At CES this year, Intel officially announced its expanded Alder Lake processor lineup, including the performance-laptop focused H-Series chips, which traditionally fit in the 45-Watt range. For the last several processor generations, Intel has started their roll-outs with the low-power laptop parts, and then expanded the range up to and including desktop processors; but for Alder Lake they have flipped this on its head. Instead, Intel first launched desktop processors, such as the Core i9-12900K, and then moved down the range, with the performance notebook processors coming second, and the low-power processors coming later.

Intel 12th Gen Core Alder Lake-H
AnandTech Cores
P+E
E-Core
Base
E-Core
Turbo
P-Core
Base
P-Core
Turbo
Base
W
Turbo
W
i9-12900HK 6+8 1800 3800 2500 5000 45 115
i9-12900H 6+8 1800 3800 2500 5000 45 115
i7-12800H 6+8 1800 3700 2400 4800 45 115
i7-12700H 6+8 1700 3500 2300 4700 45 115
i7-12650H 6+4 1700 3500 2300 4700 45 115
i5-12600H 4+8 2000 3300 2700 4500 45 95
i5-12500H 4+8 1800 3300 2500 4500 45 95
i5-12450H 4+4 1500 3300 2000 4400 45 95

Today, we finally get to take a look at the 12th generation H-Series processors and see how they stack up to not only Intel’s previous 11th generation Tiger Lake platform, but also AMD’s Ryzen 5000 Mobile series. If you’ve not yet taken a look at the initial Alder Lake desktop processor review, definitely check that out since Alder Lake is a big departure from Intel’s traditional CPU design. Featuring a new hybrid CPU design with performance (P-cores) and efficiency cores (E-cores), the new design is more characteristic of what you would see in a smartphone platform, except Intel’s efficiency cores offer almost Skylake levels of performance and should not be disregarded.

Combined with Windows 11, Intel is hoping to improve multi-tasking performance with not only more cores, but also with Windows 11 being able to park jobs that are not in the foreground on the efficiency cores, leaving the performance cores available for the user to avoid system responsiveness problems even when the system is heavily loaded.

The Test System – MSI Raider GE76

Intel is putting its best foot forward, as expected, by supplying the MSI Raider GE76 system for performance testing. This 17-inch desktop-replacement machine is nearly always at the top of all notebook performance comparisons, and for 2022, MSI has kept the chassis the same, save for adding in Alder Lake as well as the latest NVIDIA RTX 3080 Ti Laptop GPU. We recently reviewed the Tiger Lake version of this notebook so if you want to learn more about the device, please check that review out. The Tiger Lake version was the fastest notebook we had ever tested, so expectations are high with the new Alder Lake refresh. We will be covering some of the same aspects here as well.

And for those that follow MSI, be aware that for 2022 they are moving the laptop name ahead of the model number, so it is now the Raider GE76, whereas last year it was the GE76 Raider.

MSI Raider GE76 Alder Lake
Component As Tested
CPU Intel Core i9-12900HK
6 x P-Core, 8 x E-Core, 20 Threads
85 W TDP
GPU NVIDIA RTX 3080 Ti for Laptops
7424 CUDA Cores
16GB GDDR6 (16Gbps)
RAM 2 x 16GB DDR5-4800
Display 17.3-inch 1920x1080 360 Hz
Storage 2 x Samsung PM9A1 1 TB NVMe PCIe 4.0
Networking Killer AX1675 Wi-Fi 6E
Killer E3100G Ethernet
I/O 1 x Thunderbolt 4
3 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
1 x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C
1 x HDMI 2.1
1 x Mini DisplayPort 1.4
SD Card Reader
Headset jack
Keyboard Steelseries per-key RGB Anti-Ghost
Audio/Video 1080p Webcam
2 x 2W + 2 x 1W Speakers
Battery 99.9 Wh Battery
330 W AC Adapter
Dimensions 15.63 x 11.18 x 1.02 inches
Weight 2.9 kg / 6.9 lbs
Price (USD) $3600 USD with single SSD

MSI checks all the boxes for 2022. Featuring the Core i9-12900HK, 32 GB of DDR5-4800 memory, the newest NVIDIA RTX 3080 Ti Laptop GPU, and not one but two Samsung PM9A1 1 TB NVMe PCIe 4.0 drives. MSI has improved their cooling solution for 2022 with a new Phase Change thermal pad as well, allowing the system to wick heat away from the hot components into the cooling system with even more efficiency.

The Core i9-12900HK Processor

At the top of the Alder Lake laptop product stack is the Core i9-12900HK processor. It features six of the new Golden Cove P-cores and eight of the new Gracemont E-cores. The P-Core can turbo up to 5 GHz, while the E-Core caps out at 3.8 GHz. The processor has a nominal TDP of 45 Watts – though in the case of our Raider, the TDP appears to be set closer to 75 Watts out of the box – with a peak turbo draw of up to 115 Watts. It offers up to eight lanes of PCIe 4.0 for graphics and two sets of four PCIe 4.0 lanes for storage, along with an additional twelve PCIe 3.0 lanes.

One of the big changes for Alder Lake-H is that Intel has taken a page from the design for their U/Y/P series chips and moved the formerly separate PCH on to the processor package itself. This essentially reduces Alder Lake-H to a single package solution, as like its other mobile brethren, no external silicon is required to provide necessary I/O functionality. By reducing ADL-H to a single package, this will allow for smaller form factor designs, as well as reducing the footprint that needs to be cooled.

The new processor can support up to 64 GB of memory, and supports DDR5-4800, LPDDR5-5200, DDR4-3200, and LPDDR4-4267. There are a plethora of PCIe lanes available with eight PCIe 4.0 lanes for graphics, two sets of four PCIe 4.0 lanes for storage, and an additional twelve PCIe 3.0 lanes. It can't quite match a desktop processor and chipset, and the laptop processors do not have support for PCIe 5.0 yet unlike their desktop counterparts, but it is still a significant amount of expansion available. There is also support for up to four Thunderbolt 4 ports for external I/O.

On the graphics front, the Core i9-12900HK offers Intel Iris Xe graphics with 96 Execution Units on tap with a peak GPU frequency of 1.45 GHz. This is a big step up in terms of integrated graphics from the Tiger Lake H-Series, which only provided 32 Execution Units of Intel UHD graphics. Laptop buyers will be unlikely to find the H-Series where it is not paired with a dedicated graphics card, but it is nice to see that the latest Alder Lake lineup does get access to the top-tier graphics regardless.

The Test Platform: MSI's Raider GE76
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  • tkSteveFOX - Wednesday, January 26, 2022 - link

    Just a note for Brett here, when you do a laptop review thermals, throttling and noise levels are important things to have in the review. Reply
  • Brett Howse - Wednesday, January 26, 2022 - link

    This isn't a laptop review. Please check the link to the GE 76 Raider review we did in September. Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Friday, January 28, 2022 - link

    *reviews laptop CPU*
    *uses laptop*
    *this is not a laptop review*

    Whew, anandtech quality ladies and gentlemen! I guess that throttling and thermals are not important in CPU tests either? Or would that get in the way of using RAM to exuse the hideous power draw?
    Reply
  • corinthos - Wednesday, January 26, 2022 - link

    Whole point of a laptop is portability and using unplugged for a considerable amount of the time. That's why you pay a premium. If the best Intel can do is 3.x hours on battery, this is essentially a desktop alternative/replacement, in which case you get even more for your money just buying a desktop. Reply
  • Brett Howse - Wednesday, January 26, 2022 - link

    This is literally a desktop replacement. That's actually a product category for notebooks. Reply
  • Spunjji - Thursday, January 27, 2022 - link

    I'm sorry you have to keep replying to comments like this... Reply
  • Spunjji - Thursday, January 27, 2022 - link

    For me, those "percentage of no load performance" graphs may have been the most interesting. It certainly shows what Alder Lake can offer when it's being used to the fullest. It doesn't represent a use-case that I'd ever put a laptop to, but it will be very interesting for the sort of user for whom 20 threads in a mobile CPU is less a flashy selling point and more a necessity.

    Otherwise it's looking as I expected - peak performance is significantly better than the ageing Cezanne platform, sustained performance in a slightly more representative platform remains to be seen. Tiger Lake H was ~25% down on Cezanne in terms of performance/watt in multithreaded loads, so there's certainly potential here for Intel to have caught up and maybe even surpassed that.
    Reply
  • abufrejoval - Thursday, January 27, 2022 - link

    The least impressive statement in this review is this “Perhaps the most impressive result though is Intel’s Thread Director, which provides very impressive system responsiveness even when the system is at 100% CPU load…”, because to me it sounds either like paid content or lack of reflection.

    Intel is pushing E-cores as a “must have”, because it’s exclusive to their platform, very much like MMX or AVX-512 back then.

    But it’s mostly yet another marketing smoke bomb.

    I am convinced you could achieve a very similar gain in responsiveness by emulating the 8 E-cores via the 2 P-cores they replace in terms of silicon real-estate on Alder Lake. What you perceive as a hardware benefit is mostly an OS defect in workload management.

    What happens here is that long running batch and latency sensitive interactive workloads are being separated and assigned to hardware partitioned processing pools dependent on whether they are running in the “foreground” or “background”. Doing that in the Windows task manager today, is obviously cumbersome, but writing a tool that prohibits the usage of all CPU cores once workloads are switched to background, should be trivial enough. And to my knowledge even cache partitioning has been part of x86 since Broadwell to ensure that busy background batch tasks won’t flush latency sensitive interactive workloads entirely from them.

    Yes, E-cores have been proven to squeeze longer run times out of smartphones or more concurrent session support per Watt in certain cloud servers, because they are designed to be more efficient in in terms of instructions per Watt/h at the price of instructions per unit of time.

    But those constraints do not apply to a gaming laptop or most desktop computers. Actually, even on ultra-thin laptops CPU core power consumption is becoming a rather insignificant contributor to overall energy spend, outside of some synthetic fringe cases.

    Intel fits 8 E-cores into a similar space for 2 P-cores, so the high-end mobile Alder-Lake parts could just be 8 P cores or 32 E cores or any of the other permutations. And quite obviously you would be able to find workloads with an ideal fit for each, just as you’d also find workloads that violate either performance or efficiency targets on them.

    Intel promotes a hardware partitioned compromise between E- and P-cores and then interestingly charges an E-core premium on desktop parts, where collective energy savings on remotely managed always-on volume parts might actually provide an ecological benefit. But I can’t help thinking, that a software solution via “E-core emulation” would deliver more flexibility and adjustable performance on most laptops and workstations and prefer 8P+0E over 6P+4E practically everywhere except server parts.
    Reply
  • Bik - Thursday, January 27, 2022 - link

    Simple thought will prove this correct: a big task that feels like it bogs down the whole system, will no longer be so if you willing to sacrify some cores for background tasks. The scheduler just isnt smart enough to do that today.

    There's another thing I notice. When it is true that 8-E cores put up more performance than 2-P cores, Intel claims of silicon real-estate between the two being equal may not be correct. Because if they do, we'll surely have all E-cores cpu for heavy multi-thread work loads. But that didnt, and I doubt, will ever happen.
    Reply
  • diediealldie - Thursday, January 27, 2022 - link

    oh, they will. There's Sierra Forest AP which consists of 128 e-cores. Intel is not making all e-cores yet since launched platforms are kind of mass-market general-purpose ones which need high ST performance along with good MT performance. Reply

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