Intel’s Core i9-12900KS processor is already in a customer’s hands, according to a new report – so the assumption is that it’s set to launch very soon.
Tom’s Hardware spotted that French tech site Overclocking.com has received images of a purchased 12900KS, sent to them by a reader, Daginatsuko. The pics look authentic – though we must be cautious around any such leak, of course – and show the box, chip itself, and the golden wafer (which accompanies the 12900K).
The box is labeled ‘Special Edition’ indicating that this is the ‘KS’ variant, which is a higher-binned (slightly better performing) 12900K, and it’s a darker blue color in comparison to the box of the existing Alder Lake flagship processor.
The owner of the purported 12900KS also provides a screen shot of overclocking the CPU (using the Asus tuning utility, in a PC with a ROG Strix Z690-F motherboard), and this shows an all-core boost of 5.2GHz and maximum single-core boost of 5.5GHz (matching what we saw with Intel’s reveal of this incoming CPU at CES 2022, when the chip was demoed with Hitman 3).
Analysis: A pre-emptive strike in the battle against AMD?
This looks like a genuine leak, and really, it’s believable that the CPU is already out there, given that we’ve seen retailers jump the gun and ‘accidentally’ (or mistakenly) sell hardware just before the official on-sale date – and that we know Intel’s Core i9-12900KS is imminent anyway (it’s expected before the end of March, so within the next two weeks). Indeed, we’ve already seen leaked online retailer listings for this processor, too.
Furthermore, it makes sense that Intel would want this revamped Alder Lake flagship out there pronto, given that we now know AMD is unleashing its new Ryzen 7 5800X3D on April 20. During Team Red’s initial reveal, which happened yesterday, the new 3D V-cache CPU was shown to outperform the 12900K across a range of games in 1080p – although AMD just made a broad assertion that its chip was faster, rather than providing any nitty-gritty details in terms of actual benchmarks and frame rates.
Intel will want ammunition to fire back at the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, naturally, and if it does emerge this month, the Core i9-12900KS will effectively be a pre-emptive strike. However, exactly how effective the new Alder Lake top dog will prove rather depends on pricing.
The thing is that the 12900K is already quite a lot more expensive than the 5800X3D – at least comparing recommended pricing, Intel’s CPU is around 30% dearer (going by US price tags).
That’s an appreciable chunk, and of course, the ‘KS’ will be a fair bit more costly than that, no doubt. It’s a special edition after all, and while the 9900KS – the last such effort from Intel – didn’t actually raise the bar for pricing all that much, it still notched things up a little, and in these days of silicon shortages, we can’t imagine that Team Blue won’t be attaching a bit more of a premium.
The upshot being that in theory, the 5800X3D could hold its ground very nicely against the 12900KS in terms of its value proposition. But there are other considerations here, most obviously the availability of the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, and how AMD might cope with demand if it does turn out to be a favorable buy as predicted – and the specters of scalping and price inflation, naturally.
As ever, it’s a case of waiting and seeing how this upcoming high-end battle unfolds in the real world when the respective CPUs hit the shelves (or indeed, disappear off the shelves in the blink of an eye). However, it does look like Intel may beat AMD to the punch by some distance in terms of launch timing if this early sighting of the 12900KS in the wild does indeed indicate that the Alder Lake special edition chip is about to be released.
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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).