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
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 Collection||12th Generation Intel® Core™ i3 Processors|
|Code Name||Products formerly Alder Lake|
|Recommended Customer Price||$134.00 – $144.00|
Intel Core i3 12100 Specs
|# of Performance-cores||4|
|# of Efficient-cores||0|
|Max Turbo Frequency||4.30 GHz|
|Performance-core Max Turbo Frequency||4.30 GHz|
|Performance-core Base Frequency||3.30 GHz|
|Cache||12 MB Intel® Smart Cache|
|Total L2 Cache||5 MB|
|Processor Base Power||60 W|
|Maximum Turbo Power||89 W|
Intel Core i3 12100 Performance & Tests
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.
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
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.
Intel Core i3 12100