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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)

All test results marked with "PBO" reflect configurations tested with AMD's auto-overclocking Precision Boost Overdrive feature. For overclocking, we tuned our memory to DDR4-3600 for both Intel and AMD platforms.

We have a few interesting comparisons to keep an eye on as we work our way through the tests. Intel's previous-gen Core i7-9700K retails for $370, but comes with eight cores and threads while the Core i5-10600K lands at $262 with six cores and twelve threads, setting the stage for great gaming performance at a low price point. AMD's Ryzen 7 3700X retails for $290, representing the upper level of AMD performance in this general price range, while the $240 Ryzen 5 3600X and $175 3600 are in the mix with the Core i5-10600K. AMD's Ryzen 3 3300X slots in at a mere $120, but sets a high bar in gaming for the lower end of the market.

This set of tests focuses narrowly on this price band, but we have comparisons to the Core i9-10900K in gaming and application work on the final page of the review. 

VRMark and 3DMark on Intel Core i5-10600K

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Synthetic gaming benchmarks often aren't generally indicative of real-world performance, but the 3DMark DX11 and DX12 tests are interesting because they measure the amount of raw computational horsepower exposed to the game engine. For now, most of today's game engines don't scale as linearly with additional compute resources, but these tests help us gauge how games could exploit processing resources as the engines become more sophisticated.

In the synthetic world of the Fire Strike benchmark, the Ryzen 7 3700X dominates due to its eight cores and 16 threads, while the Ryzen 5 3600X also carves out a lead over the stock Core i5-10600K. The stock Ryzen 5 3600 also nearly matches the 10600K, which is impressive given its $175 price tag. Overclocking propels the 10600K into the lead over its similarly priced competitors.

Flipping over to Time Spy finds the Core i5-10600K nearly matching the previous-gen Core i5-9700K at both stock and overclocked settings.

VRMark's test values per-core performance (a mixture of frequency and IPC), and it obviously prefers physical cores and lots of L3 cache. The Coffee Lake Refresh Core i5-9600K benefits from its lack of hyperthreading in this title, but it takes a healthy overclock to boost it over the 10600K. 

Civilization VI AI and Stockfish on Intel Core i5-10600K

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Civilization VI's AI engine values per-core performance, which benefits Intel's higher clock rates. Here we can see the Intel chips without threading once again benefiting from the program executing on physical cores, but the stock Core i5-9600K lags due to its lower base and boost frequencies. 

Stockfish, an open-source chess engine, is designed to extract the utmost performance from many-core chips by scaling well up to 512 cores. The Ryzen 5 3600X's six cores and twelve threads prove powerful in this test, but the overclocked Core i5-10600K profits from its higher clock rates. The Ryzen 5 3600 also puts up a strong showing at stock settings, edging out the 10600K. 

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation on Intel Core i5-10600K

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Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation loves cores and threads, but clock rates also play a role. The stock Core i5-10600K vies with the Ryzen 5 3600X at stock settings, but its higher overclocking headroom grants it the overall win as it edges out the higher-clocked Core i7-9700K. It's noteworthy that the stock 10600K edges past the heavily-overclocked 9600K. Meanwhile, the Ryzen 3 3300X slips past the Core i7-9700K at stock settings, reminding us that AMD's Ryzen 3 has completely upset the value tier. We can't wait to see how Intel's Core i3 lineup stacks up. 

Civilization VI Graphics Test on Intel Core i5-10600K

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Most gaming software is still optimized for low thread counts and high clock rates, and some game engines even prefer single-threaded cores. That doesn't stop the threaded 10600K from exerting itself in these tests, though, as it leads all but the overclocked Core i7-9700K.

Dawn of War III on Intel Core i5-10600K

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The Warhammer 40,000 benchmark responds well to threading, but it's clear that clock speed and IPC also matter. The stock Ryzen processors fall down the charts in this title, though the Ryzen 3 3300X is particularly impressive due to its use of a single CCX – it even beats out its own more-expensive brethren and the stock 10600K. After overclocking, the Core i5-10600K takes the lead, albeit by the slimmest of margins over the Core i5-9700K. 

Far Cry 5 on Intel Core i5-10600K

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Far Cry 5 tends to run well on Intel architectures, and the overclocked Core i3-9350KF reminds us that Intel's overclockability can be a powerful asset. Unfortunately, this chip represents the last overclockable Core i3 model in Intel's stable; Intel inexplicably neglected to release an overclockable Comet Lake i3 model. 

Regardless, the top of the chart belongs to Intel, and the 10600K once again delivers nearly the same performance as the previous-gen Core i7-9700K at stock settings and superior performance after overclocking. 

Final Fantasy XV on Intel Core i5-10600K

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We run this test with the standard quality preset to sidestep the impact of a bug that causes the game engine to render off-screen objects with the higher-resolution setting. The stock Core i5-10600K grapples with the mid-range Ryzen processors, and even the Ryzen 3 3300X, at stock settings, but overclocking propels it into second place. 

The Core i5-9400F, Intel's previous-gen locked i5 that was known for its solid performance, doesn't look nearly as impressive when stacked up against the latest models.  

Grand Theft Auto V on Intel Core i5-10600K

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Here we see a familiar trend of the Core i5-10600K basically offering the same level of performance as the previous-gen unlocked Core i7 model, highlighting that industry competition has benefitted the consumer with big gen-on-gen value improvements. 

Hitman 2 on Intel Core i5-10600K

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The Core i7-9700K carves out a substantial lead at both stock and overclocked settings compared to the 10600K here, but the latter clings to a comfortable lead over price-comparable Ryzen processors.

Project Cars 2 on Intel Core i5-10600K

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Although Project CARS 2 is purportedly optimized for threading, clock rates obviously affect this title's frame rates. Intel's overclocked Core i3-9350KF pops up near the top of the chart, showing that clock rates are also important in this title. It even tops the stock Core i5-10600K, but overclocking propels the 10600K into a comfortable lead. 

World of Tanks enCore on Intel Core i5-10600K

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The World of Tanks benchmark closes out our game testing with the same general trend we've seen throughout this series of tests: On the strength of its high single- and multi-core clock rates paired with 12 threads, the Core i5-10600K is a potent gaming chip, even at stock settings. Overclocking also yields significant gains that place the chip far ahead of its AMD competitors. 

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  • 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