Intel's Alder Lake is big. small CPU design, tested: It's a barn burner

After spending a few days poring over Intel's latest consumer-grade CPU design, we got some surprising news: Intel's latest Ryzens is faster than AMD's latest Ryzens in both single-threaded and most multithreaded benchmarks.
We suspect this will be particularly surprising to some since Intel's latest desktop CPUs have a mixed "big".Similar to the ARM CPU design.AMD's flagship Ryzen 9 5950X is a traditional 16-core 32-thread design, all of which are of the "big" high-performance type with symmetrical multithreading (SMT, also known as "hyperthreading"). By comparison, the i9-12900K offers 16 cores and 24 threads, with eight "performance" cores having SMT and eight lower-performance "efficiency" cores having no SMT.
Although the world largely understands big. Mobile CPU designs are rare -- for non-delay-sensitive tasks, using a slow but efficient core means longer battery life and less heat wasted -- and this value is not well understood in desktop CPUs, where power and heat budgets are not an obvious issue. But there are still good reasons for hybrid designs, even on desktops where CPU space is still very limited, and you can fit more and smaller "efficiency" cores into a given package size.

The proof of the pudding, they say, is in the tasting, or this case, in the benchmarking. Despite having the same number of cores and fewer threads, Intel handily beat AMD in almost all multithreading benchmarks for the first time in years. Unfortunately, Intel still needs more power to achieve these results; Despite a theoretically more efficient chip layout, Alder Lake consumes more power and runs hotter than Zen 3.
We tested Alder Lake on the latest Windows 11 below, but our Ryzen results are on Windows 10, which ensures AMD's punishment on L3 cache and preferred core selection while giving Alder Lake a big one. Windows 11 itself does not require much architectural support.
For the first time in years, it's not just a matter of whether Intel has surpassed its predecessor -- Intel has beaten AMD's best consumer CPU products almost across the board.
In addition to nearly doubling from the i9-11900K to the i9-12900K, Intel also beat the Ryzen 9 series in Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R20 multithreading tests. Passmark was the only benchmark we ran that still recognized AMD Ryzen 9 CPUs, and even there, AMD only narrowly won.
We were not surprised to see the i9-12900K beat the 12C / 24T Ryzen 9 5900X, with DDR5 RAM and quad-core advantages, this was Intel's win or lose the battle. It was a pretty big surprise to see the i9-12900K outperform the 5950X, though, because the 5950X has the same 16 cores -- all high-performance cores are SMT enabled, compared to Intel's 8 performance cores and 8 efficiency cores.
Normally, we'd think Geekbench 5 might be an Intel-enabled outlier, but Passmark is an outlier this time. As always, Cinebench is the gold standard for our all-purpose multithreaded CPU testing, and Intel's extreme results on Cinebench and Geekbench match our sit-observation of the i9-12900K.
This is an incredibly fast CPU and it feels like that action. If you're worried that these efficiency cores might cause your system to feel slow or sluggish, you can set that concern aside.

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