Last November saw the launch of Alder Lake-S, a new generation of high-performance desktop processors with which Intel finally got back on the right track, and with which it snatched the single-core performance crown from AMD. It was a major accomplishment, but those of you who read us every day know that the chip giant didn’t have it easy.
Let’s put some context. The Â “warÂ” between Intel and AMD had very intense moments until, in 2011, the latter launched the first generation of processors based on the Bulldozer architecture It was a real shockernot only because its IPC was lower than that of the previous generation, the Phenom II, but also because they were betting on multithreaded performance at a time when we had just started to really take advantage of dual-core, quad-threaded processors.
However, the problem was not that initial flop, the serious thing was that AMD had bet on Bulldozer as a base architecture on which they would make several developments over several years, that is, it was a long-term bet, and that is why it ended up becoming “a long-term failure”. This allowed Intel to position itself in a very comfortable position, and maintain the lead even with minimal innovations and performance improvements.
In 2017, AMD released the first-generation Ryzen processors, and confirmed that Intel had reason to start worrying. The chip giant made a move and launched the Coffee Lake series, which increased the maximum number of cores and threads, but kept the base Skylake architecture. That trend continued for several generations, and with the launch of the 11th generation Intel Core, it became clear that the chip giant had pushed the 14nm process to the extreme, and had put itself in a tricky position.
Rocket Lake-S was not a bad generationâ€”in fact the Intel Core i5-11400F and Core i7-11700F offered excellent value for moneyâ€”but in terms of raw performance, platform, and efficiency they lagged behind the Ryzen 5000, which used Zen 3 architecture. Intel knew it had to respond, and it had to do so sooner rather than later. It could no longer go back to using the 14nm process, that node was completely exhaustedand also had to find a way to meet AMD’s increasing advances in both multithreaded performance and efficiency.
The chip giant’s answer was Alder Lake-S, a generation of processors that has managed to put Intel back on the right trackThe Intel Core i9-12900K and Intel Core i9-12900K, which represents the company’s definitive leap to the 10nm (Intel 7) process in the high-performance desktop processor sector. I had the opportunity to review two of the most important processors Intel has launched in this new generation, the Intel Core i9-12900K and the Intel Core i5-12600K, and I can attest that they have marked a very big step forward, both in terms of performance and efficiency, as well as platform.
Alder Lake-S has not pleased everyone: The problem of fanaticism, and myths
With Alder Lake-S, Intel has done a great job, and this is good for everyone because, thanks to this new generation of processors, there is more competition in the market. Before the arrival of Alder Lake-S, AMD was in such a comfortable position that they were able to dared to launch the Ryzen 5000 at a much higher price point than their previous generation counterparts. The price increase was so large that for what a six-core, twelve-threaded Ryzen 5 5600X cost, we could buy an eight-core, sixteen-threaded Ryzen 7 3700X.
In the end any company worth its salt wants to make money, and if it finds itself in a position of superiority it will not hesitate to sell its products more expensively, even if there is no real balance between performance difference and price difference. That is why it is so important that there is competition, because in the end it allows consumers to enjoy the benefits of better products at much more reasonable prices.
Unfortunately, there are always extremes that fall into the most ridiculous fanaticism, and are willing to generate false myths to blindly defend a brand or company, even if this is detrimental to themselves, and to other consumers. The good results obtained by the Alder Lake-S series did not please everyone, and therefore it has not taken long for a lot of nonsensical myths to emerge that can do a lot of harm to less advanced users.
I am fully aware of that reality, and that is why I have decided to share with you this article, where we are going to review five mistakes we should not make when building, or upgrading, a PC using the new Alder Lake-S processors. Many of these mistakes are, in fact, based on those myths that have been running like wildfire on the Internet for a few weeks now. As always, if you have any questions after reading the article, you can leave them in the comments.
1.-Buying an Intel Alder Lake-S processor we don’t really need
When it comes to choosing the processor weâ€™re going to mount in our new computer we are always faced with a question that has certainly become a classic: â€œWhen it comes to choosing a processor that we donâ€™t really need,â€?should I invest a little mores and buy an Alder Lake-S processor superior to the one I need? Personally, and seeing how the industry has evolved, and having clear how it will do in the coming years, I think the answer is a resounding no.
Indeed, my perspective has changed considerably in this regard, and this has an explanation. The CPU requirements of games and professional applications have hardly increased in recent years, and this has meant that processors that are already a few years old are still capable of delivering excellent performance. But thatâ¤?s not all, we are also in the midst of a major optimization problem which means that processors from 2017, and even earlier, don’t really take advantage of it.
To understand this better, a simple example will suffice for us Think of the Intel Core i7 5960Xa chip that arrived in 2014 and has 8 cores and 16 threads, offering multithreading potential far superior to the Intel Core i7 5960X Intel Core i3-10100Fwhich only has 4 cores and 8 threads. Well, despite this difference, the latter performs better in games because games are not optimized to scale well in configurations with more than eight threads.
With that example I mean that if you pay extra to buy an Alder Lake-S processor that is above your needs, such as an Intel Core i9-12900K instead of an Intel Core i5-12600K when your only goal is to play games, you will be making a big mistake, since you will not notice a significant improvement in your day to day, and you may never get a return on that purchase. Think about what applications or games you will use, what your real aspirations and needs are, and make reasonable choices around those two keys.
With all of the above in mind, if you want to build a computer based on Alder Lake-S and you are going to focus on gaming, the Intel Core i5-12600K is by far the best choice. On the other hand, if you’re going to use it for gaming and streaming, or for working with multithreading-intensive applications, the Intel Core i7-12700K would be an excellent buy.
2.-Overclock, temperature and power consumption: A realistic look at the real world
By overclocking we can raise the working frequencies of Alder Lake-S processors, and this translates into increased performance. However, by doing so we are doing a significant sacrifice in terms of power consumption and operating temperaturesa topic I discussed in the Intel Core i9-12900K and Intel Core i5-12600K reviews. Considering what we just said, and that the performance improvement is small, I think the overclock offers very limited value, and not only with Alder Lake-S, but with almost all current processors, both Intel and AMD.
If we are going to use applications that don’t put the processor at 100% load for extended periods of time, overclocking will allow us to gain a little bit of performance, and we won’t be pushing temperatures and power consumption to too high levels. In this case it makes sense, as we are maximizing the potential of our Alder Lake-S processor in applications that rely more on IPC and frequency than multithreaded performance.
On the other hand, if it reaches 100% peak usage and stays at that level, the power consumption and temperatures will move at very high levels when overclocking because, in the end, we will have eliminated all the control mechanisms focused on boosting efficiency and power consumption. Personally, and after analyzing Intel’s new Alder Lake-S processors, I think the performance achieved by the chip giant is so good, both in single and multithreading, that the overclocking it’s not that it’s secondary, it’s that it barely matters.
With an Intel Core i5-12600K running at stock frequencies, weâ€™ll have a chip so powerful that itâ€™s capable of outperforming the Ryzen 7 5800X without a problem, with fantastic performance in both gaming and multi-threaded applications, and capable of maintaining great temperatures and power consumption. Running at stock frequencies, this processor will did not exceed 124 watts of power consumption and 64 degrees at 100% usage load. I wanted to remind you of this data because, unfortunately, people are trying to generate a false mantra that Alder Lake-S has very high power consumption and very high temperatures, a generalization that is obviously false.
3.-Underestimating, or overestimating, the weight of the cooling system
This issue we must always approach from the perspective of balance. Each Alder Lake-S processor has a different power consumption, and therefore generates a different temperature peak. For example, as we said, the Intel Core i5-12600K tops out at 124 watts at stock frequencies, and stabilizes at 64 degrees with a three-fan AIO liquid cooling kit, while the Intel Core i9-12900K positions, at stock frequencies, reaches 226 watts and 79 degrees. In both cases, we are talking about a usage rate of 100%, ie, Â “worst case scenarioÂ”.
With that data on the table, itâ€™s clear that we won’t need the same cooling system to keep an Intel Core i5-12600K under control than to control an Intel Core i9-12900K. In the first case, with a dual fan AIO liquid cooling kit, or a good air cooling system, we would have more than enough. In the case of the Intel Core i9-12900K, a triple fan AIO liquid cooling kit would be recommended, although not essential if we are not going to overclock it.
Investing too much in a cooling system will make us spend a lot of money on something that we are not really going to take advantage of, and spending little money will also be a big mistake, since we will be setting up a cooling system that will not work will not be able to keep the processor within optimal working temperatures. In the end, this last mistake is worse than the first one, because although current processors have control mechanisms that prevent serious damage from occurring, in the end excessive and continuous heat can end up degrading the silicon, and produce irreversible damage in the medium to long term.
In conclusion, Intel Alder Lake-S processors are, even in their most powerful versions, very efficient and quite cool for the performance they offer, even when working under 100% usage. This has been made possible thanks to the power limiting they use from stock, which acts to manage, in an intelligent way, the peaks of speed and energy demand of the processor. However, if we overclock and remove these power constraints, the situation changes.
With all that information we just gave you, you only have to consider what kind of use you are going to give to your processor Alder Lake-S, if you are going to overclock it, and if it is going to be under 100% usage rate frequently. Depending on your answers, you should choose a lower or higher performance cooling system, that’s all.
4.-Skimping, or spending too much, on the motherboard
The motherboard is a very complex issue, although we have already touched on it on more than one occasion. It is a very important purchase, of that there is no doubt, because as we have told you in our last motherboard guide, this component will depend on such important aspects as the performance of our equipment, the compatibility with certain components, the lifespan of the motherboard, etc of the PC and the presence of certain problems or bottlenecks.
However, as in the previous case, when it comes to mounting an Alder Lake-S processor, we must choose our motherboard betting on the balance. Nowadays, there are top of the range models with premium designs that, of course, have a fantastic quality of components and finishes, but their price is very high, and that makes them unaffordable for everyone. If you can afford one of these boards, great, but it is not essential to enjoy the full potential of an Alder Lake-S processor.
In the market you can find motherboards with Z690 chipset that are placed in the 200 euro range These boards offer good build quality, solid power supply systems and a great range of features. For example, the GIGABYTE Z690 UD AX is available for ¤219.89, which is a very good price considering it has a 16+1 phase VRM and all the key elements of the board are perfectly cooled. It is also compatible with DDR5 RAM memory.
The conclusion to be drawn from this section is very simple, we don’t need a 400 euro motherboard to enjoy our Alder Lake-S processor to the fullest. Starting with a model like the GIGABYTE Z690 UD AX we mentioned above, you will have everything you need to get the most out of your Alder Lake-S processor without any problems. And yes, this board offers a PCIE Gen5 x16 slot, so with it we will not have to give up anything.
5.-Obsessing over DDR5 memory when building an Alder Lake-S CPU
It is true that one of the most important new features introduced by Alder Lake-S has been the support of DDR5 memory, a new generation standard that, as we know, will eventually displace DDR4 memory. However, due to the current market situation, both because of the shortage of semiconductors and the high demand and speculation, buying a DDR5 memory kit has become a real odyssey, and prices have skyrocketed.
Because of this, another mantra has arisen that says that upgrading to Alder Lake-S is impossible, or extremely expensive, because of the DDR5 memory issue. The fact is that this is not true either, since that generation of processors can run smoothly with DDR4 memoryand if we use a good kit based on that standard the performance difference is, in the end, negligible in most cases. I am not exaggerating, a 3,600MHz DDR4 kit with CL16 latencies performs at about the same level as a 6,000MHz DDR5 kit with CL36 latencies in games.
Yes, when using a DDR5 memory kit with Alder Lake-S at a higher frequency, and with a tight latency, we will enjoy a bit more performance, but the difference is so small that, as I said it is almost unnoticeable in many cases. You should not, therefore, obsess about upgrading to DDR5 when you buy your new Alder Lake-S processor, as you can choose to continue using DDR4 memory without any problems.
On the other hand, it should be remembered that this standard still has a lot of life ahead of it since, according to the latest information, the next generation of Intel processors, known as the Raptor Lake-S, will continue to integrate a dual controller (DDR4 and DDR5). This means that if you have an Alder Lake-S CPU with DDR4 and then want to upgrade to Intel’s next generation, you will be able to do so, and without having to change anything.