Intel Core i9-12900K vs. AMD Ryzen 9 5950X: Flagship Tested

Intel’s 12th generation Alder Lake processors usher in a new era of desktop computing. It’s the first time we’ve seen a hybrid slot-CPU architecture, and it represents a leadership shift at Intel. However, there’s a big red glow hanging over Intel’s flagship Core i9-12900K — and it’s coming from the Ryzen 9 5950X.

The Core i9-12900K and Ryzen 9 5950X are 16-core processors that are some of the best in their product ranges, and they’re among the best you can buy. To see which one is better, we put both chips into a set of benchmarks and comparisons. And while there’s a lot to talk about, one slide is clearly better than the other.

If you are looking for CPUs within a reasonable budget, be sure to check out our Core i5-12600K vs Ryzen 5 5600X comparison as well.

Pricing and availability

Dan Baker / Digital Trends

The Ryzen 9 5950X and Core i9-12900K are both available now, but the Core i9-12900K is out for sale right now. The wizard has just been launched, so it’s hard to find it normally. Even with the chips short, the CPUs are back in stock quickly, so you should be able to find one within a few weeks after the November 4th release.

The Core i9-12900K is priced at $589, while the Ryzen 9 5950X is priced at $799. You will likely see chips sold at slightly different prices. The Core i9-12900K retails for between $620 and $650 right now, while the Ryzen 9 5950X ranges between $750 and $800.

At most, there is a difference of more than $200 between the two tranches. Even factoring in sales—which typically see the Ryzen 9 5950X drop to $720—the Core i9-12900K is $70 cheaper (and that’s the highest retail price we could find). The Core i9-12900K is a lot cheaper, no matter which way you break it down.

As it should become clear when we start looking at our benchmarks, these two processors are rivals in performance, but not competitive in price.

Specifications

Pins on an Intel Core i9-12900K.

It’s hard to compare Core i9-12900K and Ryzen 9 5950X based on specs. Both are 16-core processors with a similar base and boost clock speeds, but the Core i9-12900K uses a hybrid CPU architecture. The number of cores is the same across the chips, but the same cores couldn’t be more different.

Intel Core i9-12900 K AMD Ryzen 9 5950X
nuclei 16 (8P + 8E) 16
Fundamental frequency 3.2 GHz (V-core), 2.4 GHz (e-core) 3.4 GHz
Frequency increase 4.9 GHz all core, 5.2 GHz single core 4.9 GHz
L3 cache 30 megabytes 64 MB
base strength 125 watts 105 W
Maximum boosting power 241 watts Unavailable

Core i9-12900K uses a hybrid architecture. Instead of 16 high-performance cores, it includes eight performance (P) cores and eight effective (E) cores. The P-cores are similar to the cores inside the Ryzen 9 5950X, while the electronic cores are much less powerful. These cores clean up background tasks so P-cores can focus on their most demanding workloads.

We can’t compare cores directly, but we can compare power pull. In keeping with previous generations of Intel, the Core i9-12900K can draw up to 241 watts of power when in turbo mode. This is compared to a base power draw of just 105W on the Ryzen 9 5950X, showing that AMD can still deliver high-performance cores within a narrow efficiency window.

When overclocked, the Ryzen 9 5950X can draw about 200 watts of power, but that’s still well below the Core i9-12900K. The Intel chip can get close to 300W at overclock based on our testing. It’s a high-performance processor, no doubt about it, but it requires one of the best power supplies on the market.

performance

Intel Core i9-12900K on the motherboard.

While we can’t compare the specifications of the Core i9-12900K and the Ryzen 9 5950X, we can compare how they translate into performance. And across the board, the Core i9-12900K takes the crown. The tests below were performed with 32GB of RAM (DDR4 on AMD test bench, DDR5 on Intel platform) with the latest Windows 11 build.

Naturally, this configuration favors Intel. AMD chips had some issues with Windows 11 (although it has been resolved since launch) and DDR5 is not an option for AMD at the moment. If you want to see the slight differences between Windows 10 and Windows 11, be sure to read our Core i9-12900K review. For DDR5, the differences are mostly insignificant, and we’ll call out any cases that had a significant impact on our bottom line.

Intel Core i9-12900 K AMD Ryzen 9 5950X
Cinebench R23 Single Core 1989 1531
Cinebench R23 Multicore 27344 27328
Geekbench 5 Single Core 2036 1726
Geekbench 5 Multicore 18259 14239
Mark 10 . computer 9092 8254
Handbrake (seconds, less is better) 47 58
Pugetbench for Premiere Pro 1066 992
Pugetbench for Photoshop 1315 1009
7- Zip Code 126215 139074

Fortunately, our first test is not about memory speed. Cinebench focuses squarely on processor performance, and clearly shows the differences between the two chips. The multi-core scores are identical, but the Core i9-12900K has a much higher single-core score (~30% improvement).

Geekbench cares a lot about memory speed. Although the Core i9-12900K is about 28% faster than the Ryzen 9 5950X in the multi-core test, the processors are swapping points with DDR4. However, the Core i9-12900K retains the leadership in single-core performance, regardless of DDR4 or DDR5.

Most of the other results mirror what Geekbench and Cinebench have shown – the Core i9-12900K is way ahead. It’s faster in Premiere Pro and Photoshop, and it cuts out 10 seconds of rendering time in Handbrake. The 7-Zip compression/decompression standard is the only standard where the Ryzen 9 5950X has taken the lead, and it’s a secondary benchmark.

DDR5 is a feature of the Core i9-12900K, but even with DDR4, it beats the Ryzen 9 5950X on most benchmarks. Not to mention multitasking, which is where the Core i9-12900K should really shine. When the cores focus on a single task, they are faster than the Ryzen 9 5950X, so that should translate to multitasking as well.

the games

AMD Ryzen 9 3900x Pins.
Dan Baker / Digital Trends

Intel said the Core i9-12900K is the best gaming processor on the market, and our results back that up. Across games, the chip shows improvements to the Ryzen 9 5950X, some minor and some major. All of our tests ran with 32GB of RAM with the RTX 3090. The results below ran at 1080p to isolate CPU performance as much as possible.

Intel Core i9-12900 K AMD Ryzen 9 5950X
3D Mark Time Spy 19396 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 (turn time, less is better) 7.3 seconds 7.5 seconds

at Red Dead Redemption 2, The Core i9-12900K showed only a slight lead over the Ryzen 9 5950X, but the lead is still ahead. It is important to keep price in mind here. The Core i9-12900K is about $200 less than the Ryzen 9 5950X, so the performance parity is still impressive.

The performance improvements are even more impressive, which is what we saw in it Forza Horizon 4. It’s hard to argue with an extra 33 frames, vastly superior to the Ryzen 9 5950X. Civilization VI It showed a slight improvement in spin times as well, although any 16-core CPU should be able to run the game’s AI without any issues.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla It’s the only game where the Ryzen 9 5950X has taken the lead – that lead could be secondary. Ubisoft says this game has issues with the Core i9-12900K at the moment, which explains the lower score. Again, though, performance parity still favors the Core i9-12900K due to its price.

Finally, 3D Mark Time Spy provides an overview of how these chips generally stack up. The Core i9-12900K is about 8% faster overall. Of course, some games stress the CPU more than others, so some games, like Forza Horizon 4, They will see great benefit, while others love Red Dead Redemption 2 We will only see a slight rise.

Outside of processors, DDR5 is a big deal when it comes to gaming. Faster memory can have a huge impact on certain addresses, and the Core i9-12900K allows you to use DDR5. Both chips are overkill if you’re only interested in gaming, but based on our tests, it’s clear that the Core i9-12900K is the better choice.

energy and heat

Someone screwing in the power supply.

Although the Core i9-12900K is more powerful than the Ryzen 9 5950X, it also requires more power. The base power draw is 20W higher, and the turbo’s maximum power draw is over 100W. The Core i9-12900K has a higher operating temperature too, hitting 100 degrees Celsius while the Ryzen 9 5950X excels at 10 degrees lower.

Power and heat requirements don’t immediately rule out the Core i9-12900K – they’re just another factor to consider. Naturally, you’ll need a better power supply and solid-state cooling system—read our best AIO coolers review for that—to use the Core i9-12900K. We’re talking about two 16-core main processors, so you probably aren’t using a weak or cooler power supply with any of these chips.

performance leader

Intel Core i9-12900K box.

Across benchmarks, the Core i9-12900K outperforms the Ryzen 9 5950X. Not only that, but it has access to new features like DDR5 and has been optimized for Windows 11 – which showed off some minor advantages in our benchmarks. It is a CPU that not only contains the latest and greatest technology, but also manages to take full advantage of it.

Energy and heat concerns apply. However, justifying these issues is a lot easier when the Core i9-12900K has an important performance advantage as it does. If you use your computer for content creation or CPU-intensive work, the Core i9-12900K is the best choice. It occupies a small niche in gaming as well, although none of the chips show their full strength while playing games.

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