Intel’s 12th-gen Core i9, the fastest laptop CPU ever
Benchmark tests on preproduction laptops indeed show that the Core i9-12900HK is the “fastest mobile processor ever.”
Intel’s Core i9-12900HK indeed fulfills the company’s proclamation of being the “Fastest mobile processor. Ever,” based on the results of our early, exclusive hands-on performance testing of several 12th-gen laptops.
Intel, which unveiled its 12th-gen Alder Lake laptop CPUs just last week at CES, let PCWorld take four nearly identical laptops outfitted with the Core i9-12900HK for a spin during a live stream of our Full Nerd podcast. You can watch us run the benchmarks live in the recording of our live stream below, or check out the video version of our performance analysis over here.
While the four preproduction laptops aren’t quite final units, they’re based on MSI’s GE76 Raider with final drivers, firmware, and tuning still to come. The laptops were outfitted with the 14-core Core i9-12900HK CPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU, 32GB of DDR5/4800 RAM, and Windows 11. The updated GE76 remains the same externally as the previous-gen model, but there have been some upgrades to it, including a new MSI “phase-change liquid metal” thermal pad that boosts the CPU’s performance. MSI has also tweaked the 12th-gen laptop’s GPU to 175 watts, versus the 11th-gen version’s 165 watts TGP GPU.
We ran all but the gaming benchmarks on laptops set to MSI’s balanced profile, rather than its extreme performance profile, and also set to hybrid GPU mode rather than discrete mode. That’s actually how Intel set the laptops up in its lab, which we left intact. Normally we’d opt for the higher performance profile to get the best possible performance, but we left them an asset and just wanted to point it out to shoot down assumptions that Intel might have “rigged” this performance preview by opting for the maximum cooling settings.
We picked the tests we wanted to run, and ran them ourselves live on The Full Nerd (subscribe to PCWorld’s YouTube channel if you aren’t already), but make no mistake—these are laptops from Intel’s own testing labs so you should always read the results with some modicum of salt until independent reviews are performed. We do believe the CPU performance you see here is likely to be fairly representative of the performance the production laptop reaches. But no two laptops are the exact same—even among the same make and model—so you should expect a little variance in high-end Alder Lake gaming laptops, but hopefully not huge swings.
You should know, however, that a CPU and GPU’s performance isn’t static. The magic each PC maker brings to it in cooling, tuning, and choosing parts can have very large impacts on performance. Basically, there is no such thing as completely isolating the CPU in a laptop. You must evaluate performance based on the total platform, not just the CPU or GPU inside of it.
To give you a point of comparison, we’ve included two additional laptops:
- The previous-generation MSI GE76 Raider outfitted with an 8-core 11th-gen Core i9-11980HK, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU with a TGP of 165 watts, and 32GB of DDR4/3200. This laptop set to its Extreme performance setting.
- An Asus Strix Scar G17 outfitted with AMD’s 8-core Ryzen 9 5900HX, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU with a TGP of 130 watts, and 32GB of DDR4/3200. This laptop was tested set to Turbo.
Unfortunately, due to our time constraints, we were unable to update the 11th-gen Core and Ryzen 9 laptops to Windows 11. Fortunately, for many of the CPU benchmarks we ran, the OS difference can be minimal.