The New

Intel Core i5-12600K

12th Gen Intel Core i5

The Old

Intel Core i5-11600K

Intel Core i5 11600K

Intel has been out of the game for a few years now, but it's ready to throw some hard-hitting punches back at AMD with its new 12th Gen processors. The Core i5-12600K is one of the highlights of this generation, sporting 10 physical cores, 16 threads, and an affordable price for a killer gaming PC.

$320 at Newegg

Pros

  • Far more powerful
  • Supports DDR5 RAM and PCIe 5.0
  • Newer 10nm process
  • Power and efficient hybrid core design

Cons

  • More expensive
  • Requires Z690 motherboard

The Intel Core i5-11600K wasn't particularly exciting since nothing was really "new." Sure, it was better than the Core i5-10600K, but if you owned that older CPU there wasn't a big reason to upgrade. While it may have been a little disappointing at launch, it's still a good mid-range processor for a gaming PC.

$250 at Newegg

Pros

  • Works with older Z590 motherboards
  • Can be found heavily discounted
  • Still a decent mid-range CPU

Cons

  • No DDR5 or PCIe 5.0 support
  • Older 14nm process

The Intel Core i5-12600K is the best CPU choice here, even if you're looking to get the best value. At full MSRP, there's no questioning the performance on offer, not to mention DDR5 support in the future if you want to stay with DDR4 right now. The only time you'll want to consider the Core i5-11600K is when you're sticking with a 500-series chipset motherboard.

Intel Core i5-12600K vs. i5-11600K: Specs

Category Intel Core i5-12600K Intel Core i5-11600K
Cores/threads 10/16 6/12
Base frequency P: 3.7GHz
E: 2.8GHz
3.9GHz
Boost P: 4.9GHz
E: 3.6GHz
4.9GHz
Turbo Boost Max 3.0
Memory DDR4-3200/DDR5-4800
Up to 128GB
DDR4-3200
Up to 128GB
L3 cache 20MB 12MB
Integrated graphics Intel UHD Graphics 770 Intel UHD Graphics 750
PCIe PCIe Gen 5.0 x 20 PCIe Gen 4.0 x 20
TDP 125W 125W
Manufacturing node 10nm 14nm
Socket LGA1700 LGA1200
Price $320 $250

Intel's 12600K is the new gaming CPU king

Intel 12th Gen Corei5 ChipSource: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central

Alder Lake is what Intel pushed forward with for its 12th generation of processors. Utilizing the company's Intel 7 (10nm) manufacturing process and following the "big.LITTLE" hybrid design principle we've seen with ARM chips like the M1 from Apple, Intel is bringing the hybrid design to the desktop PC market.

Inside the Intel Core i5-12600K, you'll find a healthy mix of both high-performance Golden Cove and more power-efficient Gracemont cores. The goal is to bring together very power-efficient single-threaded cores that handle low-priority tasks with more traditional PC-grade multi-thread, high-performance cores that can handle everything else.

Golden Cove cores will handle all the main tasks like important processes, games, in-use apps, and other tasks while other, lower-priority apps and tasks get pushed off onto the Gracemont cores, freeing up resources. The end result is a core and thread configuration that seems out of place in 2021.

The Core i5-12600K has 10 physical cores (eight performance and two efficient) and 16 threads. This is a substantial improvement on the last-gen CPU that only had six cores and 12 threads. Clock speeds are about the same with the 12600K starting at 2.8GHz and 3.7GHz for the efficient and performance cores, respectively.

12th Gen Intel CPUs not only add PCIe 5.0 support but also DDR5 too. This allows the 12600K to go up to DDR5-4800, though you could push it higher with more expensive RAM kits. Other improvements to the newer Core i5 include considerably more cache and better integrated graphics.

The result is considerable gains in games and general computing. To put the above charts into perspective, the Core i5-12600K was beating the Core i9-11900K, which is incredible and shows how much of a boost this is compared to the outgoing Core i5-11600K. If you want the best performer for your buck, the newer chip is for you.

12600K is the latest and greatest

Intel is back in the game with the 12600K, moving from a 14nm manufacturing process to 10nm. This allows the company to cram more onto the same-sized chip and have it run more efficiently. But Intel didn't stop there. 12th Gen processors come with efficient and power cores, which unlocks new levels of efficiency and performance. Just make sure to buy the best motherboards for Intel Core i5-12600K.

Truly next-gen

12th Gen Intel Core i5

Intel Core i5-12600K

For building the best gaming PC

Intel had to make a big wave with the 12th Gen family of processors and the company unleashed a tsunami. The Core i5-12600K is an impressive feat of engineering, cramming 10 physical cores onto a chip that costs just $320. The new hybrid core design allows for it to be both efficient and powerful enough for the most demanding games.

You can find the 11600K discounted

The Core i5-11600K may not be the best from Intel, and compared to the newer 12600K, it's not even in the same league, but you can find one of these mid-range processors at a discount. Even outside of promotions like Amazon Prime and Black Friday, the 11600K is almost $70 more affordable.

14nm++++

Intel Core i5 11600K

Intel Core i5-11600K

If you don't want to upgrade

The newer Core i5 is the better choice, but if you don't want to use DDR5 RAM and/or don't want to buy a new motherboard, the older Core i5-11600K may be the CPU for you. It's still an excellent processor with six physical cores and 12 threads and will be absolutely fine paired up with a capable NVIDIA or AMD GPU.

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