Intel Core i5-9400F CPU Review: Cutting On-Die Graphics For A Slightly Lower Price

Intel announced its Core i5-9400 processors in January, but the chips only recently become available in significant quantities. The company also rolled out the rest of its Coffee Lake refresh models, six months after its initial salvo, a delay likely attributable to its ongoing 14nm production shortage.

Intel Core i5-9400F Processor. Credit: Tom's HardwareIntel Core i5-9400F Processor. Credit: Tom's Hardware

As Intel struggles to satisfy demand for its chips, AMD is coming closer to launching its Ryzen 3000-series processors. The updated Ryzen line-up employs a smaller 7nm process that should confer power and price benefits. It'll also wield the new Zen 2 microarchitecture, which is expected to boost performance while Intel remains mired in a derivative of the seven-year-old Skylake design.

Intel's lingering lack of 14nm capacity reverberates through every facet of the industry. To boost supply, the chip-maker decided to start selling CPUs that it would have otherwise deemed defective due to nonfunctional graphics units. As a result, we now have the F-series, which includes disabled graphics hardware, but is otherwise identical to the fully-featured Core processors we're more accustomed to.

That means the Core i5-9400F is nearly identical to the Core i5-9400. Both CPUs serve to replace the impressive Core i5-8400, which was one of the most popular Coffee Lake models. Armed with 6C/6T and a slightly higher clock rate, the 9400s yield an incremental step forward over their predecessor.

Moreover, we're finally seeing the F-series' lower price kick in. The Core i5-9400F's ~$20 discount could be compelling for mid-range gamers who don't need integrated graphics.

Core i5-9400F and Core i5-9400

From an architectural standpoint, the Core i5-9400 and -9400F are essentially the same processor as the Core i5-8400, right down to their 14nm++ process, six physical cores, support for dual-channel DDR4-2666, and 65W TDP. The CPUs also drop into an LGA 1551 interface, and they are supported by existing 300-series motherboards with up-to-date BIOSes. They're multipler-locked, unfortunately, so they include Intel's flimsy stock cooling solution.


Core i5-9400F
Core i5-9400
Core i5-8400
Architecture
Coffee Lake-R
Coffee Lake-R
Coffee Lake
Socket
LGA 1151
LGA 1151
LGA 1151
Cores / Threads
6 / 6
6 / 6
6 / 6
Base Frequency (GHz)
2.9
2.9
2.8 GHz
Boost Frequency (Active Cores - GHz)
4.1
4.1
4.0 GHz
L3 Cache
9MB
9MB
10.5MB
Process
14nm++
14nm++
14nm++
TDP
65W
65W
65W
Memory Speed
DDR4-2666
DDR4-2666
DDR4-2666
Memory Controller
Dual-Channel
Dual-Channel
Dual-Channel
PCIe Lanes
x16 Gen3
x16 Gen3
x16 Gen3
Integrated UHD Graphics GT2 (Base/Boost MHz)
350 / 1,050
No
350 / 1,050
Recommended Customer Pricing
$182
$182
$182 - $187

Again, the Core i5-9400F lacks integrated graphics, which isn't an issue for gamers who already use add-in GPUs. However, we find it interesting that Intel maintains the same $182 recommended price as its standard Core i5-9400.

Active Cores (GHz)
Base Frequency
1
2
4
6
Core i5-9600K
3.7
4.6
4.5
4.4
4.3
Core i5-9400/F
2.9
4.1
4.0
4.0
3.9
Core i5-8400
2.8
4.0
3.9
3.9
3.8

Relative to the Core 5-8400, Intel boosts the -9400/-9400F's base frequency and Turbo Boost clock rate by 100 MHz, which should yield slight performance benefits. The Core i5-9400 models also include new baked-in silicon mitigations for the Meltdown vulnerability, along with a combination of hardware- and software-based mitigations for the Spectre and L1TF vulnerabilities. The overhead of software-based patches applied to older processors can reach as high as 10% in certain workloads. That impact is greatly reduced on newer processors. Compared to the Core i5-8400, we didn't measure any significant speed-ups beyond what we expected. However, optimized mitigations could help deliver more of a performance uplift to enthusiasts migrating from much older platforms.  

With the launch of its Coffee Lake refresh, Intel finally switched to a solder-based thermal interface material (sTIM), improving heat transfer between its die and heat spreader. Interestingly, though, some Core i5-9400 models initially came with standard polymer-based thermal interface material (thermal grease), while others shipped with the more efficient sTIM. Intel tells us that depended on where each CPU was manufactured, though all Core i5-9400s now come with sTIM, while the locked F-series models continue to employ pTIM.

In either case, you can determine whether your CPU includes sTIM by checking its stepping. P0- and R0-stepping processors come with sTIM, while the U0 and B0 steppings utilize pTIM. Intel plans to stick with pTIM for all locked F-series models, like our U0-stepping Core i5-9400F.

MORE: Best CPUs

MORE: Intel & AMD Processor Hierarchy

MORE: All CPUs Content

27 comments
    Your comment
  • Dark Lord of Tech
    Still overpriced , waiting for new Ryzen.
  • tennis2
    Would like to see some testing done to determine how core count affects games these days with the "core count race" going on. It still seems like 4-6 cores is where the cutoff is before frequency is the determining factor of frame rates.

    Also show if/how online multiplayer changes that conclusion.
  • TechyInAZ
    Without a IGPU, this CPU makes barely any sense vs a 2600 or 2600X.
  • R_1
    in the comparison chart you have the 9400f having graphics and the 9400 as not having graphics.
  • remixislandmusic
    9400f would be a good deal if it had a higher turbo or overclocking support. Z390 boards suitable for overclocking are expensive as well.
    Otherwise, Ryzen 5 2600x has 6 more threads, higher turbo, overclocking support, and cheap overclocking boards than negate the slightly higher chip price.
    Still waiting on Computex.
  • Karadjgne
    I'm still wondering why there's even testing of single core performance. In the rendering test, multi-core, the Ryzens dominated Intel. Very next test was a single core performance test where as usual, Intel was stronger. Why? I can't think of any single core rendering, or games for that matter. It's kind of archaic to my mind. A multi-core test on software that that uses multiple cores makes perfect sense. It shows how well the software responds to the amount of threads. Saying an intel beats a Ryzen in single core rendering is.....
    (I'm not gonna use those words in polite company)
  • pete_101
    I see the CPU has a base frequency of 2.9 and a turbo of 4.1 GHz, but this will be a single core maximum speed. Although it's locked, it should be possible in the mobo BIOS to set all 6 cores to run at this frequency.....if you have a good enough cooler.
  • Mandark
    Lol. Good commentary
  • remixislandmusic
    There should be an 8 thread Cinebench test to compare CPUs. Most games only use around 8 threads or a little more (battlefield comes to mind). An 8 thread test would be the most accurate way to test gaming CPUs.
  • Anubis666
    It's funny how prices are different in different countries.. In one thread ,a guy says 15-20$ less than Ryzen 2600 so just go with the i5 9400f..
    Here in India i5 9400f is 60$ cheaper than Ryzen 2600 and 95$ cheaper than 2600X..

    I'm still confused to go with i5 9400f over 2600 just for the multi thread.. As I wanted it for playing , recording Games,Edit and upload to YouTube and, probably streaming Dota 2 in near future.
    The price of i5 9400f is tempting but I'm not sure it can able to do stuff I mentioned above with close to ease..
    I'm sure coming Ryzen 3000 is even high price due to high demand in here.
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    Quote:
    It's funny how prices are different in different countries.. In one thread ,a guy says 15-20$ less than Ryzen 2600 so just go with the i5 9400f.. Here in India i5 9400f is 60$ cheaper than Ryzen 2600 and 95$ cheaper than 2600X..

    *chuckle *
    Yeah, it can be "interesting" at times.

    Here in South Africa, the local online shop I usually buy from has the prices like this: (R = ZAR = South African Rands)
    Ryzen 2600:___R3 300 / USD230 (Includes Tom Clancy's The Division 2 & World War Z)
    Ryzen 2600X:__R3 700 /
    USD260 (Includes Tom Clancy's The Division 2 & World War Z)
    i5-9400F:_____R2 900 /
    USD200
    i5-9400:______R3 800 / USD270
  • Anubis666
    Quote:
    *chuckle * Yeah, it can be "interesting" at times. Here in South Africa, the local online shop I usually buy from has the prices like this: (R = ZAR = South African Rands) Ryzen 2600:___R3 300 / USD230 (Includes Tom Clancy's The Division 2 & World War Z)
    Ryzen 2600X:__R3 700 /
    USD260 (Includes Tom Clancy's The Division 2 & World War Z)
    i5-9400F:_____R2 900 /
    USD200 i5-9400:______R3 800 / USD270

    Ya.. Crazy prices.
    I still can't decide whether to pick i5 9400f even with that 65$ less than Ryzen 5 2600..
    Why don't Intel think about multi threading boost and ryzen about single threading.

    Life has many confused and difficult choices and now this one too.. lol

    Some articles shows Ryzen has dropped prices.
    Ryzen 5 2600 at 148$ from 168$
    And here it still is at 236$(converted INR to Dollars) since past mont..
  • remixislandmusic
    Honestly the 9400f isnt a bad cpu, so if its much cheaper, I would buy it. The 9400f still should multitask pretty well and do video editing and such, however a 2600 is generally better choice. The 9400f is slightly faster in gaming, but they are so close it doesnt really matter.
  • Anubis666
    Quote:
    Honestly the 9400f isnt a bad cpu, so if its much cheaper, I would buy it. The 9400f still should multitask pretty well and do video editing and such, however a 2600 is generally better choice. The 9400f is slightly faster in gaming, but they are so close it doesnt really matter.

    What if a year later 9400f can't do things that ryzen 2600 can( apart from gaming)..
  • remixislandmusic
    I dont think in 1 year every program on the universe refuse will run on a 6 thread cpu.
    Even in the close future, the I5 should do all of the non gaming multithreaded things a ryzen 2600 should, just slower.
    I prefer the ryzen 5 2600 or x to the 9400f for every use, however if the ryzen 5 is a lot more money than the I5, the I5 can be a decent replacement unless you really need the extra threads. If you dont do a ton of video editing and the I5 is cheaper, i would concider the I5.
  • tennis2
    Most games stop core-scaling after 4-6 cores. Most common productivity programs don't core-scale past 4. AMD is doing a swell job of marketing their core race since Ryzen 1/2 don't have great frequency and IPC. The problem is that they're selling cores/threads that most people aren't using and probably won't use for a few years. Keep in mind that 1 core = 1.5 threads (12 thread CPU = 8 Core CPU). Also, the push will continue to be to offload as much onto the GPU as possible since consoles have anemic CPU cores. Next gen consoles will be worlds better, but the power emphasis will stay on packing as much GPU in as possible.
  • Anubis666
    Quote:
    Most games stop core-scaling after 4-6 cores. Most common productivity programs don't core-scale past 4. AMD is doing a swell job of marketing their core race since Ryzen 1/2 don't have great frequency and IPC. The problem is that they're selling cores/threads that most people aren't using and probably won't use for a few years. Keep in mind that 1 core = 1.5 threads (12 thread CPU = 8 Core CPU). Also, the push will continue to be to offload as much onto the GPU as possible since consoles have anemic CPU cores. Next gen consoles will be worlds better, but the power emphasis will stay on packing as much GPU in as possible.


    But what about the Benchmark scores which more favorable to Ryzen over Intel i5 except in Gaming..
  • Karadjgne
    Think realistically. Benchmarks are fine for comparison, but show little real world results. If you've got a 1080p 60Hz monitor, like most of the world still has, it's not going to make a hill of beans difference if Intel gets 200 fps and amd only gets 150 fps. You get 60. It's minimum and average frames that matter far more than maximum ever will, and amd has a much better gap between min/max than Intel usually does.

    So that leaves productivity, in which case means time. Ryzen wins most races there, even the 1st gen 1700 was double the speeds of an i7-8700k, that's huge time savings when compiling. Or photo editing etc.

    The 9400's are decent cpus, IF all you do is game, and not too heavily. But if you do anything else, the thread advantages Ryzen offers is a possibility you can't ignore. You can't see 20fps difference when over 100fps, only a benchmarker can, and it's probably above the refresh of the monitor, so it boils down to a choice of adaptability or paper win.
  • logainofhades
    Pretty sure only dual core variants, of the i5, have ever had hyperthreading. Intel needs some leadership, and get their act together. Officially pricing the 9400f the same as a 9400 is just dirty. Using paste on a "generation" that was supposed to be soldered. :pfff: Calling these refreshed chips a new generation is kinda shady as well. It's not like they haven't done a refresh, and kept the same generational number before. (Haswell refresh )

    Given the price/overall performance, I simply cannot see myself recommending the i5 9400f. Not to mention Intel's track record of changing chipsets and/or sockets. My 6700k is quite possibly getting replaced, by Ryzen 3000, this summer.
  • tennis2
    I've been seeing i5-9400F + B365 mobo combos for $190 total. That's pretty attractive. Price is the ultimate measure.

    This definitely seems like the days of Pentium 4. Intel pushing an antiquated (Skylake) architecture to the brink to stay competitive (kinda like AMD in the GPU arena!). Except this time, they don't seem to have a Sandy Bridge ace up their sleeve. As accustomed as we've gotten to seeing Intel on the top of the heap for the past 8 years, I think Ryzen 3xxx will the nail in the coffin.
  • remixislandmusic
    Some mobile I5 Quad cores have HyperThreading.
    https://ark.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ark/products/134876/intel-core-i5-8300h-processor-8m-cache-up-to-4-00-ghz.html
    For desktop CPUs, I think it was mostly 1st gen I5s with 2c/ht.
  • retroforlife
    as long as amd continues to be a thorn in intels side its alll gooood 🆒
  • uguv
    Quote:
    I've been seeing i5-9400F + B365 mobo combos for $190 total. That's pretty attractive. Price is the ultimate measure. This definitely seems like the days of Pentium 4. Intel pushing an antiquated (Skylake) architecture to the brink to stay competitive (kinda like AMD in the GPU arena!). Except this time, they don't seem to have a Sandy Bridge ace up their sleeve. As accustomed as we've gotten to seeing Intel on the top of the heap for the past 8 years, I think Ryzen 3xxx will the nail in the coffin.


    It does remind me of the P4 days as well, though it was Conroe's release that bumped Intel back ahead of AMD. Sandy, mixed with bulldozer's failure, just removed any doubt that there was a competition... until zen. It's nice to see Intel forced to move to 6 and 8-core parts to compete.
  • Karadjgne
    I3's were hyperthreaded. So were Pentiums, 3rd + 4th gen, pretty much every varient was, only the duo and quad core standalone like the i5 weren't (in desktop cpus)