Intel Core i3 12100 Review

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Intel’s four-core, eight-thread Intel Core i3 12100 is priced at an incredibly competitive $129, earning it a spot on our lists of best CPUs for gaming and best cheap CPUs as Intel finally addresses what has become the most ignored segment of the PC market — the sub-$200 segment.

Not to mention that the chip is also available as a $104 F-series Core i3-12100F with deactivated integrated graphics for $25 less than the full-featured model. In fact, with no clear current-generation competitor from AMD and excellent performance for the price, the Intel Core i3 12100 easily tops our CPU benchmark hierarchy in the $105 to $130 range.

When Intel released its 11th-Gen Rocket Lake chips in 2020, it refreshed its Comet Lake Core i3 lineup, but there was no new architecture or significant performance improvements. Instead, they were refreshed 10th-Gen models with only a 100 MHz clock speed increase. It didn’t really matter because, given the realities of chip shortages, we rarely saw those chips at retail anyway.

Speaking of chips that don’t exist, AMD’s most recent budget model was the incredibly impressive Ryzen 3 3300X, which debuted in 2020. The quad-core 3300X delivered previously unheard-of performance for a $120 chip, promising new levels of gaming performance for low-cost builds. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen because the chip was a phantom and never appeared in significant quantities at retail.

Things haven’t gotten any better in the interim. When AMD launched its Ryzen 5000 processors, it abandoned the sub-$200 market, leaving its older 3000-series processors to hold the line. They are, however, irrelevant, as evidenced by our benchmarks below. The Ryzen 5 5600G is AMD’s entry-level Zen 3-powered Ryzen 5000 series processor, priced at $259 USD. Unless you plan to use integrated graphics, it’s a non-factor for lower-end gaming rigs at twice the price of the 12100.

Intel Core i3 12100 Specifications

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The Intel Core i3 12100, like its Comet Lake predecessor, has a 4-core, 8-thread design. This CPU, unlike higher-end Alder Lake SKUs, has only P-cores (designed for performance) and none of Intel’s high-efficiency Gracemont E-cores. It, like all other 12th-generation CPUs, necessitates an LGA1700-compatible motherboard.

The 12100’s base CPU frequency is 3.3GHz, but it can reach single-core speeds of up to 4.3GHz.

It, like the rest of Intel’s 12th-generation lineup, supports DDR4 and DDR5 memory. At the moment, motherboards can only support one or the other, so if you don’t want to spend extra money on upgrades, make sure your RAM generation matches up with your board selection. DDR4 is significantly less expensive than DDR5, and the performance difference between the two is currently negligible. As a result, we strongly recommend DDR4 for the time being.

The i3-maximum 12100’s officially supported memory speeds are 4800 MHz for DDR5 and 3200 MHz for DDR4, with a maximum supported capacity of 128GB.

The Intel Core i3 12100 is marginally more efficient than the i3-10100, with a base power of 60W versus 65W for the older model. It has a higher Maximum Turbo Power (the highest sustained energy dissipation when Turbo Boost is engaged) of 89W. As a result, even with the stock cooler and heavy use, it should be very easy to keep this CPU at reasonable temperatures.

The i3-12100 (but not the 12100F) includes Intel’s UHD 770 Graphics, which you can learn more about in our review. The short version is that they aren’t ideal for gaming, as even 60FPS isn’t possible in most titles.

Intel Core i3 12100 Essential information

Product Collection12th Generation Intel® Core™ i3 Processors
Code NameProducts formerly Alder Lake
Vertical SegmentDesktop
Processor Numberi3-12100
Launch DateQ1’22
LithographyIntel 7
Recommended Customer Price$134.00 – $144.00
Use ConditionsPC/Client/Tablet

Intel Core i3 12100 Specs

Total Cores4
# of Performance-cores4
# of Efficient-cores0
Total Threads8
Max Turbo Frequency4.30 GHz
Performance-core Max Turbo Frequency4.30 GHz
Performance-core Base Frequency3.30 GHz
Cache12 MB Intel® Smart Cache
Total L2 Cache5 MB
Processor Base Power60 W
Maximum Turbo Power89 W

Intel Core i3 12100 Performance & Tests

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The Intel Core i3 12100 scored 1649 in single-thread tests and 8474 in multi-thread tests in Cinebench R23, a synthetic benchmarking software useful for comparing processor performance. In comparison, the i3-10100 scores approximately 1141 in single-thread and 5612 in multi-thread. The 12100 outperforms its predecessor by 44.5% and 51% in single and multi-thread performance, respectively.

These single-threaded numbers are comparable to the i9-11900 from the previous generation. Given the price difference, these results are incredible. Multi-thread performance is most comparable to Intel’s Core i5-10500 and i7-9700 processors, falling squarely between the two. Given that these CPUs have 6 and 8 cores, this is quite an accomplishment.

We obtained in-game benchmarks from the Intel Core i3 12100 processor. The system used to record these had 32GB of DDR4 3600MHz memory, a ROG STRIX Z690-A D4 motherboard, and a be quiet! A Dark Rock Pro 4 cooler and an RTX 3080 are included. The graphics card was never overclocked, ensuring that CPU performance is accurately measured.

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All benchmarks were captured in 1080p resolution with medium-to-high graphical settings. Testing Games deserves credit. Benchmarks for the Ryzen 5 3600 are included for comparison (at identical settings and with an Asus ROG X570 Crosshair VIII motherboard).

Overall, the Intel Core i3 12100 outperforms the R5 3600 by 7.85% on average. Furthermore, it establishes itself as a highly viable component in a gaming PC designed for 144FPS at 1080p, as it fell short in only three of the tested titles (Warzone, Flight Simulator, and Cyberpunk), all of which are notoriously CPU-intensive.

Intel Core i3 12100 Conclusion

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AMD’s whole Ryzen 5000 family has been dealt a fatal blow by Alder Lake, and it doesn’t appear like we’ll get another chance to see competitive new budget options until the Zen 4 ‘Raphael’ Ryzen 7000 processors are released later this year. The Core i5-12400 is still the indisputable best value for an all-around chip if you need a little bit more performance in threaded tasks than you’ll get with the 12100, but you’ll have to pay an extra $65 for it.

Overall, the Intel Core i3 12100 is a balanced CPU that delivers top performance in multi-threaded workloads while still providing outstanding performance in gaming and lighter threaded tasks. The Core i3-12100 is the clear victor if you’re seeking for unheard-of levels of gaming and application performance from a $105 to $130 chip, earning a spot on our list of the Best CPUs for gaming.

Is the Intel Core i3 12100 worth it?

For its pricing range, the Intel Core i3 12100 quad-core processor provides decent performance. The innovative Alder Lake design, which blends high-performance P-cores with high-efficiency E-cores, serves as its foundation. The Core i3 12100 can do most jobs well because it has four P-cores and no E-cores, but it might not be as power-efficient as other Alder Lake models.

A few benefits of the new platform include that the Core i3 12100 supports PCIe 5.0 in addition to DDR4 and DDR5 memory. However, the cost of upgrading can go up because it also needs a new motherboard that is compatible with the LGA 1700 socket.

In most situations, the Intel Core i3 12100 outperforms the Ryzen 3 3300X and the Core i3 10100F in single-threaded programs and games. It uses less power and has a good stock cooler as well. It does, however, have several shortcomings.

For example, it does not have Turbo Boost 3.0, meaning all cores may only be boosted to 4.3 GHz. Additionally, it does not support core frequency overclocking, but some users have claimed to have successfully overclocked using BCLK3. The Core i5 12400, which has six P and six E cores and provides superior multi-core performance and power efficiency for a somewhat higher price, is another competitor.

Therefore, if you’re searching for a quick, reasonably priced, and reliable CPU for general usage or gaming, the Intel Core i3 12100 is a good choice. However, you might want to look at other possibilities in the AMD or Intel portfolio if you require more cores, better power efficiency, or the ability to overclock.

Is Intel Core i3 12100 good for gaming?

For its pricing range, the Intel Core i3 12100 is a decent processor for gaming. It supports PCIe 5.0, DDR4, and DDR5 memory, and has four powerful cores that can run most games smoothly. It uses less power and has a good stock cooler as well.

It cannot, however, turbo over 4.3 GHz for all cores because it lacks Turbo 3.0. Additionally, it does not support core frequency overclocking, but some users have claimed to have successfully overclocked using BCLK. The Core i5 12400, which has six P and six E cores and provides superior multi-core performance and power efficiency for a somewhat higher price, is another competitor.

In most situations, the Intel Core i3 12100 outperforms the Ryzen 3 3300X and the Core i3 10100F in single-threaded programs and games. It can handle refresh rates of up to 144 FPS and achieve up to 240 FPS in certain titles at lower settings.

With certain more recent or demanding titles, though, that call for more cores or higher frequencies, it might have trouble. As such, while the Core i3 12100 is a strong processor for gaming, it might not be the greatest option for all gamers. You may want to look at other possibilities in the AMD or Intel portfolio if you require more cores, better power economy, or the ability to overclock.

Can you overclock the Intel Core i3 12100?

The Intel Core i3 12100 can be overclocked, however it’s not an easy or clear process. Since the Core i3 12100 is a locked chip, you are unable to raise the CPU frequency by adjusting the core multiplier. On the other hand, some users have claimed to have achieved stable overclocks by utilizing the BCLK (base clock) approach, which entails raising the CPU and memory’s base clock frequencies.

A suitable cooling system, some overclocking software, and a motherboard with a PCIe 5.0 clock generator are needed for this. This approach does, however, come with many drawbacks and hazards, including the possibility of hardware damage, high temperatures, excessive power consumption, and instability. 

Remember that there are certain risks associated with overclocking, such as increased heat generation and possible instability. Before attempting to overclock any processor, it’s vital to have a good cooling system, a motherboard that works with it, and an awareness of the possible influence on warranty conditions. For the most accurate and current information, always consult the most recent documentation and guides that are unique to your hardware.

What temperature should an Intel Core i3 12100 run at?

Under intense strain, the quad-core Intel Core i3 12100 processor can operate at high temperatures. The Core i3 12100 has a maximum working temperature of 100°C, which means that in order to prevent damage, the CPU will begin to throttle or limit its performance if it reaches this temperature.

It is not advised to operate your processor at this temperature though, as it may shorten its lifespan and stability. For the Intel Core i3 12100, a more ideal temperature range is between 40°C and 80°C, depending on your cooling setup, the outside air temperature, and your overclocking preferences. Using software tools like HWMonitor or Core Temp, you should keep an eye on your processor’s temperature to ensure it stays within acceptable bounds. 

You might need to modify your fan curves, reduce your overclocking settings, or upgrade your cooling system if your processor is operating too hot.

You can utilize hardware monitoring tools such as Core Temp, HWMonitor, or Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU) to keep an eye on temperatures. These instruments offer current core temperature data.

If you discover that the temperature is constantly excessive, take into account the following:

Make sure the cooling solution you’re using is sufficient for the processor. Changing to a more potent cooler could assist in bringing the temperature down.

Verify that there is enough ventilation in your case to properly disperse heat.

Verify that the thermal paste is applied correctly between the cooler and the CPU.

Make sure there is no buildup of dust in your system, since this can affect how well it cools.

How much power does the Intel Core i3 12100 draw?

For its performance level, the Intel Core i3 12100 is a quad-core processor with a low power consumption. The Core i3 12100’s TDP, or thermal design power, indicates that, at its maximum base clock of 3.60 GHz, the processor would draw a maximum of 125 watts of power. For brief intervals, the processor may also turbo to rates as high as 4.30 GHz. Since this calls for additional power, the Core i3 12100’s PL2 (power limit 2) is set to roughly 250 watts.

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