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Intel Core i5-12600K review – is the 12th gen still worth it?

Last Updated on May 10, 2024
An intel core i5-12600K processor beside its blue packaging box on a desk, with a blurred background.
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The Core i5 12600K is one of the best CPUs ever released in terms of value, and what it did for the more value-orientated CPUs going forward. Our Cire i5 certainly made its mark in the industry, cementing the 600 suffix as the value beast offering from Team Blue, and it’s easy to see why. Here’s our Core i5 12600K review.

This CPU was released in 2021 on Nov 4th, and it came as Intel’s answer to the very successful 5600X, which was released a year prior. This 10-core efficiency monster packs a punch and does it without wasting a drop of potential, all thanks to what Intel likes to call BIG.little core technology, which made its debut in the 12th generation of Intel processors.

  • Intel Core i5-12600K processor in front of its packaging box with "core" and "unlocked" visible on a blurred blue background.
  • An Intel Core i5-12600K processor with its retail box displayed on a desk with a blurred background.
  • An Intel Core i5-12600K processor chip on a plain, light-colored background.
4.5 /5
Editor’s Rating
How We Review
  • Cores: 10 (6P + 4E)
  • Threads: 16
  • Boost Clock Speed: 4.9 GHz P / 3.6 GHz E
  • Base Clock Speed: 3.7 GHz P / 2.8 GHz E
  • L3 Cache: 20 MB (shared)
  • TDP: 125W
  • Platform: Intel (LGA 1700)
What We Think

The Core i5-12600K is one of the best CPUs that Intel has manufactured and stands as one of my personal favorites. It effortlessly combines power efficiency with single-core performance to make for one fierce competitor in the budget CPU space.

Reasons to Buy
  • Included cooler
  • BIG.little core technology debuted in this CPU
  • Strong single core performance compared to competitors
  • Very low power consumption for the performance it achieves
Reasons to Avoid
  • Runs a little hot during intensive programs
  • Superseded by the 13600K
  • Not really built for multi-core workloads
✓ Review Summary

Why we gave it a 4.5

We gave this CPU a 4.5 because of what it has done for Intel in the long run, it showed that the split architecture was not only possible but beneficiary. The 12600K performs very well on a budget, sometimes almost doubling the performance of the 5600X, though it does consume twice the power. If it wasn’t for that, it’d be 5’s all around.

To cut a long review short, we love the 12600K, not only for its affordability, or its performance, but for its innovation, and what it did for the future of one of Intel’s best CPUs as a whole. If you need a relatively cheap CPU that will work across multiple chipsets with both DDR4 and DDR5 memory, then this CPU might be for you.

CPU specifications

Before we get into the performance of the CPU, we need to understand how it manages to pull the numbers it does. For that, we’re going to look at the specifications and mention a little bit about how the BIG.little technology we mentioned earlier works.

  • Cores: 10 (6P + 4E)
  • Threads: 16
  • Base clock speed: 3.7GHz P core / 2.8GHz E core
  • Boost clock speed: 4.9GHz P core / 3.6GHz E core
  • L2 Cache: 12.5MB
  • L3 Cache: 20MB
  • TDP: 125W
  • Socket: LGA 1700

What’s interesting here is the inclusion of “P cores” and “E cores”, this is the BIG.little hybrid architecture I was talking about earlier. Intel has chosen this direction to bring more power to Intel processors without quite literally making them too hot to handle.

✓ Editors note

Why did Intel choose this architectuire?

The aim of the game with the big.LITTLE architectures was to reduce the overall power consumption and TDP of Intel processors, they run hot enough as it is. How it works simply, is the P cores (performance cores) handle the heavy lifting, and the E cores (efficiency cores) handle the lighter workloads in your system that don’t require the beef of the performance cores.

Of course, the whole process is a little more complex than that, it involves a task scheduler to sort the workloads before they hit the CPU to determine what core should handle what, it’s all very fascinating. But this serves as a simple explanation. This is the first implementation of the big.LITTLE architecture where none of the E cores are hyperthreaded, that’s why the Threads aren’t double the cores like we’re used to seeing.

This was again done for efficiency’s sake, this i5 already consumes 125W next to AMD’s equivalent of 65W, which is pretty much double. But do you get double the performance for almost double the power usage?

CPU performance

Before we jump into the benchmarks, we have to outline the test bench and the components we used to benchmark the 12600K. This will help us to gain an idea of why the CPU pulled the numbers it did because the testing environment has a lot to do with that.

The components used to test the Core i5 are as follows:

A PC setup with an open test bench including a motherboard and cooling fans next to a monitor displaying the "PC guide" logo in a room lit with
A PC setup with an open test bench including a motherboard powered by AMD Ryzen 5 7600X and cooling fans next to a monitor displaying the “PC guide” logo in a room lit with
GPURTX 4070 Ti Super
MemoryCorsair Vengence @ 6400MHz
MotherboardCrosshair Dark Hero Z790
CPU coolerCorsair Elite LCD Capellix 360MM
Power supplyASUS ROG Thor 1000W
CaseCooler Master Masterframe
AMD test bench components are used to test the 12600K

As you can see, we tested our CPU on the most up-to-date components possible to give it the best chance at unleashing its full potential. We tested our Intel CPU in both synthetic and real-world scenarios on this rig to get a wide scope on how this CPU performs in general, and in more concentrated workloads.

Synthetic performance

We tested the I5 CPU in a multitude of synthetic scenarios to get a concrete idea of how it handles different types of workloads. We know that not everyone uses their CPUs for the same reason, so we wanted to cast as wide of a net as possible with our benchmarking and include something for everyone. There’s a lot to get through here, so let’s waste no time and jump in.

CPU Z Single764 points
CPU Z Multi7,120 points
Cinebench R23 Single1,856 points
Cinebench R23 Multi17,043 points
Geekbench Single2,626 points
Geekbench Multi14,498 points
Puget Systems photoshop8,094 points
Blender renderMonster 104.02 SPM
Junkshop 71.74 SPM
Classroom 52.39 SPM
7 Zip Compression 32MB (10 passes)59.12s
Handbrake TOS 4K Fast 1080P encodeAverage Speed 74.10 FPS
Encode Time 03:59
PCGuide industry-standard CPU test synthetic benchmarks

As you can see, we have a pretty comprehensive test suite here at PCGuide, if you’re interested in how we conduct our testing, we have a PCGuide labs page you can take a look at. That is a comprehensive page that explains how we do what we do with CPUs. Time to check the fruits of our labor.


CPU Z is an industry standard and a benchmark we use to get a baseline for any CPU, it measures both single and multi-core CPU performance. Our CPU does well in this benchmark, scoring well over the 5,000 points mark that the 5600X manages. That’s how far those extra cores get you.

Cinebench r23

Cinebench is everyone’s favorite table and chair render, what it does, above all else, is test a CPUs ability to render complex images. This table and chair image is very data-heavy and it takes a moment for the CPU to make sense of it, and that’s the benchmark. Our I5 did well here, scoring around 6,000 points more than the AMD equivalent on the multi-core tests, it also got a nice little boost in the single-core tests too, scoring 400 points more. You can also check out the Cinebench database if you want to compare our scores to the CPU that you have.

Geekbench 6

Geekbench is kind of a jack of all trades when it comes to benchmarks, it kind of tests everything from image compression to machine learning, so the tool can be invaluable when determining CPU performance. Unsurprisingly again Intel’s I5 beat AMD’s equivalent processor by almost double the points, 14,498 against 8,456. You can check out the Geekbench database if you want to compare scores with your own CPU.

Puget Systems

Puget Systems is another complex one, we chose the Photoshop version of Puget as there are several, so if you’re a photo editor then this one if for you. Our Intel I5 managed to bring home 2,000 points more than the AMD equivalent, which is what I call efficient.

✓ Editors note

Puget is complicated

If you’re into photo editing of any kind, we recommend you check out this very in-depth and complex benchmark personally to get a feel for what it tests and how. Puget covers everything from opening RAW files to applying filters, decompression, you name it, Puget probably does it.

You can check out the full benchmark suite that Puget has to offer here, in case you want to read more into how the benchmark is performed and what it tests. You can also compare scores here to your current processor to get an idea as to how much performance you could get out of an upgrade.


Blender is one of the most popular 3D modeling software available today, so naturally we included it in our tests, for all you model junkies out there. We use Monster as a baseline because, well it’s just the first one on the list. Unsurprisingly, we beat AMD here too, with a score of 104 against 69. Nice.

It’s important to note, however, that it’s not really customary to use CPUs to render like this, the workload is just linear processing which is handled very well by GPUs. To put it into context, the 4070 Ti Super that we use scored around 3700 points in the same test.

7 Zip compression (10 passes)

This test takes a 32MB packet and runs it through 10 passes of compression and decompression, as you likely know, 7 Zip is one of the best archiving and decompression tools available, and thankfully for us, it has an inbuilt benchmark. The Intel I5 managed all 10 passes in 59 seconds, which is a few second faster than the equivalent Ryzen 5 processor.

Handbrake Tears of Steel

Handbrake is a video encoder that allows us to test how proficient a CPU is at encoding video. We use a video called Tears of Steal, it’s a 6GB 4K video that the community often uses to benchmark CPUs. We use a set 1080P fast preset and we calculate the time taken and the AES (Average Encode Speed). The I5 managed the whole thing in just 03:59 and keeping an average speed of 74.10 FPS.

Real-world benchmarks

Real-world benchmarks are ones that take place outside the hard-coded testing environment of synthetic benchmarks. Real-world benchmarks cannot be replicated in the exact same way every time as they rely on humans to perform the inputs most of the time. The best example of real-world performance is gaming, so, let’s get into some games.

We test our games in 1080p and with the settings turned all the way down. This is so that we are not GPU-limited when gaming, and it gives the CPU room to stretch its wings.

Days Gone222 FPS / 1% 149 FPS
Cyberpunk 2077301 FPS / 1% 198 FPS
PCGuide standard real-world CPU testing

The games we tested are Days Gone and Cyberpunk 2077, both of these games are fairly challenging to run efficiently, or they were when they were released, but they will serve as a great benchmark for our Intel I5. Intel has always held an edge when it came to gaming performance and single-core workloads, so let’s see how well our CPU did in these games.

The gameplay was smooth and there was no stuttering or performance issues to note in either game. And unsurprisingly, the I5 manages again to beat the AMD equivalent. More cores definitely do equal better performance, even if those cores aren’t equivalent to those of the competitors.

Days Gone offered a nice round 222 FPS average and 1% lows of 149 FPS, not bad when your 1%’s are so high. Cyberpunk also surprised us with an average FPS of 301 and 1 %s of 198 FPS. It’s madness to think that this once GPU killer now runs so well on modern hardware.

What do these benchmarks mean?

So what do these benchmarks mean? Well, we use synthetic benchmarks to determine how a CPU will perform in more workstation-tailored scenarios. These are the tests that give the data scientists, photo editors, and 3D artists of the world an idea of how this CPU will perform in their day-to-day scenarios.

We test gaming performance to get an idea of the CPU adaptability and see how well it does outside the scripted walls of synthetic benchmarks. Plus, everyone likes to game every now and then, no matter what you use your CPU for, or what games you like to play, we here at PCGuide have you covered.

If you need more information about how and why we perform our CPU and even GPU benchmarks, we have a PCGuide labs article you can browse at your pleasure. This will give you everything you need to know when it comes to our testing methodologies.

Alternatives to the 12600K

If you want something a little different than an entry-level CPU from a few years ago, you can opt for one of these CPUs. The 7600X offers an entry to AM5, coming in strong against the 12600K in terms of performance. AM5 does offer a lot in terms of PCIe Gen 5 storage and GPU technology but can be a pricy investment.

The 5800X3D offers a gaming alternative to the 12600K, but what it doesn’t do very well is multi-core performance, due to the sacrifices that had to be made to incorporate the 3D V-cache. AM4 is affordable and can be a very good choice if you’re looking to make your money go far.

Finally, the 13900K is just there if you want one of the best CPUs on the market right now. Ordinarily, we’d recommend the 14th gen, but we still don’t feel the value lives up to the price. You can find 13th gens a little cheaper than the 14th generation and the performance difference is negligible.


Back when it was released in 2021, the Core i5-12600K retailed for $289, thanks to its age, we can now find it for much less. Camelcamelcamel, an Amazon price tracker, reports that the lowest price for this CPU was $153 in December 2023, likely for the Christmas sale. Note that this price may change, the information was accurate as of the time of writing.


  • Intel Core i5-12600K processor in front of its packaging box with "core" and "unlocked" visible on a blurred blue background.
  • An Intel Core i5-12600K processor with its retail box displayed on a desk with a blurred background.
  • An Intel Core i5-12600K processor chip on a plain, light-colored background.
4.5 /5
Editor’s Rating
How We Review
  • Cores: 10 (6P + 4E)
  • Threads: 16
  • Boost Clock Speed: 4.9 GHz P / 3.6 GHz E
  • Base Clock Speed: 3.7 GHz P / 2.8 GHz E
  • L3 Cache: 20 MB (shared)
  • TDP: 125W
  • Platform: Intel (LGA 1700)

The Core i5-12600k is a very capable little CPU, and because it’s on the value end of the scale and listed first in promotional media, I’m going to call it the first CPU of Intel’s to use the big.LITTLE architecture. A pioneer of what was to come from Intel, a glimpse of the future if you will, and spoiler alert, Intel only improved this split core architecture.

This CPU is clearly capable of beating the competition at its own game. Intel was always the CPU of choice when it came to gaming performance, but who knew it could so effortlessly take the multi-core crown from AMD? Turns out, all you need is talent and ingenuity to get the job done, We’re not batting off the 5600x, however, it’s quite the contrary. It has much fewer cores and technically doesn’t even belong to the same generation if you want to get finicky. We’re impressed that the 5600X can hold a candle to the 12600k at all.

If you want a very capable, efficient, and powerful CPU to slap in your LGA 1700 motherboard, for use with DDR4 or DDR5 memory, then look no further than the 12600K.

Jack Howarth, a Tech Writer at PC Guide, is deeply passionate about technology. He started his journey during college, earning an Extended Diploma in ICT, and CompTIA A+ later in life.