Intel’s Core i9-12900HK takes over AMD’s laptop lead

“AMD [is] in the rear view mirror […], and never again will they be in the windshield. That’s what Intel’s new CEO, Pat Gelsinger, said recently about its new Alder Lake chips versus the competition.

It sounds confident, if not a little pompous.

But now that I’ve tested the first device with Intel’s new Alder Lake mobile chips, I agree. It feels like the return of Intel’s dominance in laptop performance and the start of a new era.

12th Generation Intel H-Series Comes to Life

Intel’s entire line of 12th Gen H-series chips will soon be rolling out in all sorts of content creation and gaming laptops. As a preview, though, I got to test the Core i9-12900HK in an update to the MSI GE76 Raider. The processor is Intel’s flagship H-series mobile processor – and it’s a chip with something to prove.

Like other Alder Lake chips, this one has 14 cores – six “performance” cores and eight “efficient” cores. The combination of these different types of cores is what makes it a “hybrid” chip, as Intel calls it. Smartphone and tablet processors use a similar approach to balance heavy workflows with background tasks.

We’ve seen how powerful this could be with the first Alder Lake desktop chips in the lineup in 2021, but it’s on laptops where this more efficient kind of processor should have an even greater effect. And based on my testing, Intel has a winner with the Core i9-12900HK.

Intel Alder Lake Performance

I won’t bury the lede any further: the Core i9-12900HK is a step ahead of the previous generation of chips from Intel and AMD. It’s far from a standard generational leap in terms of performance. Just look at this table comparing some machines with previous generation chips in popular benchmarks that test single-core and multi-core performance.

MSI GE76 Raider (Core i9-12900HK) Asus Vivobook Pro 16X (Ryzen 9 5900HX) HP ZBook Studio G8 (Core i9-11950H) MacBook Pro 16 (M1 Pro)
Cinebench R23 (single/multiple) 1872 / 16388 1486 / 11478 1594 / 11788 1531/ 12343
Geekbench 5 (single / multi) 1855 / 13428 1544 / 8299 1637 / 9139 1773 / 12605
PC Mark 10 7691 6287 6432 n / A
Handbrake (lower is better) 72 seconds 90 seconds 89 seconds 95 seconds

It’s been a few years since we’ve seen a Core i9 laptop beat a Ryzen 9, and that’s across the board, regardless of the test. Multi-core performance has been significantly improved this year, which was a weak point of Intel chips in the past due to them being stuck at just eight cores. But here we see the Intel machine circling AMD in tasks like Handbrake encoding, which can utilize those extra cores. The Core i9-12900HK easily sets a record for Intel-powered laptops and even ties up with the Core i9-10900K desktop chip.

But perhaps the most impressive result was the single-core performance. Scoring as high as 1872 in Cinebench R23 is a huge deal. Being 21% faster than your competitors is a great place to be. This lead even extends to PCMark 10, which tests simpler tasks like word processing, web browsing, and video conferencing. Intel says it reaches 5.0 GHz in Turbo and 2.5 GHz as base frequency.

High single-core performance can also be useful in games, although it’s hard to make apples-to-apples comparisons here. The MSI GE76 Raider also happens to ship with the latest RTX 3080 Ti, so it’s hard to make many assumptions about CPU contributions. But even here you can see the CPU flexing its muscles in CPU bound games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Where Civilization VI.

The laptop is setting gaming records, so read our full MSI GE76 Raider review to learn more about its performance.

Because it’s an “HK” chip, that means it’s overclockable, but all of these tests were done under MSI’s “Balanced” power profile and Nvidia Optimus enabled. The MSI GE76 Raider unit I reviewed also included 32GB of DDR5 RAM and a 1080p 360Hz display.

The only caveat to these results? Yes, we haven’t tested the latest from AMD yet. Ryzen 6000 looks like a modest improvement over last year’s chips, with a particular focus on improved integrated graphics. My hunch is that Intel will always have a lead, especially in specific applications like Premiere Pro where it was already strong. However, I will reserve any final conclusions until I have also tested the latest AMD processors.

Video Editing: Intel Alder Lake vs. MacBook Pro

I would be remiss if I did not mention the comparison between the Core i9-12900HK and Apple’s own high-end chips. We already know how good Apple’s M1 Pro and M1 Max are at video editing, especially in using its advanced media engine to maintain super smooth video playback. Core i9-12900HK not working enough make a difference, but it’s getting closer.

MSI GE76 Raider (Core i9-12900HK) MacBook Pro 16 (M1 Pro) MacBook Pro 16 (M1 Max)
Export 84 49 62
Proofreading 177 191 218
GPU effects 75 35 58
Globally 1120 977 1167

The above scores are from PugetBench’s Adobe Premiere Pro benchmark. The overall score puts the Core i9-12900HK between the M1 Pro and M1 Max, which isn’t too surprising. But the real story is in the reading.

In previous versions of Premiere – and with older Intel processors – Apple’s processors revolved around Intel. This made video editing much smoother and faster on a MacBook Pro, although it wasn’t as fast when exporting the timeline. But tested with the latest 2022 version of Premiere Pro, the Core i9-12900HK brings a huge improvement in this regard. This update uses the Core i9-12900HK’s hybrid architecture to significantly speed up high-resolution video playback.

To put things into perspective, when tested with older versions of Premiere Pro, the Core i9-12900HK is over 50% slower than the M1 Pro in video playback. Reducing that to just 7% is remarkable.

Of course, it has to be said that comparing the MSI GE76 Raider to the MacBook Pro isn’t entirely fair. The MSI machine is a massive 17-inch laptop that weighs 6.4 pounds and is over an inch thick. Not only is the MacBook Pro much more svelte, it’s noticeably quieter when running those same tests. Add in battery life that’s not even worth comparing, and you see plenty of reasons why many still opt for the MacBook Pro.

Still, I’m impressed that Intel was able to close the gap in its video editing capabilities. This dampens some of the excitement around M1 chips in general and leaves me excited about where Intel chips will go from here.

Intel – you have my attention.

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