AMD's Ryzen 5000 series dominated the enthusiast market for mainstream consumer CPUs for about a year after its launch in late 2020. Intel countered with the top end parts from the Alder Lake lineup a couple of months ago, and today is launching the rest of their lineup.
As nice as the Ryzen 5000 series CPUs are, there's one enormous problem with that lineup. The cheapest CPU in it currently costs $254 on New Egg. Someone who wants a nice $100 or $150 or even $200 CPU can't get it there. Even among older AMD CPUs, there's only one Ryzen CPU on New Egg for under $243. It's a quad core part with much slower Zen 2 cores and a max turbo of only 3.9 GHz, and still costs $150.
That leaves a gaping hole in the market that Intel proposes to fill with the lower end Alder Lake parts today. A Core i5-12600 with six cores and turbo up to 4.8 GHz will set you back $223. A Core i5-12400F loses the integrated GPU and drops the max turbo to 4.4 GHz, but it can be had for $167. Lose two of the cores and you can get a Core i3-12100F quad core with turbo up to 4.3 GHz for $97.
Like Zen 3 cores and unlike Zen 2 or Sky Lake Refresh Refresh Refresh Refresh cores, Alder Lake cores are modern, fast cores. Unlike the top end Alder Lake or Rocket Lake parts, these won't suffer from runaway power consumption. The max turbo wattage on all of the parts listed above is no more than 117 W. Giving up that last few hundred MHz in clock speed can really save a lot of power.
That leaves Alder Lake poised to dominate the low end and mid range of the desktop CPU market. Basically, Intel is offering a full lineup, while AMD only focuses on the high end. That makes Intel the natural choice if the high end is out of your budget.
It's not that AMD didn't want to offer a full lineup. Rather, their foundry capacity is limited because of a worldwide shortage, which the miners have done a lot to exacerbate. Wafers used for mining ASICs or GPUs that are diverted to mining rather than graphics are wafers unavailable for something more interesting or productive. If you can readily sell all the CPUs you can produce, but can only produce so many, it's a lot more lucrative to claim the high end of the market than the low end.
There is one immediate problem with the new Alder Lake parts, however. New Egg currently has exactly one LGA1700 motherboard for $200 or less. If you don't like AsRock, then other motherboard prices start at $220 and go up from there. In contrast, there are plenty of B550 motherboards that can handle Zen 3 CPUs for under $100.
CPU vendors can have a considerable influence on motherboard prices via what they charge for chipsets. Needing to handle the early 241 W CPUs surely drives up prices, too; for comparison, even the 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X tops out at 142 W. Intel is also announcing new B660 and H670 chipsets, which should lead to more affordable motherboards. We'll have to wait and see just how affordable those new motherboards are. In the meantime, having to spend an extra $100 on a motherboard in order to save $100 on a CPU isn't really a win.
AMD is fighting back with two new announcements their own. The first is the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, which is roughly a Ryzen 7 5800X with extra L3 cache stacked on top of it. That's still eight cores, but now with 96 MB of L3 cache instead of 32 MB. Oh, and that cache burns power, too, so the clock speeds are down, with a max turbo of 4.5 GHz as compared to 4.7 GHz on the older 5800X.
AMD is claiming that the increased L3 cache helps with gaming. While I could easily believe that there are some corner cases where the extra cache offers enormous advantages, I'm skeptical that they're as typical of gaming as AMD wants to claim.
The price is also left unspecified. Even assuming that yields are good (which is a huge assumption when dealing with exotic packaging!), that extra cache costs die space and hence money, so they're presumably not going to be cheap. It's telling that AMD is only announcing a single part with the stacked cache and not a full lineup. This could easily be AMD's answer to Intel's old Core i7-5775C, a low volume part that was more to show off a manufacturing capability than something for consumers to buy. In case the name doesn't ring a bell, the Core i7-5775C had a 128 MB L4 cache and launched way back in 2015.
AMD also announced that Zen 4 cores are coming in the second half of 2022. Until then, they're mostly going to have to field older Zen 3 parts to counter the higher end of Intel's new Alder Lake lineup, and probably won't have an answer for Intel's lower end parts.