The sweet spot for mid-range, and usually gaming-oriented CPUs can be found around the $175-$200 mark – and the two processors in that price range competing for a place in your new setup are the Intel Core i5-10400 and AMD’s Ryzen 5 3600.
AMD’s Ryzen 3000 series are widely praised for their high-value specifications, and particularly on how well they do in regards to a wide range of applications: from browsing to gaming, and from editing to 3D content creation. But when it comes exclusively to gaming, Intel has always had the edge on AMD, as their i7 and i9 options will trump the equivalent AMD counterparts in gaming benchmarks. The question then becomes: Does the Ryzen 5 3600 have the power to prevail in the PC gaming category and become the best overall CPU for under $200, or will the i5-10400 maintain Intel’s CPU gaming superiority? Let’s find out.
Intel i5-10400 vs Ryzen 5 3600: Specifications
The 10th generation Intel Core i5-10400 comes equipped with the standard 6 cores, found in CPUs of this price range, and this generation around it also comes with hyperthreading capabilities, with double the threads of the previous 9th generation i5 equivalent. This Comet Lake CPU has a lithography of 14 nm, a base operating frequency of 2.9 GHz, and a Max Turbo Frequency of 4.3 GHz – which is also the speed reached via Intel’s 10th generation Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 Frequency (lacking both the 10th generation Thermal Velocity Boost Frequency as well as the Turbo Boost Max 3.0 Technology). Do note that the i5-10400 is locked, meaning that it operates at the above frequencies depending on the load, and cannot be manually overclocked. Another missing feature, usually found in Intel’s 10th generation CPUs, is “TDP down” which allows you to reduce the TDP of the processor while sacrificing some of its base clock speed. That being said, with a TDP of 65 W, the TDP and base clock speeds are low enough, so perhaps it was wiser to leave this feature out. The level 3 cache of this CPU is 12 MB of Intel’s Smart Cache, and the max RAM storage it can support is 128 GB. The supported memory type for this RAM is 2666 MHz of DDR4, with a maximum of two memory channels and a max memory bandwidth of 41.6 GB/s. The motherboard that will host the i5-10400 must support the new LGA1200 chipset, and it must be noted that this CPU is not PCIe 4.0 compatible. The i5-10400 includes an Intel UHG 630 graphics processor with a base frequency of 350 MHz, a Max Dynamic Frequency of 1.1 GHz, and can support 4K resolutions at 60 Hz. The i5-10400F variant lacks this graphical processor, and sells for $25 less. The i5-10400 includes an Intel stock cooler within its $182 price.
If you set aside the lack of an integrated graphics processor, AMD’s Ryzen 5 3600 is superior to the i5-10400 in almost every way, at least in regards to specifications. This Zen2 processor features a TSMC 7 nm FinFET architecture and comes equipped with the equivalent 6 cores and 12 threads found in the aforementioned Intel CPU. The base clock speed is 3.6 GHz, which can be manually overclocked (unlocked) to 4.2 GHz, and it features more than two and a half times the cache of the i5-10400 with its L3 of 32 MB. Similar to the Intel equivalent, the R5 3600 also has a TDP of 65 W, and the memory it can support is 128 GB of DDR4 dual memory channel RAM. However, it can hand RAM speeds of 3200 MHz, and a max memory bandwidth of 47.65 GB/s. Perhaps one of the best features of the R5 3600 is its AM4 chipset, allowing it to be placed into a wide range of compatible motherboards: From a budget B450 motherboard to a higher-end X570 motherboard. The Ryzen 5 3600 currently sells for a $199 price tag, and includes a Wraith Stealth CPU cooler
Intel i5-10400 vs Ryzen 5 3600: Benchmarks
In regards to specifications, it is clear that the Ryzen 5 3600 claims superiority by quite a margin, but how does it perform in regards to real world applications? The only way to find out is to analyze real world benchmarks and see where each CPU model thrives.
Taking a look at average user benchmarks, we see that the i5-10400 is given an advantage of around 3% in regards to effective gaming FPS scores, while the Ryzen 5 3600 excels in most other metrics except for memory latency. However, the 6% overall effective speed advantage given to the i5-10400 seems quite unsubstantiated, especially given the general consensus of Ryzen desktop/workstation superiority. What may be causing this discrepancy is the fact that the overall build each user has when benchmarking their setup is generally unknown. In order to compare more reliable metrics, let’s check benchmarks that measure the processing power of the two CPUs under identical hardware.
For this task, we recommend Gamers Nexus’s comparison between the two processors. Firstly, in regards to desktop and workstation applications, we find that the Ryzen 5 3600 excels in Blender 2.81, Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2020 rendering, and 7-ZIP 1900 x64 compression instructions per second – and it does so both in regards to stock and overclocked speeds with equal hardware configurations.
Moving on to the gaming benchmarks, that are a bit more contested, it is important to mention what is perhaps the most crucial downside of the Intel i5-10400: Its brand LGA1200 chipset. Because of this brand-new chipset, the list of compatible motherboards is still very limited – and this will end up heavily impacting the supported RAM speeds that the i5-10400 can be paired with. Though the Z490 series of motherboards does have models that can support high-end RAM, the lower-end (yet appropriately priced for an i5-10400) B-series and H-series motherboards cannot support equivalent speeds. This is a problem that the Ryzen 5 3600 completely ignores, since it can support 3200 MHz speeds by default, and there is a wide range of fairly cheap motherboards that can run memory at much higher clock speeds. This means that if you want to be able to run a C14 3200 MHz RAM in your Intel i5-10400 based setup, you are required to also purchase a more expensive Z490 motherboard model that may ultimately not be worth the cost.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the gaming benchmarks carried out by Gamers Nexus. Note that these benchmarks are carried out using an RTX 2080 TI, and 32 GBs of 3200 MHz CL 14 RAM – though they also do provide a 2666 MHz CL 15 option for the i5-10400, to show how it fares with an appropriate for its price-range motherboard. For Total War: Three Kingdoms, we see that the i5-10400 leads the R5 3600 at 132 FPS vs 121.5 FPS, though when pairing the i5-10400 with a 2666 MHz CL15 RAM actually trails both with a framerate of 115.1 FPS. For Grand Theft Auto V, we see that i5-10400 once again leads the Ryzen 5 3600 (stock speed) by 0.9 (106.4 vs 105.6) FPS, while the i5-10400 paired with the lesser RAM trails it by 8.5 (97.1) FPS. Finally, for Assassins Creed: Origins, we see the i5-10400 leading the pack with 119.9 FPS, though the R5 3600, when overclocked, trails by only 0.7 (119.2) FPS. However, the i5-10400 with the 2666 MHz RAM trails the R5 3600 by a whopping 19.2 (100) FPS.
So what these benchmarks show us is that though the i5-10400 may hold a very slight advantage against the Ryzen 5 3600 when it comes to gaming, if we take into account the low RAM speeds that may be forced onto an i5-10400 setup due to the more expensive Z490 motherboard requirements, the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 can far surpass the gaming framerates achieved by the i5-10400.
In fact, if we take this limitation into consideration, then a new challenger will appear: The Ryzen 3 3300X. At only $120, this CPU can reach similar (or even superior) framerates to the R5 3600, due to its single CCX which includes all of its 4 cores, 8 threads, and 16MB L3 cache. For a full comparison of the Ryzen 5 3600 and Ryzen 3 3300X, check out our relevant article here.
For gaming, desktop, and workstation applications alike, the Ryzen 5 3600 appears to be the overall superior CPU, especially when taking all factors into account. And while the Ryzen 3 3300X may lag behind the Intel i5-10400 in regards to desktop and workstation applications, it will still reach higher gaming benchmarks due to its superior motherboard and RAM compatibility. Having the ability to overclock your CPU depending on your needs and preferences holds an advantage that simply cannot be ignored. The only case where we can see the i5-10400 being more useful than the equivalent Ryzen CPUs is a home theatre PC (HTPC) where the integrated graphics processor can allow for 4K streaming; but then again, with the upcoming launch of Ryzen 4000 APUs, even that will quickly become obsolete.
All in all, for the comparison between Intel’s i5-10400 and Ryzen 3 or 5 series CPUs, only one letter will suffice to pay respects to Intel’s 10th generation mid-range option: “F”.