Intel 12th gen processors are already here for the desktops, so what about laptops? Let’s discuss when they’re coming and if you should buy now or wait. Intel’s 12th gen CPUs introduced a hybrid architecture with P and E cores. Basically P cores, or performance cores, are the traditional cores with hyperthreading that we’re all used to. The new E cores, or efficiency cores on the other hand, are smaller, and well as the name implies, more efficient, but they don’t have hyperthreading, so just one thread per E core.
This means that E cores should be ideal for running lighter background tasks while also using less power. According to Twitter user 9550pro, these are the 12th gen processor types that we’ll see for laptops.
I don’t normally cover leaks, but this is about what I’d expect to see so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it’s legit. There’s a bunch of lower powered chips which I won’t focus on, the stuff we’ll see in gaming laptops would be the H45 and new H55 options. Basically H45 are chips that have a 45 watt power limit, while H55 is a new class with a higher limit.
With Intel’s 11th gen Tiger Lake, H45 included the 8 core 16 thread i7-11800H or i9-11980HK for example, so the top end mobile processors for gaming laptops maxed out at 16 thread parts. Now with 12th gen we’re potentially seeing H45 top out with 6 P cores, so 12 threads with hyperthreading, but up to 8 E cores, so 20 threads total from H45. It looks like quad cores are back, you just can’t kill it. Well kind of, I’m just joking but the i5 option is apparently 4 P cores, but with 8 E cores, so despite looking like a quad core it would still be capable of running 16 threads, double a traditional quad core. The new H55 parts are apparently providing up to 8 P cores and 8 E cores, so essentially a laptop processor with 24 threads, higher than we’ve previously had as both Intel’s 11th gen and AMD’s Zen 3 mobile processors maxed out at 8 cores 16 threads.
Then again, Intel themselves show mobile as 6 P cores and 8 E cores in this random marketing slide, you’d think if they could go higher they would have teased it there. Combined with an apparent Geekbench score that appeared for a i9-12900HK recently and it would seem that we’re looking at 6 P cores and 8 E cores for a 20 thread part, so still more threads than ever before, but not quite as many as in the image previously. Again not exactly sure if this will be completely accurate, but even if it’s not and we get some options with 6 P cores and E cores we’ll have a higher thread count than we’ve ever had before, so assuming this is true Intel’s 12th gen for laptops should offer some pretty decent multi threaded performance, and combined with higher IPC we should be seeing better single threaded performance compared to what Intel has ever offered in the past.
I mean we’ve already seen this on the desktop side with Alder Lake, so I’d be surprised if it’s not a similar deal for laptops. Personally I think this new hybrid design is going to be great for laptops.
The E cores just sound much more useful on a laptop compared to a desktop to me, because generally I think you just care more about efficiency in a smaller laptop form factor where things like power, thermals and battery limits are important. Like just for me personally when I’m running a desktop processor I don’t care how much power it’s using, as long as it’s working fine and doing what I need. I’m not sitting there actively measuring the wattage and temperatures or anything like that. But then on the other hand with a laptop, if you’re running on battery power then yeah it’s going to matter much more how much wattage it’s drawing. Not only does it affect battery run time but it would also affect the actual performance on battery, and these are both areas where Intel has traditionally not done as well as AMD’s Ryzen, so yeah just based on this I am expecting 12th gen to be more interesting on the laptop side.
Now that said, I have shown that in general 12th gen desktop processors use quite a bit more power than alternatives, however this is during heavy multi threaded workloads. The fact is most people just aren’t sitting there smashing their laptop with multi core load for hours on end, let alone on battery. I’m pretty optimistic that they could easily tune a 12th gen laptop to preference the E cores when running on battery power for example. So once you unplug from wall power for example, maybe the processes migrate over to the E cores, and the P cores only get used if they’re really needed or something. I think something like that that actually takes advantage of the P and E cores would be great for laptops, especially on battery power.
I hope Intel can become more competitive when it comes to battery life, because for the most part AMD Ryzen models clearly dominate the battery life run time graph when compared to Intel options, at least based on my own test results. Generally Intel 11th gen and older options just don’t last as long compared to AMD, so if 12th gen can utilize the efficiency cores to boost battery life then that would certainly be welcome.
As for how software is going to handle P and E cores, we’ve already seen some software pretty much break down and cry when it comes to 12th gen. But over time of course we’d expect these things to improve and get better with updates. Especially by the time 12th gen laptops are actually here and launch in a few months time.
We can just sit back and let those desktop users beta test it for us. Speaking of new software, I think Windows 11 is going to be your best bet for 12th gen, as it’s got support for E cores, at least long term.
Because as we’ve seen, Windows 10 can do better than Windows 11 in some workloads. Now Intel’s thread director is responsible for helping the operating system pick whether the process should run on P or E cores, and basically this is meant to be a much more efficient way compared to what’s available in Windows 10. Intel said that while Windows 11 should work fine on 12th gen, there would be some more run-to-run variance between tests and that would just be due to the scheduling, but they also said for the most part this shouldn’t really be something that most people would actually practically notice while using it.
But yeah, given Windows 11 is better optimized for the new 12th gen architecture, personally if I was upgrading to a 12th gen laptop I would just accept it and run Windows 11, and given 12th gen laptops probably won’t be out for a few months yet hopefully most of those early Windows 11 bugs will be fixed.
Now DDR5 memory is another new technology that’s available alongside 12th gen processors. 12th gen desktop processors support either DDR4 or DDR5 memory, it just depends on the motherboard. So based on this it might be possible that we see laptops that support either DDR4 or DDR5, which would make it a bit confusing when buying a new laptop or when upgrading memory. Honestly it wouldn’t surprise me at all if for 12th gen mobile processors they just standardize to DDR5 or something.
But then again, maybe not given there’s more supply of DDR4 SODIMM memory sticks out there.
DDR5 SODIMM memory is definitely coming, as we can see outlined here on the SK Hynix website, and I can only assume it’d be coming if there’s a reason to use it. They’re also only listing DDR5-4800 here, so I’m guessing that’s the speed mobile processors will initially support, like how current gen laptops are all DDR4-3200 without XMP support for higher. Of course over time with newer laptop processors we can expect the memory speed to increase. With DDR4 memory for example, when I started reviewing laptops on the channel the top speed was 2133, then we moved onto 2400, 2666, 2933, and now 3200.
So based on that page listing the existence of DDR5 SODIMM memory, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Intel 12th gen mobile will probably take advantage of that. It’s just yet to be seen whether or not DDR4 will also stick around like we’re seeing with desktops, because if it’s not then potentially DDR5 memory might be more expensive, as on the desktop side, which could increase the overall price of laptops.
Now from what we have seen on the desktop side, there’s not that much to gain with DDR5 memory, at least yet with the current speeds. But yeah like I said this will change over time. When DDR4 first came out it wasn’t too much better than DDR3, that’s just the natural cycle of things, you’ve got to give technology time to mature.
Now 12th gen also introduces PCIe gen 5, but it’s yet to be seen how much this is going to matter for laptops, at least initially. We’re only just starting to get a number of PCIe 4 SSDs, something that Intel 11th gen laptops could already take advantage of, but AMD Ryzen 5000 laptops could not use, as they max out at PCIe gen 3 for storage.
But yeah that might change next gen, regardless, my point is that currently there aren’t any PCIe gen 5 devices that you can get, so unless we suddenly get PCIe gen 5 SSDs with a crazy speed boost or maybe new GPUs might be announced at the same time as the new laptops that can use PCIe gen 5, I don’t really see that it’s going to offer us a practical benefit. I suppose if it was available it would be a little “future proof” but not much because by the time there’s PCIe gen 5 SSDs are you still going to be using the same laptop? Maybe?
I don’t know. So then when is all this coming? Intel hasn’t provided any information yet, but my best guess is we’ll hear about Intel 12th gen mobile at CES next year in January, so less than two months away from now. But if the past is anything to go by that’s probably just going to be the announcement rather than a full on launch with products that you can actually buy.
That might happen shortly after, but it could also be a few months later.
So your next question is probably going to be is it worth buying a laptop now or should you hold out and wait for an Intel 12th gen laptop. Honestly I think it all comes down to whether or not you need something now or if you can wait. If you need something now then you’re going to have to buy something now, because you need it. But if you can hold out a couple of months, personally that’s what I would do at this point, as two months isn’t a whole lot. That said this month is November and generally in the past there have been some pretty good black Friday sales.
Though I’m not sure we’re going to get a whole lot of great sales this year because of all the supply shortages. If companies are able to sell their laptops for crazy high prices and people buy them what incentive is there to run sales? Now if you do find a good sale on a current gen laptop it’s not as if it’s suddenly going to suck when the new stuff comes out, so if you do need something now and you get a good sale then yeah still worth going for I’d say.
But if you can wait, personally I’d just give it the two extra months to CES and see what happens, and hey if the new stuff does come along maybe current gen stuff will go on sale. But again in the world where there is no incentive for sales, maybe not.
Assuming what we’ve seen on the desktop side holds true for laptops, I’m not expecting much improvement in gaming performance, most of the gains will be in productivity style workloads owing to the higher thread counts. Now unfortunately I can’t tell you when, but I have already arranged to get some 12th gen gaming laptops in for testing, so you’re definitely going to want to make sure you’re subscribed to the channel for all of my future reviews and comparisons on that. For now though if you’re looking to buy a current gen laptop you can see the differences between Intel and AMD in this one next, or this one to get an idea of how well Intel 12th gen performs on the desktop side compared to AMD, so I’ll see you over in one of those.