Review Intel Core i5-12600K : AMD’s Ryzen 5 5600X Defeated

  • 2021-11-09 06:00
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  • Recompile By Brian - CPU Review
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The new Core i5-12600K is the only Alder Lake CPU we haven't reviewed, having tested both the flagship 12900K a week earlier and then the fast (but more affordable) Core i7-12700KF. At $320, this latest generation Core i5 is a direct competitor to AMD's Ryzen 5 5600X, which is currently on sale for $310, or slightly more than the $300 MSRP.

The AMD chip has 6 cores with 12 threads, while the 12600K includes 6 P cores and 4 E cores for a total of 16 threads. The P cores can clock as high as 4.9 GHz, while the E cores hit 3.6 GHz, so the clock speed is very similar to the 12700K, with only 25% fewer P cores, although the number of E cores remains the same.

L3 cache size has also been reduced to 20 MB. Other than that, these new Core i5 and Core i7 processors are very similar. With the price of 12600K coming up almost 30% cheaper, this is considered a good deal.

The other specifications also remain the same, so 20 PCIe lanes from the CPU, 16 of which are new PCI Express 5.0 specifications and support for both DDR4 and DDR5 memory, although not concurrently and Not by the same motherboard, so you'll have to advanced the type of memory you want to use.

Memory support in stock includes DDR4-3200 or DDR5-4800, but we tested with even faster DDR5-6000 memory, for which we evaluated the Core i9-12900K. However, we found that much of this high-speed memory offers very little extra performance when paired with an Alder Lake CPU. This leads us to conclude that most potential 12th generation customers should skip DDR5 and just stick with DDR4.

So to test the 12600K, we won't waste time running benchmarks with DDR5. If you want to see what all that is, check out the 12900K review where we compare both memory technologies.


For the motherboard, we used the MSI Z690 Tomahawk Wi-Fi DDR4 for testing. Due to Alder Lake's hybrid core design, the 12600K and all other 12th generation processors work best with Windows 11 and its improved thread scheduler for optimal performance. We therefore tested all CPUs, new and old, using a fresh install of Windows 11.

In a recent Windows 11 performance test, we also found that Ryzen's gaming performance is generally slightly faster when using a more modern operating system. The Ryzen test system used an Asus ROG Crosshair VIII Dark Hero motherboard with the latest BIOS update and all the latest Windows updates and drivers installed. Finally, all game and application data was collected using the Radeon RX 6900 XT graphics card.

Starting with Cinebench R23, we find that the 12600K is in a completely different league with the 5600X delivering 63% more performance, even beating the 5800X. We're also looking at a 61% improvement over 11600K, which is impressive even when taking into account a 23% increase in price.

Single-core performance was also exceptional, beating the 5600X and 11600K by a 26% margin, a huge generational increase. It also means the 12600K will comfortably beat the 5600X for both multi-core and single-core workloads.

Having said that, the 12600K and 5600X were evenly matched in the 7-zip file manager compression test, although this is one of the weaker results we've seen for the 12th gen looking at the 12700KF and 12900K, so it's no surprise.

When it comes to decompression performance, the 12600K and 5600X are also tied, and that means the new Core i5 processor is 23% slower than the 12700KF.

The 12600K proves it's in a completely different league, delivering 48% more performance than the Ryzen 5 5600X as it took just 86 seconds to complete the render, the exact amount of time it took the 5800X. As we said earlier, you'll really get next-level performance with the 12600

For content creators, the 12600K offers exceptional value by delivering nearly 40% more performance than the 5600X and even outstrips the 5800X with a 16% profit margin. We also only talk about a 13% drop in performance when compared to the 12700K, which is exceptional value from Intel's latest Core i5 section.

Next we have Adobe Photoshop and here the 12600K is 11% faster than the 5600X and can match the 5800X. The Intel Core i5 part is also just 7% slower than the 12700KF, so the 12600K is shaping up to be the price versus performance appeal for the 12th Gen Intel lineup.

We found that the 12600K still prevails over the 5600X in After Effects, delivering 17% more performance, and that's enough to see it beat the 5800X by a margin of 5%. We're looking at a performance level of 12700K that makes the 12600K one of the fastest desktop CPUs for this workload.

Factorio is a simulation game that we put together with the apps because we don't measure frames per second but updates per second. This automated benchmark calculates the time it takes to run 1000 updates. This is a single threaded test that seems to depend heavily on cache size.

The new Core i5 performs exceptionally well here compared to the 5600X, 5800X and especially its predecessor, the 11600K, which is beaten by 27%. Moreover, it is only 6% slower than the 12700KF.

The 12600K is also a monster when it comes to compile performance, beating the 5600X by a whopping 57% margin, making it 19% slower than the more expensive 12700KF. We're also looking at a 43% generational improvement over the 11600K, so it wouldn't be bad if you bought one of those devices anytime in the last 9 months.

The last application benchmark we'll look at is Blender, but once again the 12600K proves it on a whole different level, beating the 5600X by a massive 44% margin. Once again the new Core i5 processor is comparable to the 5800X and 11700K of the previous generation.

A major issue for the flagship Alder Lake section, the Core i9-12900K, is power consumption although we found this to be much less worrisome with the 12700K. Well, with the 12600K there is nothing to worry about because the 12600K pushed the total system usage 46% higher than the 5600X, but it also delivered 44% more performance, so in terms of efficiency they’re about the same.

The 12600K also matches the performance of the 5800X on this test, and we found total system usage to be roughly the same. So Alder Lake's energy efficiency is better than we thought.

When it comes to cooling, we used the Corsair iCUE H115i Elite Capellix for our temperature results, rather than the larger MSI 360mm model used to cool the 12700K and 12900K. Using this more modest 240mm AIO, the 12600K peaked at 71C for the pack and 72C for the core, and these temperatures are reported in an enclosed Corsair Obsidian 500D box, in a 21C room, after a 30-minute Cinebench R23 multi-core test.

That's a reasonable temperature that makes 12600K comparable to 11600K or 5800X. It also means that with the 240mm AIO we have some thermal headroom for overclocking and this is something we will explore in the future.

It's time for the most important gaming benchmarks and we'll start with the F1 2021. For all gaming tests, we're using a Radeon RX 6900 XT with the quality settings dialed down at 1080p. The 12600K allows for an average of 373 fps with a low of 1% of 260 fps in this racing sim. When compared to the 5600X, we found the 12600K to be a mixed bag offering 5% stronger lower end 1%, with 5% slower average frame rate performance. Overall though performance is the same between these two processors, along with the 5800X and 12700KF.

Switching to Rainbow Six Siege, the 12600K was less impressive despite consistently pushing to close to 400 fps with an average frame rate of 511 fps. The 5600X is 10% faster, though that's even hard to say since all of the CPUs tested here are capable of pushing extremely high frame rates.

The 5600X and 12600K deliver essentially identical performance in Borderlands 3 with no more than 2 fps separating them. Both are close to getting the most fps possible from the 6900 XT under these test conditions, so it goes without saying that performance is excellent.

Moving on to Watch Dogs: Legion, we again see that the 5600X and 12600K are evenly matched in gaming, this time the Intel processor is faster by a small 3% margin .

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is heavily GPU-limited with these higher-end CPUs, despite the fact that we're testing at 1080p with an ultra-fast graphics card. But we felt results like these were important to include, because even though the test conditions weren't realistic for the purpose of highlighting CPU performance, we found that the game still had a lot to offer. GPU limitations and this should be kept in mind as most games out there will be GPU limited when using a relatively powerful CPU. Anyway, since the 5600X and 12600K can max out the GPU, the performance is essentially identical when using both CPUs.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider's results are much more interesting because it's a very CPU intensive title, and like what we found with F1 2021, the results are a mixed bag. The 12600K is 4% faster than the 5600X when measuring average frame rates, but 5% slower for 1% lows. However, the performance is still the same and you definitely won't notice any difference between these two CPUs.

Hitman 3 is also very CPU demanding, but again, if you have a 6-core/12-thread processor from a few generations ago, you've got more than enough processing power to avoid any stuttering. picture with more than 100 fps for the 1 % Low part. That being the case, the 12600K crashed with 166 fps for 1% lows and 192 fps averages, making it 4% faster than the 5600X.

The point where the Core i5-12600K really excels is in Age of Empires 4, where it's almost 20% faster than the 5600X and that's a major performance advantage. It also means that the new Core i5 part is slightly faster than the 5800X and 11700K.

In the past, we mistakenly suggested that this title could hint at a future performance margin between Zen 3 and Alder Lake, but unfortunately I was completely wrong about that. Upon closer inspection, we've discovered that Age of Empires 4 is a single-threaded game, so these results suggest more in terms of performance against older games, such as StarCraft 2.

Essentially, what we're looking at here is Alder Lake's strong single-core performance. The 12600K is 26% faster than the 5600X when measuring single-core performance in Cinebench R23, and we find that translates to a near 20% win here.

However, at least for now, most games look like what we see here in Horizon Zero Dawn, and that is to say, the difference in gaming performance between the 12600K and the 5600X is non-existent. The 5600X is 5% faster when comparing average frame rates, but 3% slower for low 1%, so again performance here is indistinguishable.

Cyberpunk 2077 is another game that results mostly in limited GPUs using the latest generation CPUs from AMD and Intel. In fact, with Intel you can go back a few generations to a 6-core/12-thread processor or better. That means the 12600K and 5600X are about the same in terms of performance, even though the Core i5 has offered an 8% higher 1% lower performance.

When it comes to power consumption for gaming, there's very little difference between the 12600K and the 5600X as the Core i5 processor pushes the total system usage just 4% higher, which is a negligible difference.

Here's the 10 game average, and overall the 12600K and 5600X are the same with just 3% faster Intel CPUs. So at least when it comes to gaming, it doesn't matter which processor you use, and both represent the best value for gamers from their respective lineups.


That's how the Core i5-12600K works, and damn, Alder Lake keeps getting better as we dive deeper into the product stack. The Core i9-12900K is pretty decent, it trades with the Ryzen 9 5900X and 5950X, but not an obvious choice. The Core i7-12700K is a great alternative to the 5800X and is my preferred choice since application performance is often significantly stronger with generally better results for gaming.

The Core i5-12600K continues that trend, but is even better than its closest competitor, the 5600X. Worst case scenario, the 12600K is only marginally faster than the 5600X in single and multi-core workloads, but it's typically much faster and the performance improvement will make up for the extra power usage, so the power consumption is better. power consumption is not an issue for the 12600K. Any cooler that is capable of controlling 11600K or 5800X will do well above 12600K.

When it comes to gaming, the 12600K and 5600X are well suited, especially in modern games that use multiple cores. The 12600K has an edge over older games, or games like Age of Empires 4 that tax single-core - here, Alder Lake's superior single-core performance is on full display, boosting frame rates up about 20%.

Just looking at the CPUs, the Core i5-12600K for $320 or the Ryzen 5 5600X for $310, we have to say there's no way we'd go with AMD if we were building a complete system. new or upgrade your platform. Obviously, if you have a Zen+ or Zen 2 CPU and you're looking for a performance boost, the 5600X is a decent alternative, such as the 5800X or 5900X. But for those starting over, we'd personally skip the Zen 3 at its current price point.

The only problem for the 12600K right now might be the motherboard price. That could shift the value equation in AMD's favor, at least until cheaper 600 series chipsets arrive. Currently, the cheapest Z690 board we've reviewed is the Gigabyte Z690 UD DDR4 for $200 and hasn't gone through any real-world testing, the quantity is still a mystery.

As for the 5600X, which has of course been on the market all year, there are several cheaper motherboard options, such as the X570 TUF Gaming Wi-Fi which can be had for $190, or more affordable B550 options. Assuming you're happy with the removal of PCIe 4.0 for 3.0 support from the chipset, there are some good quality B550 boards priced between $110 and $150, such as the MSI B550-A Pro, the MSI B550M Bazooka , Asus TUF Gaming B550M-Plus, MSI B550 Gaming Plus, MSI B550M Mortar and MSI B550 Tomahawk. That's a bunch of MSI boards, it's not clear what's going on with pricing and availability from Asus and Gigabyte, but we know from first hand testing that those MSI boards are very good.

The $130 MSI B550M Bazooka is probably one of the better quality options out there, but we also like the $150 MSI B550 Tomahawk a lot and we think it's worth the extra $20. . It is also more suitable for Gigabyte Z690 UD DDR4. In that example, AMD is $50 cheaper in terms of motherboards, and that means the 5600X + B550 package is $60 cheaper overall.

These can be seen as things in AMD's favor when it comes to value...sort of. Prior to the Alder Lake release, I didn't even recommend the 5600X because it wasn't great value at $300. It should be closer to $250 or less now in our opinion as Intel has much stronger competition and there have been hints of price cuts.

The reason is that if you want ultimate value, owning a Core i5-10400F for just $180 is the way to go. Throw it in the $100 MSI B560M Bazooka and you've got a great gaming combo for less than the 5600X price. So if you're on a tight budget, that's as good as it is at the moment, but if you have an extra $200 to spend on combos, we'd go with the 12600K on the entry-level Z690 board scene, or keep the B and H series chipsets cheaper.

Intel put AMD in a tough spot with the launch of Alder Lake, so it will be interesting to see how Red Team reacts. For now, however, the Core i5-12600K is our best-selling CPU in the $300 price bracket.

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