A big step forward
Intel is back in the competitive CPU game with its 12th Gen "Alder Lake" chips. It costs as much as the Ryzen 5 5600X and has a considerably higher TDP, but it offers more cores, more threads, and better overall performance. DDR5 RAM and PCIe 5.0 support set you up nicely for the future.
- Great gaming performance
- Decent TDP and thermals
- Can be overclocked
- DDR5 RAM and PCIe 5.0 support
- Excellent value
- Requires new motherboard
- Higher 125W TDP
- No cooler included
AMD's affordable gaming CPU
The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X might not be quite as powerful as the Core i5-12600K, but it's still an awesome CPU for gaming that sucks up considerably less power. It also doesn't require a new motherboard thanks to still using the AM4 socket. A bundled cooler is included for extra value.
- Excellent gaming performance
- Lower 65W TDP
- PCIe 4.0 support
- Uses same AM4 socket
- Less overall performance
- Fewer cores
- No DDR5 RAM support
- Tops out at PCIe 4.0
The Intel Core i5-12600K and AMD Ryzen 5 5600X are among the best processors out there right now, especially for anyone who wants solid gaming performance without overspending. These CPUs will also easily handle productivity and office work, but paired up with a powerful GPU is where they'll really excel.
The Core i5-12600K is using Intel's new "big.LITTLE" hybrid core design, with "Intel 7" manufacturing process that's still 10nm. It adds DDR5 RAM and PCIe 5.0 support. The Ryzen 5 5600X has been out longer than the Core i5-12600K, but it's still a top option. It's built with a 7nm manufacturing process, it has a lower TDP, and PCIe 4.0 support. Backwards compatibility with AMD's AM4 socket means you won't absolutely need to replace your motherboard with a new build.
Let's go deeper with these two CPUs to identify which one is better for your PC.
Features and performance
The Intel big.LITTLE hybrid design that arrived with the Alder Lake generation isn't exactly new, as we've seen it in ARM and Apple CPUs. It is new for Intel, and it mixes power-efficient single-thread cores (E cores) with high-performance multi-threaded cores (P cores). The chip's E cores are there to handle low-priority tasks, while the P cores are kept free to deal with heavier tasks that benefit from multiple threads.
The chart below shows how the Core i5 has six P cores to compete with the Ryzen 5's six standard cores, with an extra four E cores standing by. If the thread count looks a little off, that's why.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Intel Core i5-12600K||AMD Ryzen 5 5600X|
|Base clock||P: 3.7GHz|
Up to 128GB
Up to 128GB
|Integrated graphics||UHD Graphics 770||None|
AMD's Ryzen 5 5600X has PCIe 4.0 compatibility for your faster components, with DDR4 support up to 128GB. The Core i5-12600K jumped up to PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 RAM support, though both of these features are far from reaching maturity. The best DDR5 RAM for 12th Gen Intel Core CPUs is super expensive and hard to source, and the PCIe 5.0 standard won't likely come into its own for a while yet. Still, it's nice to be prepared for the future.
The Core i5's new design also requires a new LGA 1700 socket. That means your old Intel motherboard won't work with 12th Gen chips, which adds cost to your new build. The Ryzen 5 5600X is still using the AM4 socket, so older builds will likely be compatible. Still, upgrading with one of the best motherboards can make a huge difference to overall performance.
There's no integrated graphics included with the Ryzen 5; the Core i5 has UHD Graphics 770. This is far less important for a desktop-class CPU, since most of the time it's going to be paired up with one of the best graphics cards. A cooler is included with the Ryzen 5, but one is not included with the Core i5.
If you're a gamer looking to upgrade, either one of these CPUs is ultimately going to be a great purchase. Clock speeds are similar, core count is similar (though the Core i5 has those extra E cores), and both chips are overclockable. It is important to note how much lower the Ryzen 5's 65W TDP is compared to the Core i5's 125W TDP.
The Core i5-12600K is well ahead of the Ryzen 5 5600X in a bunch of benchmark tests, as you can see above. Intel's new CPU is quite impressive, and it's ultimately going to deliver the best performance. Weighing that against the higher TDP and extra cost for new motherboard and cooler will make sense for some, while others will be perfectly happy with the rock-solid performance from the Ryzen 5, especially when it's a much easier and cheaper upgrade process.
If you're thinking about a higher level of performance from your CPU but still can't decide between Intel and AMD, have a look at our Core i7-12700K vs. Ryzen 7 5800X and Core i9-12900K vs. Ryzen 9 5950X comparisons.
Future-proofing with Intel
Don't mind paying more to get things set up with the new Core i5-12600K? It's going to set you up nicely with the DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 support. Its performance is superior to the Ryzen 5 5600X, and paired up with the right GPU it will absolutely dominate modern games.
A big step forward
The Core i5-12600K will deliver more raw power than the Ryzen 5 5600X, but it's likely going to cost more with the new motherboard and cooler factored in.
AMD's Ryzen 5 5600X is still a beast of a CPU
The Ryzen 5 5600X might not beat out the Core i5 in raw power, but it draws less power and will still crush modern games. Going with this CPU means you won't quite be as set up for the future (it still has PCIe 4.0 support), but it should also cost less thanks to backward compatibility with the AM4 motherboard socket.
AMD's affordable gaming CPU
It might not match up to the raw performance of the Core i5-12600K, but the Ryzen 5 5600X is still a top option for any gamers looking to upgrade without overspending.
Get the Windows Central Newsletter
All the latest news, reviews, and guides for Windows and Xbox diehards.
Cale Hunt is formerly a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full-time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.