Intel's Alder Lake (12th Gen) Platform

Alder Lake is the codename for the new 12th Gen Intel® Core™ processors. This will include new CPUs, Motherboards and with this generation, it will introduce compatibility with either DDR4 or DDR5 and PCIe Gen 4 & PCIe Gen 5 devices.

12th Gen Intel® Core™ processors 

The initial launch will include:

i9-12900K (& i9-12900KF)

i7-12700K (& i7-12700KF)

i5-12600K (& i5-12600KF)

Though we typically don't stock the KF models, that is still TBC.

These CPUs have a sort of "BIG.little" architecture, similar to what Qualcomm has been using for years in the Snapdragon range (big.LITTLE) of mobile phones and tablet processors. The CPUs will have a number of 'P' cores or BIG or High-Performance cores, which will include Hyperthreading. Then these will be paired with 'E' cores or little or Efficiency cores, these do not support Hyperthreading. The number will vary from model to model (see chart below). The CPUs have a Thread Director built directly into the CPU to help the operating system manage which cores to use when.

*Please note - 'Price wise' the figures quoted are not only in another currency which doesn't include VAT but those figures are also for 'per CPU in 1000 unit orders' so is not at all relevant to our pricing or end-user pricing. Those prices are effectively for 'distribution' only so should be taken somewhere between a 'very rough guide' in the best case scenario and 'completely irrelevant' as a worst case scenario.

Z690 Chipset

This is the new motherboard chipset. This has an upgraded x8 DMI Gen 4 (PCIe) link between the chipset and the CPU. This is improved over the x8 DMI Gen 3 link on the Z590 platform as well as the x4 Gen 4 link AMD uses on their X570 platform.

This is combined with the chipset itself having more available lanes with 12x lanes of PCIe Gen 4 and 16x lanes of PCIe Gen 3 which can be used for USB ports, Ethernet, WiFi & Bluetooth, and additional PCIe slots.

This isn't going to do anything for your day to day performance, therefore, the overall impact is that it is not likely to be a dealbreaker for most people, but simply a 'nice to have' feature that some of you may use at some point in the life of the machine.

DDR5 (vs DDR4)

The CPU now has support for either DDR4 or DDR5 RAM. Honestly, right now, DDR5 RAM probably isn't as big a deal as it may seem. The technologies are not cross-compatible, so you will need to choose either a DDR4 motherboard or a DDR5 motherboard and if you want to 'upgrade' from DDR4 to DDR5 mid-generation it will require changing your motherboard.

Technically speaking there are some major changes with DDR5:

It introduces the power controller to the DIMM itself (instead of having that on the motherboard). This has some advantages in terms of power efficiency and it means that things like RGB LED controls will be easier for RAM manufacturers.

It also changes the communication between the CPU & RAM so it uses 2 smaller channels instead of 1 larger channel.

The frequency is now higher (positive) as standard on DDR5 with 4800Mhz being the new 'standard' but the latency has also dramatically increased (negative) with the expectation going to be that this is ~36-40CL (vs most 3200Mhz RAM being 16-18CL).

Overall though, DDR5 is an 'efficiency' release as the voltage has dropped from 1.2v to 1.1v to reduce the power consumption of the RAM.

It also allows for higher capacities with DIMM's expected to reach 128GB per DIMM or larger in the next few years, but certainly not yet and that will require motherboards to receive patches to support (unlikely on the initial release).

In short, it is not an exciting release (yet)?

*Insider knowledge*

DDR5 is going to be in VERY constrained supply at launch and predictions are that it will stay that way for at least 3 months with supply predicted to 'pick up' sometime in Q1 2022. At this time, we are not planning on launching systems with DDR5 RAM included (TBC). If you absolutely want a system with DDR5, just keep your eyes peeled to our website and we will start listing DDR5 systems as soon as we can reliably get our hands on some stock.

*Performance speculation*

Essentially, DDR5 isn't likely to beat DDR4 performance initially. It'll probably be a few years before that happens.

As DDR4 has been going for about 7 years now, so it is well established and even the standard 3200Mhz RAM that comes with DDR4 systems now is finally a decent uplift in performance over the previous DDR3 RAM. At the launch of DDR4 the default 2133Mhz RAM that came with systems was slightly slower than the standard 1600Mhz DDR3 of the time.

It is very likely that, just like DDR4 was slower than DDR3 at launch, the initial release of DDR5 RAM is likely to be slower or might just keep up with the current DDR4 RAM. Given that DDR4 RAM also has decent overclocked 3600Mhz RAM available too, which is more stable than it used to be, it is very plausible that the jump to DDR5 at launch may not be very appealing at all.

*Personal historical experience*

In short, reliability is typically lower not to mention motherboard compatibility is hugely worse than the previous, well established, generation.

Having lived through the DDR2-3 transition as well as working at Chillblast during the DDR3-4 transition. I can tell you from my experience that the first generation of 'new' RAM is terrible. If you're buying into it for the promises of what may be possible in the future, like higher frequencies and capacities, generally speaking, the first motherboards that hit the scene never do well with these faster/larger modules and they're often unsupported or simply unstable when paired. Therefore, waiting for the 2nd or 3rd generation of motherboards that support the technology and letting DDR5 RAM manufactures learn and improve the technology, usually leads to a much better experience for the end-user.

PCIe Gen 5 (& Gen 4)

Intel's 12th Gen CPUs have a built-in 16x PCIe Gen 5 link to the first PCIe slot on the motherboard. This will be for graphics cards only, essentially and it doubles the bandwidth available vs the PCIe Gen 4 link.

*Lots of speculation and opinion*

Though it should be noted that not a single PCIe Gen 5 graphics card exists or is likely to exist in the near future. In my humble opinion, PCIe Gen 5 is an utterly pointless addition to the platform. To put it bluntly, this is simply a "we did this first" moment.

Graphics cards barely use the PCIe Gen 4 bandwidth available to them, with even the most powerful graphics card to date (RTX 3090) gaining less than 5% performance in a best case scenario when in a Gen 4 lane vs Gen 3 and in most situations the difference is literally 0% as it rarely exceeds the Gen 3 bandwidth. Given that Gen 4 doubled the bandwidth from Gen 3 we have a LONG way to go before Gen 5 matters. I'd predict 5-10 years before the average consumer makes any use of it on graphics cards.

Other resources

Older Games Disclaimer

This is something you should do your own research on but if you are planning on running 'older' video games on these CPUs you should be aware that both Intel & Denuvo are expecting Denuvo DRM to prevent or conflict with these newer CPUs due to the architecture changes.

This means you may be blocked from playing the titles or in the worst case actually receive a 'ban' in a game simply because the Denuvo DRM thinks your CPU is 'cheating'.

One way around this (maybe) will be to make sure you're playing the games through the GoG (Good old Games) launcher, as I believe they have removed DRM from almost every game on their store.

If you plan on playing older games then Intel's 11th Gen CPUs are likely to be a far better choice for you.