Although desktop workstations have the rawest power, most users choose laptops for their portability and simplicity of use. As a result, the new 12th-generation "Alder Lake" Intel CPUs, which are now available in portable form, is a welcome update for individuals who want premium computing in a small package.
The latest 12th-gen processors are speed killers
You may be excused for guessing this dramatic twist ahead of time, but Intel's new top-of-the-line processor is quicker than its previous top-of-the-line chip. But this isn't just an incremental improvement: the Core i9 Alder Lake CPU outperforms Intel's previous best effort by a wide margin, especially in demanding media apps.
While comparisons for Adobe suite apps and programs like Blender aren't precise due to GPU assistance systems, they show a steady 10-20% gain over Tiger Lake, particularly for longer rendering operations. Take specific note of the PugetBench Photoshop 23.1.1 test with the laptop's discrete graphics turned off, which eliminates the graphics card variable: While the Core i9-11980HK and Ryzen 9 5900HX machines are tied, the new Core i9-12900HK laptop outperforms them both by 18%. That's a significant increase in performance for a single year.
Alder Lake reclaims the lead from AMD.
Again, it's not surprising that the current high-end chip from Company A outperforms the previous-generation high-end chip from Company B, as this was very probably a goal throughout development. But, for what it's worth, the Core i9-12900HK outperforms the Ryzen 9 5900HX in virtually all of our benchmark tests. (With one major exception - keep reading!)
More intensive benchmarks provide more dramatic results, but the bottom line is that Intel is the laptop speed king for the time being. That's an essential indicator for the firm, if not anybody else because marketable (and less-expensive) laptops are one of the areas AMD has been focusing on and rapidly expanding in recent years.
We don't have enough data to directly compare all of Intel's and AMD's low-end CPUs. And, to be honest, the differences become less significant as you go down, particularly when you reach the level of Core i5/i3 and Ryzen 5/3 CPUs. But, for what it's worth, Intel has reclaimed the top spot.
New chips have practical benefits as well
Aside from questionably helpful brinksmanship, it's worth noting that the Core i9-12900HK sees significant performance gains outside of the relatively narrow applications of video rendering. If you spend your days crunching numbers in Excel, the new processor will improve speed.
Intel was already outperforming AMD in this area, but Procyon testing for most Office apps shows a 10% gain for the new Core i9-12900HK. In Excel, this is even more pronounced. Gains will also be shown if you live in the browser. Alder Lake broke prior marks in the MotionMark 1.1 97 test by a significant margin. Other browser testing yielded comparable, if less dramatic, findings.
A little boost to gaming
Gaming is less dependent on CPU power than it is on GPU power, although a low-quality processor might choke a powerful graphics card. That isn't an issue with the Core i9-12900HK, which shows modest-to-dramatic increases in gaming, particularly on CPU-focused testing. The Alder Lake processor surpassed earlier Intel and AMD CPUs by approximately 30% in the 3DMark Time Spy test.
Intel already had a significant advantage in gaming performance over an AMD laptop with comparable hardware, but Alder Lake improves on that. What type of increases you'll notice varies on the game, but you can expect a significant improvement over last year's Ryzen flagship and a moderate improvement over a Tiger Lake system. Again, this may or may not scale down into lower-powered 7, 5, and 3-series processors from both manufacturers, and your GPU will still have a far larger influence on overall gaming performance.
Inadequate battery power
They can't all be winners, and the Core i9-12900HK continues to be a power hog in our tests. While outperforming the previous generation of Intel CPUs by a wide margin, AMD's Ryzen 9 platform outperforms it in overall runtime by 10%... even with a battery that is around 10% smaller.
Battery life is certainly a secondary consideration for someone looking for the fastest CPU available - if you're editing video, rendering Blender projects, or playing Call of Duty with ray tracing enabled, chances are you'll never leave your charging wire at home. However, for those who want a more balanced approach to reality, AMD remains a preferable option.