Intel Alder Lake Core i5-12400 and Core i3 Models Show Strong Budget Performance In Benchmark Leak

hero chiphell alder lake core i3 CPUs
They may not be as glamorous as the high-end Core i7 and Core i9 CPUs that we enthusiasts love, but Intel's Core i3 and mainstream Core i5 models certainly make up a much bigger portion of the market, at least by volume if not by dollar value. We haven't officially seen hide nor hair of the 12th-Generation (Alder Lake) CPUs in that product range, just yet.

Fortunately, a poster on Chinese-language hardware forum ChipHell named "热心市民描边怪" (which apparently translates to "Enthusiastic Citizens Stroke Monster," according to their profile on the site) has been kind enough to put up some pre-release reviews of the Core i5-12400, Core i3-12300, and Core i3-12100. These reviews were performed on Qualification Sample (QS) chips, which means they should be fairly representative of final performance.

Despite being essentially forum posts, the reviews are remarkably complete. Mr. Enthusiastic Citizens didn't just run a few benchmarks and call it a day; the reviews include photos of both sides of the chips, all of the hardware used in the test rigs (including high-end ASRock motherboards, fast Apacer NOX memory at 4266 MT/s, and a Radeon RX 6800 XT graphics card), and various benchmarks both synthetic and practical.

benchmark table
This tiny chart is hard to read, so click it for the full-size version. Benchmarks from ChipHell.

We won't reproduce all of the benchmarks here—you can head to the ChipHell threads for the Core i3 and Core i5 reviews if you want to see them; Google Translate does a reasonable enough job—but the table above includes the most interesting results. As we reported before, the lower-end Alder Lake processors do not include the Gracemont-based "E-cores," relying entirely on Intel's high-end Golden Cove architecture for their processor cores, utilizing only high-performance cores just as previous Intel chips have done.

At least in this testing, the Core i5-12400 doesn't lose too much performance versus its more expensive 12600K sibling, unless the 12600K can bring its four extra cores to bear. The real interesting story here is the Core i3-12300, though. This quad-core chip will likely be priced around $150, and it offers single-threaded performance that matches or exceeds the Core i5-12400. Sure, the loss of two cores will hurt in a lot of tasks, but it clearly doesn't matter that much for gaming.

As note in the post, the Core i3 parts aren't going to face much competition from AMD. The company's only parts in the sub-$200 range are either OEM-only or based on older Zen 2 technology that struggles against Intel's extant low-end parts, to say nothing of these upcoming Alder Lake CPUs. The Core i3-12100 absolutely destroys the Ryzen 3 5350G in his testing, and all of the cheaper AMD CPUs that you can buy are slower than that processor.

amd ryzen 5 G CPUs
AMD's Ryzen "G" CPUs are too expensive to compete with the upcoming Intel chips.

The reviewer also comments that the Core i5-12400 could come to market with two different steppings. A "C0" stepping chip would be a cut-down die originally intended for one of the higher-end chips, while the "H0" stepping would use a fully-enabled six-core die. He comments that there should be no differences in performance or capability of the two dice, but notes that there may be slight differences in power consumption and heat generation.

He speculates on pricing, too. He comments that he expects the Core i5-12400 to debut at around 1200 RMB, or about $190 USD, although it's worth noting that he says the 12600K is currently going for about 1600 RMB, which is only $250—about $75 cheaper than you can find one in the US. For the Core i3 CPUs, he expects the i3-12300 to go for around 1000 RMB (~$150 USD), while the i3-12100 should be just a touch cheaper than that.

As for when the rest of us can get our hands on these parts, Enthusiastic Citizens (etc) states confidently that all of these parts, as well as lower-end motherboards based on the B660 and H610 chipsets, should launch on January 4th.