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Is the Core i9-12900KS CPU Good for Gaming?

Find out if Intel's Core i9 12900KS processor is good for gaming.

12900KS Good for Gaming Chuck Fortner / Unsplash

Last Updated: June 23, 2022

Written by Kevin Jones

When selecting a CPU for gaming, the most important characteristics are the frequency (clock speed), core/thread count, cache size, and supported memory type. Additional considerations, such as integrated graphics and overclocking needs, may also influence your selection.

In addition to discussing the characteristics of the 12900KS for gaming, this article will discuss recommendations for compatible motherboards, CPU coolers, and memory.

Check another CPU:
Intel Core i9-12900KS Intel Core i9-12900KS Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Is the 12900KS Good for Gaming?

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When using Intel's Core i9 12900KS CPU for gaming, you can expect excellent gaming performance with a high-performance CPU cooler or good gaming performance with a basic or stock CPU cooler. This performance is based on the following characteristics of the CPU and their relevance to the latest graphics-intense games:

  • 30 MB of L3 cache allows for excellent performance
  • 8 Performance cores allow for excellent performance
  • 3.40 GHz base frequency is mediocre for performance
  • 5.50 GHz single-core max turbo frequency is excellent for performance (with a high-end cooler)
  • 5.20 GHz max turbo frequency of the Performance cores are excellent for performance (with a high-end cooler)
  • DDR5 support with a max stock speed of 4800 MT/s can be excellent for performance
  • Overclocking support can be excellent for performance (with a high-end cooler)
  • PCIe 5.0 support can be excellent for performance (with the fastest SSDs and GPUs)

The 12900KS has integrated graphics support, but this performance assessment assumes you will use a graphics card. Integrated graphics support is mediocre or worse with the latest graphics-intense games.

Check out these Intel Core CPUs that are Good or Excellent for gaming:

Check out my article, Choosing the Best CPU Cooler for Intel's Core i9-12900KS, for recommended coolers that can maintain these boost frequencies.

Is the Cache Size of the 12900KS Good for Gaming?

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A CPU's cache is a small amount of memory, close to the CPU cores, containing recently used data.

Games performance can improve as cache size increases, as it will reduce delays when retrieving commonly used game assets from memory.

An L3 cache capacity of at least 20 MB is ideal for game performance.

The Intel Core i9-12900KS has an L3 cache capacity of 30 MB.

The 12900KS's impressive 30 MB of L3 cache allows for excellent performance with the latest graphics-intense games.

Is the Core Count of the 12900KS Good for Gaming?

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Increased core counts can improve the performance of games that use them, but most modern games don't benefit from having more than 6–8 cores. Remember that cache sizes often increase along with core counts, so if you want to increase your L3 cache, you may need to get a CPU with more cores. Intel's 12900KS CPUs have 8 Performance (P) cores and 8 Efficiency (E) cores for a total of 16 cores.

The P cores are comparable to previous generation cores. Running a game will primarily use P cores.

E cores are focused on adding additional threads in an energy-efficient manner. They take up much less room on the CPU and generate less heat. However, their smaller cache and minimal interconnect capabilities make them more appropriate for offloading background tasks.

The 12900KS's 8 Performance cores allow for excellent performance with the latest graphics-intense games.

Is the Clock Speed of the 12900KS Good for Gaming?

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Single-core performance is essential for some games, as many don't take full advantage of multiple cores.

Turbo boost frequencies are only achieved under ideal circumstances. The safest strategy for consistent gaming performance with a basic cooler is to get a higher base clock speed processor. However, with adequate cooling, you may be able to maintain speeds near the max boost frequency.

When using a high-end cooler, the 12900KS CPU's support for overclocking can be excellent for performance with the latest graphics-intense games.

The 8 Performance cores have a 3.40 GHz base frequency and support a 5.20 GHz max turbo frequency.

The 12900KS's 3.40 GHz base frequency is mediocre for performance with the latest graphics-intense games. You can reach these base frequencies even without a high-end cooler.

With a high-end cooler, the 12900KS's 5.50 GHz single-core max turbo frequency is excellent for performance with the latest graphics-intense games. Single-core turbo boost frequencies can be maintained with a high-end cooler.

With a high-end cooler, the 12900KS's 5.20 GHz max turbo frequency of the Performance cores are excellent for performance with the latest graphics-intense games. P core turbo frequencies can be maintained with a high-end cooler.

Check out my article, Choosing the Best CPU Cooler for Intel's Core i9-12900KS, for recommended coolers that can maintain these boost frequencies.

Is the DDR Support of the 12900KS Good for Gaming?

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The 12900KS CPU's support for DDR5 with a max stock speed of 4800 MT/s can be excellent for performance with the latest graphics-intense games.

Faster PC memory can improve game performance and frame rates, but using the fastest RAM may not have as much of an impact as upgrading your CPU and graphics card or adding more RAM.

Learn more about DDR in DDR4 vs. DDR5? Which You Should Buy.

Learn about our recommended RAM for the 12900KS in Choosing the Best RAM for Intel's Core i9-12900KS CPU.

What Does the KS Suffix in 12900KS Mean?

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Processor Name Suffix Meaning
K "K" means it's an unlocked CPU. Unlocked CPUs have configurable frequencies and thus support overclocking. Your "motherboard" must support overclocking to overclock unlocked CPUs. Motherboards with Z-series chipsets typically support overclocking. Learn more about what each chipset supports in my article Which Chipsets Work With Intel's Core i9-12900KS CPU?.
S "S" means it is a special edition CPU.

The 12900KS model name doesn't have an F suffix. Non-F CPUs contain integrated graphics, and a separate graphics card isn't required if your motherboard includes video-output connectors (e.g., HDMI).

The 12900KS model name has a K suffix. K-suffixed CPUs can be overclocked with a compatible motherboard.

Motherboards with a Z-series chipset typically support overclocking. For example, motherboards with the Z690 chipset usually support overclocking Intel's 12th Gen Core CPUs. Learn more about what each chipset supports in my article Which Chipsets Work With Intel's Core i9-12900KS CPU?.

Intel Core i9-12900KS Intel Core i9-12900KS Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Cooling the 12900KS

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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."

The Core i9-12900KS has a base TDP of 150 watts and a max turbo TDP of 241 watts.

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.

Learn more in Choosing the Best CPU Cooler for Intel's Core i9-12900KS.

The distance between heatsink screw holes for the LGA 1700 socket increased to 78x78 mm from the 75x75 mm spacing typical of recent sockets. This new spacing means you'll need a new cooler/heatsink or upgrade kit that supports the new configuration.

Motherboard Requirements for Core i9-12900KS Processors

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For Intel's 12th generation Core i9 12900KS processor, you'll need a motherboard with an LGA 1700 socket and a compatible 600-series chipset.

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.

The "K" in the model name 12900KS means it's an unlocked processor that supports overclocking. You will need a motherboard with overclocking support to overclock this CPU. Motherboards with the Z690 chipset typically support CPU overclocking. If you don't want to use the overclocking functionality at this time, 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 (H670, B660, H610) 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.

For a detailed comparison of these chipsets, check out my article Which Chipsets Work With Intel's Core i9-12900KS CPU?.

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DDR5 Motherboard: Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master

  • Our recommended DDR5 motherboard to pair with the Core i9-12900KS 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).

DDR4 Motherboard: Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Elite AX DDR4

  • Our recommended DDR4 motherboard to pair with the Core i9-12900KS 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).
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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 3200 MHz, this memory hits the fastest DDR4 speed supported by Intel's Core i9 12900KS CPU without overclocking.
  • 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 32GB (2X16GB) 3200MHz DDR4 Corsair Vengeance LPX 32GB (2X16GB) 3200MHz DDR4 Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Learn More About the Intel Core i9-12900KS

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You can find detailed 12900KS specifications on Intel's site.

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: