Thanks to this Prime Day CPU sale, I can enjoy the best of what gaming has to offer
It truly is a marvel of processor engineering.
The Alder Lake architecture used by Intel for its 12th Gen family of processors was largely a success, bringing the company back in line with its direct competitor, AMD. There are also some heated moves from Apple with its M1 ARM processor, but Intel largely came out unscathed with the Core i5, Core i7, and Core i9.
You've likely already read our Intel Core i5-12600K and Intel Core i9-12900K reviews by myself and Executive Editor Daniel Rubino. (If not, I highly recommend you give them a read!). The Core i9 hogs the news cycle due to being the flagship processor, but it's the Core i5-12600K that really came out punching hard.
This is a mid-range processor, priced at $320 MSRP with a whopping 10 cores and 16 threads. It was only a decade ago when mid-range processors had four to six cores at best. We've come a long way since then and these days you can pick up a CPU and have it last you almost a full decade.
While this CPU has only been out for a number of months, Amazon Prime Day has already seen a relatively steep discount applied, shaving $100 off the MSRP and bringing the price to just $218 on Amazon (opens in new tab).
The CPU deal for gaming this Prime Day
Intel Core i5-12600KF |
$312 $218 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
I'm a huge fan of the Core i5-12600 series. It's what I use inside my main gaming rig (replacing an AMD Ryzen 9 5950X) and I don't see that changing anytime soon. It's a perfect mix of power and value.
Playing all your favorite PC games
When looking at precisely what components you'll require to play all the latest games, it's first important to determine what kind of games you enjoy playing the most. For me, it's Stellaris, Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord, and X4: Foundations. All three are fairly demanding on the processor, especially compared to the GPU.
I was using an AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, which was an incredible piece of technology. Sixteen cores and 32 threads are nothing to snark at, but that thing pumped out a lot of heat. I created a custom water-cooling loop with a single thick 360mm radiator that still struggled to keep up with spikes from the processor (stock clock settings).
It was just too much. I wanted to switch back to Intel after many years with AMD processors and the Core i5-12600K was the one for me after reviewing it. It has better single-core performance compared to the Ryzen 9 5950X and I'm not really losing anything in most tasks I do on the PC, aside from a slight lag in photo editing.
Playing all these games (and more) is a joy with the Core i5-12600K. Partnering with a trusty RTX 3060 Ti and this PC is easily capable of pumping enough frames for my 49-inch ultrawide monitor. If I'm needing a little more performance, I can simply overclock the CPU slightly so I'm still within desired temperature ranges.
This may be the 12600KF, but it's exactly the same, except for the lack of any integrated graphics. If you have a GPU, this is a non-issue.
Choosing the right motherboard for the Core i5
Choosing the best motherboard for Intel Core i5-12600K is actually easier than you'd imagine. All you need to do is ensure you have compatible RAM (DDR4 vs. DDR5), have enough SATA and USB ports for all your devices, have a large enough case to fit the motherboard form factor, and save money in the process by not buying one that's complete overkill. There are plenty of Prime Day motherboard deals and other PC components, too, making it that much cheaper to upgrade your build.
My go-to choice for the Core i5-12600KF this Prime Day would be the GIGABYTE Z690 Gaming X (opens in new tab) if you're going DDR5 RAM or MSI Z690 Force WiFi (opens in new tab) for DDR4. Both motherboards are discounted for Prime Day and can be found below.
GIGABYTE Z690 Gaming X |
$230 $157 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
This GIGABYTE may not support the fancy new DDR5 standard, but it still comes rocking high-end features like PCIe 5.0 and a 16+1+2 power phase design for more stable CPU overclocking.
MSI Z690 Force WiFi |
$390 $290 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
This MSI motherboard is brilliant for slightly more serious gaming PC builds. It has full support for DDR5 RAM and PCIe 5.0, as well as a whole host of other benefits. You can really push this CPU with the 18+1+1 power phase design.
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Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.