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Intel Core i5 12400F review

We investigate Intel's Alder Lake budget gaming CPU, which gives you six cores and a 4.4GHz clock speed for an amazingly generous price.

Intel Core i5 12400F review

Our Verdict

This six-core Intel Alder Lake CPU is a long way from the performance of the Core i5 12600K, but the price is amazing. A great all-round CPU if you're building a budget gaming PC

Reasons to buy
  • Decent gaming performance
  • Loads quicker than Core i5 11400F
  • Awesome price
Reasons to avoid
  • No E-Cores
  • Comparatively low boost clock
  • Lags behind Core i5 12600K

After the barnstorming performance of Intel’s K-series Alder Lake CPUs, we were pretty excited to see whether the Intel Core i5 12400F could still deliver decent gaming performance, especially with its wallet-friendly price of just $179.

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 Intel Core i5 12400F differs significantly to the Core i5 12600K. The question is whether that super low price can still make the 12400F the best gaming CPU options for those on a budget, despite the change in specs.

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Core i5 12400F specs

These are the Intel Core i5 12400F specifications:

Base clock 2.5GHz
Max boost clock 4.4GHz
Core Alder Lake
Manufacturing process 10nm
P-Cores 6
E-Cores 0
Threads 12
Cache 18MB L3, 7.5MB L2
Memory controller Dual-channel DDR4 and DDR5
Socket LGA1700

The part of the Core i5 12400F specs that stands out is that it lacks the four E-Cores of the Core i5 12600K, which makes the latter chip 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. This will likely mean a large reduction in multi-threaded performance.

The P-Core boost frequencies are similar to those of previous generations, with the cheaper CPU peaking at 4.4GHz while the Core i5 12600K hits 4.9GHz. This is reflected in the power specifications, with the 12400F having 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.

Intel Core i5 12400F: Installed in MSI Tomahawk motherboard

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 also available for under $150, meaning you can now bag a six-core 12th-gen Intel CPU and motherboard with PCIe 4 support for around $300.

While pairing the Core i5 12400F with an expensive motherboard might seem counter-intuitive, some 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, which may well enable you to push this CPU’s clock speed further in the future.

AMD also has little to worry Intel in this market segment Core i5-12400F at the moment. The Ryzen 5 5600X and Ryzen 7 5700G are far more expensive than the 12400F, and any of AMD’s cheaper CPUs will be using the older Zen 2 architecture, which is completely trounced by Intel’s 12th gen CPUs.

Intel Core i5 12400F: Installed in MSI Tomahawk motherboard

Core i5 12400F benchmarks

The Core i5 12400F’s test result of 66,394 in our own GIMP image editing benchmark was over 10,000 points lower than that of the Core i5 12600K, showing the difference made by 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.

Intel Core i5 12400F review: GIMP and Handbrake benchmark results graphs

Meanwhile, 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 5600X, with barely 6% between them.

Our RealBench overall 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 5600X in both our Cinebench tests in a major blow, offering a noticeably higher single-threaded score. Once again, though, the Core i5 12600K was much faster in both tests.

Intel Core i5 12400F review: Cinebench benchmark results graphs

It was tit for tat when comparing the Core i5 12400F to the Ryzen 5 5600X in games, with the 12400F largely matching the AMD CPU in Dirt 5 and Far Cry 6, while the Core i5 12600K offered higher frame rates in both titles.

Intel Core i5 12400F review: Dirt 5 gaming benchmark results graphs

This was at 1080p with a reasonably powerful Nvidia GeForce 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.

Intel Core i5 12400F review: Far Cry 6 gaming benchmark results graphs

Core i5 12400F Price

The Intel Core i5 12400F price is just $179 (£169) at launch, which is a fantastic deal for the performance on offer. There simply isn’t another competitor in this price range that can touch this six-core Intel CPU right now. You lose the extra multi-threaded power of Intel’s E-Cores by paying the lower price, but these don’t matter when it comes to gaming performance.

Paying more money for the Core i5 12600K will net you more performance across the board, but if you’re on a tight budget, this new cut-price contender from Intel is absolutely the chip to buy right now.

Core i5 12400F Conclusion

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.


AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

This six-core AMD CPU is more expensive than the Core i5 12400F, but its Zen 3 architecture packs a punch, particularly when it comes to games, and it also comes with a free CPU cooler in the box. Unlike the Intel CPU, this AMD chip will also run on old AM4 motherboards if you update the BIOS, giving you a cheap upgrade path if you already own a first or second gen Ryzen system.

Intel Core i5 12600K

The ‘K’ in this more expensive Core i5 CPU’s model name means this chip has an unlocked multiplier, so you can overclock it. It also has four E-Cores, giving it an edge over the 12400F in multi-threaded workloads, while its higher boost clock of 4.9GHz means it’s faster in games too. This is a great CPU if you can afford the extra premium.

This post originally appeared on Custom PC, which has been reviewing PC hardware for over 20 years and is now part of PCGamesN. Join our 500k member Facebook group to discuss this review.