Computing

Intel Core i5 12400F vs. AMD Ryzen 5 5600X: Affordable CPUs, compared


As exciting as the new Intel Alder Lake 12600K and 12900K CPUs are, most gamers don’t need anything quite so powerful. The more affordable Core-i5 models are likely to be the standouts of their generation, which is why the debut of the Core i5-12400F is so exciting. This more economical, six-core processor is designed to go head to head with AMD’s Ryzen 5600X hexacore design, with a much lower price tag.

Here’s how they stack in a battle of the best bang for buck gaming CPUs in early 2022.

Specs

Intel Core i5-12400F AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
Architecture Alder Lake Zen 3
Process node Intel 7 (10nm) TSMC 7nm
Cores 6 6
Threads 12 12
Base block 2.5GHz 3.7GHz
Boost clock 4.4GHz 4.6GHz
TDP 65W 65W

Pricing and availability

AMD Ryzen 9 3900x pins.
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X debuted on November 5, 2020, with a suggested retail price of $299. It’s remained around that price since then, only falling to around $280-$290 after the release of Intel’s Alder Lake processors. Although stock was hard to come by early on, it has been widely available throughout 2021 and into 2022.

The Intel Core i5-12400F went on sale on January 4, 2022, with a price tag of just $190. Stock varies by retailer, but it’s not too difficult to find shortly after release. Motherboard prices, however, are higher for the Intel CPU, demanding a $70 premium on entry-level motherboards compared to the options for AMD Ryzen buyers.

Performance

Intel Core i5-1200F CPU box.
Intel

The Intel Core-i5 12400F, like other non-K designs from the Alder Lake generation of processors, has no efficiency (E) cores running alongside the higher-power performance (P) cores, but that merely brings it to parity with the Ryzen 5600X core for core, and it doesn’t appear to have slowed it down in the sort of mid-range gaming that it’s targeting. In most games, the 12400F is hotly competitive with the 5600X, even beating it in some by a small margin. In others, like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Age of Empires 4, and Rainbow Six Siege, it does fall behind by a few percentage points, but it never strays into double digits.

In productivity tasks like photo and video editing, the 12400F is the stronger CPU when the tasks are predominantly single-threaded, but it isn’t quite as strong as the 5600X when all the AMD chip’s cores can be brought to bear. For the most part, they tend to trade blows, although the 5600X is again, typically the slightly more capable CPU.

For the price, this makes the 12400F a very compelling option for anyone looking at an affordable, mid-range system for work or play. Especially as, unlike higher-end Alder Lake processors, it retains a comfortable 65W TDP, which matches the 5600X. Neither chip gets particularly hot or demands much power, making them great options for small form factor builds.

PCIExpress and memory support

There are some feature differences between the Intel and AMD platforms, but you may not end up using them on a mid-range system. On higher-end Intel 600-series motherboards, you have the option of PCIExpress 5 slots and DDR5 memory support. These offer greater storage speed (when the drives become more readily available) and greater memory bandwidth (when DDR5 sticks are more available and affordable).

As it stands, AMD’s compatible 400 and 500 series (and even some select 300-series) motherboards provide up to PCIExpress 4 support, and exclusively support DDR4 memory.

As it stands in early-2022, there’s little benefit to having a high-end motherboard to use with a 12400F CPU. They’re expensive, you can’t get the drives or sticks to fully take advantage of it, and even if you could, the real-world performance advantage would be almost nothing.

Although the Intel platform currently has the better feature set on paper, it doesn’t offer any tangible benefit, and trying to make use of it would balloon your budget to the point where any cost savings by going with Alder Lake would be eliminated.

Buy the 12400F new, but the 5600X is a solid upgrade

If you’re looking to build or buy a brand new PC, the Intel Core i5-12400F is a fantastic option, offering mid-range performance in gaming and productivity tasks, at a very affordable price. Motherboards are still more expensive than they should be for this CPU, and you can’t take full advantage of the Alder Lake generation’s feature set without overpaying, but the 12400F outstrips most of its higher-end predecessors, and is hotly competitive with AMD’s much more expensive 5600X just about everywhere.

That said, if you have an existing AMD PC with an older Ryzen CPU and it’s compatible with the 5000 series, then the 5600X still represents a great upgrade path. The price could do with coming down, as it’s far less exciting a CPU in 2022 — easily falling behind the 12600K and 12700K in most scenarios — but it’s still an excellent processor for gaming, and photo and video editing. It’s a great upgrade, but with AMD’s Zen 4 approaching towards the end of the year and Alder Lake representing more exciting new build options right now, the Intel Core i5-12400F is definitely the more intriguing CPU for new PC buyers.

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