Intel Core i9-12900K at 125W

What happens when power is dialled down?

These are arguably the two most pertinent graphs for the reduced-power chip. Installing a 125W budget reduces the all-core-load power consumption by well over 100W when evaluated as a system.

It’s rare that desktop machines run on a 24/7 basis with such a load, but if that is the case, and you can accept the 10-15 per cent lower performance, there’s a 3kW daily saving to be made. No small change given escalating energy prices.

More pertinently for the enthusiast, lower wattage accurately transposes to lower temperatures and noise. The under-load figure drops from 73°C to just 54°C. Running at the same temperature, however, enables us to reduce the cooler’s fan noise by 6dB. Sure, you sacrifice some long-term oomph, yet we feel it’s a price worth paying for those who cherish quiet computing.

We’ve spoken at some length about the more efficient V/F curve at the lower end of the scale. There’s further proof in the energy-efficient chart, where system-wide power consumption is considered against the all-core Cinebench score. Going up by 33 per cent is no mean feat, of course, but AMD is still better in this regard.

Concluding Thoughts

Taking a look at the Intel Core i9-12900K when set to a maximum 125W budget is illuminating. Dialling down the juice to the base power levels shows very little performance is lost in light-load applications such as gaming and everyday office work. That makes intrinsic sense as the notional 241W Intel favours only comes into play when taxing every core and thread.

Limiting power is most keenly felt in tasks such as rendering. In these cases, performance drops by no more than 15 per cent, which puts the Core i9-12900K neatly between rival Ryzen 9 3900XT and 5950X in many cases. This indirectly tells us AMD’s process and architecture implementation remains excellent; there’s no need for AMD to panic as it remains attractive on performance as well as power.

Intel has driven the Alder Lake architecture hard on the Core i9 chips to be truly competitive. Our investigation suggests it ought to do better in power-restrained environments that play well with the V/F curve characteristics. Alder Lake is a fine CPU architecture at 241W, offers greater efficiency at 125W, but is primed to do finer things in laptops.

The Verdict: Unless you need absolute top-bin performance for rendering, there’s merit in limiting the Core i9-12900K to 125W, particularly if, like us, you enjoy cool and quiet computing.