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Intel Core i5-10600K Review: The Mainstream Gaming Champ

Six cores and 12 threads serve up a gaming stunner.

Intel Core i5-10600K
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Our Verdict

For gamers looking for the edge of performance, and enthusiasts who like to tune their processors without expensive supporting components, the Core i5-10600K slips in as the new mainstream champ.

For

  • Lower per-thread pricing
  • Leading gaming performance
  • Strong in single- and multi-threaded workloads
  • Overclocking headroom
  • Relatively easy to cool

Against

  • PCIe 3.0
  • No bundled cooler
  • Requires new motherboard

Intel's Comet Lake recently crashed into the market with the beastly $488 Core i9-10900K leading the charge, showing us that its aging Skylake architecture and hyper-refined 14nm++ process still has the gumption to keep the company's gaming performance crown. But the ten-core 20-thread processor brought some baggage along with it, like high power consumption that requires exotic accommodations to get the best performance possible, pricing it out of consideration for the majority of enthusiasts. 

However, Intel's clever price trimming on its Core i5 series, which comes via the addition of Hyper-Threading at no extra cost, has always looked like a possible addition to our Best CPUs for gaming list. After our testing, the $262 Core i5-10600K delivers and is just as impressive as you would expect from a six-core 12-thread Comet Lake processor clocked at a 4.1 GHz base and 4.8 GHz boost. Intel also offers the chip for $237 if you grab the graphics-less KF model. 

In either case, the 10600K comes with more threads than the previous-gen Core i7 models, so the implication is clear: You get the lion's share of the performance of last year's $370 Core i7-9700K, but for $267/$234 with the Core i5-10600K. 

Intel's pricing puts AMD's ~$245 Ryzen 5 3600X squarely in the crosshairs. While the ~$175 Ryzen 5 3600 is still tempting with its six cores and 12 threads, Intel hopes the 10600K's gaming supremacy, not to mention overclocking prowess, persuades enthusiasts to drop the cash on a new LGA1200 platform to support the chip. 

And Intel's Core i5 series could definitely use some help -- the third-gen Ryzen processors, for all of their headline-stealing high core counts in the higher-end models, did the most damage in Intel's mid-range due to their superior value and ultra-competitive gaming performance. The Core i5 and Ryzen 5 segments comprise the bulk of sales to the ever-growing cadre of gamers and enthusiasts looking for the best bang for the buck, so success here is key. 

The Core i5-10600K's combination of a higher thread count at similar pricing to the previous-gen, high stock clock frequencies, palatable power consumption, and agile overclockability cooks up a winner for the gaming and enthusiast crowds. Intel even reduced the gap in threaded workloads like productivity tasks. For gamers looking for the edge of performance and enthusiasts who like to tune their processors without hideously-priced supporting components, the Core i5-10600K slots in as the new mainstream champ. 

Intel Core i5-10600K Specifications and Pricing

MainstreamMSRP/RetailCores / ThreadsBase / Boost GHz$-Per-Core/Thread (MSRP)L3 CacheTDPPCIeMemoryGraphics
Core i7-9700K$379 / $3708 / 83.6 / 4.9~$47 / ~$241295W16 Gen3Dual DDR4-2666UHD 630 - 1.2 GHz (non-F only)
Core i5-10600K / KF$262 (K) / $237 (KF)6 / 124.1 / 4.8~$44 / ~$2212125W16 Gen3Dual DDR4-2666UHD Graphics - 1.2 GHz (non-F only)
Ryzen 5 3600X$249 / $2056 / 123.8 / 4.4 ~$41.5 / ~$213295W24 Gen4Dual DDR4-3200N/A
Core i5-10600$2136 / 123.3 / 4.8~$36 / ~$231265W16 Gen3Dual DDR4-2666UHD 630 - 1.2 GHz
Ryzen 5 3600$199 / $1756 / 123.6 / 4.2~$33 / ~$173265W24 Gen4Dual DDR4-3200N/A
Core i5-10500$1926 / 123.1 / 4.5~$32 / ~$161265W16 Gen3Dual DDR4-2666UHD 630 - 1.15 GHz
Core i5-10400 / F$182 / $157 (F)6 / 122.9 / 4.3~$26 / ~$131265W16 Gen3Dual DDR4-2666UHD 630 - 1.1 GHz (non-F only)
Core i5-9600K$262 / $2006 / 63.7 / 4.6~$44 / ~$44995W16 Gen3Dual DDR4-2666UHD 630 - 1.15 GHz
Core i5-9600$2246 / 63.1 / 4.6~$37 / ~$37965W16 Gen3Dual DDR4-2666UHD 630 - 1.15 GHz
Core i5-9400 / F$182 / $1256 / 62.9 / 4.1 ~$30 / ~$30865W16 Gen3Dual DDR4-2400UHD 630 - 1.05 GHz

Intel re-aligned its Core i5 series, which came with six cores and threads with the previous-gen chips, to six cores with 12 threads for the Comet Lake models. That comes by simply enabling Hyper-Threading, but it boosts the Core i5-10600K's thread count beyond that of the previous-gen eight-core/thread i7-9700K, setting the stage for impressive performance improvements. 

And the new chip didn't disappoint. Our testing found that the 10600K still trails the 9700K in application performance, but it's close enough in gaming to call it a wash. That's a huge step forward on the value front. Pricing is competitive, too, especially with the $25 discount for picking the graphics-less 10600KF model. If you're not interested in buying a discrete graphics card, the 10600K's UHD Graphics 630 engine remains the same compared to the prior gen, right down to the clock rates. That gives Intel a leg up over AMD, which doesn't offer integrated graphics in this price range. Just don't expect to do any meaningful gaming on the Intel chip without a dedicated graphics card.

Base1 Core2 Cores3 Cores4 Cores5 Cores6 Cores7 Cores8 Cores
Core i5-10600K (GHz)4.14.84.84.84.74.54.5--
Core i7-9700K (GHz)3.64.94.84.74.74.64.64.64.6
Core i5-9600K (GHz)3.74.64.54.44.44.34.3--
Core i5-8600K (GHz)3.64.34.24.24.24.14.1--

The six-core, twelve thread Core i5-10600K ticks at a 4.1 GHz and 4.8 GHz boost, and unlike the Core i9 models, Intel doesn't include it's complicated matrix of TurboBoost 3.0 Max and Thermal Velocity Boost (TVB) clock rates, making this a simple case of what you see is what you get. 

As you can see in the table above, Intel has steadily bumped up its multi-core clock rates with each new generation of chips, with the 10600K marking yet another jump over the previous-gen Core i5 chips. The 10600K still trails the Core i7-9700K's single- and all-core boosts, but offsets it with a much higher 4.1 GHz base (and accompanying TDP rating). That means the 10600K won't entirely match the previous-gen i7 in all applications, but our testing shows it comes close. 

The 10600K comes with a 125W TDP rating, a new high for Intel's Core i5 series as the company turned up the power dial on its base clock rates from 3.7 GHz with the previous-gen Core i5-9600K to 4.1 GHz. Still, it's important to remember the TDP rating doesn't have a one-to-one relation to power consumption, and it only applies to stock settings at the base frequency (PL1). Intel recommends a maximum of 220W at PL2 (peak power consumption during boost), but as always, motherboard vendors are free to ignore those recommendations, so board selection is important. 

The 10600K comes with 12MB of L3 cache, an increase of 3MB over the Core i5-9600K. Intel increased memory support up to DDR4-2933, which lags AMD's DDR4-3200 memory transfer rates. Like the chip's other ratio multipliers, Intel fully enables memory overclocking on Z-series motherboards, but you'll lose that functionality on the B- and H-series. Be sure to price in a Z-series board and a cooling solution, preferably liquid, if you're off to the overclocking races. Meanwhile, AMD allows overclocking on all but its A-Series motherboards. 

All of Intel's Comet Lake K-Series models come with a thicker copper integrated heat spreader (IHS), a thinner die, and solder TIM (sTIM) to improve cooling and overclockability, which we covered here. The 10600K doesn't come with a boxed cooler, but mid-range air coolers should be sufficient for stock operation, and even some overclocking. Serious overclockers should plan on a 240mm or greater all-in-one cooler, but the overclocking results we'll outline on the following pages are pretty impressive. 

  • Diddly
    I would still rather get the 3700X than the 10600K
    Reply
  • sizzling
    Great review but a big shame PBO is only recorded against the 3600X when based on price the alternative is the 3700X or 3800X.
    Reply
  • vov4ik_il
    That seems to be the 8700k overclocked in a new package and a new price tag. 🙃
    Reply
  • lastmessiah
    Too bad you can't actually buy it anywhere.
    Reply
  • thGe17
    lastmessiah said:
    Too bad you can't actually buy it anywhere.

    Why not? For example the two biggest online shops in DE alread sell them and also have the 10400, 10500, 10600 and 10700K available. Only the 10900 models seem to be rare.
    Reply
  • waltc3
    Yawn...Wake me when Intel finally launches a new architecture on a decent process node...ZZZZz-z-z-z-zzz
    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    I assume in the "Against" column you mean "No PCIe 4.0"? Pretty sure this has 3.0.
    Reply
  • Chris Fetters
    It's official then I guess... Paul has completely lost the plot at this point. Don't get me wrong, it's a really solid chip, but the pricing (ESPECIALLY if you consider the entire platform, ala board+CPU+cooler) is absolutely freaking TERRIBLE!

    If you're building a gaming rig, going with a Ryzen 5 3600 & B450 (to save as much as possible, but you could spring the +$20 for B550 if you wanted) saves you enough money to go up an entire GPU tier (meaning better gaming performance!!!), and if you're building it for ANYTHING else, a Ryzen 7 3700X machine absolutely roflstomps it AND is cheaper (cheaper board + free cooler).

    The only situation where this i5K makes any sense is if you're building a flagship gaming rig w/ an RTX 2080 Ti (where there's no point to saving money on the CPU for a better GPU), but at that point, why the hell are you buying an i5? You're building a mondo expensive flagship machine with 8c/16t consoles imminent, put a damn i9 in there.

    TL;DR - The only kinds of builds that would benefit from buying this chip are the same kinds of builds that no sane person would ever put an i5 in...
    Reply
  • seanwebster
    I'm just shocked at how an i5 now costs $300...and without a cooler. Wow, go Intel.
    Reply
  • King_V
    Chris Fetters said:
    It's official then I guess... Paul has completely lost the plot at this point. Don't get me wrong, it's a really solid chip, but the pricing (ESPECIALLY if you consider the entire platform, ala board+CPU+cooler) is absolutely freaking TERRIBLE!

    If you're building a gaming rig, going with a Ryzen 5 3600 & B450 (to save as much as possible, but you could spring the +$20 for B550 if you wanted) saves you enough money to go up an entire GPU tier (meaning better gaming performance!!!), and if you're building it for ANYTHING else, a Ryzen 7 3700X machine absolutely roflstomps it AND is cheaper (cheaper board + free cooler).

    The only situation where this i5K makes any sense is if you're building a flagship gaming rig w/ an RTX 2080 Ti (where there's no point to saving money on the CPU for a better GPU), but at that point, why the hell are you buying an i5? You're building a mondo expensive flagship machine with 8c/16t consoles imminent, put a damn i9 in there.

    TL;DR - The only kinds of builds that would benefit from buying this chip are the same kinds of builds that no sane person would ever put an i5 in...

    Generally agreed, EXCEPT for the "lost the plot" part. This is supposed to mostly be testing the performance of the CPU itself.

    Don't get me wrong, I agree that the cost of the motherboard, cooler, etc., are definitely important considerations, but, as yo usaid, the CPU is solid.

    It's a great chip with some lousy baggage in terms of cooler and motherboard. Uh, and it does run hot.
    Reply