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Intel Core i5-8400 Review: Six Cores On A Budget

Our Verdict

The Core i5-8400 brings a powerful six-core design to the mid-range, offering class-leading gaming performance and competitive performance in heavier applications. More expensive models offer more performance in both categories, but the Core i5-8400 is easily the pound-for-pound gaming champion.

For

  • Incredible value
  • Six Cores
  • Strong performance in games and applications
  • Price
  • Bundled cooler

Against

  • No B-Series motherboards at launch
  • Poor availability
  • Locked ratio multiplier

Meet Intel's Core i5-8400

There's no doubt that AMD's Ryzen processors challenged Intel's position in the desktop PC market this summer. Seemingly in response (though we all know this stuff is planned way in advance), the Coffee Lake-based Core i7 and i5 CPUs landed with six cores each. That was a first for Intel's mainstream platform.

The Core i5 series typically offers enthusiasts the best performance for their dollar. But with those two extra cores, Intel's highest-end Core i5 is now faster than Core i7-7700K in most games, and even in some applications. This means the Coffee Lake Core i5s basically replace last generation's Core i7s. Talk about a huge step forward. Now the mid-range chips can backstop top-end GPUs without becoming bottlenecks.

For more information on Coffee Lake's impact in the mainstream space, check out our Intel Core i5-8600K Review. Today, though, we're focusing on the less expensive, but multiplier-locked, Core i5-8400.

Active CoresBase Frequency1246
Intel Core i5-8600K 3.6 GHz4.3 GHz4.2 GHz4.2 GHz4.1 GHz
Intel Core i5-84002.8 GHz4.0 GHz3.9 GHz3.9 GHz3.8 GHz
Intel Core i5-74003.0 GHz3.5 GHz3.4 GHz3.3 GHz-

Like the more expensive Core i5-8600K, Intel's -8400 features six cores without Hyper-Threading. Aside from its locked multiplier, the key differences boil down to clock rates, thermal design power, and price. A 2.8 GHz base frequency is the lowest of all Coffee Lake-based processors, including Intel's Core i3 models. That's because the company had to squeeze into the -8400's 65W TDP, while Core i5-8600K gets a 95W rating, allowing the same silicon to accommodate a 3.6 GHz base.

On the surface, a lower clock rate looks bad for performance. But remember that Intel's Turbo Boost technology accelerates frequencies within certain parameters. This allows the -8400 to go quite a bit faster in workloads that don't tax all of the -8400's cores. As you can see in the table above, the 8400's multi-core Turbo Boost bins get a lot more aggressive than Core i5-7400's. And they only trail the -8600K by 300 MHz.

Core i5-8400 drops into a LGA 1551 interface, but as we know from our previous Coffee Lake reviews, it isn't backward compatible with 200-series motherboards. That means you'll have to step up to a 300-series motherboard, even though that means getting no new features in the process. Worse, a rushed launch means the Z370 chipset is your only option for now. Cheaper B- and H-series motherboards, which will cost a lot less, arrive at the beginning of next year. The Core i5-8400 is a locked processor anyway, so the reason most enthusiasts would have had for spending extra (overclocking) doesn't apply here.

Intel cites a $182 recommended customer price, which is the same as its Kaby Lake-based Core i5-7400. That'd be a great value for 50% more cores. However, poor supply means that the -8400 is popping in and out of stock, selling for as little as $200 when the big shops receive a shipment. When they run out, smaller vendors run the price up closer to $260. That's Ryzen 5 1600X territory. AMD also has an advantage in that you can plug its Ryzen chips into B350-based motherboards selling for as little as $80. At least the competing models both include bundled coolers; we don't always get such a luxury in the high-end space, where you're often expected to supply your own thermal solution.


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  • velocityg4
    I'd be interested in knowing. Under what circumstances can you get it to hit 3.8Ghz reliably under a 6-core load? That is quite a spread.

    If one was to delid the CPU and use a decent CPU cooler. Would it reliably maintain the max turbo boost when the CPU usage demands it? Is the stock heatsink and decent case cooling plenty?

    On another note. It is time for the return of the Turbo button. That would be pretty sweet to click the button and manually have the CPU jump between 1, 2, 4 and 6 cores at their respective boost frequencies or down to standard. I know it isn't necessary as it is all automated and that wasn't the purpose of the Turbo button. Some people just like manual control. Plus old time computer geeks would get a kick out of it.
    Reply
  • AgentLozen
    This is a very neat chip at it's price point. Very little has changed between Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake except for the core count. Luckily for Intel, those added cores make all the difference.

    This CPU would sit nicely on a budget system. It's a shame that there are no inexpensive motherboards that it could fit into like the conclusion of this article states.

    If you didn't plan to overclock, this is the best CPU on the market for gaming and general productivity.
    Reply
  • The_King
    We have AMD to thank for all these budget cpu's from Intel, and you all know why! So thank you AMD.
    Reply
  • rwinches
    No, you can't have charts based on FPS or seconds or related to MSRP. Drivers update, Prices change, Memory Speeds Increase and price lowers, MB prices are wide range.

    It is known that Some games work better for AMD when AMD GPUs are used. Game FPS can be dramatically improved by changing just one parameter. Test results that are milliseconds or a few seconds or frames faster are irrelevant and subject to variations in real world use on systems that are not clean installs and have other SW installed and running.
    Reply
  • 10tacle
    20307991 said:
    No, you can't have charts based on FPS or seconds or related to MSRP. Drivers update, Prices change, Memory Speeds Increase and price lowers, MB prices are wide range.

    I don't understand your point. This is a review of the 8400 and comparing it to other CPUs only. Memory, motherboards, and all the other variables are you talking about in a full PC build are irrelevant to this chart comparison. They have to establish a constant standard across the spectrum, and they did so.

    20307991 said:
    It is known that Some games work better for AMD when AMD GPUs are used. Game FPS can be dramatically improved by changing just one parameter. Test results that are milliseconds or a few seconds or frames faster are irrelevant and subject to variations in real world use on systems that are not clean installs and have other SW installed and running.

    Again, they are using a single standard across the spectrum comparison. Of course there are infinite combinations of hardware that can game change a little. The bottom line here is that among every major tech review website, all of Intel's chips are better for gaming than Ryzen. The only exception is when dealing with beyond 1080p gaming like QHD or UHD where it's mostly on the GPU. People who buy this chip are the perfect candidate for a 144Hz 1080p G-sync or Freesync monitor.
    Reply
  • lotusmotors
    Glad I didn't waste money on a 1600x.
    Reply
  • elbert
    Compared to the Ryzen 1600 with a B350 its $50 higher. That is a higher video card level. IE get the 8400 with a 1050ti the Ryzen budget would get a 1060 3GB. Intel needs their B360 motherboards for the 8100 and 8400 to ever be a budget winner.
    Reply
  • hardwarefox1234
    Has the author even bothered to look at the street prices for the CPUs??

    Core i5 8400:

    https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA7HN6HF3442&cm_re=i5_8400-_-9SIA7HN6HF3442-_-Product
    http://www.microcenter.com/product/486090/core_i5-8400_coffee_lake_28_ghz_lga_1151_boxed_processor
    http://www.ncixus.com/products/?sku=142465&vpn=BX80684I58400&manufacture=Intel

    The lowest price is $249.99!

    The Ryzen 5 1600 is much cheaper:

    https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819113435&cm_re=ryzen_5_1600-_-19-113-435-_-Product
    http://www.microcenter.com/product/478826/Ryzen_5_1600_32GHz_6_Core_AM4_Boxed_Processor_with_Wraith_Spire_Cooler
    http://www.ncixus.com/products/?sku=139481&vpn=YD1600BBAEBOX&manufacture=AMD
    https://www.amazon.com/AMD-Processor-Wraith-Cooler-YD1600BBAEBOX/dp/B06XNRQHG4/ref=sr_1_3?s=pc&ie=UTF8&qid=1508952175&sr=1-3&keywords=ryzen+5+1600

    Price is $199.99~$219.99!

    Then if you add the price of the B350 motherboards,they start at a lower level than the Z370 ones.
    Reply
  • hixbot
    Why did you label section 10, overclocking, cooling and temperature? There's no overlocking on this chip? I would have like to see at least an attempt at Bclk overlcock with a mobo that has a clock generator.
    Reply
  • TJ Hooker
    I really wish more reviewers would look at what sort of boost clocks the i5 8400 can sustain under load, with the stock cooler as well as aftermarket. From what I know you could typically assume past Intel CPUs would operate at or near max turbo almost indefinitely, but with a 50% increase in core count and such an unusually wide gap between base and boost clocks (not unlike their mobile CPUs), I'm curious how Coffee Lake will behave in that regard.
    Reply