What are 12th generation Intel Core CPUs?

15th April 2022
intel core i7, i8, i9 etc

The announcement of 12th Gen Intel Core CPUs (Central Processing Unit), code-named Alder Lake, was announced all the way back in early 2021, with supporting devices only just starting to ship to businesses and consumers.

But what exactly is a 12th gen processor and how will they impact the computing landscape in the coming years?

intel 12th gen logo

Getting back to basics for a few seconds, a CPU takes the instructions you send to it and allocates those jobs to other chips in the system. By diverting complicated tasks to the chips best equipped to handle them, it allows your computer to run at its peak level.

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To find out how to tell a good CPU from a really good CPU, we can look at these three main areas:

Clock speed: This is measured in gigahertz (GHz, one billion hertz), and tells you how many operations a processor can do each second. The higher the number, the faster the computer (when comparing like-for-like laptop/desktop models).

Cores: Laptops and desktop chips have two or four cores (known as dual- and quad-core). Some newer models have six or eight. Think of these as workers in a company, which receive instructions from the operating system, which can be thought of as the boss. The more cores, just like more workers, the better, as multiple tasks can be assigned and executed at the same time.

Threads and hyperthreading: Threads are like sequences of commands provided to the cores. But you could have four cores and eight threads, meaning there are two threads per core. This is where hyperthreading comes into play, which helps when a process is finished being executed, another command can be there and waiting to be processed, without creating any downtime. It’s almost like eating for us humans, we only have one mouth to chew food but have two hands to bring the food to our mouth, therefore whilst we’re placing food into our mouth with one hand, the other hand can be grabbing the next batch.

intel core chip 12th gen

Hyperthreading is great for multi-threaded workflows such as video-editing, 3D rendering and heavy multi-tasking. But there are workflows where each thread can only be worked through in a linear fashion. When it comes to hyperthreading, it is always better to have more physical cores than to just rely on more threads. And if you have more cores that are each capable of hyperthreading, then even better.

Back to Intel, and with each new generation of Intel processor, clock speed is boosted, cores are increased and the number of threads are expanded, often to the limits that current-day technology allows. This creates ever faster and capable devices which get smaller and more energy efficient.

In the past, it has been standard practice to fit as many full-powered cores into the chip as possible, but this results in the need to power these cores down when they’re all active.

The launch line-up for 12th Gen Intel CPUs ranges from 10 to 16 total cores but are now split up between performance and efficiency cores, called P and E cores respectively. And, even though it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that one type focuses on performance while the other focuses on efficiency, it is less obvious why this is the case.

Msi 12th gen laptop in black

Performance cores (or P-cores) are near direct successors to what you’d find in most previous generation CPUs, but with a reported 19% improvement over 11th gen. The efficiency cores (E-cores) on the other hand target low power-per-watt performance, but this doesn’t mean they’re too weak to get things done, not by a long shot. A single E-core has around 40% more computing power than a single 6th generation core, which were released in 2015.

By splitting the architecture of the 12th gen chips in this way, Intel can achieve incredibly fast speeds at a fraction of the power consumption that was previously possible.

Let’s take a look at the 12th and 11th Gen Intel Core i9 and see how they compare:

Component12th Gen Intel Core i911th Gen Intel Core i9
Clock Speed (Frequency)3.2GHz (P-core) 2.4GHz (E-core)3.5GHz
Cores16 (8P + 8E)8
Threads2416

As you can see, everything we spoke about has been increased quite considerably since the previous generation CPU. And this is essentially what to look out for when considering your next device.

12th generation Intel CPUs will start to be seen in devices from March onwards and, along with Apple’s M1 family of chips, have brought about a more powerful and energy efficient computing landscape that will only get better.