With the arrival of the Intel Core i5-10600K earlier this year, it’s time to look at its predecessor to see how they measure up, and if it’s worth making the leap from 9600K to 10600K.
There are a year and a half between these processors, so there’s an obvious improvement in the 10600K’s specs over the 9600K.
It makes little sense to jump from the 9600K to 10600K, we’ll say that right now, since it’s just not worth the money and time of replacing the CPU and the motherboard.
That’s right, the 10600K comes with another chipset, the Intel Z490, so your current motherboard would have to go too. The performance upgrade just isn’t enough to justify that.
You’re fine with the 9600K, we’re more interested in which is worth getting if you’ve got an older CPU, or no CPU at all yet since you’ll definitely notice the performance boost.
The question isn’t which CPU is better but, as is often the case with comparisons in the same group of high-end gear, which one should someone get if they don’t have any either.
Before we get into the main specs that you’ll want to pay attention to, we’ve got our handy table here that presents everything you need to know in a compact and easy-to-read format.
Intel Core i5-9600K
With every new generational release that Intel offers, it’s the i5 that tends to dominate.
Whereas the i3s are for humbler electronics and the i7s and i9s are for heavier computer rigs, the i5s always match affordability with a performance standard that sees them become the most popular among gamers. That was the case with the 9th Generation Core 9000 Series 9 (codenamed as Coffee Lake Refresh by Intel) and we’re sure it’ll be true for the 10th Generation Series too.
So, as the reigning king of Intel’s 9th Generation, what does the Intel Core i5-9600K bring to the table? Even though the i5s are the commercial leaders of any Intel product drop, you’re likely enthusiastic about your computer and computer gaming if you’re sporting the 9th Gen.
It’s one of the better CPUs out there right now, and that won’t change for a few years yet. This means getting the 9600K for gaming is a viable, and more affordable, option.
It’s six cores, though you probably guessed that by now, and has a 9MB cache that’s perfect for the average gamer who takes their gaming a little more seriously than others. The 9600K has a whole wealth of power for your PC to draw from, whether it’s for gaming or other performance concerns.
With the 9600K, you get a default clocking speed of 3.7GHz that can be boosted to a maximum of 4.6GHz, because it’s totally unlocked. If you have a few games that you play religiously, the Intel Optane Memory built into this CPU may be interesting to you since it’ll remember frequently used programs and make access to them even quicker.
This CPU supports your other PC components such as 2666MHz DDR4 RAM, particularly with a Dual-Channel configuration. Then there’s the integrated graphics, the Intel HD Graphics UHD 630. This has twenty-four execution units that cover everything from gaming GPU computations to video syncing, which is great if you prefer to have podcasts or videos on in the background when gaming.
Intel Core i5-10600K
The 9600K sounds pretty good, so where does the 10600K improve? Intel’s 10th Generation Core processors, codenamed Comet Lake, innovate from both the 8th Gen Whiskey Lake and 9th Gen Coffee Lake models.
How does the 10600K do this? It has six cores again, though they come with twelve threads now. That’s double the thread count of the 9600K, and the 10600K is capable of a more impressive 4.1GHz clocking speed. Updated boosting innovations made in the year between the 9600K and the 10600K take that figure up to 4.8GHz when you push this processor to its limits.
If you hadn’t gathered yet, it’s unlocked, otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to get this processor amped up like that.
Unfortunately, the higher 125W TDP means the 10600K needs more power to run. Predictable maybe, but you need to be certain that your PSU and cooler are powerful enough and that you can afford a potential increase in your energy bills.
Where support is concerned, the 10600K works well with dual-channel DDR4-2666 RAM and it has the same integrated graphics specs – Intel UHD 630 GPU. This doesn’t amount to much for gamers since it’ll be your other GPU that counts.
What shouldn’t be overlooked isn’t the fact that Intel’s newer i5 models have Hyper-Threading. This is how the 10600K achieves that higher thread count over the 9600K, and it makes the latest CPU better for balancing many functions at once.
As more and more apps and programs optimize specifically for multi-threading tech, you can expect this capability to become more important.
The codenames of each Intel generation is in reference to the architecture found in that group of processors. This means we need to go deeper into what you can expect from both Coffee Lake (namely Coffee Lake Refresh) and Comet Lake and its differences.
The Coffee Lake series uses an Intel 300 chipset. We’ve already mentioned that you’ll want to make sure your motherboard is compatible with whichever chipset your CPU operates with, whether that’s the 9600K or the 10600K. The new chipsets used identical LGA 1151 sockets as the previous chipsets Intel have used, but only Intel 300 chipsets are compatible.
The Z270 was rebranded to the Z370 for the first Coffee Lake CPUs, though this expanded later with lower-end variants. The Z390 came later on and has since been replaced by the Z490 in Comet Lake processors.
Coffee Lake also brought in the second optimization of Intel’s proprietary 14 nm process, which tends to be called 14 nm++. This meant you got lower current densities along with higher peak power and frequency figures. This came at the cost of idle power, but that wouldn’t be an issue when they’re being used to process videogames.
The Coffee Lake series also features a big update to the cores of Intel CPUs. The core count of Intel’s consumer desktop processors had been static for almost a decade until the 8th Generation in Coffee Lake upped the core count in i5s and i7s from four to six.
The i7s now had six cores with twice as many threads, the i5s had six cores and as many threads, and the i3s had four cores with single threads. The 9th generation upped the ante again by pushing the popular Intel CPUs to have eight cores and sixteen threads.
So, what did the Comet Lake series improve upon? In their most powerful i9 CPUs, we started seeing up to ten cores with twenty threads packed into them. The 10600K, being an i5 processor, still has just the six cores but doubles the threads in them, hitting twelve. The Comet Lake series also offers Hyper-Threading with all but their Celeron models.
As we’ve covered, the chipset was updated, but now the socket was physically distinct from the Coffee Lake CPUs and their compatible motherboards with the release of the LGA 1200 socket. Likewise, they also updated the 14 nm process refinement lithography they’ve been using in previous generations.
This all means that the 10600K outguns the 9600K on threads, improving its power despite having the same number of cores, while the other changes only slightly improve performance.
Clock speed frequency between the two is easy to compare since we have access to both CPUs’ specs, and we’ve arranged them in the table above, so double back if you need an easy comparison chart.
You’ll see that the i5-9600K has a base processor frequency of 3.70GHz with a max turbo frequency of 4.60GHz. As with all clock speeds, this is how fast the CPU can clock while staying at a safe temperature in line with current cooling systems. The 10600k, on the other hand, easily outperforms the 9600K with a base frequency of 4.10GHz and a boosted frequency of 4.8GHz.
The overclocked 9600K can get one over on the 10600K when it’s running at standard but, since overclocking causes the CPU to degrade faster, that isn’t a solid way to guarantee more power. It’s easily manageable with the right cooling system and paced gameplay periods where you overclock, but otherwise, you’d need the 10600K to get more standard clocking frequencies than the 9600K.
As is the case with every generation of Intel processors, the i5 CPUs exist at that perfect intersection of performance and consumer-friendly affordability.
When you can’t quite justify an i7 or i9, and you certainly can’t slum it with an i3, it’s the i5s that everyone rushes towards.
With the 9600K and the 10600K both being i5 processors, it’s the cores and threads that’ll make all the difference.
They both have the same number of cores, that number being six, but you get twice the threads in the 10600K. This is only down to the Hyper-Threading technology they introduced in the generational gap.
We’re sure we don’t need to tell most of you this but, if there are any of you who are new to overclocking, it’ll void the warranty of your CPU. This means you’ll lose certain purchase protections that could otherwise protect you if something beyond your control goes wrong.
Since overclocking is exactly in your control and increases the likelihood of processing complications, you’re on your own.
That makes overclocking sound scary, but it’s a great way to boost game performance. As long as you have a great cooling system and you’re not overclocking too regularly, or for too long, you should be fine.
You won’t even need to overclock for many current games if you have a competent i5 processor or above. Overclocking is intended for when your computer needs some more juice to run a heavier program or game than usual.
Both the 9600K and the 10600K are unlocked, meaning you can overclock them to your specific needs. They’re both powerful in their own right, so I’d test to see if you get a noticeable improvement out of overclocking before committing to it.
With both of these CPUs being relatively modern and still relevant to the performance demands of today’s gaming landscape, you should be able to find both online. In fact, we’ve linked to them above, so check them out if you come to a decision on which one you want.
The 9600K is the most cost-effective of the two. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since it’s the oldest and the 10600K is a direct improvement and rebranding on many of the 9600K’s specs. Their prices may vary depending on when and where you’re getting them but you’re looking at a consistent $100 between them.
In truth, the price of the 9600K and the 10600K was more or less identical on their releases. As time passes, however, the 9600K’s worth depreciates and it becomes the budget-friendly option in comparison to the new PC part on the block. We have no doubt that in a year to two years, the 10600K price will have decreased when a newer generation of Intel processors bursts onto the scene.
With that, you should have all the information you need to decide which is the best. We’d say it hinges on what you think when you hear that word.
If ‘best’ means the one with sheer performance power superiority, the 10600K is your solution. If it means the most powerful processor for your hard-earned cash, we think the 9600K is much more justifiable than the 10600K.
The decision is ultimately yours, especially since it depends on personal judgment, you’re your financial situation. We all know a gamer or two who must have the best specs, practicality be damned, in which case the 10600K is the best on any day ending in Y.
Likewise, there’s always someone who’s gaming on a rig held together by bubblegum and tape, saving money while pushing it to its limits so that the latest games run, and they would want the 9600K to save money.
Our opinion? We think the older your processor, the more you should lean towards the 10600K. Sure, it means replacing the motherboard too, but if you’re a few generations out of date, then you’ll need to update at some point. You’ll want to get the newest parts that are the most future proof when you upgrade so that you’re not upgrading again in a few years.