Core i9-12900HK review: Intel has the best gaming processor, for now

Core i9-12900HK review: Intel has the best gaming processor, for now

Intel’s 12th-gen H-series processors are the best that you can get in a gaming laptop, and the Core i9-12900HK really shows it off. It’s a 45W CPU that can go way farther, especially since it’s unlocked for overclocking. From our testing, we’ve seen in every benchmark that it outperforms the competition.

It’s worth keeping in mind, of course, that it’s also the newest thing. It comes out on par with Apple’s M1 Max in benchmarks, so when we get an M2 Max at some point, it will obviously beat this. That’s how these things work; it’s back and forth. AMD also hasn’t started offering its Ryzen 6000 H-series laptops for review yet.

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But then again, you can’t play the same games on a Mac that you can on Windows. That’s why it makes it easy to say that this is absolutely the best gaming CPU right now. The only competitor is AMD.

Right now, Intel gets to just be king of the hill, especially when it comes to gaming. For creator applications, there’s still a whole family of 45W Alder Lake CPUs to choose from, and from what we’ve seen, Intel 12th-gen is a winner.

    The MSI Raider GE76 is among the first laptops to ship with Intel's new 12th-gen processors, as well as NVIDIA's new GeForce RTX 3080 Ti graphics

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Check out the specs of this unit:

MSI Raider GE76 Specs

CPU Intel Core i9-12900HK
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti Laptop GPU 16GB GDDR6
Up to 1690MHz Boost Clock, 175W Maximum Graphics Power with Dynamic Boost. Max. 220W CPU-GPU Power with MSI OverBoost Technology. *May vary by scenario
Body 397 x 284 x 25.9 mm, 2.9kg
Display 17.3″ FHD (1920×1080), 360Hz, IPS-Level
Memory 32GB DDR5-4800 Memory Type
2 Slots Number of SO-DIMM Slot
Max 64GB Max Capacity
Storage 2x 2TB M.2 SSD slot (NVMe PCIe Gen4)
Webcam FHD type ([email protected])
Keyboard Per-Key RGB Backlight Keyboard
Connectivity Killer Gb LAN (Up to 2.5G)
Intel Killer AX Wi-Fi 6E + Bluetooth 5.2
Audio jack 1x Mic-in/Headphone-out Combo Jack
Ports 1x Type-C (USB / DP / Thunderbolt 4)
1x Type-C USB3.2 Gen2
2x Type-A USB3.2 Gen1
1x Type-A USB3.2 Gen2
1x RJ45
1x SD Express
1x (8K @ 60Hz / 4K @ 120Hz) HDMI
1x Mini-DisplayPort
Battery 4-Cell
99.9 Battery (Whr)
AC Adapter 330W adapter
Color Titanium Blue
OS Windows 11 Pro
Price $3,999

MSI Raider GE76: The laptop

  • The MSI Raider GE76 has a 360Hz FHD display, but is also offered with 240Hz QHD and 120Hz UHD.
  • It’s a laptop that’s focused on gaming, and if you’re looking for beautiful but accurate colors, look for something more creator focused like the MSI Creator 15.
  • The keyboard has per-key RGB lighting, and there’s an RGB light bar across the front.

Most of this review is going to be spent talking about performance. After all, we’re mostly here to talk about Intel’s Core i9-12900HK, along with the new RTX 3080 Ti GPU, DDR5 memory, and other internals. I do want to talk about the MSI Raider GE76 though, as it’s actually the first MSI laptop I’ve reviewed.

It’s quite nice, using a stylish design with the MSI logo on the lid. From the outside, it’s pretty straightforward for a gaming laptop.

Across the front is an RGB light bar, which is pretty cool. It adds a nice touch to the gaming rig. Of course, if you’re one of the many people that buy a gaming laptop for something that’s decidedly not gaming, you wouldn’t appreciate it. For those people, MSI has its Creator line of laptops.

There’s also per-key RGB lighting on the keyboard. By default, it’s set to what you see above, where it just sort of cycles through different colors. It’s definitely pretty, and you can change it if you want.

MSI Raider GE76 benchmark

It’s also got a 360Hz display, which is awesome for gaming. The high refresh rate makes for smoother animations and most definitely better gameplay. I’ve seen the demoes, and I’ve played the exact same scenarios on a 60Hz screen and a 360Hz screen. The results are better on the latter.

The color gamut isn’t anything too exciting, with 97% sRGB, 68% NTSC, 73% Adobe RGB, and 73% P3. This isn’t uncommon for a gaming laptop, where the screen tends to be so optimized for having a high frame rate and being anti-glare that color gamut doesn’t tend to be a priority. In the past, people who edited videos and such would buy gaming laptops for their power, but now, there’s a whole range of creator laptops that focus more on that. In short, stay tuned, because I have a review of the MSI Creator 15, which has a stunning 4K OLED display, coming up.

MSI Raider GE76 benchmark

Brightness maxed out at 287.4 nits, which isn’t very bright. I assume that outdoor use isn’t a priority for a laptop like this. Contrast maxed out at 1,150:1.

Rear view of MSI Raider GE76

Most of the ports are on the back, including a charging port that hooks up to the 330W adapter. There’s also HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, and Thunderbolt 4. Any of those can be used for connecting high-resolution displays, making it nice and easy to take this laptop on the go, and dock it when you get home. There’s also an Ethernet port back there, which I had to make use of because Wi-Fi was tremendously unstable for me with this device. Presumably, there will be a driver update at some point before launch.

Ports on the back of gaming laptops are for those things that you’ll leave plugged in often, like monitors, docks, or the charger. On the sides, there’s where you’ll find ports that are more specifically for peripherals that you might plug and unplug frequently, like headsets, mice, and so on. You’ll find USB Type-A on both sides (two on the right side, one on the left), an SD card reader on the right side, a USB Type-C ports (not Thunderbolt) on the left side, and a 3.5mm audio jack on the left side.

Performance: Intel Core i9-12900HK, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, 32GB DDR5 memory, and more

  • The Core i9-12900HK currently offers the best CPU performance in a laptop.
  • DDR5 is better than DDR4, but has longer latency times.
  • The GeForce RTX 3080 Ti is the next step up.

Here’s the summary: I’ve been using this laptop for a week, and I’ve played tons of games on it, such as Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5. By default, the graphics are set to the best they can be, and I set the frame rates to the full 360fps that you can use with this display. I didn’t have any issues at all. It was phenomenal. This is just one of those situations where you’re not going to be able to get better hardware.

Intel’s new 12th-gen ‘Alder Lake’ processors use a hybrid architecture. It’s across the whole family too, and we first got to see it in our review of the Core i9-12900K and Core i5-12600K, which are desktop CPUs. This is our first time seeing it in a mobile processor.

It uses a process that we’ve been seeing from ARM processors for years. There are big, powerful cores (P-cores), which are used for the most resource-demanding tasks. And then there are efficiency cores (E-cores), which don’t use as much power and can be used for tasks that don’t require as many resources. This is managed by a scheduler that Intel calls Thread Director. The P-cores are Hyperthreaded, while the E-cores are not, so since the Core i9-12900HK has six P-cores and eight E-cores, it adds up to a total of 14 cores and 20 threads. That’s way more than anything we’ve seen before in a consumer PC.

The P-cores max out at 5GHz clock speed, while the E-cores max out at 3.8GHz Turbo. The TDP is 45W, but the processor has a max power of 115W. This thing can get powerful, although that’s also why Intel says it’s the most powerful mobile gaming CPU on the planet.

I started off this section just by saying that gaming performance was as smooth as can be with the most demanding settings I could find, because that about sums up what you need to know. I could also tell you video and photo editing performance is great, but really, that all kind of just goes without saying. For benchmarks, I ran almost every test I could find, so we’re just going to run through those. Spoiler: the scores are high.

Intel Content Creation test

This was a test that was provided by Intel, making use of Adobe Premiere Pro and Lightroom Classic. It’s essentially a script that runs through a series of operations in each app.

MSI Raider GE76 benchmark

Both the Premiere Pro export and Lightroom import times are pretty similar to what we saw with the desktop parts that I reviewed last year, which is impressive. Lightroom export rook much longer, with a median speed of 45.7 seconds on the Core i9-12900K and 56.1 seconds with the Core i5-12600K. With the mobile chip, it was 125.9 seconds. The other two tests came out in-between the Core i5-12600K and the Core i9-12900K.

Geekbench 5

Geekbench is a test that looks at straight-up CPU performance. To be clear, this is not a snapshot of overall PC performance, as it should produce the same scores whether we have an RTX 3080 Ti GPU, or if we were using a machine with integrated graphics.

Product Specs Single-core Multi-core
MSI Raider GE76 Core i9-12900HK, RTX 3080 Ti 1,774 12,630
HP OMEN 45L Core i9-12900K, RTX 3090 1,921 15,723
MacBook Pro M1 Pro 1,755 9,954
MacBook Pro* M1 Max 1,780 12,720
Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Core i9-11950H, RTX A5000 1,669 9,309

*The MacBook Pro with M1 Max score was pulled from the Geekbench database.

The big improvement over previous generations is going to be in multithreaded performance. That shouldn’t be surprising, since there are more cores. Specifically referring to CPU performance, we can see that the Core i9-12900HK is just about on par with Apple’s M1 Max, which goes in top-end MacBook Pro laptops.

Cinebench

Cinebench is another test that exclusively focuses on the CPU.

Product Specs Single core Multi-core
MSI Raider GE76 Core i9-12900HK, RTX 3080 Ti 1,833 14,675
HP OMEN 45L Core i9-12900K, RTX 3090 1,894 23,659
MacBook Pro M1 Pro 1,530 9,552
MacBook Pro* M1 Max 1,529 12,258
Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Core i9-11950H, RTX A5000 1,606 12,264

Being that this test is still just testing the CPU, the results are similar, except for how the desktop CPU really blows away everything else in multi-core scores.

3DMark

3DMark is the first one that’s going to give us an overall score, along with both CPU and GPU scores. It provides some additional insights, as well as several tests. I ran the CPU Profile test, Time Spy, and Time Spy Extreme.

Test Total Score CPU Score GPU Score
Time Spy 12,287 12,237 12,296
Time Spy Extreme 5,867 5,282 5,984

Also, according to that, this machine should get the following performance when gaming:

Game Resolution Frame Rate
Battlefield V 1440p Ultra 115+
1080p Ultra 140+
Apex Legends 1440p Ultra 130+
1080p Ultra 140+
GTA V 1440p Ultra 70+
1080p Ultra 105+
Fortnite 1440p Ultra 125+
1080p Ultra 170+
RDR 2 1440p Ultra 45+
1080p Ultra 55+

Note that this is probably the biggest disparity from the desktop parts. If you’re deciding between a gaming laptop and a gaming desktop, this is something to pay attention to.

 

Finally, these are the CPU Profile results:

MSI Raider GE76 benchmark

VRMark

VRMark is, well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It tests virtual reality with three different tests. There’s the Orange Room, Cyan Room, and Blue Room. Orange Room is entry-level, while Blue Room is a test I’ve only seen a handful of PCs pass.

Test Score
Orange Room 11,452
Cyan Room 11,542
Blue Room 3,815

Out of all of the tests that I’ve run over the years, this is the top laptop score for the Blue Room test. Anything above that is a desktop, all of which have Core i9 processors from ninth- through 12th-gen, and graphics of either RTX 2080 Ti, RTX 3080, and RTX 3090. In other words, we’re in pretty good shape here.

PCMark 10

PCMark 10 is my favorite tests, because it really tests out a bit of everything. In fact, in most of my benchmark charts, I sort them by PCMark 10 score, and that’s how I decide what to compare a machine to.

Product Specs Score
MSI Raider GE76 Core i9-12900HK, RTX 3080 Ti 7,820
HP OMEN 45L Core i9-12900K, RTX 3090 9,012
HP OMEN 30L Core i9-10900K, RTX 3080 7,463
Lenovo Legion 5 Pro Ryzen 7 5800H, RTX 3070 6,800
Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Core i9-11950H, RTX A5000 6,788

For reference, here are some details:

MSI Raider GE76 benchmark

The scores are really impressive. It beats a desktop from 2020 with an RTX 3080, so that’s saying something.

CrystalDiskMark

CrystalDiskMark is for testing storage, so out of all of the tests we’re doing, this one has the least to do with the new CPU and GPU. Really, it’s just for if you’re considering the MSI Raider GE76.

MSI Raider GE76 benchmark

MaxxMem2

MaxxMem2 is a test for benchmarking RAM, and I haven’t used it much in the past. I’ve been using it more recently now that DDR5 is out, and more specifically, since DDR5 is too expensive to be mainstream. This test lets us see if DDR5 is worth the premium.

MSI Raider GE76 benchmark

DDR5 is new to Intel’s 12th-gen CPUs, which is why this matters now. In my HP OMEN 45L review, it got 37,813MB/s on read, 41,851MB/s on write, and 32,440MB/s on copy, with 81.7ns latency. Right now, you could probably say that you could live without DDR5, given marginal improvements, longer latency, and higher prices. It’s something to keep an eye on though.

Video rendering

And now, it’s time for the old 8K video rendering test. That’s where we dump some video files into a video editing application, and export them. It’s about four minutes long, and I ran the same test on the Apple MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro processor.

Product Software Rendering Time
MSI Raider GE76 Adobe Premiere Pro 10:52
DaVinci Resolve 6:17
MacBook Pro Adobe Premiere Pro 29:46
DaVinci Resolve 2:25

Apple’s laptop still does a lot better in DaVinci Resolve, but the MSI smokes it with Adobe Premiere Pro. And before anyone says otherwise, Premiere Pro does run natively on Apple Silicon.

Who should buy a laptop with an Intel Core i9-12900HK?

While we’ve seen in numerous tests now that the Intel Core i9-12900HK is best-in-class, that class isn’t for everyone.

Who should buy a laptop with a Core i9-12900HK:

  • People who want the best gaming performance from a portable PC
  • Creators that do a lot of video editing
  • Users that want to be able to overclock their laptop

Who should not buy a laptop with a Core i9-12900HK:

  • Gamers who don’t plan on bringing their PC anywhere would be better off with a tower, as we’ve seen from Core i9-12900K scores, and even Core i5-12600K scores
  • Users who don’t game. Intel has a whole suite of CPUs coming from the 12th-gen family soon, which will show up in laptops like the Dell XPS 13 Plus. These laptops are way better for productivity, portability, and battery life.

There’s a certain use case that’s filled by the Intel H-series. That’s the gaming laptop space, the creator laptop space, and the mobile workstation space, although even mobile workstations often use Xeon chips. If you’re thinking about a laptop with a Core i9-12900HK, you have to fit into one of these categories, and you have to want the best.

Even if you’re a gamer, but you’re OK with a more mainstream option, there are much better alternatives for you. And as mentioned above, if you’re just looking for a great productivity laptop, take a look at the new Intel P-series that’s coming soon.

The MSI Raider GE76 should start shipping in early February, as will other Intel 12th-gen H-series laptops.

About author

Rich Woods
Rich Woods

Managing Editor for XDA Computing. I've been covering tech from smartphones to PCs since 2013. If you see me at a trade show, come say hi and let me ask you weird questions about why you use the tech you use.

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