MSRP of $ 589 and $ 799 respectively. However, you will likely see that they are sold at slightly different prices. The Core i9-12900K sells for between $ 620 and $ 650 right now, while the Ryzen 9 5950X ranges between $ 750 and $ 800.
There is a difference of more than $ 200 dollars between the two processors. Even taking into account sales, which generally brings the Ryzen 9 5950X down to $ 720, the Core i9-12900K is $ 70 cheaper (and that’s the highest retail price we could find). The Core i9-12900K is much cheaper.
As it should become clear as we begin to dig into our benchmarks, these two processors are performance competitors, but not price rivals.
It’s hard to compare the Core i9-12900K and the Ryzen 9 5950X based on specs. Both are 16-core processors with similar base clock speeds and boost, but the Core i9-12900K uses a hybrid processor architecture. The core count is the same on the two chips, but the cores themselves couldn’t be more different.
|Intel Core i9-12900K||AMD Ryzen 9 5950X|
|Nuclei||16 (8P + 8E)||16|
|Base frequency||3.2 GHz (P cores)
2.4 GHz (E cores)
|Pulse frequency||4.9 GHz all cores
5.2 GHz single core
|L3 cache||30 MB||64 MB|
|Base energy||125 W||105 W|
|Maximum impulse energy||241 W||N / A|
The Core i9-12900K uses a hybrid architecture. Instead of 16 performance cores, it includes eight performance cores (P) and eight efficient cores (E). The P cores are similar to the cores inside the Ryzen 9 5950X, while the E cores are much less powerful.
These cores clean up background tasks so that the P cores can focus on more demanding workloads. We cannot compare the cores directly, but we can compare the power consumption.
Sticking with previous generations of Intel, the Core i9-12900K can consume up to 241W when in turbo mode. That compares to a base power consumption of just 105W in the Ryzen 9 5950X, showing that AMD is still capable of delivering performance cores within a tight efficiency window.
When overclocked, the Ryzen 9 5950X can draw around 200W of power, but it is still well below the Core i9-12900K. The Intel chip can approach 300W when overclocked based on our tests. It’s a high-performance processor, no doubt about that, but it demands one of the best power supplies on the market.
Although we cannot compare the specifications of the Core i9-12900K and the Ryzen 9 5950X, we can compare how they translate into performance. Across the board, the Core i9-12900K takes the crown. The following tests were run with 32GB of RAM (DDR4 on AMD’s benchmark and DDR5 on Intel’s) with the latest version of Windows 11.
Naturally, this configuration favors Intel. AMD chips had some issues with Windows 11 (although they have been resolved since launch) and DDR5 is not an option for AMD at this time.
If you want to see the slight differences between Windows 10 and Windows 11, be sure to read our review of the Core i9 12900K. For DDR5, the differences are mostly negligible, and we’ll call the cases where it had a big impact on our bottom line results.
|Intel Core i9-12900K||AMD Ryzen 9 5950X|
|Cinebench R23 one core||1,989||1,531|
|Cinebench R23 multi-core||27,344||27,328|
|Geekbench 5 one core||2,036||1,726|
|Geekbench 5 multi-core||18,259||14,239|
|PC Mark 10||9,092||8,254|
|Handbrake (lower is better)||47 seconds||58 seconds|
|Pugetbench for Premiere Pro||1,066||992|
|Pugetbench for Photoshop||1,315||1,009|
Fortunately, our first test doesn’t address memory speed. Cinebench focuses directly on processor performance and clearly shows the differences between the two processors. The multi-core scores are identical, but the Core i9-12900K has a much higher single-core result (almost a 30 percent improvement).
Geekbench cares much more about memory speed. Although the Core i9-12900K is around 28 percent faster than the Ryzen 9 5950X in the multi-core test, the processors switch places with DDR4. However, the Core i9-12900K maintains the lead in single-core performance, regardless of DDR4 or DDR5.
Most of the other results reflect what Geekbench and Cinebench show: the Core i9-12900K leads significantly. It’s faster in Premiere Pro and Photoshop, and it shortened our rendering time in Handbrake by 10 seconds. The 7-Zip compression / decompression benchmark is the only one where the Ryzen 9 5950X took the lead, and it’s lower.
DDR5 is an advantage of the Core i9-12900K, but even with DDR4, it manages to outperform the Ryzen 9 5950X in most benchmarks. Not to mention multitasking, where the Core i9-12900K should really shine. When the cores are focused on a single task, they are faster than the Ryzen 9 5950X, so that should translate to multiple tasks as well.
Intel has said that the Core i9-12900K is the best gaming processor on the market, and our results back it up. In all games, the chip shows improvements over the Ryzen 9 5950X, some minor and some important.
All of our tests ran with 32GB of RAM, an RTX 3090 GPU. The results below were run at 1080p to isolate processor performance as much as possible.
|Intel Core i9-12900K||AMD Ryzen 9 5950X|
|3D Mark Time Spy||19,396||17,922|
|Red Dead Redemption 2||137 FPS||135 FPS|
|Assassin’s Creed Valhalla||118 FPS||121 FPS|
|Forza Horizon 4||234 FPS||201 FPS|
|Civilization VI (lower is better)||7.3 seconds||7.5 seconds|
On Red Dead Redemption 2, the Core i9-12900K only showed a small advantage over the Ryzen 9 5950X, but an advantage is still an advantage. It is important to consider the price here. The Core i9-12900K costs around $ 200 less than the Ryzen 9 5950X, so performance parity is still impressive.
The performance improvements are even more impressive, which is what we saw in Forza Horizon 4. It’s hard to argue with an additional 33 frames, vastly beating the Ryzen 9 5950X. Civilization VI It also showed a small improvement in turn times, although any 16-core processor should be able to go through the game’s AI without issue.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla it’s the only game where the Ryzen 9 5950X took the lead, minor as that lead. Ubisoft says that this game is struggling with the Core i9-12900K at the moment, which explains the lower result. Once again though, performance parity still favors the Core i9-12900K given its price.
Finally, 3D Mark Time Spy provides an overview of how these chips line up in general. The Core i9-12900K is about 8 percent faster. Naturally, some games stress the processor more than others, so certain games, such as Forza Horizon 4, they will see a great benefit, while others like Red Dead Redemption 2 they will only see a small increase.
Outside of processors, DDR5 is a big deal when it comes to gaming. Faster memory can have a big hit on certain titles, and the Core i9-12900K allows you to use DDR5. Both chips are over the top if you’re only concerned with gaming, but based on our testing, it’s clear that the Core i9-12900K is the better option.
Power and thermals
Although the Core i9-12900K is more powerful than the Ryzen 9 5950X, it also requires more power. The base power consumption is 20 W higher and the maximum turbo power consumption is more than 100 W more. The Core i9-12900K also has a higher operating temperature, climbing up to 100 ° C, while the Ryzen 9 5950X maxes out at 10 ° C lower.
Thermal and power demands don’t immediately disqualify the Core i9-12900K, they’re just another factor to consider. Naturally, you will need a more robust power supply and a solid cooling system to use the Core i9-12900K.
We’re talking two 16-core flagship processors we’re talking about though, so you’re probably not using a weak power supply or cooling system with either of these chips.
In all benchmarks, the Core i9-12900K outperforms the Ryzen 9 5950X. Not only that, it has access to new features like DDR5 and is optimized for Windows 11, which showed some minor advantages in our benchmarks. It is a processor that not only contains the latest and greatest technology, but also manages to fully utilize it.
Thermal and energy concerns apply. However, those problems are much easier to justify when the Core i9-12900K has as significant a performance advantage as it does.
If you are using your computer for content creation or processor intensive work, the Core i9-12900K is the best option. It also has a slight edge in games, although none of the chips show their full power as you play.