Buying an Intel processor in 2022 is a great plan if you’re looking for powerful, capable CPUs for gaming or productivity. With plenty of cores, sky-high clock speeds, and advanced 10nm process technology, Intel’s 12th generation Alder Lake processors are the best of the best at just about every price point.
That means you don’t need to buy the best Intel CPU regardless of your plans for it. The entry-level options are fantastic for basic Office work and web browsing, while gamers will find a lot to love about the new Core i5 mid-range models. High-end gamers and those working with ultra-high definition photos and video will see a real benefit of the top chips, but whatever kind of budget and needs you have, the latest Intel CPUs have something exciting for you.
Here’s everything you need to know about buying Intel CPUs in 2022.
Intel 12th Generation CPUs
The CPU, or processor, is the true heart of any modern computer. It handles all of the general management of your data, loads up all the applications, and works together with the graphics card to deliver a beautiful and responsive gaming experience.
With the launch of the Intel 12th generation Alder Lake processors in 2021, everything from the modest Core i3s, through to the flagship Core i9s are absolutely stellar, keeping them as industry leaders. The power of Intel 12th Gen are even better at some things than the flagship designs from a generation or two ago. Even if your PC is running what was the best of the best from a few years ago, there are very compelling reasons to upgrade to Intel’s latest and greatest line of processors.
Alongside the impressive leap in performance between the 11th and 12th generation Intel chips, Alder Lake also introduced a number of unique features that really helps these latest processors standout. The top processors feature additional “efficiency” cores, alongside the more traditional performance cores, delivering not only excellent multi-threaded performance, but strong scalability in applications that can take advantage of it. That makes Intel’s 12th generation processors particularly exciting in tasks like video editing and transcoding.
They also bring support for the most cutting edge of PC features, including DDR5 memory, and PCIExpress 5.0. The newer memory standard opens up enormous bandwidth at speeds previously only accessible on DDR4 with the most expensive kits and heavy overclocking. With Intel 12th generation processors, you can add in extremely fast DDR5 kits and enjoy their added performance right out of the box.
With PCIExpress 5.0, you’re ready for the next-generation of graphics cards and solid state storage. That will mean faster graphics than ever before, and access to cutting edge storage drives which will help accelerate boot times and game load times, and may even make games play faster as new-generation titles take advantage of the faster storage systems found in the latest Xbox and PlayStation consoles.
Whether you’re a gamer, media creator, streamer, office worker, or casual web browser, there’s an Intel 12th generation CPU for you and it’ll likely be the best processor you’ve ever owned.
The Best Intel CPUs
As great as the new lineup of Intel processors are across the board, there are some chips that are better than others at certain tasks, and others still that represent the best value for money. If you’re a general consumer you may find the Intel T-series 12th-gen processors, like the 12400T, or 12100T, a little underwhelming as they are lower power versions with reduced clock speeds and performance - but they're certainly not without their uses!
Similarly so, if you just need an office machine for casual work and play, you don’t need a K-series overclocking monster like the 12600K.
Here are some of the best Intel 12th generation CPUs, and a look at who, and what they’re best suited for.
Core i5-12600K – Best Intel 12th Gen CPU For Gaming
The best performance of any Intel generation of processors, whether it’s for gaming or productivity, is almost always in the Core i9 and Core i7 models. However, the best bang for buck for gamers is found in the mid-range, where the difference between them and the very top chips isn’t drastically different.
That’s true again for the Intel 12th generation CPUs, where the Core i5-12600K is the best processor for gaming if you have any kind of budget. It has 10 cores (6P + 4E), supports up to 20 simultaneous threads, and can hit 4.9GHz when boosted. While that’s a few cores and a few hundred megahertz less than you’d get with Core i7 and Core i9 Alder Lake processors, it’s more than enough to prove competitive with those much more expensive processors in games. In most tests, there’s only a few percent performance difference, even at 1080p, and if you’re playing at 1440p or 4K, the difference is even less.
That’s only with other 12th-gen chips, though. With older Intel processors the Core i5-12600K absolutely walks all over them. It’s faster than a Core i9-11900K, which not only has more performance cores, but was the flagship Intel CPU a year ago. The fact that a mid-range chip has leapfrogged it in such dramatic fashion is nothing short of extraordinary.
If I was building a gaming PC in 2022, I’m going to put a 12600K in it. Especially if I have a good GPU to pair it with. Not only does it offer fantastic performance, but it’s much more efficient than the Core i7 and Core i9 alternatives, making it easier to fit into compact gaming PCs, and demands less from the PSU and cooling configuration.
Intel Core i9-12900K – The (2nd) Fastest CPU In The World
Intel kicked off the Alder Lake generation with an absolute bang, launching the Core i9-12900K flagship right out of the gate, and even six months on, it’s still one of the best of the best (beaten only by the brand-new Core i9-12900KS). It has eight performance cores and eight efficiency cores, for a total of 24 simultaneous threads, and can hit 5.3GHz on a couple of the performance cores at a time. It can even manage 5GHz on all cores at once, which is arguably a more impressive feat.
All of that combined with the advanced process node of Alder Lake and the advanced Golden Cove performance cores makes this the fastest CPU in the world for just about anything. It delivers higher frame rates in gaming than anything that’s come before, and in many demanding applications for video editing, video transcoding, or working with large datasets, it is faster than even processors with a greater number of performance cores.
If you’re buying a 12900K, you do need to factor in its relatively high cost, and the price of DDR5 memory to make the most of it. You’ll also need to make sure you have adequate cooling, as the 12900K pulls a lot of power and outputs a lot of heat, but if you want the best of the best in 2022, the Core i9-12900K is it.
Intel Core i5-12400 – The Best Budget Gaming Processor
Representing incredible value, the Core i5-12400 offers the same kind of gaming performance that you’d have spent over $300 on before the 12th generation released, and now with recent price cuts the 12400 is even more competitive, priced at just $170 – even less if you opt for the 12400F variant which lacks onboard graphics.
With six cores, 12 threads, and the ability to boost to 4.4GHz when needed, the Core i5-12400 has all the multi-threading potential to handle any modern game with ease when paired with a decent graphics card.
Just as important, the 12400 features a TDP of just 65W. That’s less than half that of the Core i5-12600K, and almost a quarter that of the 12900K. If you’re building a small form-factor gaming PC, or don’t have a powerful power supply to shoulder the demands of the higher-end Alder Lake processors, the 12400 is all you need for a capable gaming system. It’ll easily deliver excellent frame rates at 1080p, or work in tandem with the GPU to provide playable frame rates at higher resolutions and detail levels.
Intel Core i7-12700K – The More Affordable Production Powerhouse
While the Core i9-12900K is undeniably the flagship of its generation, the Core i7-12700K really isn’t far behind. It has only four efficiency cores, where the 12900K has eight, but it has the same eight performance cores with hyperthreading, and it can boost to 5.0GHz on a couple of cores at a time. Even more if you overclock it. That gives the Core i7-12700K near-equal performance to the 12900K in games, and competitive performance in heavily multi-threaded applications.
Better yet, it does so at a heavily reduced power and thermal demand, and at a much reduced price. You can save 50W and $200 with a 12700K over its higher-end counterpart. Although the Core i9 CPU will always win out in video editing, transcoding, and other heavily multi-threaded tasks, the performance difference isn’t stark, and if you’re more of a hobbyist where saving a few seconds here and there won’t make much of a difference to your bank balance, making a substantial saving on your CPU purchase could well be worth it.
Which Intel Alder Lake CPU Is Right For You?
One of the biggest benefits of the Alder Lake generation of processors is that you almost can’t go wrong. The K-series chips are more performative than ever, but the non-K and F models are almost as good, and often come at much lower prices.
If you’re working within a tight budget, you can save a lot of money by going for a 12100 or 12400, and you’ll still get fantastic performance in games, demanding work applications, and general web browsing and media viewing. Gamers who want more than the 12400 can offer should definitely consider the 12600K, though the 12700K and 12900K remain options for those with deeper pockets.
If you’re looking for a true workhorse though, the 12700 and up are the real kings of their generation. The 12900KS is at the absolute top of the pile if you need bleeding edge performance at any cost, but you’ll find better value with even other top chips like the 12900K.
Intel Core i9-12900K
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