Historically, Intel’s Core i5 CPUs were usually the best bang-per-buck options for building an affordable, but still powerful PC, but the situation has been quite different since AMD’s Ryzen 5 chips came on the scene. Thankfully, the Core i5-12600K brought that status back to Intel, and with some considerable style too. It cost far less than AMD’s Ryzen 5 5600X at launch, while also being faster in most areas.
A lot has already changed since then, though, as AMD has drastically cut its Zen 3 CPU prices, with the Ryzen 5 5600X now INTEL CORE i5-12600K undercutting the Core i5-12600K by around $60. The question now is whether Intel’s best Core i5 CPU in years is still worth buying for around $270.
In terms of spec, you get a total of ten cores and 16 threads, with six performance-focused P-Cores and four energy-efficient E-Cores. The former can hit a lofty 4.9GHz peak boost, falling back to around 4.5GHz across all cores in multi-threaded workloads. These figures are significantly higher than those of the Core i5-12400F, so the Core i5-12600K is also worth considering even if you don’t intend to overclock it.
The 12600K has a sizeable 20MB L3 cache too, as well as 9.5MB L2 cache, making it a potent mid-range Alder Lake CPU. Its price tag matches that of the new Ryzen 7 5700X now, so that’s the CPU it needs to beat, but we’ll also be keeping an eye on the Core i7-12700K, which adds more cores and higher frequencies into the mix, but costs around $100 more. One other benefit of the Core i5-12600K is that it has on-board graphics, which might not cut it in games, but will still be fine for most desktop work, and can be handy for troubleshooting.
The Core i5-12600K was noticeably slower than the Core i7-12700K in our lightly threaded image editing test, but it certainly has the measure of the Ryzen 7 5700X and Ryzen 7 5800X here, as it did in our heavily multi-threaded video encoding test. However, both of those AMD CPUs weren’t far behind in the RealBench system score, thanks to some solid results in our multi-tasking benchmark.
The AMD chips couldn’t get close to the Core i5-12600K in Cinebench, though, and once we’d overclocked the P-Cores to 5GHz and the E-Cores to 4GHz (with a vcore of 1.36V), it extended its lead, with its score rising from 17,383 to 19,349. The Core i5-12600K was quicker than the AMD chips in both our game tests as well, with a notably higher average frame rate in Far Cry 6 than both the Ryzen 7 5800X and the Core i5-12400F, and it extended this lead a little once overclocked too, closely following the Core i7-12700K in both our game tests.
The Core i5-12600K was quicker than the AMD chips in both our game tests as well, with a notably higher average frame rate in Far Cry 6 than both the Ryzen 7 5800X and the Core i5-12400F, and it extended this lead a little once overclocked too, closely following the Core i7-12700K in both our game tests.
Base frequency P-Core 3.7GHz, E-Core 2.8GHz Max boost frequency P-Core 4.9GHz, E-Core 3.6GHz Core Alder Lake Manufacturing process 10nm Number of cores 6 x P-Cores, 4 x E-Cores (16 threads) IGP Intel UHD Graphics 770 Hyper-Threading Yes Cache 20MB L3, 9.5MB L2 Memory controller Dualchannel DDR4 and DDR5 Packaging LGA1700 Thermal design power (TDP) 125W Features Turbo Boost 2, FMA3, F16C, SHA, BMI / BMI1 + BMI2, AVX-512, AVX2, AVX, AES, SSE4a, SSE4, SSSE3, SSE3, SSE2, SSE, MMX
The Core i5-12600K offers significantly more performance across the board than the Ryzen 5 5600X, justifying the added premium it now demands. Critically, though, it’s also a better choice overall than the Ryzen 7 5700X. It’s not a clean sweep – performance is often similar, and you’ll need a new motherboard for this CPU, but if you’re building a new system, this CPU is the obvious mid-range choice now. It might not have the original swagger over the Ryzen 5 5600X that it had at launch, but the Core i5-12600K is still a fantastic CPU.
+Pros + Great gaming pace + Decent content creation performance + Overclockable + Faster than competition - Cons - Requires new motherboard - Cheaper Core i5-12400F isn’t far off gaming pace - Price isn’t as competitive now