The Intel Core i3-12300 "Alder Lake" is an entry-level processor that succeeds an odd line of SKUs, such as the i3-10300, i3-8300, etc. This isn't the cheapest 12th Gen Core i3 you can buy, as that title goes to the almost-$100 i3-12100F, which won us over for some impressive gaming and general productivity performance at its feather-light price. The i3-12300, on the other hand, commands a price that's 50% higher, at $160.
So what are the premium features on the specs sheet for the Core i3-12300? Surprisingly, nothing much. Historically, Intel sub-classified its Core i3 desktop processor series into the i3-xx100 and i3-xx300 series, with the latter usually featuring not just higher clock speeds, but also a little more L3 cache. For example, the i3-10100 quad-core processor comes with 6 MB of L3 cache, while the i3-10300 has 8 MB. We tested both chips, and the i3-10300 ended up all of 3% faster in productivity tests on average, with the larger cache helping with certain streaming-data multi-threaded workloads, such as file compression.
The Core i3-12300, which we are reviewing today, does not come with a different hardware configuration from the i3-12100 aside from clock speeds. It ticks at 3.50 GHz, with 4.40 GHz Turbo Boost, while the i3-12100 comes with 3.30 GHz base and 4.30 GHz Turbo Boost. The Xe LP-based UHD 730 graphics is same on both SKUs, save for the 50 MHz higher iGPU boost frequency on the i3-12300. Both SKUs come with four "Golden Cove" performance cores (P-cores) and no "Gracemont" efficiency cores (E-cores). The cache structure is the same, too, with 1.25 MB L2 cache per core and 12 MB of shared L3 cache. The processor base power and maximum turbo power values are the same, too, at 60 W and 89 W, respectively. Lastly, the I/O is exactly the same, including native support for the same memory frequencies of DDR5-4800 and DDR4-3200, as well as support for PCI-Express Gen 5.
What's on offer if you put aside all of these is a sub-$150 product that gives you all of the next-gen I/O capabilities, and a 4-core/8-thread CPU with muscle for most desktop productivity use cases, as well as gaming. Just about 4 years ago, Intel felt 4-core/8-thread is all that gaming needed. A lot of water has flown under the bridge in the world of processors since, which especially holds true for Intel. The 4 cores of the i3-12300 come with the first massive generational IPC uplift for Core i3 in over six years! If you recall, Intel skipped Core i3 for "Rocket Lake" and its "Cypress Cove" cores.
In this review, we put the Intel Core i3-12300 through its paces, and tell you if the $20–$50 premium over i3-12100/F is worth something. More importantly, whether in the absence of i3-12100 inventory, the i3-12300 makes for a good enough choice over pricier Core i5 SKUs from current and past generations. In this review, we not only included results for "stock," but also did a run with the power limit removed, DDR5 replaced with more economical DDR4, and the processor overclocked to 5 GHz by using a motherboard with an on-board clock generator.