Intel's i5-12600K is every PC gamer's dream CPU

Intel 12th Gen Corei5 Chip
Intel 12th Gen Corei5 Chip (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Intel used to be the CPU king of price-to-performance gaming value, but that all changed in 2017 when AMD introduced Ryzen processors to the market. Though Intel (usually) held onto its crown when it came to maximum single-core performance, AMD's Ryzen offerings ultimately stole the show since they offered performance that nearly matched Intel's processors for a fraction of the price. AMD has continued to dominate the PC gaming landscape in recent years, and when it released its Ryzen 5000 processors in 2020, benchmarks showed chips like the Ryzen 7 5800X outperforming 10th and 11th Gen Intel CPUs in nearly all metrics — including single-core performance.

Ultimately, if you needed a powerful gaming processor, Ryzen was the clear choice. That has changed with the arrival of Intel's 12th Gen Alder Lake desktop processors, though, as Intel is finally fighting back with new chips that pair industry-leading performance with fiercely competitive prices. And if you're a PC gamer in need of a CPU upgrade, the Intel Core i5-12600K is about as close to perfection as it gets for gaming.

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Above all else, the gaming performance of the i5-12600K is what truly makes it a standout. Based on benchmark tests conducted by Windows Central as well as other reviewers like Linus Tech Tips, the i5-12600K confidently outperforms the entirety of Intel's previous 11th Gen lineup as well as most Ryzen 5000 chips (it even surpasses the beastly Ryzen 9 5950X in many cases). This is one of the biggest generational performance leaps that Intel has offered in a long, long time.

The i5-12600K offers fantastic performance for a killer price.

The i5-12600K's performance is stellar, but that's only half of the reason why it's such an attractive piece of silicon. Intel has priced it incredibly competitively at $320, which is only $10 more expensive than the similarly priced Ryzen 5 5600X that it destroys in benchmarks. It's also several hundred dollars less expensive than other CPUs it outperforms, like Intel's i9-11900K and the Ryzen 7 5900X. At the end of the day, that's value that you simply can't ignore, especially in an era where building your own PC is generally more expensive than ever thanks to scalpers and the ongoing global chip shortage.

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

It's important to note that there are some reasons why you might not want to get an i5-12600K, at least for the time being. One of them is that the i5-12600K, like all Alder Lake chips, aren't compatible with motherboards from previous generations. This means that you'll need to pay for a new motherboard, and right now, the best motherboards for the Intel Core i5-12600K don't come cheap. The price will come down at some point — new motherboards don't usually stay pricey for long — but it's a valid concern that's worth mentioning regardless.

Another reason it might be a good idea to wait before pulling the trigger is that according to a retrospective video from AMD regarding Ryzen processors, the company is planning to launch new CPUs in early 2022 that will outperform the Ryzen 5000 series and compete with Intel's Alder Lake line. It's possible that we'll see a "Ryzen 5 6600X" that one-ups the i5-12600K.

Even with these considerations, the i5-12600K is still a fantastic CPU that represents the best of what Intel can do when a challenger like AMD forces it to dig its heels in and compete fiercely. Between its superb performance capabilities and its excellent pricing, the i5-12600K is a dream CPU for any PC gamer who needs an upgrade.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.