AMD Ryzen 5 5600X vs Intel Core i5-12600K: The best mainstream CPU

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X vs Intel Core i5-12600K: The best mainstream CPU

There’s no denying that both Intel Core i5-12600K and the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X are among the best CPUs you can buy in 2021. You can use either of these processors to build anything from a solid gaming rig to a content creation workstation without putting too much money on the line. But which one’s a better CPU to buy right now is the bigger question. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X vs Intel Core i5-12600K comparison to see if we can answer that question. So without wasting any more time, let’s go deeper with these two CPUs to find out which one to pick for your next PC build.

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AMD Ryzen 5 5600X vs Intel Core i5-12600K: Specifications

Before we begin the comparison, let’s take a quick look at the specifications of these processors to see what each of them brings to the table.

Specification AMD Ryzen 5 5600x Intel Core i5-12600K
CPU Socket AMD AM4 LGA 1700
Cores 6 10 (6P + 4E)
Threads 12 16
Lithography TSMC 7nm FinFET Intel 7 (10nm)
Base Frequency 3.7GHz 3.7GHz (P-core) | 2.8GHz (E-core)
Boost Frequency 4.6GHz 4.9GHz (P-core) | 3.6GHz (E-core)
Unlocked for overclocking? Yes Yes
L3 Cache 32MB 20MB
Default TDP 65W 125W
Max. Operating Temperature (Tjmax) 95°C 100°C
Memory Support DDR4 up to 3200MHz
Up to 128GB
DDR4 3200MT/s | DDR5-4800MT/s
Up to 128GB
Integrated Graphics NA UHD Graphics 770

The Intel Core i5-12600K features Intel’s big.LITTLE hybrid design. This particular design arrived with the new 12th generation Alder Lake CPUs. While it’s new to the desktop space, we’ve already seen a similar implementation in ARM and Apple CPUs. What we’re essentially looking at is a combination of both performance cores (P-cores) and efficiency cores (E-cores). The Intel Core i5-12600K happens to have six performance cores and four efficiency cores trading going head-to-head with the Ryzen 5 5600X’s hexa-core configuration. The Core i5-12600K also boasts more Threads as it has four more efficiency cores standing to take charge against the competition.

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X vs Intel Core i5-12600K: Performance

Intel Core i5-12600K being installed on a Z690 motherboard

The Intel Core i5-12600K is ahead of the curve when it comes to performance. In fact, it outperforms the AMD chips by a huge margin. The Core i5-12600K wins in nearly every single-threaded and multi-threaded benchmark. The chip managed to deliver snappy performance when we tested it for our Alder Lake review. It offers a good blend of both single and multi-threaded performance to come out as a compelling winner across different workloads.

The big.LITTLE design is definitely working in favor of Intel, but there’s more to it. Intel’s Thread Director is also moving the needle behind the scenes in Windows 11 OS to carefully schedule the tasks and bring out the best performance. Having the extra E-cores to offload low priority tasks pays huge dividends in favor of the overall performance. Streaming your games with OBS, for instance, results in better in-game performance with higher frames. This is because Intel’s Thread Director smartly puts OBS on smaller E-cores, allowing the P-cores to do the heavy lifting for gaming.

The Core i5-12600K tends to suffer a little bit in Windows 10 due to the difficulties in prioritizing tasks, but we expect those to get ironed out sooner rather than later. It’s safe to say that it’s probably worth upgrading to Windows 11 if you’re hopping on the Alder Lake hype train. Ryzen 5 5600X users can turn to overclocking as a solution to fill the performance gap, but it’s worth pointing out that the Core i5-12600K is also an unlocked CPU with support for overclocking.

Gaming performance is also arguably better with the Core i5-12600K. There’s still some performance parity with some games favoring one architecture over the other but the 12600K appears to be winning a lot of battles by holding the lead. It’s also worth pointing out that the Intel Core i5-12600K carries the integrated UHD Graphics 770 engine with 32 EUs. This iGPU boasts a 300MHz base and 1,450MHz boost clock. If you plan on gaming with an integrated GPU then Intel wins by default because, well, the Ryzen 5 5600X doesn’t have an integrated GPU. Your only option is to check out AMD’s APU if you want integrated graphics.

Intel’s Alder Lake CPUs have also made some progress when it comes to power consumption. The company’s new Intel 7 process for the new chips reduces power consumption and improves efficiency. The Core i5-12600K draws less power for the same amount of work than its predecessor. That being said, the Ryzen 5 5600X is still the undisputed champ when it comes to power efficiency. The Ryzen 5 5600X continues to remain a dominant CPU in this regard. Even with the new Intel 7 process, the Core i5-12600K guzzles more power than the Ryzen 5 5600X. This means it’s also going to produce more heat, thereby raising the bar for the CPU cooler. The Core i5-12600K doesn’t even come with a stock cooler, so you’ll have to spend more to buy a good quality CPU cooler.

Platforms and Compatibility

Intel Core parts and motherboard on black desk

If you want a future-proof PC, then Intel is definitely the better pick. It brings support for both DDR5 memory modules and PCIe 5.0, both of which aren’t supported by the current crop of AMD Ryzen CPUs on the market. That being said, you should also be ready to pay big money to take advantage of all these features. The new Alder Lake chips can’t be used with the existing motherboards on the market. The new chips demand a new LGA 1700 CPU socket, exclusive only to the new Z690 motherboards.

That’s right, you’ll need one of the newer Z690 motherboards to use Intel’s 12th generation chips. While there are affordable Z690 motherboards on the market, you’ll still have to buy an entirely new board. That, in addition to the new DDR5 memory modules, is bound to put a significant dent in your budget. It’s also worth pointing out that the best DDR5 RAM kits are quite expensive and very hard to find on the market.

Upgrading to the Ryzen 5 5600X from an exiting Ryzen 3000 series chip, on the other hand, will require a less initial investment. Since the Ryzen 5000 series chips drop on one of the existing motherboards with an AM4 socket, you’re not looking at an expensive platform entry cost. While DDR5 memory modules are more powerful than the existing ones, there’s still time for them to mature. And PCIe 5.0 as a standard won’t likely come into its own, at least until more CPUs and peripherals are ready for the new standard. While Intel is a clear winner when it comes to future-proofing, we’d still recommend the Ryzen 5 5600X to those who’re looking to save money on the build.

Pricing and Availability

When it comes to pricing, it’s safe to say that you’ll essentially be spending the same amount of money to fetch the CPU itself. Intel suggests maximum retail of $299 for the Core i5-12600K, which is also the retail price of the Ryzen 5 5600X on the market. The Intel Core i5-12600K outperforms the Ryzen 5 5600X for the same price, but there’s more to the story here. The initial platform entry cost is a lot higher in the case of the Intel chip. You’ll need a new motherboard, new DDR5 memory to get the performance out of the chip, and a new CPU cooler too.

In the case of the Ryzen 5 5600X, you need to pay for the new chip if you’re upgrading an existing system. You can use the existing AMD motherboards and use the same DDR4 RAM kits for this chip. Heck, AMD is also bundling a CPU cooler with the Ryzen 5 5600X, which is pretty good by itself if you’re going to overclock and push the limits of the CPU beyond its stock settings. They both are readily available on the market right now with a healthy amount of stocks from what we can see across different online retailers.

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X vs Intel Core i5-12600K: Final Thoughts

If you don’t mind paying more for the platform entry cost, then we think the Intel Core i5-12600K is a no-brainer here. This CPU will set you up nicely for many more years to come, and it’s a fantastic CPU for both gaming as well as content creation workloads. It dominates the Ryzen 5 5600X in its own stomping grounds. The Intel Core i5-12600K is our pick for the best CPU you can buy on the market right now. That’s not to say the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X is a bad CPU by any means. This particular CPU is no slouch either. It may not be as powerful as the 12600K, but it draws less power and keeps the thermals in check. Picking this CPU is cheaper than the Core i5-12600K, but you won’t be able to reap the benefits of things like DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 support.

Well, that wraps up the Ryzen 5 5600X vs Intel Core i5-12600K comparison. If you’re leaning towards a high-end PC build, then you might want to check out our Intel Core i9-12900K vs AMD Ryzen 9 5950X comparison to find out which one’s the better high-end CPU on the market right now.

    The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X is still a beast of a CPU. It's also cheaper to upgrade to the Ryzen 5 5600X than the Intel Core i5-12600K.
    The Intel Core i5-12600K outperforms the Ryzen 5 5600X in every single and multi-threaded benchmarks to become our pick for the best CPU you can buy right now.

About author

Karthik Iyer
Karthik Iyer

Karthik covers PC hardware for XDA Computing. When not at work, you will find him yelling at his monitors while playing video games.

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