Intel Core i5 12400 "Alder Lake": A Great ~$200 CPU For Linux Users
Formally announced at CES, the Core i5 12400 and other Alder Lake non-K desktop CPUs are beginning to appear in retail channels. Last week I was able to buy an Intel Core i5 12400 "Alder Lake" from a major Internet retailer for $209 USD -- and one week later there remains availability during these turbulent supply chain times. The i5-12400 has wound up being a very nice processor for Linux use that exceeded my initial expectations.
The Intel Core i5 12400 is a 6 core / 12 thread Alder Lake processor. Making it rather nice is that the i5-12400 is comprised entirely of the performance P-Cores (Golden Cove) without any of the power-efficient Gracemont cores. With going for an all P core design, it's nicer from the Linux angle in not needing to worry about any kinks or poor decision making by the kernel as to whether some tasks get accidentally placed on the E cores. So it's one less Linux support headache to worry about even though Intel has been working on Linux kernel improvements, motherboard vendors beginning to ship improved firmware, etc.
The six P cores have a 2.50GHz base frequency and a 4.4GHz maximum turbo frequency. The Core i5 12400 is rated for a 65 Watt base power with a 117 Watt maximum turbo power. There is 18MB of Intel Smart Cache with this processor.
Like the other Alder Lake processors, there is support for DDR4-3200 or DDR5-4800 depending upon motherboard and up to 128GB of addressable memory. The Core i5 12400 features UHD Graphics 730 with a maximum dynamic frequency of 1.45GHz.
Intel does include their new heatsink fan with the Core i5 12400 retail units.
With the Core i5 12400's all-P-core layout, there is less to worry about for Linux support. The main caveat with the i5-12400 and other Alder Lake processors is the UHD Graphics are only treated as stable/supported on Linux 5.16+. While the Gen12 Alder Lake graphics have been baking in the mainline kernel for a number of cycles, only with Linux 5.16 is it enabled by default. You can use the Alder Lake graphics on recent kernels like Linux 5.13~5.15, but you need to boot the kernel with the i915.force_probe=4682 kernel module parameter to enable that experimental support. It's unfortunate the flag wasn't lifted earlier, but in any case it's an easy workaround and at least as of last week Linux 5.16 is now considered stable.
Let's move on though to talk about the Core i5 12400 performance...