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AMD Ryzen 9 7950X vs. Intel Core i9-12900K: Two flagships face off

When the Intel Core i9-12900K came out in late 2021, it was Intel’s first true flagship CPU since its 2018 Core i9-9900K. It actually beat AMD’s flagship Ryzen 9 5950X in both single- and multi-threaded performance, and the 12900K remains the fastest mainstream desktop CPU to this day and one of the best CPUs in general.

But AMD now has its Ryzen 9 7950X. It blows past AMD’s previous-generation offerings, there’s no doubt about that. Even against Intel’s most powerful CPU to date, however, AMD’s latest processor shows a big jump in performance.

Pricing and availability

The Ryzen 9 7950X sitting against its box.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The Core i9-12900K launched in November 2021 for $640, but it often sells for between $590 and $600 now. Intel is preparing the launch its Raptor Lake processors before the end of the year as well, which will almost certainly cause the Core i9-12900K to drop in price.

AMD’s Ryzen 9 7950X released on September 27, 2022, and it’s about $100 more expensive than Intel’s flagship. AMD has set the price at $700, but it’s hard to say how much the chip will sell for after the launch dust has settled. The Ryzen 7 5800X3D, for example, ended up selling for much higher than its list price due to high demand.

You can find the Core i9-12900K in stock at most major retailers. The Ryzen 9 7950X is brand new, so it’s likely going to sell out and stack out of stock for a couple of weeks. It’s hard to say at launch where availability will be, though.

Specs

A delidded Ryzen 7000 CPU.
AMD

While a spec sheet is certainly interesting to look at, it can’t capture the full picture of the differences and similarities between these two CPUs. The 7950X would appear to be nothing more than an overclocked 5950X, but the newer chip features the brand new Zen 4 architecture. Furthermore, although the 12900K has 16 cores just like the 7950X, these are divided evenly between performance and efficiency cores, so the 12900K isn’t exactly a 16-core CPU in the same way the 7950X is.

AMD Ryzen 9 7950X Intel Core i9-12900K
Cores 16 16 (8P + 8E)
Base frequency 4.5GHz 3.2GHz (P-core), 2.4GHz (E-core)
Boost frequency 5.7GHz 4.9GHz all-core, 5.2GHz single-core
L3 cache 64MB 30MB
Base power 170W 125W
Max boost power 170W 241W

Clock speed is also difficult to compare as AMD and Intel CPUs don’t boost the same way. The 7950X’s 5.7GHz boost clock speed looks amazing compared to the 5.2GHz of the 12900K, but this is an opportunistic clock speed that the 7950X can hit only in a single-threaded workload. All-core clock speeds are much slower, around 5.1GHz when pushed in a demanding benchmark like Cinebench.

Another spec to examine is power. On paper, the 7950X seems to draw significantly less power than the 12900K, but AMD doesn’t define TDP like Intel. Actual power consumption is TDP times 1.35, which means the 7950X can draw up to 230 watts, just a little less than the 12900K. Our testing shows that it draws less, however, around 180W for the full platform, while the Core i9-12900K easily drive into the 230W to 240W range.

As AMD and Intel raise power consumption in order to achieve higher performance, high-quality power supplies are becoming more and more necessary for using these flagship CPUs.

Performance

Multi-core benchmark results for the Ryzen 9 7950X.

The Ryzen 9 7950X is almost a year newer than the Core i9-12900K, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that AMD’s part dominates in performance. You can see our full results below, all of which were run with a bench test rocking DDR5-6000 memory and an RTX 3090 graphics card.

In a clean head-to-head, the Ryzen 9 7950X is 36% faster than the Core i9-12900K in Cinebench R23’s multi-core test. Similarly, it outpaces the Core i9-12900K in Geekbench 5 by 30%. Those are big jumps, but they come largely due to the fact that the Ryzen 9 7950X has 16 full cores. Comparing the single-core results, the Ryzen 9 7950X is just 1% and 6% faster in Cinebench and Geekbench, respectively.

Single core benchmarks for the Ryzen 9 7950X.

Other results are off the charts, including a massive 76% boost over the Core i9-12900K in 7-Zip. This benchmark favors AMD processors, however. In more agnostic applications like Handbrake, the Ryzen 9 7950X still leads, though that lead shrinks to around 20%.

Ryzen 9 7950X Intel Core i9-12900K
Cinebench R23 (single/multi) 2,018 / 37,182 1,989 / 27,344
Geekbench 5 (single/multi) 2,149 / 23,764 2,036 / 18,259
Handbrake (seconds, lower is better) 38 seconds 47 seconds
7-Zip 222,209 MIPS 126,215 MIPS
PugetBench for Premiere Pro 1,172 1,066
PugetBench for Photoshop 1,498 1,315

Of course, the performance difference comes down to the applications that you use, but the Ryzen 9 7950X has a lead in basically everything — and in some cases, like 7-Zip, that lead is too big to ignore. Overall, you’re looking at somewhere around a 35% lead with the Ryzen 9 7950X over the Core i9-12900K, which is quite the boost, even considering AMD’s part costs $100 more.

Gaming

Gaming benchmarks for the Ryzen 9 7950X.

Although the Ryzen 9 7950X offers a massive boost over the Core i9-12900K in general CPU tasks, that lead shrinks in gaming. Make no mistake, though: The Ryzen 9 7950X still has the lead. Across six games (all run at 1080p with Ultra settings), the AMD chip managed about an 8% lead over the Core i9-12900K.

As is always the case with games, the performance delta comes down to the game you’re playing. In GPU-intensive titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Cyberpunk 2077, there’s not enough of a difference to matter. However, titles like Halo Infinite show a massive jump, with the Ryzen 9 7950X beating out the Core i9-12900K by 18%. Similarly, the Ryzen 9 7950X managed a 10% lead in Forza Horizon 4. 

Ryzen 9 7950X Intel Core i9-12900K
3DMark Time Spy  19,113 19,396
3DMark Fire Strike 43,386 39,870
Red Dead Redemption 2 140 frames per second 137 fps
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla 115 fps 107 fps
Forza Horizon 4 257 fps 234 fps
Halo Infinite 134 fps 113 fps
Cyberpunk 2077 128 fps 122 fps
Far Cry 6 153 fps 141 fps
Civilization VI (turn time, lower is better) 6.1 seconds 7.3 seconds

Although sometimes the Core i9-12900K is close or even matches the Ryzen 9 7950X, Intel’s processor never took the crown in our gaming tests. The Ryzen 9 7950X wipes the floor, and sometimes by a decent margin.

Features

Core i9-12900KS processor socketed in a motherboard.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The 12900K had a few advantages over the Ryzen 5000: PCIe 5.0 support, DDR5 support, and superior AVX support. Ryzen 7000 resolves all of that by bringing support for all of these features, and in some ways, AMD is actually doing it better than Intel.

While both the 12900K and the 7950X support PCIe 5.0, you can only use PCIe 5.0 for solid-state drives (SSDs) on current-gen Intel motherboards, while higher-end AMD motherboards will support PCIe 5.0 GPUs in addition to PCIe 5.0 SSDs. PCIe 5.0 isn’t important for graphics cards now, but it could be in the future.

AMD also has slightly better DDR5 support, with the highest supported clock speed being 5,200MHz on AMD boards, while Intel boards go up to just 4,800MHz. That being said, this isn’t a huge advantage for AMD since everyone can just overclock their RAM, whether it’s with XMP, AMP, DOCP, or the new EXPO one-click overclocking feature coming to some DDR5 kits.

Finally, AMD is addedAVX-512 support, which is an extended CPU instruction set that helps improve performance. Intel CPUs run native AVX-512, which is powerful but requires the CPU cores to drop down to low frequencies. AMD maintains speeds due to using two 256-bit AVX modules, rather than the native 512-bit module Intel CPUs use.

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