Intel Core i5 8400 review: this is THE gaming Coffee Lake | PCGamesN

Intel Core i5 8400 review: this is THE gaming Coffee Lake

Intel Core i5 8400 review

The Intel Core i5 8400 is the best CPU that’s come out of the Coffee Lake generation and is the only Intel processor we’d consider instead of the AMD Ryzen competition.

The plucky i5 8400 has been the surprise package of the Coffee Lake CPUs. While the K-series Core i7 8700K might have grabbed all the headlines, with its Ryzen-battling multi-threaded performance and 5.2GHz overclocking chops, it’s the i5 8400 which has really turned out to be the best Intel CPU for gamers. That means we have a battle royale going down between this and the Ryzen 5 2600 for the mighty PC gaming dollar.

And that means we’ve got a real fight going on at the top of our list of the best CPU for gaming...

It’s normal for the Core i5 chips in a new generation to be the ones we end up recommending for gamers - historically, the HyperThreading tech only offers a little extra gaming performance with the Core i7 - but this is the first time I’ve recommended ditching the K-series processors in their entirety.

The Core i5 8400 is also one of the most affordable Coffee Lake chips you can actually buy right now, thankfully it's also the best one for purestrain gamers. It really is also an absolute bargain, and the cheapest Intel hexcore around at just $179 (£153). 

The AMD Ryzen 2  CPUs have really had to compete against the 8400 on both the gaming performance and price sides of the equation, but the darling Ryzen 5 2600 manages to offer serious computational chops and a level of gaming performance that puts it right up there with Intel's best.

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Intel Core i5 8400 benchmarks

Intel Core i5 8400 performance

Intel Core i5 8400 verdict

 

Intel Core i5 8400 specs

Intel Core i5 8400 specs

The Core i5 8400 is still a six-core CPU, but without HyperThreading it remains stuck at six threads of processing power. It’s also been saddled with a relatively low 2.8GHz base clockspeed, but is capable of hitting a maximum Turbo speed of 4GHz. That is, however, only on a single core, with the chip generally sticking to a 3.8GHz frequency during standard usage.

That would seem to make it very much the poor cousin to the Core i5 8600K. That’s still a resolutely six-core chip, but with an all-core Turbo of 4.3GHz (or 4.6GHz if you go for a belligerent Asus board that flouts Intel’s Turbo ratings), and is capable of overclocking to a massive 5.1GHz without much effort at all.

But the i5 8400 has still got the same 9MB of L3 cache, a lower-rated TDP of 65W - versus the K-series’ 95W TDP - and honestly performs like an absolute hero.

We’ve previously gone into depth on the Coffee Lake architecture, but suffice to say, it’s more or less the same 14nm design we’ve seen in Skylake and Kaby Lake, the 6th and 7th Gen, architectures.

This time, however, there is no option for backwards compatibility, unless you're happy to make with the microcode updates yourself. The new Coffee Lake chips, such as this ‘ere Core i5, will only function within the confines of a 300-series chipset. And, until later this year, your only option on that front is the high-end Z370 chipset. The H370 and B360 motherboards won’t be here for a while. That does take some of the shine out of this relatively budget-oriented hex-core CPU, as the expensive Z370 feature set isn’t really necessary with the 8400 and it’s locked down multipliers.

Intel Core i5 8400 benchmarks

Intel Core i5 8400 benchmarks

Intel Core i5 8400 performance

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Back in the dark old Kaby Lake days of early 2017 there was only a modicum of gaming performance difference between the K-series Core i5 7600K and the Core i7 7700K. It was a no-brainer, then, for us to recommend gamers eschew the more expensive HyperThreaded chip in favour of the Core i5.

There was a non-K Core i5 - the i5 7400 - which had essentially the same core configuration, but with a slightly lower clockspeed. Sound familiar? But it was generally well off the pace of the 7600K in our gaming benchmarks so we largely ignored it. That was why I was less excited about the prospect of the Core i5 8400, despite its extra couple Coffee Lake cores. After all, if you wanted to save a few quid, and bag a hexcore chip regardless of its gaming performance, then AMD had you covered with the original Ryzen 5 1600.

With the Coffee Lake processors, however, there is zero difference in gaming performance between either of the Core i5s and the top-spec Core i7. And that remains the case whether you’re running the chips at stock speeds or hitting 5GHz+ with the K-series CPUs. The performance of the 8400 is genuinely pretty stunning for a processor that just about costs less than AMD’s cheapest six-core Ryzen 5. Then there’s the fact that it’s capable of delivering gaming frame rates that are higher than either the i7 7700K and i7 7800K.

Unfortunately, for Intel, the second-gen Ryzen processors have closed the gap considerably in terms of gaming, which means they offer more for the money.

Outside of the realm of gaming things are obviously different. The higher frequency of the overclocked i5 8600K, and the extra thread-count of the R5 2600 and 2600X, mean that they’re far better choices for anything that demands serious multi-threaded CPU performance. 

Intel Core i5 8400 verdict

Intel Core i5 8400 verdict

Forget all the headline-grabbing overclocking figures, this is the Coffee Lake chip for gamers. Sure, the tantalising prospect of having your K-series i5 running at a heady 5.1GHz, without melting through the layered PCB of your motherboard, is like a siren call to us PC people, but if it’s not delivering anything tangible for games that hardly matters.

We’re going to see a whole lot of gaming machines built around the Core i5 8400 in the coming year, and rightly so. It’s a seriously powerful little gaming chip for the money, and it’s definitely grabbed my attention.

AMD's magnificent Ryzen 5 2600 has captured our hearts as the go-to gaming CPU of the moment, packing serious computational and decent overclocking performance into a package that still delivers competitive gaming performance.

The fantastic-value Core i5 8400 is the gamer's chip from Intel's 8th Gen Coffee Lake range, which is surprising considering the K-series i5 is capable of hitting 5.1GHz without issue. But overclocking gives you no extra gaming performance that the powerful extra cores Coffee Lake can't offer on their own.

PCGamesN Verdict: 9/10

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DaddyO' Fourty five avatar[ZZZ] Ronin avatarM1ng0J1ng0 avatarFirerod avatarZipptye avatarhfm avatar+9
DaddyO' Fourty five Avatar
4
9 Months ago

Same performance as ryzen 5 in most cases, and these wont be at full stock until 2018, when people start buying them ryzen+ will already be out and kickin'

2
Zipptye Avatar
3
9 Months ago

you mean this one at newegg available right now? https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819117824&cm_re=i5-8400-_-19-117-824-_-Product

3
hfm Avatar
315
9 Months ago

The only thing I'm seeing from this is there's no reason to move away from my 7700K.

2
Dave James Avatar
640
9 Months ago

Absolutely. If you're rocking a modern i7 then you've really got no reason to upgrade for a good long while.

To be fair a Haswell i7 would still see you right.

2
Miles Prower Avatar
1
3 Months ago

To be fair my old i7-3770k @4.2g.. does just fine. I forsee no reason to upgrade either.

1
MoleManMike Avatar
1
7 Months ago

What about the temperature spiking issues that the 7700K has? I was glad to see a new gen come out as I was really didn't want to buy a processor with temperature issues right out of the box.

1
hfm Avatar
315
7 Months ago

What temperature issues? I don't notice any.

1
TehJumpingJawa Avatar
3
9 Months ago

What an incredibly flawed appraisal.

1) The 8400 isn't available. Whether it retails above or below MSRP is yet to be seen.

2) For the foreseeable future the only motherboards available for the 8400 are the expensive premium Z370-based boards.

3) The R5 1600 overclocks out of the box and on a cheap-as-chips B350 board.

As a complete package, the i5 8400 is more expensive than the R5 1600, is significantly slower in multi-threaded workloads, and once OC'ing ability is factored in, isn't any quicker in single-threaded loads either.

Once the cheaper coffee lake motherboards hit the market the 8400 will become a reasonable alternative to Ryzen 5 for certain use-cases, but to propose it at the moment?

It's daft.

2
Dave James Avatar
640
9 Months ago

At launch you could buy an 8400 for around £180, with ASRock Z370 boards retailing for as little as £109. That's a pretty compelling gaming package.

As I said in the review above, for multi-threaded workloads the 12-threads of Ryzen help, but this appraisal is based on gaming performance, and across the board the Intel is either better or at least the same.

1
Kerodon Avatar
1
8 Months ago

In the US the 1600 is $169 and the motherboards can be as low as $40

The 8400 is $189 and motherboards at best are $100 and not very consistently.

1
Boda Avatar
1
8 Months ago

The 1600 is usually 190-210 USD and the B350 boards that are decent for OCing are 85-110+. They are very similar in price . But if you want the full potential from Ryzen you need 2933-3200MHz RAM which is $150+. That's why I went with an 8400 over the 1600. If RAM wasn't so expensive or Ryzen wasn't so dependent on it I would've got a 1600.

1
[ZZZ] Ronin Avatar
20
9 Months ago

What about VR gaming ? It appear that latest i7 have a huge (and better) impact on performance in VR (headset and sensor must be using hyperthreading ?), more than "normal" gaming in 2d. It can be great also to compare latest CPU for VR performance.

1
M1ng0J1ng0 Avatar
4
9 Months ago

The i7 does indeed help VR performance. I swapped out a haswell i5 (4670) for a i7 (4690k) on the same board a few weeks ago and it made a big improvement for VR. I'm curious too if this CPU would make a noticeable difference again in VR compared to to my current setup with a 1080 Ti.

1
Firerod Avatar
17
9 Months ago

i5-8400 is gaming king for performance/dollar ratio!

1
Streetguru Avatar
15
9 Months ago

I really don't get your logic, you didn't test with the stock cooler, which makes your temperature chart completely irrelevant. I also don't see where you're measuring your power draw.

As far as being the best gaming chip, the Ryzen chips are keeping up pretty well at a lower price point, and that's not to mention the platform should last longer than intel's platform, and you're giving up a good amount of multi-threaded performance, for a bit higher fps in some games. Which doesn't make any sense to me.

And this will change soon enough, but for right now you can buy an R5 1600 with a $70 ish motherboard and be pretty set. It also might have been nice to see your Ryzen chip OC'd a bit to near 4ghz as you can get. Should have also tested the R5 1400.

And why not replace Total War Atila with Total Warhammer 1 or 2?

1
Dave James Avatar
640
9 Months ago

We tested with our test rig's standard cooler to give comparative results, which are more important than a standalone figure that doesn't relate to anything.

And we used Attila as it's an incredibly intensive DX11 benchmark, while the DX12 Warhammer test was incredibly flaky for a long while.

As for the 8-thread Ryzen 5 chips, they perform significantly worse than the Coffee Lake hexcore in both gaming and multi-threaded tests.

1
anthonyl Avatar
1
3 Weeks ago

Hi Dave, where can I find that Attila benchmark? I mainly play Total War games and I'm currently looking for a new system. The problem with TW games (especially the older titles up to Attila) is bad use of modern hardware. They only run on one core and barely use more than 4 GB video memory from what I've read.

My current system is an i5 4670K @ 4.1 Ghz and a GTX 780. An ancient system for any recent game, but I wonder whether an i7 7700K and a Titan X would even make much of a difference with Total War games or just be a waste of money. I've seen videos on youtube of people running Attila at 40 fps in huge siege battles, using an i7 8700 K and a 1080 Ti.....which is just absolutely terrible, at 1080p nonetheless!

Which CPU and GPU would you recommend for a guy playing mainly Total War and strategy games?

Thanks!

1
Dave James Avatar
640
3 Weeks ago

Total War is a real system hog, and most especially the Attila engine. The high IPC performance of the Intel processors seem to work best with TW, and Civ VI too, so I'd probably say that at least for now you're better off on Intel for those sorts of games.

As for GPU, you just need to get the most powerful one you can afford from team GeForce.

1
Elz Sensei Avatar
1
9 Months ago

Hi guys!

I am currently running an AMD A-10 5800K CPU, with a GTX 660 Ti.

I want to game at 1080p at 60FPS, and I am also a computer science student, so I will be programming and probably running a VM or two every so often...

What should I get that will last me at least another 4 or 5 years, with the results I need,

Any honest input will be appreciated.

Thank you!

1