After the barnstorming performance of Intel’s K-series Alder Lake CPUs, we were pretty excited to see whether the Core i5-12400F could still deliver decent gaming performance, especially with its wallet-friendly price of just £169 inc VAT.
Let’s start with the bad news, which is that Intel’s 10nm hybrid core architecture sees huge variations in core counts and types across the 12th-gen range, and the Core i5-12400F differs significantly to the Core i5-12600K.
For starters, it lacks the four E-Cores of the Core i5-12600K that make it so potent in multi-threaded software. Instead, it only matches the six performance cores of its K-series sibling, meaning it has four fewer cores and threads as a result. This will likely mean a large reduction in multi-threaded performance.
The P-Core boost frequencies are similar to those of previous generations, though, with the cheaper CPU peaking at 4.4GHz while the Core i5-12600K hits 4.9GHz. This is reflected in the power specifications too, with a base power of 65W compared to 125W for the K-series CPU and 117W vs 150W maximum turbo power for the Core i5-12400F and Core i5-12600K respectively.
We saw both CPUs hit their single-core boost frequencies regularly, while under multi-threaded workloads, the Core i5-12600K fell back to 4.5GHz on its P-Cores, with the Core i5-12400F dropping further to just 4GHz.
While pairing the Core i5 12400F with an expensive motherboard might seem counter-intuitive, motherboard manufacturers are also in the process of rolling out BIOS versions for premium boards that allow the CPU to be overclocked using the base clock.
The F-version we’re testing here is cheaper than the standard Core i5-12400, since it lacks integrated graphics, but the non-F version gets you the same Intel UHD 770 graphics as the Core i5-12600K too. B660 motherboards are available for under £150 too, meaning that £300 can now bag you a 6-core 12th-gen Intel CPU and motherboard with PCI-E 4 support.
AMD also has little to worry Intel in this market segment Core i5-12400F. The Ryzen 5 5600X and Ryzen 7 5700G are far more expensive, and any of its cheaper CPUs will be using the older Zen 2 architecture, which is completely trounced by Intel’s 12th-gen CPUs.
The Core i5-12400F’s image editing test result of 66,394 was over 10,000 points lower than that of the Core i5-12600K, showing the difference those higher frequencies and core counts make, albeit costing you an extra £100 in the process. The Ryzen 5 5600X was also quicker here, but again, it’s significantly more expensive.
Our heavily multi-threaded Handbrake video encoding test also revealed a gulf between the Core i5-12400F and the Core i5-12600K, but far less of a gap between the cheaper Intel CPU and the Ryzen 5, with barely 6 per cent between them.
The system score of 220,553 was again snapping at the heels of the Ryzen 5 5600X, but a long way off matching the Core i5-12600K. Interestingly, the Core i5-12400F actually beat the AMD CPU in both Cinebench tests in a major blow, offering a noticeably higher single-threaded score. Once again, though, the Core i5-12600K was a lot faster in both tests.
It was tit for tat with the AMD CPU in games, with the Core i5-12400F largely matching it in Dirt 5 and Far Cry 6, while the Core i5-12600K offered higher frame rates in both titles. This was at 1080p with a reasonably powerful RTX 3070 GPU though – there will be less of a difference at higher resolutions, where there’s less of a load on the CPU. Importantly, the Core i5-12400F is also leagues ahead of its predecessor, the Core i5-11400F, across the board.
The gulf between Intel’s cheapest and most expensive Core i5 CPUs is the biggest we’ve ever seen, thanks to differing core and thread counts. However, the price gap is significant too, and mostly in line with the performance differences, especially in multi-threaded workloads where the Core i5-12600K has proven to be light years ahead of its predecessor. The fact that the Core i5-12400F lags well behind in most tests is to be expected then, given the price difference.
Far more importantly, it trades blows with the pricier Ryzen 5 5600X, and with LGA1700 motherboards now available for under £150, the argument that AMD motherboards are cheaper is growing thin, especially given the very low cost of the Core i5-12400F. It’s a mightily powerful CPU for the money, matching or bettering the more expensive Ryzen 5 5600X in some tests, despite only costing £170.
If you’re building a budget-conscious PC and need a great all-rounder to sit in your CPU socket, the Core i5-12400F is fantastic and, unlike AMD’s Socket AM4, Intel’s LGA1700 socket has plenty of life in it yet too.
£169 inc VAT
PERFORMANCE: 41/50 | FEATURES: 13/15 | VALUE: 34/35
- Decent gaming performance
- Loads quicker than Core i5-11400F
- Awesome price
- No E-Cores
- Comparatively low boost clock
- Lags behind Core i5-12600K
Intel Core i5-12400F Specifications
- Base frequency: 2.5GHz
- Max boost frequency: 4.4GHz
- Core: Alder Lake
- Manufacturing process: 10nm
- Number of cores: 6 (12 threads)
- Hyper-Threading: Yes
- Cache: 18MB L3, 7.5MB L2
- Memory controller: Dual-channel DDR4 and DDR5
- Packaging: LGA1700
- Thermal design power (TDP): 65W
- Features: Turbo Boost 2, FMA3, F16C, SHA, BMI / BMI1 + BMI2, AVX-512, AVX2, AVX, AES, SSE4a, SSE4, SSSE3, SSE3, SSE2, SSE, MMX
Intel Core i5-12400F
A long way from the Core i5-12600K, but the price is amazing. A great all-round CPU for budget buyers.