MID RANGE CPUs: Comparisons of top processors, such as the Intel Core i9-12900K vs. AMD Ryzen 5950X, are understandably exciting, but for most CPU consumers, the midrange is far more essential. That’s where the real value lies, and for now, the most important head-to-head comparison is between the Intel Core i5-12600K and AMD Ryzen 5600X.
Can the 12600K outperform the 5600X thanks to new efficiency cores and an improved Intel process? Let’s have a look.
Pricing and availability
The AMD Ryzen 5600X processor was released in November 2020, with a suggested retail price of just under $300. It often sold for more than that due to stock shortages until well into 2021, though it is now much more readily available at the $299 price point. It’s also worth noting that, given the performance findings below, AMD’s midrange Ryzen 5000 cost is likely to be slashed in the near future.
On November 4, 2021, the Intel Core i5-12600K went on sale, with a suggested retail price of $289. However, due to the excitement around its introduction, it usually sells for around $340. Even at big retailers, stock levels remain fragile, and while the chip can be found, it isn’t always in stock.
Since its release, the AMD Ryzen 5600X has been one of our favorite processors, providing superb gaming and multithreaded performance. Intel’s Alder Lake created a new generation of competition that it is failing to keep up with. While it stood head and shoulders above its contemporaries in terms of bang for the buck when it was released, it has brought a new generation of competition that it is struggling to stay up with.
The Intel Core i5-12600K is an absolute beast when it comes to gaming. Its six Golden Cove performance cores provide outstanding single-core performance, which is ideal for gaming. The 12600K outperforms not only the Ryzen 5600X but also several of its more powerful siblings in a variety of tested titles, including Forza Horizon 4 and Civilization VI. It renders last-generation Intel processors obsolete, and in many cases, it is only a few steps behind the considerably more expensive Core i9-12900K – despite the fact that the latter remains the gaming king.
The Core i5-12600K establishes itself as the finest bargain gaming processor of its generation.
There are a few games where AMD processors still have an advantage, such as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Microsoft Flight Simulator, but even in such cases, the 12600K is highly competitive, falling behind by barely a frame or two per second.
The Core i5-12600K establishes itself as the best value gaming CPU of its generation, destroying AMD’s year-long dominance of the midrange gaming CPU market.
The 12600K performs admirably in productivity tasks, a category of CPU performance that AMD has dominated for years. This 10-core (six plus four) processor uses its Gracemont efficiency cores to great use, outperforming the 5600X’s six cores by 10% to 30% in the most common benchmark suites and tools. Although AMD’s top Ryzen 9 5950X still outperforms the 12600K — and even the 12900K — it’s far more expensive, making Intel’s chips better value propositions on the price-to-performance spectrum, even if they don’t always outperform AMD’s top Ryzen 9 5950X.
The one exception to all of this is that DDR5 memory was used in the majority of the greatest results recorded by the Core i5-12600K. That’s not just something you won’t be able to reuse from a previous-generation gaming PC, but it’s also quite costly to purchase fresh. Not to mention the motherboards that can take use of it. DDR4 won’t ruin its performance, especially in gaming, but it will have an influence, making the 12600K a superb gaming CPU at a reasonable price, but one with a relatively high upgrade cost.
Power and thermals
There’s also the issue of power to consider. For a mid-range processor on a newer, more efficient manufacturing node, the Core i5-12600K is surprisingly power-hungry. When executing lower-end activities, it takes full advantage of Intel’s new Intel 7 (10nm) manufacturing, and its efficient cores help to minimize its power and thermal demands, but it requires a lot when you really push it. Its base TDP is 125 watts, but it can use up to 150 watts and output as much through the cooler when in its highest power state for best performance.
That’s still a lot better than the previous generation of Intel chips, which may consume a lot more for a lot less performance, but it’s not insignificant.
The 12600K, as powerful as it is, takes more than twice the power and heat of the AMD architecture.
The AMD Ryzen 5600X, on the other hand, has a TDP of just 65W, and while it has been reported to use a bit more than that when fully loaded and given the thermal headroom to automatically overclock, it isn’t going much past 70W.
The 12600K, as powerful as it is, takes more than twice the power and heat of the AMD architecture. This puts additional strain on your cooling system, power supply, and the kind of systems for which a chip like this is best suited. Ryzen CPUs may be better for smaller, more thermally restricted systems, particularly if you’re also trying to incorporate a large, powerful GPU.
Intel’s new Alder Lake processors are not just fresh and stunning on the inside, but they also have some intriguing new features. On compatible motherboards, you receive PCI Express 5.0 support in addition to DDR5 memory support. There’s hardly much use for it right now, but when the next generation of PCI-Express NVMe SSDs arrives in the coming months, they’ll be incredibly fast and exclusive to Intel – at least until AMD releases its Zen 4 CPUs in the second half of 2022.
Alder Lake motherboards also support Thunderbolt 4 and Wi-Fi 6e, allowing for quicker direct wired and wireless connections than AMD motherboards.
Core i5-12600k is the gaming leader, at a price
Intel paid a high price for its 14nm standstill, giving AMD years to catch up with many Ryzen design iterations, culminating in the Zen 3 architecture, which has given AMD the gaming crown for the past year. The 12600K and its Alder Lake counterparts are here to change that, providing the next pinnacle of gaming performance. Intel has increased multithreaded performance to the point that it is competitive, or even surpasses AMD at this crucial midrange, by increasing the core count of the midrange in the same way AMD did with the first-generation Ryzen CPUs.
The Core i5-12600K is a performance miracle, but it, like Intel as a whole, bears the brunt of Intel’s stagnation. It’s a CPU on the cutting edge of what’s possible in its brand-new process node, but it’s already outdated. While it’s exciting to see Intel’s 10nm (now known as Intel 7) make its desktop debut, it comes years after AMD switched to a real 7nm TSMC manufacturing. The AMD Ryzen 5600X is a lot more efficient CPU that runs cooler and quieter thanks to this, as well as a tighter concentration on fewer cores.
Whether you’re creating a large gaming PC or a cost-conscious production machine, the 12600K is obviously the superior CPU in almost every way. However, if you want something smaller or worry about your PC’s power drain, this is a crucial factor to consider.