12th Gen Intel® Core™ CPUs use a performance hybrid architecture design to transform your gaming and computing experience. By integrating two all-new core microarchitectures into a single die, this breakthrough technology increases compute efficiency and delivers intelligent workload optimization.
What does this mean for desktop users? Leadership performance, power-efficiency, and support for state-of-the-art memory and I/O. IPC improvements that translate to smoother gameplay, a better system-level experience, and enhanced productivity.
To understand how it works, let’s dive into the key advances, from P-cores and E-cores to the Intel® Thread Director.
How Do 12th Gen CPUs Work?
12th Gen Intel® Core™ CPUs adapt to the ways you work and play. When gaming, the processor prevents background tasks from interrupting or using your high-performance cores. When working, it provides a smoother system-level experience while using demanding applications.
12th Gen CPUs integrate two types of cores into a single die: performance-cores (P-cores) and efficient-cores (E-cores).
- Physically larger high-performance cores designed for raw speed while maintaining efficiency.
- Optimized for low-latency single-threaded performance and AI workloads.
- Capable of hyper-threading, or running two software threads at once.
- Measured at 19% better performance, on average, than 11th Gen Intel® Core™ CPUs across a wide range of workloads at ISO frequency3.
- Physically smaller, with multiple E-cores fitting into the physical space occupied by one P-core.
- Optimized for multi-core performance-per-watt—delivering scalable multithread performance and efficient offload of background tasks.
- Capable of running a single software thread.
- Capable of 40% more performance when running at the same power as a single Skylake core4.
What is hyper-threading? Find out here.
What Is the Intel® Thread Director?
The Intel® Thread Director supplies the behind-the-scenes magic that maximizes 12th Gen performance.
It’s a hardware solution for optimal task scheduling, designed to help P-cores and E-cores work together. Instead of assigning threads to cores based on static rules, it adapts to different workloads and conditions like temperature and power budget.
The Intel® Thread Director helps the operating system assign work intelligently, which translates to performance gains when you play games, start streaming while gaming, create content, or carry out general productivity tasks.
Here’s how it works:
- It monitors the runtime instruction mix of each thread and the state of each core with nanosecond precision.
- It provides runtime feedback to the OS to make the optional decision for any workload.
- It dynamically adapts its guidance according to the Thermal Design Point (TDP) of the system, operating conditions, and power settings.
- It provides guidance without the need for user input, removing the burden on developers to rewrite existing code.
By identifying the class of each workload and using its energy and performance core scoring mechanism, the Intel® Thread Director helps the OS schedule threads on the best core for performance or efficiency.
Does Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 Affect 12th Gen?
Intel® Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 enhances lightly-threaded performance further. Because in-die variation during manufacturing produces some cores that are faster than others (supporting higher performance and lower voltage), some P-cores can outperform others.
Turbo Boost Max 3.0 capitalizes on these differences by identifying the best P-cores within the processor and routing work to them. This boosts performance without increasing voltage, allowing the CPU to operate within specifications.
How does Turbo Boost differ from overclocking?5 6 See our article here.
What Is DDR5 Memory?
The 12th Gen Intel® Core™ platform gives you an important choice when it comes to memory: DDR4 or DDR5 RAM?
DDR5 is the next-generation specification for RAM and it comes with a host of improvements in speed and efficiency when compared to DDR4, the current standard.
- Higher-bandwidth kits thanks to doubled burst length—the number of bits that can be read per cycle.
- 12th Gen supports speeds up to 4,800MHz for DDR5 and 3,200MHz for DDR4.
- DDR5 allows capacities of up to 128GB of RAM per module, whereas DDR4 allows only 32GB.
- DDR5 doubles the number of memory bank groups and improves the speed at which groups can be refreshed.
Though DDR4 and DDR5 modules both have 288 pins, their different layouts mean that they cannot be installed in the same DIMM slots.
With a 12th Gen Intel® Core™ CPU, you’ve got the option to build a system using either tried-and-tested DDR4 RAM or new DDR5 sticks. If you decide to stick with DDR4 for now, a 12th Gen Intel® Core™ processor leaves you the option to upgrade to DDR5 in future, as the technology matures and DDR5 kits improve in speed and capacity.
All 12th Gen desktop CPUs feature unlocked memory support, providing more freedom to fine-tune your RAM’s performance. Use DDR5 profiles on Intel® Extreme Memory Profile 3.0 (XMP 3.0) to easily overclock your memory and create new custom profiles to adjust behavior.
What Is PCIe 5.0?
12th Gen Intel® Core™ CPUs are at the forefront of the industry transition to PCIe 5.0. PCIe 5.0 doubles the bandwidth of 4.0, which means your system will be ready for the next generation of SSDs and discrete GPUs.
PCIe is the high-bandwidth expansion bus used to connect graphics cards, SSDs, and other peripherals to your motherboard. Each generation of PCIe doubles in throughput, with PCIe 5.0 providing theoretical maximum data transfer speeds of 32 GT/s.
The advantages of 12th Gen’s PCIe 5.0 adoption include:
- Full backwards compatibility with PCIe 4.0 and 3.0 devices.
- Double the bandwidth of 4.0 and four times the bandwidth of 3.0.
- Up to 16 CPU PCIe 5.0 lanes and up to 4 CPU PCIe 4.0 lanes.
For more about PCIe 5.0 and CPU PCIe lanes, see our full article.
What Is Intel 7?
Intel 7 is the advanced manufacturing process behind the next-level performance of 12th Gen Intel® Core™ CPUs.
Previously referred to as Enhanced SuperFin, Intel 7 technology provides an approximate 10-15% improvement in transistor performance per watt over the previous process, 10nm SuperFin.
What’s behind the performance gain? FinFET transistor-level optimizations and three key innovations:
- Ultra-fast electrons thanks to increased strain and low-resistance materials.
- Enhanced energy control through novel high-density patterning techniques and streamlined structures.
- State-of-the-art power delivery, superior routing, and high metal stack.
How Does 12th Gen Change Overclocking?
The dynamic architecture of 12th Gen Intel® Core™ CPUs gives users with unlocked processors advanced tuning options. For example, separate overclocking controls for both P-cores and E-cores allows you to adjust core behavior to your liking.
Use the latest versions of Intel overclocking utilities to get the most from your machine:
- Intel® Extreme Tuning Utility (Intel® XTU) provides an advanced toolset for experienced overclockers, and now features a detailed performance measurement tool.
- Intel® Performance Maximizer (IPM) performs automated overclocking after analyzing your processor’s individual performance DNA.
- Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP3.0) profiles help you easily overclock DDR5 or DDR4 RAM.
Learn more about overclocking with our full guide to overclocking an unlocked Intel® CPU.
What’s New in 12th Gen?
By integrating two microarchitectures into a single die, 12th Gen Intel® Core™ CPUs make a generational leap in performance. Thanks to Intel® Thread Director, the processor intelligently divides work between P-cores and E-cores. These technologies enhance both gaming and productivity by ensuring that background tasks don’t divert the attention of your most powerful cores.
In addition to its dynamic architecture, 12th Gen includes a host of platform improvements such as DDR5 RAM support and PCIe 5.0 adoption. Not only does a 12th Gen system deliver cutting-edge performance right now, it also provides a platform for the fastest devices that will be released in the near future.