Last year, the Core i9-12900K was the fastest gaming CPU we've ever tested, but the new Special Edition Core i9-12900KS pushes the Alder Lake family up to 5.5 GHz, a new record high for PCs, making it the fastest desktop PC chip overall. On April 5, the 12900KS will be available in the market, but we got our hands on a chip ahead of launch.
AMD's Ryzen 7 5800X3D is waiting in the wings, but that's not the end of it. AMD says the 5800X3D with its 3D-stacked SRAM, a whopping 96MB of L3 cache, will retake the crown as the best CPU for gaming when it arrives on April 20.
There is no doubt about it, Intel's goal with the 12900KS is to dominate the performance charts before the 5800X3D even appears on the market. Using the 12900K's existing 16-core, 24-thread design, Intel hopes to reach 5.5 GHz on two cores and 5.2 GHz on all cores. Both are enabled by Intel's most advanced boosting technologies.
The Core i9-12900KS comes with a 150W processor base power (PBP), a record for mainstream desktop processors. The 12900KS runs hot, so a beefy cooling solution is needed to handle its extreme temperatures. However, as we'll explain, some of that tendency to run hot is by design to enable desktop computers to reach a new level of performance.
With the faster 12900KS, performance addicts will be satisfied. It comes with the same overall feature set as the 12900K, such as support for DDR5 and PCIe 5.0. But AMD won't be able to match that connectivity until its 5nm Ryzen 7000 ‘Raphael' Zen 4 processors arrive later this year. As part of Alder Lake's new hybrid x86 design, the 12900KS comes with eight big and fast Performance cores (P-cores) and two clusters of small and powerful Efficiency cores (E-cores) that are designed to chew through background tasks.
Despite having been beaten by AMD's Ryzen 5000 family, Intel's Core i9-12900K has catapulted the company back to the top of the performance and value charts. However, AMD has finally responded with seven new chips that will be available this month. Similarly to Intel's only other 'Special Edition' chip, the Core i9-9900KS, Intel's Core i9-12900KS is Intel's brazen attempt to keep the performance crown no matter what.
As a result, while Intel's 12900KS offers impressive performance, its $739 premium might not make it as good a buy for gaming as AMD's $549 5800X3D. A 16-core Core i9-12900KS will beat the 8-core 5800X3D in any other type of work due to its core count and frequency advantage. Let's see how Intel's Special Edition stacks up.
Price and Specifications of Intel Alder Lake-S Core i9-12900KS
Intel hasn't confirmed that it will produce a limited number of the Core i9-12900KS like it did with the Core i7-8086K 'Limited Edition'. However, we do know that the Core i9-12900KS' thousand-unit price of $739 (essentially the wholesale MSRP) means that consumers can expect it to retail at around $775 to $800.
AMD says its Ryzen 7 5800X3D will be faster at games but costs $449 compared to the $449 Ryzen 9 5950X with 16 cores and 32 threads that costs around $600 now. After the initial demand is satisfied, there's a good chance we'll see the Core i9-12900KS sell for less than its suggested price.