Intel Core i9-12900KS Review
It seems to be the month for slightly refined versions of already existing products. We've only just looked at the Nvidia RTX 3090 Ti which was an RTX 3090 with a slight boost to the clock speeds and a little more hardware under the hood. That product, though, had the benefit of the pricing trying to keep a lid on the insane scalping that has gone on over the last two years. The Intel Core i9-12900KS, on the other hand, is a strange processor to review with so many caveats affecting our opinion.
Let's get the facts out of the way first. By virtue of being a faster model of a processor we already love, the Core i9-12900K, the Core i9-12900KS doesn't want for performance. It's like the ultimate cherry picked flagship Intel processor. 5.5 GHz when only some of its cores are in use, and 5.3 GHz most of the time on the Performance Cores, leads to the scores you've been seeing on the preceding pages. Additionally that extra clock speed has had a big effect in gaming where the minimum frame rate of our selection of titles has seen a big jump up from the vanilla i9-12900K. Also if you've ever wanted to buy something that came in a very fancy box that would look great on your shelf then we can't think of many finer CPU packaging efforts.
That's all the good news out of the way, and to be fair the news that it is faster is the kind of thing you didn't really need our testing to tell you.
The downsides are primarily two-fold. The first is the price. Yes the Core i9-12900KS is faster than the Core i9-12900K, but not by a massive margin. The price has seen a serious increase though. We know that many websites offer carefully curated processors at a price premium for those of you who demand only the very fastest silicon yields, and if you are in the group of people who feel that is a great idea then perhaps the price pump isn't going to be so problematic. Instead of giving your extra pounds to a website you're giving them to Intel for their officially cherry picked models. We're not absolutely sure than a couple of hundred Megahertz on an already spankingly quick processor is worth the extra investment.
The second one is one of cooling. The 11th Generation Intel CPUs were hot. A problem that had never afflicted Intel much before. The 12th Gen were, if anything, even warmer, requiring our beefiest AIO to tame. The Core i9-12900KS on the other hand is hot. Seriously toasty warm. We had our Noctua fans running at 3000 RPM, 100% of the time, and still regularly hit 100°C. Understandably fans running that fast - and thus loud - is intolerable. So if you are interested in the new Core i9-12900KS you have to, have to, own a full custom watercooling setup. It's non-optional. That ups the ownership price still further.
The Intel Core i9-12900KS is the best a 12th Gen Intel CPU could be, but with the caveats that you're paying more in purchase costs, running costs and cooling costs when compared to the regular 12900K, and for some extra performance but not loads. Whether those are compromises and costs you're willing to make is up to you.
Intel Core i9-12900K - £559.98
Intel Core i9-12900KS - £749.99