After the huge success of Intel’s Core i9-12900K, the company followed suit with a special edition of its flagship chip – the Core i9-12900KS. Clocking in at 300MHz above the base portion, it’s a halo product that seems to make the most of Intel’s 12th-generation Alder Lake architecture.
Intel skipped these special edition CPUs by a few generations, and the Core i9-12900KS isn’t a great return to form. It is a problematic CPU with high thermal and power requirements, and in many cases offers no advantage over the base model.
I’ll cover everything from specs to benchmarks here, but be sure to read our Intel Core i9-12900KS review and Intel Core i9-12900K review for a full rundown, and why we rank the latter chip among the best CPUs money can buy. .
|Core i9-12900KS||Core i9-12900K|
|cores||16 (8 P colors, 8 E colors)||16 (8 P colors, 8 E colors)|
|basic frequency:||3.4 GHz (P cores), 2.5 GHz (E cores)||3.2 GHz (P cores), 2.4 GHz (E cores)|
|Max turbo frequency (single core)||5.5GHz||5.2GHz|
|Max turbo frequency (all cores)||5.2 GHz (P cores), 4 GHz (E cores)||5.1 GHz (P cores), 3.9 GHz (E cores)|
|Manufacturing process||Intel 7||Intel 7|
|Integrated graphics||Intel UHD Graphics 770||Intel UHD Graphics 770|
|Memory support||Up to DDR5-4800, DDR4-3200||Up to DDR5-4800, DDR4-3200|
|Intel Smart Cache||30MB||30MB|
|Maximum turbo power||241W||241W|
Prices and availability
Intel launched the Core i9-12900K in November 2021 for a suggested retail price of around $589. The Core i9-12900KS arrived in April 2022 for a significantly higher price of $739. Those may be the prices listed by Intel, but there are is a big difference from what you actually pay.
The Core i9-12900K runs between $600 and $620, while the Core i9-12900KS sells close to $800† There is a range of prices, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $200 more for the KS model.
It’s important to remember that the Core i9-12900KS is newer, so it still retails for around $800. However, I expect it to get much cheaper in the coming months. At the time of writing, I found one in stock for $780 with a $30 discount — and that’s less than two weeks after the CPU launched.
I ran the Core i9-12900KS and Core i9-12900K through a series of benchmarks to see how they hold up. All our tests were performed on an open-air test bench with an RTX 3090 graphics card and 32 GB DDR5-6400 memory. I’ve only selected the major benchmarks here, so read our full reviews (linked above) for the full results.
Starting with two CPU-focused benchmarks, you can see how little difference there is between the Core i9-12900KS and Core i9-12900K. In both Cinebench R23 and Geekbench 5, the single core results are so close together that they barely register on the chart. The Core i9-12900KS enjoys a slight 5% increase in Cinebench, which you can easily make up for with overclocking.
The differences in our multi-core results are even greater, but they prefer the cheaper Core i9-12900K. In Cinebench, the cheaper part gained a lead of almost 4%. Still, the raw CPU performance is largely the same between the two chips.
Real applications show a clearer difference. In creative apps like Adobe Premiere Pro and Photoshop, the Core i9-12900KS is a lot faster than its counterpart. It enjoys a nearly 5% increase in Premiere Pro, while maintaining a massive 12% lead in Photoshop. Those are impressive benefits, but it’s important to remember that they don’t apply to all applications.
Gaming is a good example of this. My testing revealed only a 2.2% difference between the Core i9-12900K and Core i9-12900KS in games at 1080p. That difference favors the Core i9-12900K, with higher frame rates in Red Dead Redemption 2 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, while you’re barely lagging in Forza Horizon 4.
The one gaming benchmark that clearly won the Core i9-12900KS was 3D Mark Time Spy, but even then it was only a measly 1% faster. If you’re into gaming, something like AMD’s Ryzen 7 5800X3D is your best option right now.
Thermal and power consumption
Both the Core i9-12900K and Core i9-12900KS have high thermal and power limits. The faster KS model is just hotter and consumes more power thanks to the 300MHz boost.
During a stress test, the Core i9-12900K peaked at 84 degrees Celsius, while the Core i9-12900KS climbed all the way to 101 degrees. I actually had the Core i9-12900KS under a 360mm all-in-one liquid cooler – I used a 240mm for the Core i9-12900K – which illustrates how much hotter this special edition chip is.
The Core i9-12900KS is hotter and draws more power. Both chips are rated at 241W, but the Core i9-12900KS peaked at 274W during the stress test – and that was with Intel’s power limits enabled. The Core i9-12900K, on the other hand, drew 210 W of power. The Core i9-12900K removed the limits and climbed close to 300W, largely matching the special edition with power and thermals.
The Core i9-12900KS is basically an overclocked Core i9-12900K, and it shows with increased power consumption and thermals. It also means that the Core i9-12900KS has less overclocking headroom, unless you opt for extensive custom liquid cooling or extreme LN2 overclocking.
Save your money
The Core i9-12900KS isn’t worth the extra $200. While Intel’s 12th Gen Alder Lake architecture has revolutionized Team Blue, the Core i9-12900KS is its worst showcase. It offers peak performance, but those margins are thin and they present huge thermal and power issues.
On the other hand, the Core i9-12900K is a remarkable processor. It’s cheaper than the best AMD has to offer right now, while offering much better performance. And with a bit of CPU overclocking, it can even put the Core i9-12900KS back in its place.