Intel Core i5-10600K Review - All You Need for Gaming 60

Intel Core i5-10600K Review - All You Need for Gaming

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Introduction

Intel Logo

At a price of $260, the Core i5-10600K is a 6-core/12-thread processor Intel designed to rescue its competitiveness in the sub-$300 performance segment. This is a segment where AMD sells tons of Ryzen 5 3600 and 3600X 6-core processors, which are popular with gamers as they do not bottleneck even enthusiast-segment graphics cards and can handle gaming at any resolution. Money saved on the processor is hence invested in a faster graphics card.

The processor tested in this Core i5-10600K review is part of Intel's new "Comet Lake" microarchitecture lineup, which is hopefully the final refinement and implementation of the "Skylake" core design that was introduced many years ago, when AMD sold "Piledriver" FX processors, dubstep was still a thing, and "tick-tock" referred to a rapid processor development cycle at Intel instead of a YouTube-killer app.



Intel's first response to "Zen" was a 6-core stretch of the Skylake die codenamed "Coffee Lake," with two additional cores and more L3 cache. When "Zen+" proved that wasn't sufficient, Intel stretched it to 8-core with "Coffee Lake Refresh." AMD's latest "Zen 2" architecture pushed IPC up by a double-digit percentage and added core-count increases all the way up to 16. Intel still doesn't have their 10 nm node ready for large-scale production of desktop parts, so there's only one last thing Intel could pull: a 10-core stretch, which is "Comet Lake-S".

We tested the Core i9-10900K flagship yesterday. Today, we have a review of the Core i5-10600K, which is Intel's midrange offering at much more affordable pricing. Unlike the 10900K, the 10600K does not feature Turbo Boost 3.0 or Thermal Velocity Boost, but Intel was kind enough to enable HyperThreading, which should give a significant boost over the 6c/6t configurations we've seen for Coffee Lake. Compared to the Core i5-9600K, the clock frequencies have been increased, and L3 cache size is now 12 MB instead of 9 MB. Last but not least, Intel bumped the power limit from 95 W to 125 W.

In this review, we take a close look at the Core i5-10600K, which could end up being Intel's most important desktop processor among DIY gamers and enthusiasts owing to its $260 price. The i5-10600K is clocked at 4.10 GHz nominal and up to 4.80 GHz with Turbo Boost. We present three data points, one tracks the i5-10600K out of the box, with all Intel power limits enabled, the second has those limits lifted, so the CPU can boost more unconstrained, and the third is a quick 4.90 GHz all-core manual OC.

Intel Core i5-10600K Market Segment Analysis
 PriceCores /
Threads
Base
Clock
Max.
Boost
L3
Cache
TDPArchitectureProcessSocket
Ryzen 7 1700X$1708 / 163.4 GHz3.8 GHz16 MB95 WZen14 nmAM4
Core i5-10500$2006 / 123.1 GHz4.5 GHz12 MB65 WComet Lake14 nmLGA 1200
Ryzen 5 3600$2206 / 123.6 GHz4.2 GHz32 MB65 WZen 27 nmAM4
Ryzen 7 2700$1708 / 163.2 GHz4.1 GHz16 MB65 WZen12 nmAM4
Core i5-8400$1806 / 62.8 GHz4.0 GHz9 MB65 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Ryzen 7 2700X$1958 / 163.7 GHz4.3 GHz16 MB105 WZen12 nmAM4
Core i3-8350K$1954 / 44.0 GHzN/A8 MB91 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i5-8600K$2506 / 63.6 GHz4.3 GHz9 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i5-9600K$2006 / 63.7 GHz4.6 GHz9 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i5-10600K$2656 / 124.1 GHz4.8 GHz12 MB125 WComet Lake14 nmLGA 1200
Ryzen 5 3600X$2506 / 123.8 GHz4.4 GHz32 MB95 WZen 27 nmAM4
Ryzen 7 1800X$2508 / 163.6 GHz4.0 GHz16 MB95 WZen14 nmAM4
Core i7-8700K$3506 / 123.7 GHz4.7 GHz12 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i7-9700K$3808 / 83.6 GHz4.9 GHz12 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i7-10700K$3758 / 163.8 GHz5.1 GHz16 MB125 WComet Lake14 nmLGA 1200
Ryzen 7 3700X$2958 / 163.6 GHz4.4 GHz32 MB65 WZen 27 nmAM4
Ryzen 9 3900X$43012 / 243.8 GHz4.6 GHz64 MB105 WZen 27 nmAM4
Core i9-9900K$5308 / 163.6 GHz5.0 GHz16 MB95 WCoffee Lake14 nmLGA 1151
Core i9-10900K$50010 / 203.7 GHz5.3 GHz20 MB125 WComet Lake14 nmLGA 1200

A Closer Look


Our Core i9-10900K and Core i5-10600K review samples came in a fancy special packaging meant for reviewers only. The retail Core i5-10600K comes in a conventional-looking paperboard box.

Intel does not include a cooling solution in the retail box. You're expected to use an aftermarket cooler capable of handling thermal loads of up to 125 W TDP.

Processor front view
Processor back view

The Core i5-10600K looks like any LGA1xxx processor released by Intel in the past decade. The processor is only compatible with socket LGA1200 motherboards because the position of the round notches has been changed. It will not work with an older motherboard.

Processor installed in motherboard

Luckily, socket LGA1200 retains cooler compatibility with all older LGA115x-series sockets. This means you're going to be spoiled for choice when picking a cooler to go with this processor.

Architecture


Under the hood of the Core i5-10600K is the 6-core "Comet Lake-S" silicon built on the same 14 nm++ process as the previous two generations, but with one key difference: Intel physically thinned the die along the Z-axis by removing as much of the silicon bulk as possible, the idea being that heat generated by the die travels through less silicon. The more conductive copper integrated heatspreader has been made thicker, and a solder thermal interface material (STIM) is used between the two. The die area is estimated to be 149.6 mm². This die looks similar to the 6-core "Coffee Lake" or "Coffee Lake Refresh" dies, but has the die thinning innovation.


The "Comet Lake-S" silicon is laid out similar to the past four generations of Intel mainstream processors, with two rows of CPU cores flanked by the iGPU on one side and the system agent (integrated northbridge) on the other, and a Ringbus Interconnect serving as town square between the various components. The last-level cache is scattered across as slices of 1 MB or 2 MB, adding up to 12 MB of unified L3 cache all cores can access equally.

Much of the processor's uncore components are clumped into the System Agent, which contains the memory controller, PCI-Express gen 3.0 root-complex, DMI interface, and memory PHY. On the other end of the ringbus is the Gen 9.5 integrated graphics, which has practically been carried over for the past three generations, featuring 24 execution units in the GT2 trim. All SKUs in the desktop 10th gen processor series appear to have the top GT2 trim. Don't expect to play PUBG at 4K on this; the "UHD" moniker only indicates that the IGP can handle 4K Ultra HD displays, features modern connectivity options, such as DP 1.4 and HDMI 2.0, and can playback 4K video in new formats with 10-bpc color and HDR10/Dolby Vision standards.


The core itself is identical in design to "Skylake," and there are hence no IPC increases to be had. As we explained in the introduction, all of Intel's efforts to increase gaming, single-threaded, and less-parallelized application performance revolves around increasing the clock speeds, and deploying as many as three intelligent boosting algorithms to achieve the advertised clock speeds.

The Core i5-10600K has a nameplate base frequency (aka nominal clock) of 4.10 GHz, and a maximum Turbo Boost frequency of 4.80 GHz. Unlike the Core i9-10900K, it lacks Turbo Boost Max 3.0 or Thermal Velocity Boost. It still has significantly increased power limits compared to something like a Core i7-8700K, with PL1 set at 125 W and PL2 at 182 W, with a 56-second Tau (time value at which the processor is allowed to sustain elevated power levels before having to drop down to nominal clocks).

Motherboard manufacturers have been given the freedom to override PL2 and Tau as they see fit, and so various motherboards implement power limits differently depending on the effectiveness of their VRM solution. You are hence rewarded for buying a pricier motherboard that has a better VRM, and a more aggressive vendor-supplied power-management. Of course, all boards come with Intel-spec fallbacks.

Intel introduced a handful of overclocking enhancements with the 10th generation, including the ability to toggle HyperThreading on a per-core basis rather than globally. This could be an interesting option for those gaming and streaming, where a certain number of cores have HTT disabled for the best gaming performance and certain cores have them enabled, with Windows process core-affinity settings taking care of the rest.

The company also introduced the ability to overclock the DMI chipset bus. DMI is a PCIe-based interconnect that handles transfers between the processor and the chipset (PCH). The LGA1200 platform uses DMI 3.0 (comparable to PCI-Express 3.0 x4 in terms of bandwidth). Intel has apparently decoupled PCIe clock domains to enable you to overclock the DMI and PEG (that topmost x16 PCIe slot) without destabilizing your PCIe setup for graphics cards. The refreshed Extreme Tuning Utility now comes with finer-grained control of the voltage-frequency curve. The company also updated the Performance Maximizer app that automates overclocking using the trial-and-error method.

The Z490 Platform


Z490 is the top 400-series chipset targeted at gaming desktops and PC enthusiasts, as it enables serious overclocking and multi-GPU support. In terms of I/O capabilities, the chipset is nearly identical to the Z390, with 24 downstream PCIe gen 3.0 lanes, six SATA ports, six USB 3.2 gen 2 ports that can be converted to three USB 3.2 gen 2x2 ports, ten USB 3.2 gen 1 ports, and fourteen USB 2.0 ports. Intel is recommending its i225-V 2.5 Gbps Ethernet chip as the wired networking solution to go with Z490, and the company's AX201 802.11ax WiFi 6 WLAN solution to go with the chipset's CNVio interface.

Test Setup

  • All applications, games, and processors are tested with the drivers and hardware listed below—no performance results were recycled between test systems.
  • All games and applications are tested using the same version.
  • All games are set to their highest quality setting unless indicated otherwise.
Test System "Comet Lake"
Processor:All Intel 10th Generation processors
Motherboard:ASUS Z490 Maximus XII Extreme
Intel Z490, BIOS 0508
Memory:2x 8 GB G.SKILL Flare X DDR4
DDR4-3200 14-14-14-34
Graphics:EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FTW3 Ultra
Storage:1 TB SSD
Cooling:Noctua NH-U14S
Zadak Spark 240 mm AIO
Power Supply:Seasonic SS-860XP
Software:Windows 10 Professional 64-bit
Version 1903 (May 2019 Update)
Drivers:NVIDIA GeForce 430.63 WHQL
AMD Chipset 1.07.07.0725



Test System "Zen 2"
Processor:All AMD Ryzen 3000
Motherboard:ASRock X570 Taichi
AMD X570, BIOS v2.80 AGESA 1.0.0.4B
Memory:2x 8 GB G.SKILL Flare X DDR4
DDR4-3200 14-14-14-34
All other specs same as above

Test System "Coffee Lake"
Processor:All Intel 8th & 9th Generation processors
Motherboard:Core i9-9900KS: ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming X
All other Coffee Lake: ASUS Z390 Maximus XI Extreme
Intel Z390
Memory:2x 8 GB G.SKILL Flare X DDR4
DDR4-3200 14-14-14-34
All other specs same as above

Test System "Zen"
Processor:All AMD Ryzen 2000, Ryzen 2000G and Ryzen 1000
Motherboard:MSI X470 Gaming M7 AC
AMD X470, BIOS 7B77v19O
Memory:2x 8 GB G.SKILL Flare X DDR4
DDR4-3200 14-14-14-34
All other specs same as above
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