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Intel's next-gen Alder Lake CPUs are already on sale – but you won’t want to buy one

CPU with the contacts facing up lying on the motherboard of the PC. the chip is highlighted with blue light
(Image credit: Alexander_Safonov / Shutterstock)

Intel’s Alder Lake processors, the next-gen silicon expected to arrive later this year – perhaps around October – are actually (sort of) on sale now, or at least early sample chips are purportedly available over in China.

As Tom’s Hardware reports, what are known as Qualification Samples, or early pre-release versions of Alder Lake’s flagship Core i9-12900K, are being stealthily sold at just over the $1,000 mark by Chinese retailers on the black market. Well, not so stealthily flogged that it hasn’t been noticed, of course, with hardware blogger YuuKi_AnS picking up on the activity (a leaker who has previously spilled Intel-related info).

These Qualification Sample chips are sent out to Intel’s partners before the release of a range of silicon, to allow those hardware and software makers to ensure that their products work okay with the CPUs before Intel springs them on the world.

Bulking up

Of course, these processors aren’t finished products, so even if you could buy one from China, it wouldn’t be recommended (pushing any legal issues aside). Not just that, but reportedly the CPUs are only being sold in bulk – with a 100-unit minimum order, which sounds odd, and older engineering sample chips are being included in that bundle. There's also the fact that the necessary LGA 1700 socket-toting motherboards aren’t being sold anyway.

Without that, of course, you’d have nothing to put the processor in, as Alder Lake comes packing an entirely new socket design, so a 12th-gen model won’t fit in any existing Intel motherboards.

Still, the fact that these processors are apparently being sold on the sly is something of a positive indication that Alder Lake is on track for its release later in 2021, and perhaps reinforces speculation about an October launch just a few months from now.

After all, we’ve already seen the chips in several recent leaks – including a supposed Core i9-12900K sample CPU – which have imparted a good deal of purported info about the spec (all the usual caution is required here, though).

Going by what we’ve already heard from the rumor mill, the flagship Core i9-12900K could have a top Turbo speed of 5.3GHz with its full-power cores, and 3.9GHz with the power-efficient cores. It’ll have 8 of each of those type of cores, for 16-cores in total, with a maximum power consumption believed to be 228W, which would improve on current Rocket Lake chips in that respect (the 11th-gen flagship pulls 250W for ‘PL2’ max power draw).

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).