Intel Alder Lake won us over in 2021 with its newly built architecture, gaming performance and generation to generation upgrade. For all its architectural victories, though, the 12th-generation CPU equation desperately needed cheaper chipsets and motherboards — those that would make the fantastic Intel Core i5 12600K sing really low-budget.
And these cheaper chipsets are on the way, as Intel announced the full range of compatible 12th generation chipsets for Alder Lake chips.
These new chipsets — the H670, B660, and H610 — offer a mix of features you’d expect to find on top Z690 motherboards, though with a few key differences to keep costs down in theory. From the batch, it is the B660 that we will probably come across most often in non-working game motherboards, so these are the specifications you would like to pay attention to most of all.
|PCIe 4.0 strips (chipsets)||Up to 12||Up to 12||Up to 6||No one|
|PCIe 3.0 strips (chipsets)||Up to 16||Up to 12||Up to 8||8|
|SATA ports||Up to 8||Up to 8||4||4|
|Maximum USB ports||14||14||12||10|
|Built-in Wi-Fi 6E||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
The B660 offers a compelling list of features for a Core i5 12600K build and that’s really what we wanted from these new chipsets. This chip is very convincing in itself, but when combined with a top Z690 motherboard it loses some of its competitiveness in pricing. The B660 is a bit more bandwidth than the Z690, as expected, but it looks like there should be plenty of bandwidth for everything a gamer needs from their PC: high-tech PCIe 4.0 graphics, NVMe SSD and plenty of SATA ports.
And we’re talking about these chipsets being a good comparison to the cheapest K series in the batch so far, but Intel will be releasing the rest of the 12th generation chips in the coming months, as announced at CES 2022. These cheaper motherboards will also fit them the more modest processors like the Core i5 12400 which we suspect will be a decent choice for low budget gaming.
The H610 offers the slimmest set of batch features, but we can see that it takes up more space on desktops for business than any gaming PC. Still, it is an option, although support for a single memory channel will have this motherboard impact performance more than most.
One important thing to note: If you want to overclock your P core and E-cores on your chip, you need to buy a motherboard with the Z690 chipset already available, as none of these cheaper boards support customize your chip. We have already considered some good candidates, such as the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi or the ASRock Z690 Taichi.
I would also be surprised if I saw cheaper motherboards with DDR5 ports, instead of the cheaper and more common DDR4 standard. While Z690 boards tend to support the DDR5 standard, which is backed by all of Alder Lake’s own chips, they are much more expensive than DDR4 as they are today and would not make much sense for economical construction. The same goes for PCIe 5.0 support from the CPU, it does not make sense on a budget board and it may be first on the cutting board in the name of cost reduction with cheaper motherboards.