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Core i9 12900K and Core i5 12600K: performance analysis

Cyberpunk 2077, Far Cry 6, Crysis 3 Remastered.

As we mentioned earlier, our results are with DDR5-5200 CL38 on the 12th-gen side of things and DDR4-3600 CL16 RAM for the remaining platforms (we have a Z690 motherboard with DDR4 on the way, but it didn't arrive in time for the review embargo). Our CPUs are cooled with a large AiO (240mm or above). If you pair one of these CPUs with slower RAM or weaker cooling, then you are likely to see slightly worse performance - see page six for a look at RAM in particular. It's also worth noting that our Intel results have MCE enabled, which is the default on many high-end motherboards but may not be available on all models. This setting trades power usage and heat for increased performance, a trade-off that Intel has recently thrown their weight behind with updated guidance that removes turbo limits. It's worth testing with stricter power targets enabled and disabled in the games you play most often to see whether it's worthwhile, as you may discover that a more conservative setting only costs a few frames per second but reduces your energy costs and diminishes fan noise considerably.

In these tests, we'll examine how the 12900K and 12600K stack up in one of the most controversial games of last year, Cyberpunk 2077, as well as two recent releases from series that have featured prominently in our previous CPU benchmarks: Far Cry 6, renowned for its single-core reliance, and Crysis 3 Remastered, the Digital Foundry staple. We've opted for highly repeatable scenes here from a variety of sources here - an in-game cutscene, a brief open gameplay segment along a fixed route and an in-game benchmark.

Remember that you can mouse over the results in the tables below (as long as you're using a desktop browser rather than a phone) to get dynamically generated performance readouts for all processors we've tested. Meanwhile, clicking the graph swaps you into percentages, making it a bit easier to judge relative performance at a glance.

Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 is our second RT benchmark, showing how RT performance can add even more load to the CPU and cause CPU bottlenecking in some scenarios. This result shows some of the starkest differences yet between our 12th-gen Intel and AMD CPUs, with the 12900K claiming the top spot with a 113fps average at 1080p. That's 13 percent faster than the 12600K, and a whopping 45 percent faster than the 5950X. It's similarly divided at 1440p; only at 4K do we see the Intel chips coalesce at 75fps and the AMD ones at 70fps.

Cyberpunk 2077: DX12, RT

Far Cry 6

Far Cry 6 retains its predecessors reliance on single-core speed, so perhaps it's not a surprise to see the 12900K at the top of the charts once again. The new Intel flagship is 16 percent clear of the 5950X at 1080p, while against the 5600X the difference is 26 percent. The 12600K does better at 1440p, crawling out to a six percent lead.

Far Cry 6: Ultra, TAA

Crysis 3 Remastered

Crysis 3 Remastered is here, and it both fixes the 65fps bug that afflicted Crysis 3 and adds on ray tracing, cranking up the challenge. At 1080p, all four of our current-gen CPUs manage to go above 240fps at 1080p (a good fit for a high refresh rate monitor), but it's the 12900K that does the best with an average of 313fps. That's eight percent faster than the 12600K, 10 percent faster than the 5950X and 14 percent faster than the 5600X. The difference between the two entry-level current-gen CPUs is six percent - so an Intel win, but not a massive one all things considered. At 1440p, Intel's lead increases, with the 12900K beating the 5950X by 11 percent and the 12600K winning against the 5600X by 10 percent.

Crysis 3 Remastered: Very High, RTX, DLSS Perf

Now let's move onto something quite interesting - memory bandwidth analysis. There's relatively little DDR5 on the market as of yet, so let's take a quick look at how the two most common speeds compare: 4800MHz and 5200MHz.

Intel Core i9 12900K and Core i5 12600K analysis

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Will Judd avatar

Will Judd

Deputy Editor, Digital Foundry

A bizarre British-American hybrid, Will turns caffeine into technology articles through a little-known process called 'writing'. His favourite games are Counter-Strike, StarCraft and Fallout 2. Will also tweets the latest tech deals at @DealsFoundry.

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