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Which Motherboard Should You Buy for Intel's 12th Gen CPUs?

Now that Intel's 12th generation Core (Alder Lake) CPUs are available, which motherboards should you get for them?

Alder Lake State Park Eric Friedebach / flickr

Last Updated: May 4, 2022

Written by Kevin Jones

Motherboard Requirements for Intel's 12th Generation Core CPUs

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Motherboards for Intel processors are made with chipsets provided by Intel. Each chipset offers a unique set of capabilities. However, motherboards must explicitly support features and capabilities for you to use them. Verify that a motherboard supports the features and capabilities you desire.

For 12th Gen Intel Core processors, you'll need a motherboard with an LGA 1700 socket. You will need a motherboard with overclocking support to overclock 12th Gen CPUs. Motherboards with the Z690 chipset typically support CPU overclocking. Otherwise, you can use a motherboard with Intel's other 600-series desktop chipsets (e.g., H670, B660, H610).

Motherboards with the Z690 chipset were the first ones available, while motherboards with the other chipsets are starting to be released throughout 2022.

The W680 and Q670 chipsets are intended for workstation and business use cases; their availability in stand-alone motherboards is limited.

Get motherboard recommendations
for a specific 12th Gen Core CPU:
Intel 600 Series Desktop Chipsets
Z690H670B660H610W680Q670
Recommended Usage For Enthusiast Gamer PCs For General Home and Gaming PCs For Budget PCs For Barebones PCs For High-End Creative/Engineering Workstations For Nicer Business PCs
Motherboard Availability Limited Limited
Launch Date Q4 2021 Q1 2022 Q1 2022 Q1 2022 Q1 2022 Q1 2022
CPU Overclocking
See Exceptions: MOTHERBOARD
Yes Yes Yes No Yes No
Memory Overclocking Yes Yes Yes No Yes No
PCIe 5.0 Slots via Processor One x16 or Two x8 One x16 or Two x8 One x16 One x16 One x16 or Two x8 One x16 or Two x8
PCIe 4.0 Slots via Processor One x4 One x4 One x4 None One x4 One x4
PCIe 4.0 Lanes via Chipset Up to 12 Up to 12 Up to 6 None Up to 12 Up to 12
PCIe 3.0 Lanes via Chipset Up to 16 Up to 12 Up to 8 8 Up to 16 Up to 12
Memory Channels 2 2 2 1 2 2
Integrated Wireless Wi-Fi 6E AX211 (Gig+) Wi-Fi 6E AX211 (Gig+) Wi-Fi 6E AX211 (Gig+) Wi-Fi 6E AX211 (Gig+) Wi-Fi 6E AX211 (Gig+) Wi-Fi 6E AX211 (Gig+)
DMI 4.0 Lanes 8 8 4 4 8 8
USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 (20 Gbps) Up to 4 Up to 2 Up to 2 None Up to 4 Up to 4
USB 3.2 Gen 2x1 (10 Gbps) Up to 10 Up to 4 Up to 4 Up to 2 Up to 10 Up to 8
USB 3.2 Gen 1x1 (5 Gbps) Up to 10 Up to 8 Up to 6 Up to 4 Up to 10 Up to 10
USB 2.0 Ports 14 14 12 10 14 14
Wi-Fi 6E Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
SATA 3.0 Ports Up to 8 Up to 8 Up to 4 Up to 4 Up to 8 Up to 8
PCIe RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 0, 1, 5, 10 None None 0, 1, 5, 10 0, 1, 5, 10
SATA RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 0, 1, 5, 10 0, 1, 5, 10 None 0, 1, 5, 10 0, 1, 5, 10

MOTHERBOARD The motherboard must support overclocking to use overclocking capabilities. Motherboards with Z-prefixed chipsets more commonly support overclocking.

GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Master GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Master Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

DDR4 or DDR5 Memory

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Because DDR4 and DDR5 are not backward compatible, you must decide which one you want to go with before selecting a motherboard.

DDR5 memory is currently more expensive than DDR4.

However, it offers up to double the stock data rates of DDR4. Overclockers could push this limit even further.

Additionally, DDR5 supports higher-capacity DIMMs (256 GB vs. 64 GB).

DDR5 may experience slower timings at initial release but should be much better than DDR4 as the technology matures. However, keep in mind that the timings scale inversely with the clock rate (frequency). The timing values are in units of clock cycles, but more cycles are happening per second with DDR5. For example, DDR3-2133 CL10 has nearly the same latency as DDR5-8400 CL40. So don't let the CL40 timings of DDR5 scare you away; the number just looks bigger!

DDR Generations (Without Overclocking)
DDR4DDR5
Max UDIMM (Unbuffered) Capacity 32 GB 128 GB
Bandwidth 12800–25600 MB/s 38400–57600 MB/s
Transfer Rate 1600–3200 MT/s 4800–7200 MT/s
Base Frequency 800–1600 MHz 2400–3600 MHz
Effective Frequency 1600–3200 MHz 4800–7200 MHz
Voltage 1.2 V 1.1 V
On-die ECC No Yes

Other Considerations When Choosing a 12th Gen Motherboard

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In addition to selecting a motherboard with an LGA 1700 socket type and compatible chipset, here are a few other things to consider when picking a motherboard. Some of these considerations will help determine the best chipset to use.

Memory Overclocking

To be able to overclock DDR memory, such as via an XMP profile, your motherboard chipset needs to support memory overclocking.

Video Output Port

An "F" in the CPU's model name indicates that the CPU does not have integrated graphics support and requires a separate graphics card. Because it doesn't have integrated graphics support, you won't need a motherboard with a video output port (e.g., HDMI).

The lack of an "F" in the model name indicates that the CPU has integrated graphics support. You will need to make sure that your motherboard also has a video output port (e.g., HDMI) if you want to use the integrated graphics.

Even if you primarily connect your monitors to a graphics card, integrated graphics can be beneficial when troubleshooting and fixing graphics card problems.

Storage: M.2 Slots and SATA Ports

NVMe M.2 cards are the latest and fastest form of SSD storage. However, you need to ensure that your motherboard includes enough slots.

The Z690 and H670 chipsets support the most PCIe 4.0 lanes, which means that motherboards with these chipsets are likely to have the most x4 NVMe M.2 slots available.

Learn more about storage types in my article Storage Type Comparison: M.2, U.2, NVMe, SATA, SSDs, HDDs.

Connectivity

USB

Make sure that the motherboard provides enough USB ports at your desired speeds. The Z690 can support the most USB ports at USB 3.2 2x2 (20 Gbps), USB 3.2 2x1 (10 Gbps), and USB 3.2 1x1 (5 Gbps) speeds.

The devices that are likely to need the high bandwidth rates will typically be limited to storage devices and high-resolution video devices.

Audio

Make sure that the motherboard has your desired audio outputs.

For example, if you have a surround sound system, ensure that it comes with rear and center speaker ports.

If your audio equipment requires an optical input, consider getting a motherboard with this port.

Alternatively, you can purchase a separate PCIe or USB sound card to add additional port types such as optical or RCA.

Form Factor

Motherboards typically come in one of three form factors. ATX is the most common motherboard form factor for a desktop PC.

You might also consider Mini-ITX or MicroATX form factors to build a mini-PC. Keep in mind that these smaller form factors typically have fewer PCIe card slots, fewer RAM slots, and can not support as many storage devices.

These smaller Mini-ITX and MicroATX motherboard form factors are backward compatible with standard ATX cases. They use a subset of the ATX mounting holes. You can also use Mini-ITX motherboards in MicroATX cases.

You will need a computer case compatible with your motherboard form factor.

PCIe Expansion Slots

The Z690 and H670 chipsets provide the most flexibility, allowing multiple PCIe 5.0 graphics cards in the dual x8 configuration.

The H610 chipset, on the other hand, is very limited, with only a single PCIe 5.0 x16 slot and no additional PCIe 4.0 slots.

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Best Intel High-Performance Enthusiast CPU: Intel Core i9-12900K

  • Up to 5.2 GHz: perfect for games, video editing, and high-intensity tasks.

  • 16 cores (8 Performance + 8 Efficiency): Quite a few cores considering the frequency! This combination makes it a great all-around system that can handle almost any task.

  • Virtualization features make it great for running virtual machines.

  • Check the latest price of the Intel Core i9-12900K on Amazon (affiliate link).

    Intel Core i9-12900K Processor 16 Cores (8P+8E) up to 5.2 GHz Intel Core i9-12900K Processor 16 Cores (8P+8E) up to 5.2 GHz Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
  • For the Intel Core i9-12900K CPU, you'll need a motherboard with overclocking support to overclock the CPU. Motherboards with the Z690 chipset typically support CPU overclocking. Otherwise, you can use a motherboard with Intel's other 600-series desktop chipsets (e.g., H670, B660, H610).

  • Our recommended DDR5 motherboard to pair with the i9-12900K is Gigabyte's Z690 AORUS Master: GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Master GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Master Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

    • PCIe 5.0 support
    • It supports up to 128GB of DDR5 memory (DDR5 provides the fastest memory speeds)!
    • 10 Gbps Ethernet port is faster than any home Internet speed available with tons of room to spare for file transfers.
    • Wi-Fi 6E makes it easy to reach the fastest speeds and future-proof your Wi-Fi system.
    • Bluetooth 5.2 is great for streaming music to Bluetooth headphones.
    • Four x4 NVMe M.2 slots, which is fantastic! Three of these run at PCIe 4.0 speeds, and one at PCIe 3.0 speeds.
    • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 offers 20 Gbps USB speeds!
    • Check the latest price of the GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Master on Amazon (affiliate link).
  • Our recommended DDR4 motherboard to pair with the i9-12900K is Gigabyte's Z690 AORUS Elite AX DDR4: GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Elite AX DDR4 GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Elite AX DDR4 Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

    • PCIe 5.0 support
    • It supports up to 128GB of DDR4 memory!
    • 2.5 Gb Ethernet port is faster than most home Internet speeds with room to spare for file transfers.
    • Wi-Fi 6
    • Bluetooth 5.2 is great for streaming music to Bluetooth headphones.
    • Four x4 NVMe M.2 slots, which is fantastic! All four of these run at PCIe 4.0 speeds.
    • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 offers 20 Gbps USB speeds!
    • Check the latest price of the GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Elite AX DDR4 on Amazon (affiliate link).

Best Value CPU: Intel Core i5-12600K

  • Less than half the price of the i9-12900K, but still excellent performance at up to 4.9 GHz.

  • 10 cores (6 Performance + 4 Efficiency): This core count makes it suitable for everyday multi-threading tasks, such as having tons of browser windows open.

  • Virtualization features make it great for running virtual machines.

  • Check the latest price of the Intel Core i5-12600K on Amazon (affiliate link).

    Intel Core i5-12600K Intel Core i5-12600K Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
  • For the Intel Core i5-12600K CPU, you'll need a motherboard with overclocking support to overclock the CPU. Motherboards with the Z690 chipset typically support CPU overclocking. Otherwise, you can use a motherboard with Intel's other 600-series desktop chipsets (e.g., H670, B660, H610).

  • Our recommended DDR5 motherboard to pair with the i5-12600K is GIGABYTE's Z690 AORUS PRO motherboard: GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS PRO GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS PRO Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

    • PCIe 5.0 support
    • It supports up to 128GB of DDR5 memory!
    • Three NVMe M.2 slots, which is excellent! These all run at PCIe 4.0 speeds.
    • 2.5 Gb Ethernet port is faster than most home Internet speeds with room to spare for file transfers.
    • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 offers 20 Gbps USB speeds!
    • Check the latest price of the GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS PRO on Amazon (affiliate link).
  • Our recommended DDR4 motherboard to pair with the i5-12600K is GIGABYTE's Z690 Gaming X DDR4 motherboard: GIGABYTE Z690 Gaming X DDR4 GIGABYTE Z690 Gaming X DDR4 Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

    • PCIe 5.0 support
    • It supports up to 128GB of DDR4 memory!
    • Four x4 NVMe M.2 slots, which is fantastic! All four of these run at PCIe 4.0 speeds.
    • 2.5 Gb Ethernet port is faster than most home Internet speeds with room to spare for file transfers.
    • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 offers 20 Gbps USB speeds!
    • Check the latest price of the GIGABYTE Z690 Gaming X DDR4 on Amazon (affiliate link).

Considerations When Choosing a CPU Cooler

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Thermal Dissipation

A CPU cooler's TDP (Thermal Design Power) rating indicates how much heat it can dissipate in watts. If the cooler can't keep your CPU cool enough, your CPU may throttle (slow down), and your cooler will constantly run at full speed.

Intel CPU specifications indicate this power dissipation number as "Processor Base Power" and "Maximum Turbo Power."

For example, the Core i9-12900K has a TDP of 125–241 watts, depending on the workload.

A CPU cooler can still work with a lower TDP rating than the TDP of a CPU. However, the CPU will eventually throttle itself to a lower frequency to allow itself to cool.

The CPU may not achieve or maintain maximum turbo speeds without adequate cooling.

Types of Coolers

Air coolers use a combination of heatsinks and fans. They are the cheapest, but also the loudest.

A Closed-Loop Cooler (CLC), also called an All-in-One (AIO) cooler, is a type of liquid cooler. All-in-one liquid coolers provide a more straightforward setup in a single pre-built package.

Liquid cooling can provide even better TDP performance at lower noise levels but are more expensive and take up more room. The noise level and ability to cool your CPU will depend on the liquid cooling solution's radiator size and the number and size of the fans.

Find AIO Coolers on Amazon (affiliate link).

Open-Loop Coolers are also a type of liquid cooler, except you construct them yourself. They allow for more flexibility in building your perfect cooling solution but can also be more complicated to set up. Open-loop systems give you the flexibility to cool additional devices, such as your graphics card's GPU.

Noise

More fans typically mean better cooling. However, they also mean more noise.

Larger fans are typically quieter than smaller fans, as they can move the same amount of air at lower speeds.

If a cooler is struggling to cool a CPU, it will run at its maximum speed, which will be louder.

Fan noise levels are measured a dB. Lower dB values are quieter.

You can often configure your motherboard's BIOS to use specific fan speeds at particular temperatures. This configurable fan speed allows you to have a near-silent computer while your computer is idle.

Mounting Brackets

CPU coolers can have various mounting brackets to work with different socket sizes. Make sure that your cooler comes with a compatible mounting bracket.

The easiest way to find a CPU cooler that will work for your computer is to search by socket type. For example, Intel's 12th generation Core i9 12900K uses an LGA 1700 socket, so you would search for an LGA 1700 CPU cooler. In some cases, such as when a new socket size is released, there may not be many compatible coolers. In these cases, you can often purchase a separate mounting/retention kit to work with the new dimensions.

Size

Before buying the biggest cooler possible, ensure that your case and motherboard configuration have room.

Also, ensure that other components on your motherboard won't interfere due to size constraints. For example, do your memory modules (DIMMs) have tall heat spreaders?

Dual-fan coolers often take up quite a bit of room. Liquid cooling solutions typically position fans at the top or bottom of the case.

Lighting

Some CPU cooler fans come with LED lighting. Similarly, liquid cooling pump heads can also come with LEDs or even LCDs!

If you want to turn off the lights when they get annoying, make sure your CPU cooler has that option.

Price

In general, air-based coolers will be lower cost than liquid cooling systems.

CPU coolers that support a higher TDP are also typically correlated with a higher price.

The more advanced lighting features tend to also come at an extra cost. You can decide between a practical, low-cost solution and a dazzling light show.

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Locked Intel CPUs may come with a stock CPU cooler. These CPU models do not have a "K" in the name. While stock coolers will prevent your CPU from overheating, your CPU will throttle its performance during games and other intensive tasks. Higher TDP coolers will keep your CPU at turbo speeds for longer durations. Stock coolers are often quite loud at their maximum speed.

The LGA 1700 socket will require a CPU cooler that supports the new socket size. Some manufacturers are releasing upgrade kits for LGA 1200 heatsinks to support the new size.

Best AIO Liquid Cooler: Enermax Liqmax III 360

Best Dual-Fan Air CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-D15

  • Dual 140 mm fans provide 220-watt TDP (183 NSPR) of cooling capability.
  • Supports a variety of CPU sockets, including Intel LGA 1700, 1200, 1156, 1155, 1151, 1150, 2011, 2066 and AMD AM4, AM3, AM3+, AM2, AM2+, FM2, FM2+.
  • Quiet operation at 24.6 dBA. Noctua NH-D15, Premium CPU Cooler Noctua NH-D15, Premium CPU Cooler Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Runner Up - Dual-Fan Air CPU Cooler: Thermaltake TOUGHAIR 510

  • This CPU cooler doesn't have any fancy LED lights, but the dual 120 mm fans do a great job of cooling LGA 1700 CPUs.
  • Suppose you think this cooler will take up too much space. In that case, Thermaltake has a few single-fan TOUGHAIR variants which use different orientations.
  • This CPU cooler has a 2000 RPM max speed for optimal cooling.
  • 180-watt TDP (Thermal Design Power). Thermaltake TOUGHAIR 510 Thermaltake TOUGHAIR 510 Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
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Before purchasing memory, review your motherboard specification to verify which speeds are supported. For example, if a DDR4 motherboard stated that it supports "DDR4 3400(O.C.) / 3333(O.C.) / 3300(O.C.) / 3200 / 3000," that would mean that it could support DDR4-3400, DDR4-3333, and DDR4-3300 with memory overclocking, and DDR4-3200 and DDR4-3000 at stock speeds. Motherboard specifications also indicate the maximum capacity per stick of RAM (DIMM) and across all slots.

  • At an effective frequency of 4800 MHz, this memory hits the fastest speeds supported by Intel Alder Lake (e.g., 12th Gen Core) CPUs without overclocking.
  • Compact heat spreaders avoid conflicting with a CPU cooler.
  • 32 GB provides ample memory for gaming and multitasking. Corsair Vengeance DDR5 32GB (2x16GB) DDR5 4800MHz Corsair Vengeance DDR5 32GB (2x16GB) DDR5 4800MHz Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
  • At an effective frequency of 3200 MHz, this memory hits the fastest supported stock DDR4 speeds.

  • It is also available in other (effective) frequencies for overclockers, including 3600 MHz and 4000 MHz.

  • Lower-speed versions are also available on Amazon, in various capacities, including DDR4-2933 (affiliate link), DDR4-2666 (affiliate link), and DDR4-2400 (affiliate link).

  • The low-profile form factor ensures that the heat spreaders don't get in the way of other devices, including your CPU heatsink. Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Other Considerations When Building a PC

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Want to brush up on other new technologies to consider when building a computer? Check out these articles: