The most recent Steam Hardware Survey shows good news for Intel. Team Blue has been severely impacted by AMD Ryzen’s growth and dominance over the past five years, and despite manufacturing bottlenecks that have postponed the shift from one process node to the next, they still hold a commanding 69 percent of the market.
The 12th Gen Core Alder Lake CPUs, which were released in November 2021 and upgraded in January, perform well compared to Ryzen competitors. Intel is arguably in the best position with entry-level CPUs because to robust availability across the board.
The high-volume £100-£250 market, which is devoid of significant AMD magic, is ripe for Intel’s most recent Core i3 desktop processors. Three of the five parts that were unveiled during the January rush are standard-power parts and, on the surface, they appear to be appealing solutions integrated into a cutting-edge mainstream build. Let’s take a closer look at the Intel Core i3 12100F in our assessment.
With a price of just $129, Intel’s four-core, eight-thread Intel Core i3 12100F deserves a spot on our lists of the best CPUs for gaming and the best cheap CPUs by addressing the sub-$200 segment, which has become the PC market’s most neglected segment.
Not to mention that the CPU is also available for $104 as a Core i3-12100F from the F-series, which Intel sells with disabled integrated graphics for $25 less than the variant with all features. In fact, the Core i3-12100 comfortably dominates our CPU benchmark hierarchy in the $105 to $130 price range because it has no obvious current-gen competitors from AMD and excellent performance for its price point.
When Intel debuted its 11th-Gen Rocket Lake chips in 2020, it updated its Comet Lake Core i3 lineup, but those versions lacked a new architecture or any appreciable performance gains. Instead, they arrived as updated 10th-Gen machines with a meager 100 MHz clock speed bump. It didn’t really matter because we hardly ever saw those chips at retail stores due to the realities of the chip shortages.
Speaking of hypothetical CPUs, AMD’s most recent entry-level model was the highly amazing Ryzen 3 3300X, which debuted in 2020. With previously unheard-of levels of performance for a $120 processor, the quad-core 3300X promised new levels of gaming performance for low-cost systems. Sadly, that didn’t happen because the chip was a ghost and never showed up in a significant amount at retail.
Intel Core i3 12100F Specs
Let’s quickly review the Intel Core i3 12100F specifications before moving on to the tests. With Hyper-Threading, this Core i3 processor’s base model has 8 threads and 4 P-cores that can run at 4.3 GHz. For the non-F SKU version, there is a 12 MB L3 cache, UHD 730 graphics, and a maximum turbo rating of 89 watts.
|Product Collection||12th Generation Intel® Core™ i3 Processors|
|Code Name||Products formerly Alder Lake|
|Recommended Customer Price||$107.00 – $117.00|
Intel Core i3 12100F 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||58 W|
|Maximum Turbo Power||89 W|
|Max Memory Size (dependent on memory type)||128 GB|
|Memory Types||Up to DDR5 4800 MT/sUp to DDR4 3200 MT/s|
|Max # of Memory Channels||2|
|Max Memory Bandwidth||76.8 GB/s|
Benchmarks & Performance of Intel Core i3 12100F
In order to minimize GPU-imposed bottlenecks, we are testing with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 as normal. With less powerful cards or higher resolutions, disparities across test participants will diminish.
The Intel Core i3 12100F would never be paired with an RTX 3090, but doing so enables us to emphasize unrestricted chip performance. We only tested four of the seven titles at 1440p because the majority of the titles below exhibit little discernible differentiation at higher resolutions.
For our tests, we combined the Core i3-12100 with reasonably priced DDR4 RAM. We increased the RAM speed and removed the 12100’s power restrictions for the ‘Core i3-12100 DDR4-3600’ entry, but only saw a 2.2% improvement. That means buying a more expensive memory package won’t give you much of a return.
However, the 12100 doesn’t require much assistance: In our total gaming evaluation, the CPU was a staggering 29.5% faster than the Core i3-10100, marking a significant improvement for low-cost 1080p gaming.
The fastest Core i5 from the previous generation, the 11600K, was just 3.5% quicker than the Core i3-12100 under standard conditions, although memory overclocking reduced that difference to 1.4%. Given that the 11600K costs twice as much as the 12100, that is a remarkable generation-on-generation improvement. Naturally, overclocking the 11600k would put it ahead, but doing so also necessitates purchasing a somewhat more expensive cooler and other accessories.
In comparison to AMD’s entry-level versions, the 12100 is even more amazing. Moving on, we find that the 12100 outperforms the sole similarly priced AMD processor, the legendary quad-core Ryzen 3 3300X, by 19.2% and 18.8% at stock and overclocked settings, respectively. The 12100 also outperforms the six-core $199 Ryzen 5 3600 and $240 3600X by 19% and 9%, respectively, demonstrating that it is capable of competing with AMD’s whole sub-$250 lineup.
To locate an AMD chip that can compete with the 12100, we must therefore spend more money—around $260—but there aren’t many excellent AMD alternatives at that price. The Ryzen 5 5600G APU from AMD isn’t intended to be a direct rival to the 12100; instead, it’s built for gaming with integrated graphics, where it will easily outperform the 12100.
The 12100, however, outperforms the 5600G at standard and overclocked settings when coupled with a discrete GPU by 6% and 1%, respectively. The Ryzen 5 5600G is obviously not a viable alternative to the 12100 at double the price if you intend to use a discrete GPU.
The next level in Intel’s product line is the Core i5-12400. At factory and unlocked power settings, the 12400 costs $199 and is 13% and 16% faster than the 12100. To put it another way, the 12100 offers 88% of the gaming performance of the 12400 for 56% less money. But the Core i5-12400 performs significantly better than the 12100 in threaded application benchmarks, making it a better all-arounder.
Conclusion on Intel Core i3 12100F
Even more remarkable than we had anticipated is the Core i3-12100F. Despite having only four cores, the application performance was quite good, frequently matching that of CPUs with six cores and twelve threads from earlier generations. Then, when it comes to gaming, it was far more capable than expected, frequently matching parts with more cores while providing significant performance improvements over the prior Core i3 base model.
You shouldn’t think about AMD if you’re creating a fresh, inexpensive system because the Ryzen 3 3100 is now their least expensive CPU, costing $175. That is an additional $55 for a much worse performance. Despite not testing the R3 3100 for our review, we did test the speedier R5 3600, which was frequently found falling short of the 12100F, particularly when it came to gaming. The 5600G from AMD would be the next best thing, but at $260 it’s hard to pass unless you need the iGPU, and even then it’s debatable.
With AMD out of the game, the 12100F is unmatched at $120, with the 10100F being the sole possible substitute because to its lower price and slower performance. You will pay an additional $35 for the CPU and an additional $30 for the motherboard with the 12th-gen part, but you will receive a lot faster machine with a much better upgrade path if you decide to increase CPU speed in the future.
Is Intel Core i3 12100F worth it?
Much more remarkable than we had anticipated is Intel Core i3 12100F. Although having just four cores, the application performance was quite good, frequently matching that of CPUs with six cores and twelve threads from earlier generations. Then, when it comes to gaming, it was far more competent than expected, frequently matching components with more cores while providing significant performance improvements over the prior Core i3 basic model.
AMD’s Ryzen 3 3100, which costs $175, is now their least costly CPU, so you shouldn’t consider using one of them if you’re building a new, low-cost system. It is an additional $55 for a far worse performance. We did test the faster R5 3600, which was frequently found to fall short of the Intel Core i3 12100F, even though we did not test the R3 3100 for our evaluation. This was especially true when it comes to gaming.
The AMD 5600G would be the greatest alternative, but at $260 it’s difficult to pass unless you really want the iGPU, and even then it’s questionable.
The Intel Core i3 12100F, which costs $120, is unmatched now that AMD is out of the running; the 10100F, with its cheaper cost and less powerful performance, is the only alternative. You will pay an additional $35 for the CPU and an additional $30 for the motherboard with the 12th-gen component, But if you later decide to boost CPU speed, you will get a computer that is significantly faster and has a superior upgrade path.
Overall, Intel Core i3 12100F costs approximately $120, a good B660 board is about $140, and a 16GB DDR4-3200 CL16 kit costs about $60. This makes the platform update cost just $320, or roughly the same as a Ryzen 5 5600X. We believe that setup will be superior to a “make do” option for at least the next several years because it is more than capable of handling all the most recent games at suitably high frame rates (you will need a GPU of course).
Of course, paying $380 for the identical bundle with the 12400F will save you $60 and provide you a faster CPU that should last a little longer. Personally, we’d like the Core i5-12400F, but if you must drastically reduce prices, the 12100F on a budget-friendly B660 board is a great choice.
Is Intel Core i3 12100F good for gaming?
In terms of performance for low-cost gaming, the Intel Core i3 12100F outperforms the Core i3-10100 by a staggering 29.5% at 1080p. However, the fastest Core i5 from previous generation, the Core i5-11600K, was just 3.5% quicker than the Core i3-12100 standard processor, although costing twice as much. When compared to Intel’s more expensive Alder Lake CPUs, the Intel Core i3 12100F is as outstanding because it offers 88% of the 12400’s gaming performance for 56% less money.
The reason AMD’s processors can’t compete is that the business has given up on the sub-$250 market entirely. With margins ranging from 9% to 19%, the Intel Core i3 12100F handily defeated AMD’s previous-generation Ryzen 5 3600 and 3600X, as well as the old 3300X, demonstrating that the 12100 has the ability to compete with AMD’s complete sub-$250 gaming lineup.
The Intel Core i3 12100F should be paired with a motherboard from the B or H series, albeit the latter does not support memory overclocking. Nevertheless, RAM overclocking only resulted in a 2.2% improvement in 1080p gaming performance and no improvement in the majority of apps, so it’s not really worth it, especially for low-cost systems.
Cyberpunk 2077, which is perhaps the most CPU-demanding game on our list, put some strain on Intel Core i3 12100F, but overall performance was great, nearly equal that of the R5 3600 and R7 3700X.
Another instance of the Intel Core i3 12100F outperforming other more costly CPUs is in Horizon Zero Dawn, which isn’t a core-intensive game. In essence, it can compete with the i5-12400, making it somewhat quicker than the 3700X and 10700K.
Can you overclock Intel Core i3 12100F?
The multiplier for the Intel Core i3 12100F is locked (no “K” suffix). Technically, the base clock (BCLK) can be overclocked to 102.9 MHz, but at best, you’ll get a 3% performance improvement. It is not feasible to increase BCLK over that point since Intel’s CPU has a BCLK counter that shuts down the processor at 103 MHz and higher.
For motherboards that have an external clock generator, that rule does not hold true. As indicated in the preceding sentence, all Alder Lake CPUs typically produce BCLK internally with the 103 MHz restriction in effect. Intel also provided a means to send the CPU an external clock signal, bypassing the internal clock generator, for serious overclocking reasons. It turns out that BCLK supplied by an external source is not subject to the 103 MHz restriction.
What temperature should an Intel Core i3 12100F run at?
Before we conclude, let’s have a look at the operating temperatures for the RS1 box cooler, a scaled-down version of the RM1 that includes the 12400.
The Intel Core i3 12100F never surpassed 78C when operating at the 58w standard, and this temperature was recorded inside the Corsair Obsidian 500D with a 21C ambient room temperature. A decent overall outcome.
Interestingly, when the power restrictions were lifted, we obtained the same outcome: a sustained all-core clock frequency of 4.1 GHz and a high temperature of 78C. Thus utilizing the Intel Core i3 12100F with the included box cooler shouldn’t be problematic for the majority of customers.
How much power does Intel Core i3 12100F draw?
The Intel Core i3 12100F is incredibly energy-efficient; for around 30% more performance, we’re looking at roughly the same total system utilization as the 10100F. Amazing performance from a Processor using only 50–60 watts.
The Intel Core i3 12100F appears outstanding, raising overall system utilization by just 10% over the 10100F for a 16% performance improvement. We also tested power consumption using Cyberpunk 2077. In essence, a 400 watt power supply would be excessive when used with a mid-range graphics card.
Intel Core i3 12100F