Intel’s Core i7-12700 examined: High speeds or energy effectivity—choose one

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Intel's Core i7-12700.
Enlarge / Intel’s Core i7-12700.

Andrew Cunningham

Intel’s Ok-series desktop CPUs at all times get essentially the most consideration from lovers as a result of they signify the perfect efficiency that new Intel processors are able to when cash, warmth, and energy are not any object. However extra individuals will find yourself utilizing the cheaper, non-overclockable variations of those processors, whether or not it’s in an workplace desktop PC, a funds gaming desktop, or a price-conscious dwelling video modifying workstation.

In the present day, we’re looking on the Core i7-12700, a 12-core, 20-thread CPU that retails for round $340 (or $315 with out built-in graphics). That’s wherever from $75 to $100 cheaper than the overclockable Core i7-12700K, plus no matter cash you save by shopping for a less expensive H670 or B660 motherboard relatively than a dear Z690 mannequin.

We got here away impressed with the i7-12700’s efficiency however combined on its energy effectivity, as was the case after we reviewed some Ok-series CPUs final yr. The excellent news is that dwelling PC builders can often resolve for themselves whether or not they need to maximize efficiency or prioritize energy effectivity and warmth output. Utilizing Intel’s really helpful energy settings, the i7-12700 can really be fairly well-behaved. Simply know that almost all motherboard makers’ default energy settings prioritize efficiency even when it makes your desktop hotter and extra power-hungry.

Intel CPU energy settings defined

A lot of this assessment will focus on how Intel’s CPU energy limits work, so let’s begin by laying out the terminology. This shall be particularly related to anybody who hasn’t constructed a pc in a couple of years.

Intel and AMD have each fought over the past half-decade to cram an ever-increasing variety of cores into their mainstream desktop processors. Taking Intel for instance, its i7 processors went from 4 to 6 to eight cores between the seventh and ninth generations, and a brand new i9 tier with ten cores was additionally launched above these. These chips had been all made utilizing calmly tweaked iterations of the identical Skylake CPU structure and calmly tweaked iterations of the identical 14 nm manufacturing expertise.

The result’s that energy budgets have gone means up, and when chips are operating at full-tilt, precise CPU energy consumption is considerably above the 65 W TDP that Intel has listed on its desktop CPU product pages for years.

To its credit score, with its Twelfth-generation chips, Intel has thrown out “TDP” in favor of a Processor Base Energy (PL1) quantity and a Most Turbo Energy (PL2) quantity. PL1 is kind of what TDP was—the quantity of energy and cooling capability a CPU is predicted to require to function at its rated specs when below sustained load for greater than a few minutes at a time. The PL2 quantity is the true most energy consumption quantity, the one you’ll see when operating duties for brief intervals or for apps like internet browsers and video games that don’t require 100% of your CPU’s efficiency 100% of the time.

The wrinkle is that these PL1 and PL2 scores are options relatively than hard-and-fast necessities, permitting motherboard makers to set totally different limits in the event that they actually need to. For enthusiast-y boards, this often means boosting each numbers into the stratosphere or eradicating the boundaries solely within the identify of elevated efficiency. The Gigabyte Z690 board I used for some assessments has default energy limits set at over 4,000 W. A CPU really drawing that a lot energy would, after all, soften a gap deep into the Earth’s mantle, however the level is that the processor can use as a lot energy because it and the motherboard can bodily deal with until it’s hitting its thermal limits.

The upside of versatile, user-configurable PL1 and PL2 limits is that they successfully allow a kind of “overclocking” for non-Ok-series CPUs operating in non-Z-series motherboards. Our benchmark outcomes present clear advantages to upping the default energy limits of the i7-12700K, transferring its efficiency from “aggressive with AMD’s Ryzen 7 5800X” to “stomping the 5800X.”

The issue is that extra energy generates extra warmth, which requires both higher cooling or letting your CPU run at greater temperatures, which might shorten its helpful life. In some circumstances, you would possibly really lose a little bit of efficiency as a result of the additional warmth results in thermal throttling. And the efficiency advantages that you just get aren’t actually commensurate with the additional energy you’re utilizing. In our assessments, when thermal throttling isn’t a problem, the i7-12700 used roughly twice the facility to ship someplace between 25 and 40 p.c higher efficiency.

It is a significant pace enchancment, nevertheless it comes at a value.



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