Intel Core i9-12900K Powered Falcon Northwest Talon Review

Manufacturer: Falcon Northwest Intel Core i9-12900K Powered Falcon Northwest Talon Review

Our First Look at Intel 12th Gen Arrives in a Very Nice Package

Alder Lake, Intel’s 12th Generation Core desktop processors, probably would not have launched this year in their current form without stiff competition from AMD’s Ryzen, with the latest Zen 3 parts in particular wreaking havoc on Intel’s designs on desktop leadership. After the Ryzen 5000 launch it felt like it might take Intel years to recover.

There has been an acceleration of Intel’s desktop CPU evolution, with Alder Lake bringing major change to Intel’s processor architecture for the first time in many years. We now have a product that has more in common with Apple silicon than AMD’s CPUs, as Intel has adopted the hybrid approach familiar to followers of Smartphone SoC technology (specifically, Arm’s “big.LITTLE”).

Intel 12th Gen Arch Shift Slide

Rather than implementing 16 full power cores in this new flagship desktop part, as AMD did with the Ryzen 9 3950X and 5950X, with the Core i9-12900K we have and 8+8 core design. This is a combination of 8 P (performance) cores and 8 E (efficiency) cores, with a total of 24 threads available as only the P-core half is multi-threaded.

We heard a lot about Intel’s improved 10nm process, SuperFin, with last year’s 11th Gen launch, and while the marketing has changed to “Intel 7” for this generation, these new processors are still going to demand a lot of power if you want maximum performance. Just how much remains to be seen, and we’ll touch on that later in this review.

Intel 12th Gen Unlocked SKU Slide

As we mentioned in the preview article for Alder Lake, Intel is taking a very different approach to processor power with these unlocked 12th Gen Core CPUs. Rather than presenting a blanket TDP of 125W (historically ignored by virtually every motherboard manufacturer), there is now Processor Base Power and Maximum Turbo Power. With the Core i9-12900K the Base Power is 125W while the Maximum Turbo Power is 241W.

But power draw is meaningless without performance to back it up, and we can finally talk about this today. But first, a look at the system we’ll be benchmarking.

The Alder Lake Talon

Intel teamed up with the daddy of all gaming PC makers for this launch, Falcon Northwest, for our review system. It makes sense, after all this is the company that invented the category in 1992 – back when the i486 DX2 clocked at 66 MHz was Intel’s fastest CPU.

Intel Alder Lake Falcon Northwest Talon Rear Side Panel

I think it’s safe to say that the Core i9-12900K will be faster than the DX2, but we don’t have time for DOS benchmarking today (maybe soon). For now we will explore the components that make up this Talon, FalconNW’s mid-tower offering.

We looked at one of Falcon Northwest’s Talon systems last year, an insane Threadripper 3990X, dual RTX 2080 Ti, RAID-0 Gen4 NVMe beast that defied classification. In comparison this Talon configuration has a very clear purpose: to be one of the fastest gaming rigs in the world.

We know that there is an Intel Core i9-12900K processor at the heart of the system, and component selection in our configuration is pretty crazy. In a good way, sure, but it’s certainly on the extreme side.

Intel Alder Lake Falcon Northwest Talon Interior Angle 2

Intel’s 12th Gen Core flagship CPU is installed in an ASUS ROG MAXIMUS Z690 HERO motherboard, with 32GB of Kingston FURY Beast DDR5 memory, an EVGA GeForce RTX 3090 XC3 ULTRA GAMING graphics card, a whopping 4TB of ultra-fast FireCuda 530 PCIe Gen4 SSD, a Seasonic PRIME TX 1000W 80 Plus Titanium power supply (with custom CableMod sleeved cables), and a custom Asetek 280mm AiO liquid CPU cooler.

You can drool over this insane (and very expensive) configuration with this link, but bear in mind that Falcon Northwest can build an Alder Lake system for thousands less if you don’t need the absolute highest-end of everything.

Intel Alder Lake Falcon Northwest Talon Behind System

Even the space behind the Talon’s motherboard tray looks better than most systems.

I gushed over the attention to detail and general quality of the last Talon I reviewed, and this one only differs in component selection. Everything about a Talon exudes quality, from the hyper-premium look and feel of the enclosure (it must be seen in person to fully appreciate it) to the clean build with precise cable routing inside.

As expected with an example of Falcon Northwest’s custom case artwork, studio photos were taken. These are visible in the gallery below:

The Testing Problem

Windows 11 could not have come at a worse time for reviewers. As if the launch of a new CPU architecture, new chipset, and new memory standard wasn’t enough, there is a brand new operating system – with brand new problems – out too. Oh, and Intel insists that Windows 11 is needed to get the most out of Alder Lake.

So, do reviewers navigate Windows 11 for Alder Lake testing, and preserve existing Windows 10 results for comparison with earlier Intel and AMD CPUs? What about the change in memory standard, as only Alder Lake currently supports DDR5? Should we test on a DDR4-equipped Z690 motherboard as well? Do any reviewers have access to such a board?

For that matter, should we test everything on Windows 10 and then again on Windows 11? And what about the status of early drivers and Windows 11 performance patches? What about Linux, with the new 5.15 kernel that offers, among other things (via Phoronix), “continued bring-up around Intel Alder Lake with various PCI ID additions and other enablement work”?

Knowing that the results to follow will not please everyone, I’ll shield myself from the comments and dive into my hodgepodge of benchmark numbers.

Our First Look at Alder Lake Performance

I’ll get the excuses out of the way first. We didn’t have a lot of time to test things before launch, as components took time to acquire and Intel’s CPU samples were delayed into oblivion thanks to the alarmingly understaffed state of FedEx shipping at present. Falcon Northwest’s offer to send over a system to test out (via UPS, by the way) is the only reason we even have a launch-day review for you, and we owe them massive thanks for the chance to get even this much done.

We covered the basic specifications of this Talon already, but now we’ll get into some more technical details. The ASUS ROG MAXIMUS HERO motherboard was running BIOS 0604, and all settings were left at defaults, with “enforce all limits” selected for the CPU power. The memory is Kingston FURY DDR5 running at 4800 MT/s, CAS 38. This 32GB kit uses Micron ICs.

Intel 12th Gen Talon HWINFO64 Screenshot

While initial testing did not show any meaningful difference in benchmark performance between Windows 10 and Windows 11, I opted to stick with the new OS for all Alder Lake results here, performing a clean install of Windows 11 Pro and fully updating it before recording any of the benchmark numbers to follow. The build is 22000.282. All motherboard drivers were the latest available at the time, and NVIDIA GeForce Game Ready Driver 472.12 was used for the (limited) gaming tests that I ran for this review.

One more thing about the results to follow: we never received a Ryzen 9 5950X from AMD, and I have yet to buy one myself. When I was able to benchmark the Ryzen 9 5950X it was in a system (which has long since been returned) running the preferred DDR4-3600, and all other Ryzen results are from platforms running AMD’s “official” DDR4-3200. This creates a more realistic scenario for an enthusiast (3600 MT/s RAM is considered essential with the boost to FLCK and that sweet, sweet 1:1 ratio at 1800 MHz), but doesn’t match the other Ryzen results.

In future I should re-test the AMD CPUs with DDR4-3600. The rest of the Ryzen 5000 Series, at the very least. And maybe AMD will finally send us a 5950X! For now, however, I simply call out “DDR4-3600” for the 5950X results on the charts. What an elegant solution. I am not at all embarrassed by this kludge.

Cinebench R20

It’s not the latest version, but it will allow us to compare performance with legacy results in the PC benchmark archive (aka Sebastian’s basement of doom).

Intel Alder Lake Talon Cinebench Chart

This was…unexpected. Let’s see if this trend continues.


All results were recorded using version 2.82a with the exception of this new Intel CPU. I could not get this older version to run without crashing with the Alder Lake/Windows 11 combo, so I resorted to the latest version – 2.93.5 – instead. It didn’t crash. That made me happy. It’s not the same version as all of the other results on the chart. That made me sad.

Intel Alder Lake Talon Blender Chart
Geekbench 5

Technically I used version 5.1.0, which ran without issue on the new platform and allowed an apples-to-apples comparison with the legacy tests. Well, not exactly apples-to-apples considering the Alder Lake results are the only ones run with DDR5. I can’t win.

Intel Alder Lake Talon GB Single Chart

Intel typically does very well in Geekbench’s single-core tests, with leading integer performance. However, with the Core i9-12900K Intel has captured the floating point crown, as well – something AMD was winning with Ryzen 5000. Well, one of many things AMD was winning. UNTIL NOW.

Intel Alder Lake Talon GB Multi Chart
x264 HD Benchmark

Two pass testing with a legacy HD codec? While you might scoff, I rejoice. It’s a command line benchmark that runs four consecutive times and then outputs everything to a text file. I love stuff like that.

Intel Alder Lake Talon x264 Chart
7-Zip Benchmark

These tests were run using version 19.00 of the 64-bit version of 7-zip.

Intel Alder Lake Talon 7-Zip Chart

A Little Bit of Gaming Doesn’t Go Very Far at All

I’ll be reading reviews featuring real-world gaming tests at various resolutions and quality settings just like the rest of you, but all I have in that regard for you is another (probably futile) attempt at forcing a CPU-bound situation with a powerful GPU, and somehow using that unrealistic scenario to judge CPU performance at resolutions and quality settings very few people, if any, will ever use.

To further complicate things I have chosen to drop all previous results, which used an RTX 2080 FE, in favor of a more powerful GPU. And what could be more powerful than an RTX 3090?! (Please don’t say anything about the Radeon RX 6900 XT’s high FPS prowess, as I don’t have access to one. AMD never sampled us. Yes, I’m complaining about that.)


Run using this method for consistency and using a replay of this match, I’ve run this DOTA test on a number of CPUs before, but not with an RTX 3090.

Intel Alder Lake Talon DOTA 2 Chart

AMD still dominates the DOTA 2 1080/low landscape. Maybe it has something to do with all of that cache. Some have speculated that the entire game fits into AMD’s L3. I cannot confirm this.

Metro Exodus

Hey, Metro Exodus isn’t an older, easy to drive title like DOTA 2! What gives? Well, when you drop the resolution to just 1280×720 and use the “low” preset, high FPS should follow. And who wouldn’t want to play it this way after seeing the blocky, smeared mess such a setting can produce on a modern high-res monitor?

Intel Alder Lake Talon Metro Exodus Chart

Things are looking a little better for Intel in the low-res, high-FPS world of…low-res high-FPS gaming, but AMD is still king of this sort of thing. Now, if you play at 2560×1440 or “4K” (aka UHD or 3840×2160), then results like these should not affect your decision to buy. At all.

3DMark Time Spy

Not Time Spy Extreme, just Time Spy. That less challenging one run at 2560×1440. Did the higher resolution level the playing field with AMD? Is this indicative of real world results? (Don’t answer that.)

Intel Alder Lake Talon Time Spy Chart

There you have it: a synthetic gaming benchmark that puts Intel in the lead. This PROVES that Intel provides the superior gaming platform … for running 3DMark Time Spy, at least. And probably other games at normal resolutions and detail settings, too. Further testing is required.

Power Draw

As good as the results have been for the Core i9-12900K, I think we’re all expecting some very high power numbers with this new CPU. Well, we already knew that 241W was “maximum turbo power”, so will it be surprising if it hits that number? What about sustaining it endlessly?

Intel Alder Lake Talon Avg Clocks Power Chart

The scale of the above chart is pretty terrible, so I’ll explain in text. The average frequency across the cores remained at 4658 MHz throughout the test run, with package power in the 230 – 240 watt range, topping out almost exactly at the rated 241W. Clearly this test either wasn’t long enough, or PL1 and PL2 are both 241W as configured. I’ll need to do some more testing after I check for any BIOS updates and verify that “enforce all limits” really means 125W / 241W, and not 241W / 241W.

Another point, real quick: you are going to need EXCELLENT cooling to sustain that 230 – 240 watt power level. I was hitting a package temp of 97 C in a ~22 C room with the Asetek 280mm AiO in this Talon, and while that is fine for burst speed I wouldn’t want to sustain it endlessly at those temps. I had P-cores within single digits of hitting TjMAX during a single Blender Classroom run.

Final Thoughts: Intel Alder Lake

This review cannot possibly cover everything that it needs to in order to offer a complete picture of Alder Lake performance. Suddenly Intel is competing head to head with AMD on desktop again, and there will be increased scrutiny of all benchmarks when the results don’t favor an enthusiast’s favored platform. It is enough to make me want to run far away, to a happy place filled with old processors and the glories of DOS and Windows 98 SE (sigh).

I will be further exploring power consumption and PL1 / PL2 behavior in a followup post. And if this launch is anything like 11th Gen, BIOS updates could have a marked effect on performance benchmarks if they alter power limits and boost behavior (as we saw shortly during the 11th Gen launch). For now, however, Alder Lake feels like a win for Intel this time. This Core i9-12900K is an absolute beast. Sure, it consumes a lot of power and can get hotter than the sun without a very capable cooler, but it has the performance to back it up. AMD fans will point and laugh at power consumption charts, but Intel is winning benchmarks again.

No review these days can escape the reality of component availability, as, in case you haven’t tried to buy anything lately, we are still in the midst of a major chip shortage that has severely impacted the enthusiast computer segment since some time last year. GPUs sell for as much as double their MSRP when you can even find them in stock online, and in general it has been a miserable 2020-2021 for PC gamers looking to upgrade.

Intel has enjoyed good availability for their desktop processors throughout most of the chip shortage, and has been quite aggressive with pricing at times. It remains to be seen how easy it will be to buy a 12th Gen desktop CPU, and DDR5 is an elusive beast in these early days. Still, if you like the performance you saw here – and doubtless in many other reviews today – it might be time to think about an Intel build again.

Final Thoughts: The Falcon Northwest Talon

The Falcon Northwest Talon we looked at today is an absolute beast, and is an example of what one can accomplish with a cost-no-object build. Very few people will spend close to $7k on a computer (though it would make a pretty compelling professional workstation at that price), and more reasonable Talon configurations are certainly available for the more practical among us.

It’s certainly worth looking into a pre-built option such as a Talon these days, even if you are a diehard DIY enthusiast who scoffs at the idea of any sort of premium over the cost of bare components (like most of our audience!). Even if you don’t care that Falcon Northwest builds their systems extremely well and is famous for their long-term service and support, you might care that buying such a system is the easiest way to get your hands on high-end PC hardware.

Final Thoughts: The Falcon Northwest Talon

The Falcon Northwest Talon we looked at today is an absolute beast, and is an example of what one can accomplish with a cost-no-object build. Very few people will spend close to $7k on a computer (though it would make a pretty compelling professional workstation at that price), and more reasonable Talon configurations are certainly available for the more practical among us.

It’s certainly worth looking into a pre-built option such as a Talon these days, even if you are a diehard DIY enthusiast who scoffs at the idea of any sort of premium over the cost of bare components (like most of our audience!). Even if you don’t care that Falcon Northwest builds their systems extremely well and is famous for their long-term service and support, you might care that buying such a system is the easiest way to get your hands on high-end PC hardware.

Intel Alder Lake Falcon Northwest Talon Interior Angle 1

But enough trying to be objective. I won’t mince words. Falcon Northwest makes the best damn computer I’ve ever seen. No, they don’t get into hardline liquid cooling and the like, but what they have on offer is about as refined as a system can be. The cable management alone makes me feel inadequate as a system builder. The case isn’t available anywhere else, and it’s awesome. I’m supposed to be objective, and I sound like a fanboy. But if George Clooney drinks from a Falcon Northwest mug, shouldn’t that be enough?

Falcon Northwest computers all seem to have identical, and fanatical, attention to detail. I think it’s impossible for someone to fully grasp just how impressive the build quality is until they see it for themselves. I think I know our audience well enough to expect jeering comments about the price, but it’s the kind of luxury I am starting to crave as I age. I might be under the spell of this computer right now, but I think that if I ever quit this media game and buy myself a PC to use for the next 10 years, it will be a Talon. Granted, it will probably be overkill for DOSBox, but that is MY problem.

Review Disclosures

This is what we consider the responsible disclosure of our review policies and procedures.

How Product Was Obtained

The product is on loan from Falcon Northwest for the purpose of this review.

What Happens To Product After Review

Loaner systems are returned upon completion of the review.

Company Involvement

Neither Falcon Northwest nor Intel had any control over the content of the review, and were not consulted prior to publication.

PC Perspective Compensation

Neither PC Perspective nor any of its staff were paid or compensated in any way by Falcon Northwest or Intel for this review.

Advertising Disclosure

Neither Falcon Northwest nor Intel have purchased advertising at PC Perspective during the past twelve months.

Affiliate Links

If this article contains affiliate links to online retailers, PC Perspective may receive compensation for purchases through those links.

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About The Author

Sebastian Peak

Editor-in-Chief at PC Perspective. Writer of computer stuff, vintage PC nerd, and full-time dad. Still in search of the perfect smartphone. In his nonexistent spare time Sebastian's hobbies include hi-fi audio, guitars, and road bikes. Currently investigating time travel.


  1. willmore

    Good review, Sebastian, thank you. I do need to take issue with you description of that case. That is ugly as can be. At least it’s not glass, i guess.

  2. Brett Hood

    Excellent write-up Sebastian, beast of gaming PC indeed, words don’t adequately cover it.

  3. Kondor999

    When running gaming tests, why don’t you use games that are *actually* CPU bound like Arma 3 or Digital Combat Simulator? These are real-world non-contrived examples of games that actually benefit from strong single-threaded CPU performance. Also, running Assetto Corsa with a large number of AI cars would also stress the CPU more than the GPU. No one looking for max CPU performance gives a shit about DOTA 2.

    • Sebastian Peak

      You’re just jealous of how inadequate the gaming testing was.


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