Competition is always great for consumers, so we should be grateful that AMD and Intel have been duking it out on the CPU front for decades. If only one chip maker existed without the other, we wouldn't have the quality of processors that we have today. For example, Intel's Core i5 desktop lineup was stuck on four cores for nearly a decade while AMD struggled to release a competitive product. But Ryzen changed things quickly, forcing Intel to respond with more cores and lower per-core pricing. Now enthusiasts and casual users alike can find great values at nearly every price point, but particularly in the mid-range market.
Intel's Core i5 and AMD's Ryzen 5 families are the biggest volume-movers in the mainstream desktop segment, and honestly, that's the most chip most gamers need. But then the eternal question arises: Who reigns supreme in the mid-range, AMD or Intel?
On one side, we have the Ryzen 5 3600X that from AMD's Matisse family. The Ryzen 5 3600X comes equipped with six cores and 12 threads. On the other side, we have the Core i5-9600K, which represents Intel's Coffee Lake lineup. The Core i5-9600K has six cores, but unlike its AMD rival, it's limited to six threads.
To help you pick one, we put the hexa-core processors from both chipmakers through a seven-round face-off, based on their features, overclockability, coolers, motherboards, performance, and value.
Looking for something in a different price/performance range? Head over to our best CPU page. And check out our CPU hierarchy page to see where these processors land in comparison to higher- and lower-end parts.
The Ryzen 5 3600X is part of the Ryzen 3000-series lineup, so it inherits all of Ryzen's important attributes, like the Zen 2 microarchitecture and the 7nm FinFET process node from TSMC. The Ryzen 5 3600X combines its six-core, 12-thread configuration with a whopping 32MB L3 cache.
AMD assigns the Ryzen 5 3600X a 3.8 GHz base clock and 4.4 GHz single-core boost clock. The Ryzen 5 3600X boasts a dual-channel memory controller that supports DDR4-3200 memory modules natively, and it also exposes 16 PCIe 4.0 lanes to the user. Like other Zen 2 chips, the Ryzen 5 3600X doesn't come with integrated graphics, so you'll need to use a dedicated graphics card of some form.
|Intel Core i5-9600K||AMD Ryzen 5 3600X|
|Architecture||Coffee Lake||Zen 2|
|Cores / Threads||6 / 6||6 / 12|
|Base Frequency (GHz)||3.7||3.8|
|Boost Frequency (GHz)||4.6||4.4|
|Integrated Graphics||Intel UHD Graphics 630||N/A|
|Recommended Customer Pricing||$262 - $263||$249|
The Core i5-9600K, which is based on the Coffee Lake microarchitecture, hails from Intel's 14nm manufacturing process. While it does have six cores, the Core i5-9600K doesn't come with Hyper-Threading, which limits the chip to six threads. The processor also has 9MB of L3 cache.
The Core i5-9600K checks in with a 3.7 GHz base clock and a 4.6 GHz single-core boost clock. Intel has implemented the UHD Graphics 630 iGPU inside the Core i5-9600K as well as a dual-channel memory controller with DDR4-2933 support.
Winner: AMD. The Ryzen 5 3600X comes a much more generous featureset. The hexa-core processor offers more threads, L3 cache and support for the PCIe 4.0 interface and DDR4-3200 memory sticks. It's only weak point is the absence of an iGPU, so the conversation stops there if you aren't planning on using a discrete graphics card.
The Ryzen 5 3600X has great backward compatibility with prior AM4 motherboards. With the adequate firmware, the Ryzen 5 3600X will work on AMD 300-and 400-series motherboards. However, building a system around a pre-X570 motherboard means you lose out on PCIe 4.0 functionality. X570 motherboards, which start at $145, are the only PCIe 4.0 option at the moment until motherboard manufacturers start rolling out the budget 500-series motherboards.
The Core i5-9600K drops into the LGA1151 socket. Unlike the Ryzen 5 3600, the Core i5-9600K won't work on motherboards that aren't built around the Intel 300-series chipset. Intel offers multiple chipsets for different needs, but assuming you want to pair the Core i5-9600K with a capable enthusiast board, the starting price for Z370 and Z390 motherboards begins around $115.
If you're interested in future-proofing, investing in a LGA1151 motherboard isn't a wise decision right now. Reports point to Intel introducing the a new LGA1200 socket for upcoming Comet Lake desktop chips, so the LGA1151 socket already has one foot inside the retirement home. AMD, on the other hand, says it will support the AM4 socket until 2020, meaning we could see one more wave of processors on the socket before the chipmaker transitions to a new one.
Winner: AMD. X570 motherboards cost a little bit more than Z370 and Z390 motherboards due to support for new features, like PCIe 4.0. This won't change until more budget-friendly AMD 500-series chipsets come to market. With Intel on the brink of abandoning the LGA1151 socket, it surely isn't worth it to buy an Intel 300-series motherboard if you're interested in future-proofing.
The Ryzen 5 3600X has a 4.4 GHz single-core boost clock and the all-core frequency is around 200 MHz to 300 MHz lower the single-core value. Based on our experiences with the Ryzen 5 3600X, you're better off letting AMD's Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO) feature do its job. Overclocking all cores to a static frequency increases performance in multi-threaded workloads, but you sacrifice lightly-threaded performance.
Intel advertises the Core i5-9600K with a 4.6 GHz single-core clock. However, the hexa-core processor comes equipped with a 4.3 GHz all-core boost clock. We managed to overclock our sample to 5 GHz on all six cores with a 1.36V Vcore and auto Load-Line Calibration (LLC) settings. The overclock bumps the chip's power consumption up to 179W under heavy load.
Winner: Intel. Intel's overclocking superiority is hard to beat. If you plan to do a fair bit of overclocking, you'll have a lot of fun with the Core i5-9600K.
The Ryzen 5 3600X and Core i5-9600K feature a 95W TDP (thermal design power). Intel measures the TDP at the base clock, so the Core i5-9600K's power draw is slightly higher. Our tests show that a stock Core i5-9600K can pull up to 119W with extreme workloads.
It shouldn't be hard to find an air or liquid CPU cooler to keep the Ryzen 5 3600X or Core i5-9600K's operating temperatures under control. If you're not overclocking, even budget CPU coolers are more than adequate. In the Ryzen 5 3600X's case, AMD includes the Wraith Spire so you don't have to spend a dime on an aftermarket CPU cooler.
Winner: AMD. The Ryzen 5 3600X has slightly lower power consumption. As a result, it's easier and cheaper to find a CPU cooler that can cool the processor. Nevertheless, the added value lies in the inclusion of the Wraith Spire CPU cooler, meaning you save a few bucks to put towards other components in your system.
We include information about our test systems at the bottom of the page.
It was a very close fight between the Ryzen 5 3600X and the Core i5-9600K in our gaming test suite. The Ryzen 5 3600X delivered more performance than the Core i5-9600K in six of the 10 games that we tested, but some of the margins were slim. That's important because we test at the FHD resolution with a leading graphics card, while most systems in this price band will come with lesser cards. Also, bumping up the resolution would push the bottleneck back to the GPU, making CPU performance less of a factor. All of this is to say that these results would be nearly identical if a graphics bottleneck comes into play.
Winner: AMD. Normally, Intel chips are better at gaming. On this occasion, the Ryzen 5 3600X turned the table on the Core i5-9600K. AMD's hexa-core chip is a surprisingly nimble gaming processor.
It wasn't a complete blowout for the Ryzen 5 3600X in the productivity tests. The Core i5-9600K managed to edge out the Ryzen chip in a few benchmarks, particularly in lightly-threaded applications. However, for the most part, the Ryzen 5 3600X beats the Core i5-9600K as a result of having twice the threads and a considerable amount of L3 cache.
The Core i5-9600K often catches the Ryzen 5 3600X when it is overclocked to 5 GHz on all its cores. On other occasions, even a 5 GHz overclock can't push the Core i5-9600K into striking range of the Ryzen 5 3600X.
Winner: AMD. If it wasn't obvious before, the Ryzen 5 3600X clearly packs more firepower than the Core i5-9600K when it comes to multi-threaded workloads. Intel does cling to its single-threaded advantage, but that isn't enough to offset the 3600X's better balance of performance in all workloads.
|Price Per Core||Current Pricing (USD)||Cores / Threads||TDP (Watts)||Base / Boost Frequency (GHz)||L3 Cache (MB)||PCIe Lanes|
|Core i5-9600K||$27.50||$219.99||6 / 6||95||3.7 / 4.6||9||16 x PCIe 3.0|
|Ryzen 5 3600X||$26.39||$211.15||6 / 12||95||3.8 / 4.4||32||16 x PCIe 4.0|
|Ryzen 5 3600||$21.87||$174.99||6 / 12||65||3.6 / 4.2||32||16 x PCIe 4.0|
You can find AMD's Ryzen 3000-series processors at ridiculously good pricing. The Ryzen 5 3600X is available for as low as $200, working out to ~$33 per core. Intel has recently slashed the prices on its processors to compete with AMD, but even after those cuts, the Core i5-9600K is still more expensive. The processor starts at $219.99, which comes out to ~$37 per core.
An X570 motherboard will set you back $145 at a minimum, while a Z370 or Z390 motherboard begins at $115. Of course, you'll have to factor in the cost of a CPU cooler with the Core i5-9600K, while the Ryzen 5 3600X comes with a capable Wraith Spire cooler that even grants some overclocking headroom.
Winner: AMD. The starting investment for both platforms is roughly the same. However, the Ryzen 5 3600X has more upside because you get access to the PCIe 4.0 feature to exploit the latest SSDs and graphics cards.
The Bottom Line
The Ryzen 5 3600X claims a one-two punch victory over the Core i5-9600K today. Obviously, it's not typical to see an AMD processor excel in both the gaming and productivity departments, but the Ryzen 5 3600X is the leader on both sides of the ball.
The Ryzen 5 3600X's six-core, 12-thread configuration is a success for AMD. The chip not only ushers in the PCIe 4.0 standard for consumers, it's also a better gaming and productivity chip than the Core i5-9600K. The only way for the Core i5-9600K to get into the conversation is if you need integrated graphics or you're interested in the highest overclocking potential. But getting a really good sample that can overclock beyond 5 GHz requires winning the silicon lottery.
The Ryzen 5 3600X is the only chip that's worth your consideration at the $200 price point, and the bundled cooler is a nice addition. Now all we need is for motherboard vendors to bring the more wallet-friendly 500-series motherboards to market. Once that happens, the price-to-performance ratio for the Ryzen 5 3600X will get even better.
Currently the only real competition for the 3600X comes from AMD's own stable. As you can see throughout our tests, after overclocking, the Ryzen 5 3600 offers slightly more performance than the stock 3600X, but trails when overclocking. Pricing for Ryzen chips fluctuates wildly, but currently both chips retail for the same price. However, opting for a 3600 often equates to a savings if you aren't interested in that last bit of overclocking performance with the Ryzen 5 3600X, so keep that in mind at checkout.
Overall Winner: AMD
|Intel Core i5-9600K||AMD Ryzen 5 3600X|
Test System and Configuration
|AMD Socket AM4 (X570)||AMD Ryzen 9 3900X, Ryzen 7 3800X, Ryzen 7 3700X, Ryzen 5 3600X, Ryzen 5 3600, Ryzen 7 2700X, Ryzen 5 2600X|
|MSI MEG X570 Godlike|
|2x 8GB G.Skill Flare DDR4-3200Ryzen 3000 - DDR4-3200, DDR4-3600|
|Second-gen Ryzen - DDR4-2933, DDR4-3466|
|Intel LGA 1151 (Z390)||Intel Core i7-9700K, Core i5-9600K. Core i5-9400F|
|MSI MEG Z390 Godlike|
|2x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2667 & DDR4-3466|
|AMD Socket AM4 (X470)||AMD Ryzen 5 1600X|
|MSI X470 Gaming M7 AC|
|2x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2933|
|All Systems||Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti |
|2TB Intel DC4510 SSD|
|EVGA Supernova 1600 T2, 1600W|
|Windows 10 Pro (1903 - All Updates)|
|Cooling||Corsair H115i - Stock and OC cooler except where noted in charts|
|Custom Loop, EKWB Supremacy EVO waterblock, Dual-720mm radiators (HEDT only - n/a here)|
|AMD Wraith Spire, as noted|
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