In reviewing the Core i5-12400, there's nothing on paper that tells you this could be an amazing CPU. After all, it's mostly a heavily cut down 12600K, which we've already looked at. And yet, in my opinion, this is one of the most exciting CPUs to be released in the last few years.
Compared to the Core i5-12600K, the four E-cores are gone, the L3 cache is reduced from 20 MB to 18 MB, the turbo clock speed has been wound down by 10%, and the base power has been slashed from 125 watts to just 65 watts. That doesn't sound so appealing... but what makes the i5-12400 so exciting is the price.
While you can expect to pay around $300 to the 12600K, which is the same price of AMD's Ryzen 5 5600X, the i5-12400 is just $210, with the F-SKU coming in at just $180. That's 40% less than the 5600X, and 25% less than the rather unappealing 5600G.
In most instances, particularly gaming, the 12400 shouldn't be a great deal slower than the 12600K, and if that is the case it's going to be an extremely sought-after item by budget gamers.
What you're getting for around $200 is a 6 P-core, 12-thread Alder Lake CPU that operates up to 4.4 GHz with an 18 MB L3 cache and UHD 730 graphics. So it should be even faster than last generation's Core i5-11600K, which came in at $270 a year ago.
Now, before we jump into the benchmarks, lets go over the test system specs. We haven't done any DDR5 testing for this one as it seems like a waste of time right now, and also we know all we need to in terms of DDR4 vs DDR5 performance (our big featured covered 41 games) or refer to our Core i9-12900K review which tested both types of memory and corresponding motherboards.
|Intel Core i9 12900K||Intel Core i7 12700K||Intel Core i5 12600K||Intel Core i5 12600||Intel Core i5 12400|
|Release Date||November 2021||January 2022|
|Cores / Threads||16 / 24||12 / 20||10 / 16||6 / 12|
|Base Frequency||2.4 / 3.4 GHz||2.7 / 3.6 GHz||2.8 / 3.7 GHz||3.3 GHz||2.5 GHz|
|Max Turbo||3.9 / 5.2 GHz||3.8 / 5.0 GHz||3.6 / 4.9 GHz||4.8 GHz||4.4 GHz|
|L3 Cache||30 MB||25 MB||20 MB||18 MB|
|Memory||DDR5-4800 / DDR4-3200|
For testing the Core i5-12400, we're using the MSI B660M Mortar Wi-Fi DDR4 with 32GB of dual-rank, dual-channel DDR4-3200 CL14 memory -- the same stuff we use for all our DDR4 testing -- and it's typically faster than single-rank DDR4-3800 CL18 memory in terms of performance.
The K-SKU Alder Lake CPUs have been tested on the MSI Z690 Tomahawk Wi-Fi DDR4 using the same memory and all boards were updated to the latest BIOS revision. We've also updated the Ryzen data, using the MSI X570S Tomahawk Wi-Fi motherboard.
All gaming data has been updated for the AM4 and LGA 1700 CPUs with Resizable BAR enabled. The plan was to do the same with the Intel 10th and 11th-gen Core processors, but performance went backwards in all instances with ReBAR enabled, so for now we've left this PCI Express feature disabled on those platforms.
Finally, all application and gaming data has been collected using the Radeon RX 6900 XT graphics card and the operating system of choice was Windows 11. That covers it, let's dive into the results...
Starting with the Cinebench R23 multi-core results, we find that the 12400 is good for just over 12,000 points, and when following the 65-watt spec, it was just 3% slower. That being the case, it's incredible to see the base-spec 12400 beating the 11600K by an 8% margin and the 10600K by a massive 32%.
Perhaps most impressive of all is the 9% margin it defeated the 5600X by, which doesn't bode particularly well for AMD. Finally when compared to the 12600K, the 12400 was 30% slower and this is partly due to the 10% reduction in frequency along with the removal of the 4 E-cores and a 10% reduction in L3 cache capacity.
The single core performance was also very mighty, and this of course explains how the 12400 beat the 5600X. Here we're looking at a 12% improvement in performance.
Moving on to 7-Zip, the 12400 is less impressive though it manages to slightly edge out the 11600K. That in itself is a good result. When compared to the 5600X it was 12% slower and 13% slower than the 12600K, though given the difference in price, that remains a good result for the locked Core i5 part.
Unfortunately, it doesn't fare nearly as well for the decompression test as the 12400 was only able to edge out the 10600K making it slower than the 11600K by a 12% margin and almost 30% slower than the 5600X.
The Corona benchmark sees the 12400 delivering exceptional levels of performance, beating the 11600K and 5600X. Taking 117 seconds to complete the workload meant it was 9% faster than the 5600X, despite being 26% slower than the 12600K.
The Core i5-12400 was good for a score of 667 pts when running without power limits in the Adobe Premiere Pro benchmark and that meant it was able to match the 8-core/16-thread 10700K, while beating the 5600X by 8%.
Then when power limited to the 65w spec, it matched the 5600X making it 8% slower than the unleashed configuration.
Adobe Photoshop isn't a core-heavy application, so both i5-12400 configurations delivered virtually the same result. That means no matter which way you slice it, the locked Core i5 is as powerful as the Ryzen 5 5600X. The 12600K, on the other hand, is clocked 11% higher and consequently was 11% faster in this test.
In After Effects, the 12400 was only 2% faster with the power limits removed. That made it 7% faster than the 5600X and 6% faster than the previous generation 11600K.
Once again we're including Factorio in the application benchmarks not to measure fps, but rather updates per second. This automated benchmark calculates the time it takes to run 1,000 updates. This is a single-thread test which apparently relies heavily on cache performance.
Because this game only uses a single core heavily, the power configuration doesn't matter, allowing the 12400 to produce a score of 202 pts even when adhering to the 65-watt spec. That's the same score you'll receive from a Zen 3 processor and only 2.5% less than the 12600K.
When it comes to code compilation performance, the 12400 is a beast, completing our test in 6070 seconds, making it 24% faster than the 5600X and 13% faster than the 11600K. In fact, it was only 8% slower than the 5800X, though it was 21% slower than the 12600K.
The last application we're going to look at is Blender, where the 12400 was just able to edge out the 5600X while matching the 11600K. That's as good as 6-core/12-thread performance gets in this application.
Now it's time for some gaming benchmarks and we'll start with F1 2021, using the second highest quality preset at 1080p and the Radeon 6900 XT.
The Core i5-12400 matched the 11600K and 10700K here, making it 9% slower than the 12900K and 15% slower than the 5600X. That might appear a little disappointing at first, but remember the 12400 costs ~30% less than the 5600X, so this remains a great result in terms of value.
Next we have Rainbow Six Siege, and here the 12400 was slightly faster than the 11700K, 10700K, and 3700X, making it just 8% slower than the 12600K. That does make it quite a bit slower than the 5600X, to the tune of 17%, or 19% slower if we compare the 1% low figures. Still overall we're seeing strong performance from the 12400 and an excellent result in terms of cost per frame.
The Watch Dogs Legion data is more competitive in relation to the more expensive 5600X. The i5-12400 was less than 3% slower, which is basically the same level of performance and the same is also true when comparing with the 12600K and 11700K. So a strong result for the locked Core i5 processor in this game.
For the first time the i5-12400 is able to overtake the 5600X in gaming. Seen in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and while the average frame rate is very similar, the Core i5 was 9% faster when comparing the 1% low data.
It was also just 4% slower than the 12600K and a massive 26% faster than the previous generation 11600K. It's also worth noting that running at the 65-watt spec had little influence on performance.
Intel has a serious performance advantage in The Riftbreaker. The i5-12400 easily beats the 5600X offering up to 26% greater performance, seen when looking at the 1% lows. It was also just a few frames slower than the 12600K and 13% faster than the 11600K.
Interestingly, the 12400 was a lot slower than the 12600K in our Hitman 3 benchmark, trailing by an 18% margin.
The locked Core i5 part is clocked 10% lower and packs 10% less L3 cache, so it is possible under certain conditions to be around 18% slower. Not a great result here, relative to parts like the 12600K and 5600X, despite performance overall being solid.
Age of Empires IV is another game where the 12400 trails the 12600K by a fairly significant margin, 12% for the average frame rate and 22% for the 1% lows. That also meant it was up to 16% slower than the 5600X.
When compared to past generations, it did roughly match the 11700K and was quite a bit faster than the 11600K, in that sense performance was very good.
The i5-12400 performs much better in Far Cry 6, at least when compared to the 5600X as it was up to 10% faster, beating even the 5800X and 11700K.
It was up to 15% slower than the 12600K when looking at the 1% lows. Overall a good result here for Intel's new base model Core i5 processor.
The Horizon Zero Dawn results aren't that favorable for the 12400. That said it's worth mentioning that if we were to use the ultimate quality setting the game is entirely GPU limited and this normalizes CPU performance, seeing the 5600X and 12400 matched, even with the 6900 XT at 1080p. But with the dialed down 'favor quality' visual preset the game becomes more CPU limited in our test conditions and this saw the 5600X up to 21% faster with the 12600K up to 17% faster.
Last up we have Cyberpunk 2077 and this game is mostly GPU bound, even with the slightly dialed down quality settings that we're using here. The 12400 was able to nudge a few frames ahead of the 5600X while trailing the 12600K by just 4%.
The big improvement when compared to 11th-gen though is the power consumption. For the same level of performance, the Core i5-12400 reduced total system consumption by 28%... and that's total system power consumption, not just CPU power.
The savings are truly massive and it places Alder Lake roughly on par with Zen 3 for this comparison.
The 12400 is very economical indeed, using ~20 watts less than the 5600X for the same level of performance in Cyberpunk. It also reduced total system usage while gaming by 8% when compared to the previous generation Core i5-11600K.
10 Game Average
In our look at the 10-game average, you can see the Core i5-12400 without power limits and an all-in-one liquid cooler isn't much faster than the 65-watt spec using the box cooler. We're talking about less than a 2% difference on average.
When compared to the 5600X, the i5-12400 was on average ~6% slower and 8% slower than the 12600K. Given the cost savings on offer, that makes the 12400 an exceptionally good deal for gamers.
Intel Box Cooler: Laminar RM1
Now here's how the included RM1 box cooler handles the Core i5-12400 when running at the 65 watt spec. For a brief period, the CPU will run in the PL2 mode which sees package power hit 75 watts and here CPU temps peaked at 80C, but for the majority of this test the package power was limited to 65 watts, where the RM1 cooler was able to keep the CPU at just 75C, so this little cooler works well enough at the 65 watt spec.
During the Cinebench R23 stress test, the all-core frequency when in the PL1 model hovered between 3.7 and 3.8 GHz.
If we remove the power limits with the RM1 box cooler, the 12400 maintains an all-core frequency of 4 GHz -- a 5-8% frequency boost there -- and its temperature peaked at 82C, but the RM1 was noticeably loud now, which is not an ideal solution, though it does work.
Replacing the RM1 with the Corsair iCUE H100i Elite Capellix dropped the all-core 4 GHz operating temperature to just 54C for the peak, though temps were regularly below 50C. This is an overkill solution for such a CPU. A basic $20 tower style air-cooler will work fine, but since we already had the H100i installed in the test system, we just went with that.
What We Learned
That's how the Core i5-12400 performs and ideally we'd have liked to include a few extra CPUs such as the Core i5-10400, 11400 and Ryzen 5 5600G, but time constraints with testing more hardware for upcoming reviews didn't allow to update all that data. After wrapping this up with all the graphs, we were able to run some extra tests, so here's a quick last minute look at that data: The 12400 is 17% faster than the 5600G on average, and 14% faster than the 11400F.
It's interesting to note that while the 11600K was just 4% faster than the 11400 on average, the 12600K is 9% faster than the 12400. Even though the 11400 and 11600K feature the same clock frequency difference as 12th-gen parts, both of those chips have a 12 MB L3 cache, and we know many games are sensitive to cache capacity, which would explain the margin difference across generations.
Then when comparing the AMD and Intel CPUs in the gaming benchmarks, it's really going to come down to the games used, and how those games are tested. In our relatively small sample of games, the 5600X enjoyed big wins in Horizon Zero Dawn, Hitman 3, Rainbow Six Siege, Age of Empires 4, and a solid win in F1 2021, while the i5-12400 was stronger in Far Cry 6 and The Riftbreaker.
It also depends on how you test these games. Horizon Zero Dawn, for example, using the ultimate quality settings sees the game become entirely GPU limited and this equalizes CPU performance, seeing the 5600X and 12400 matched, even with the 6900 XT at 1080p.
When it comes to value though, Intel easily has AMD beat right now. The 12400F is already on sale for $180, and although B660 motherboard options are limited for now, we're expecting some pretty great boards to become available at around $160.
Good quality AMD B550 boards start at around $140, which is a small cost saving, but even so the 5600X on a good budget B550 board will set you back around $430, while the 12400F on a decent B660 is expected to cost around $340. That's a massive saving for what will amount to a similar gaming experience.
If you want to go AMD ultra-budget while sticking with 6 cores, you can snag the MSI B550M-A Pro for $95 and pair it with the 5600G for $240, totalling $335 which is basically what you'll pay for the much faster and better quality i5-12400 combo. Of course, there will be cheap and nasty B660 boards as well, so it's possible to cut costs further with Alder Lake, meaning Intel wins the budget build battle no matter which way you slice it.
The Core i5-12400F is my new go-to budget CPU and we hope to see some nice budget B660 boards available soon!
- Intel Core i5-12400 on Amazon
- Intel Core i5-12400F on Amazon
- Intel Core i5-12600K on Amazon
- Intel Core i7-12700K on Amazon
- AMD Ryzen 7 5800X on Amazon
- MSI Z690 Tomahawk WiFi DDR4 on Amazon
- MSI Z690-A Pro WiFi DDR4 on Amazon
- Asus Prime Z690-P D4 on Amazon
- MSI X570S Tomahawk WiFi on Amazon
- MSI B550M-A Pro on Amazon