In the past, a major part of Intel’s annual upgrade was the idea that more is better. More processor cores, more processing threads, and higher clock speeds have pretty much been the name of the game for the last several years. But there’s a new philosophy for 12th Generation CPUs, with a hybrid architecture that pairs high-powered cores and energy-sipping cores to enable better battery life along with beefier performance. Usually, one comes at the expense of the other. We’ve been hearing about the new chips for months, and we found excellent performance in the desktop-class Alder Lake Core i9-12900K and Core i7-12700K. But this is the first time we’ve been able to test out the new CPU architecture where it will have the biggest impact: in a laptop.
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A laptop powered by Intel’s flagship 12th Generation (“Alder Lake”) H-Series CPU has arrived at PC Labs just weeks after the chipmaker introduced its 12th Generation mobile chips at CES 2022. It’s our first chance to put one of the CPUs to the test and see how it compares to past Intel offerings as well as Apple and AMD rivals.
Specifically, Intel sent us the new MSI GE76 Raider gaming laptop, equipped with an Intel Core i9-12900HK processor and Nvidia’s brand-new GeForce RTX 3080 Ti laptop GPU. (We’ve got much more about that new laptop-grade GPU, also launching today alongside the GeForce RTX 3070 Ti laptop GPU, in its own analysis story.) When it comes to mobile processors, this is the current top dog of ’22, offering the most power available for a consumer laptop oriented toward gaming and other processor-intensive tasks.
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Before we get to our first tests and impressions of the Intel Core i9-12900HK, let’s take a more detailed look at the key differences between Alder Lake and previous laptop CPU generations. New Architecture, New Features: What’s New in 12th Gen Core Mobile. Almost every year, Intel rolls out a new processor generation, and the ensuing chip family brings a number of refinements as it ekes out more power and better efficiency from what typically are iterative annual updates. However, with the introduction of Alder Lake, Intel has made a much larger shift, introducing an entirely new chip architecture.
The crux of this change is the introduction of two classes of processor cores. For high-end performance, the new CPU relies on a set of Performance cores (P-cores), which in the case of our test laptop, offer the high-octane, multi-threaded processing you expect from a Core i9 CPU. But not all tasks require that sort of unbridled power. Some can be handled without the power-hungry muscle of the P-cores, and for these tasks, Intel uses Efficiency cores (E-cores), an additional group of single-thread processing cores that use significantly less power.