Intel’s latest 12th Gen CPUs code-named Alder Lake have been launched setting a new standard for the competition in the industry. Intel had been on the losing side in their rivalry with AMD until this release when they managed to beat the Zen 3 architecture-based processors in performance. Without a doubt, Intel’s 12th generation Alder Lake processors are absolute beasts in gaming performance and can handle huge amounts of workload. Out of these 12th generation CPUs, the Intel Core i5 12600k stands out as a mid-range processor with fewer cores but the same technology. On the other hand, we have 9th generation Coffee Lake Refreshed processors who are also beasts in their own right and have been revered for their gaming capabilities, especially the Intel Core i9-9900k. 

With that said, in this article, we’ll be comparing the new 12th generation Intel Core i5-12600k vs i9-9900k – Intel’s 9th generation CPU. The CPUs differ in a number of key areas in specs such as core count & thread counts and the types of cores. We’ll take a look at the benchmarks on games and applications and comparing with each other to figure out which one is the best processor and is it worth upgrading from the 9th generation to the 12th generation.

Specifications of Intel Core i5-12600k

Specifications of Intel Core i9-9900k

Differences in Specification 

Specifications are a good starting point when comparing two generationally different CPUs. Intel Core i5 12600k and Intel Core i9-9900k are two very different processors as can be observed from the specs sheet. 

Firstly, the core counts of these two processors are quite different. While the Intel Core i5 12600k has a total of 10 cores divided into 6 Performance cores and 4 Efficiency cores, the Intel Core i9-9900k has a total of 8 cores. We’ll get into more detail about Power (P) and Efficiency (E) Cores later. Also, the number of threads of both processors is tied at 16 threads. 

Nextly, the clock speeds are also marginally different in both processors. The Intel Core i5 12600k has an overall Max Turbo Clock of 4.90 GHz on Power cores and 3.60 GHz on Efficiency cores, while the Intel Core i9-9900k’s cores are at 5.00 GHz. On the other hand, the Base Clock is different for both CPUs with the Intel Core i5 12600k at just 3.70 GHz for P Cores and 2.8 GHz for E cores, while the Intel Core i9-9900k has a Base Clock of 3.60 GHz. 

Also, the Intel Core i5 12600k is ahead in the cache memory area with a total of 20 MB Intel® Smart Cache, compared to the Intel Core i9-9900k’s total 16 MB Intel® Smart Cache. Lastly, the TDP is marginally different with Intel Core i5 12600k at a base TDP of 125 W and Intel Core i9-9900k at a base clock of 95 W. It’s worth noting that the TDP will change as you overclock although the Max TDP stated for Intel Core i5 12600k is 150 W.

Overall, the specs of both processors are quite similar. Without benchmarking, we can presume that both of these CPUs are going to give out similar performance with the Intel Core i5 12600k might be ahead in areas including single-core performance thanks to the newer technology implemented in its architecture. But before benchmarking, we should explain what the Alder Lake processors bring new to the table that has allowed them to surpass the competition.

Intel Core i5 12600k Background

The Intel Core i5 12600k is based on the 12th generation processors developed by Intel code-named Alder Lake. It was released last summer in 2021. The Intel Core i5 12600k is the midrange processor released for the 12th generation so we can enjoy the new technology on a smaller budget. Intel’s Alder Lake Processors are the highest performance delivering processors in the market as of writing. These processors deliver extremely fast processing speeds and are built for enthusiast consumers. There are a number of factors where Intel has made revolutionary improvements to bring out the absolute best performance in these CPUs. Let’s take a look at them below.

The most defining feature of the Alder Lake processors is how Intel has divided its total number of cores into two types. Intel has borrowed the idea of P and E Cores from mobile architectures but this is the first time they’ve been implemented in desktop processors. Using P and E cores removes the limitedness of stacking all power heavy cores inside a single chip which puts unnecessary compatibility issues and load on the CPU. There are a number of differences between P and E cores. But mainly, the Power cores are larger, performance heavy, and are mainly used for single-threaded tasks while the Efficiency cores are smaller, low performance, and optimized for multi-threaded performance. Intel Core i5 12600k utilizes its 10nm process and hybrid technology for the best performance output different from the previous generation which used the 14nm process. That said, the processing speed of the 12th generation Alder Lake CPUs is unparalleled in the gaming market as of now. 

Intel Core i9-9900k Background

The Intel Core i9-9900k code-named Coffee Lake Refreshed was released in late 2018 and became a very popular processor with regard to gaming and application-based performance. It was an improvement overall from the last generation of processors because of its higher core and thread counts. The rest was pretty much the same as there weren’t any groundbreaking improvements in the architecture. For a while, it was the best Intel had to offer to the gaming community. It was up against AMD’s Zen 2 and Zen 2+ architectures and managed to keep the Intel ahead for the most part. 

The Intel Core i9-9900k weirdly does not include the hyperthreading feature but still performs better than the 8th generation thanks to its higher core and thread count. Apart from this, there aren’t any big differences between 8th and 9th gen Intel processors. Regarding the price, the Intel Core i9-9900k was much higher priced than its AMD competitors during its launch and also more than Intel’s own 9th generation processors as it was the best flagship processor for the 9th gen. It makes sense then as to why we would compare two CPUs that are so far apart in a generation. This is because there are almost no groundbreaking improvements between Intel’s CPU architectures until the release of Alder Lake processors.  

i5-12600k vs i9-9900k Gaming Benchmarks

Benchmarking in games is the most accurate way of finding the best out of two CPUs so for the tests, we’ll be using YT/Testing Games’ benchmarks to compare the two processors across a wide spectrum of games. The specs of the test build used in the benchmarks are given below. 

Test PC

  • CPU: Core i5 12600K  / Intel i9-9900K 5.2GHz  
  • Motherboard: MSI MPG Z690 Force / Asus ROG Strix Z390-F Gaming 
  • RAM: 32Gb RAM DDR5 5200Mhz / 32Gb RAM DDR4 3600Mhz 
  • Cooler: MSI MAG CORELIQUID C360 
  • GPU: GeForce RTX 3080 10GB 
  • SSD: 2xSAMSUNG 970 EVO M.2 2280 1TB
  • Power Supply: CORSAIR RM850i 850W 

Hitman 3

Hitman 3 was benchmarked with the game’s benchmarking tool with the highest possible settings at 1080p resolution.

i5-12600k vs i9 9900k in Hitman 3
YT/Testing Games: Hitman 3 Benchmarks :

Although less demanding than previous titles in the series, Hitman 3 is still a CPU-intensive game with its large crowds and complex AI. From this benchmark, we can observe that the Intel Core i5 12600k was performing 16% better with an average of 157 FPS compared to the Intel Core i9-9900k which was reaching 134 FPS on average. The lowest 1% FPS drops are also in favor of the Intel Core i5 12600k. Along with that, the Intel Core i9-9900k consumed 51% of resources reaching a temperature of 51°C. On the other hand, the Intel Core i5 12600k was utilizing 43% CPU resources to reach a temperature of 55°C. This means that the Intel Core i5 12600k was warmer than the Intel Core i9-9900k while consuming fewer resources. 

Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 was tested on 1080p resolution with High settings.

i5-12600k vs i9 9900k in Cyberpunk 2077
YT/Testing Games: Cyberpunk 2077 Benchmarks

Any benchmarking comparison is incomplete without the Cyberpunk 2077 benchmark. Cyberpunk 2077 is a CPU-and-GPU-intensive game that requires powerful processing. The Cyberpunk 2077 benchmark showed a smaller difference between the Intel Core i5-12600k vs Intel Core i9-9900k compared to the previous Hitman 3 test. The Intel Core i5 12600k was outputting a 6% higher average FPS over the Intel Core i9-9900k. At 69% CPU usage, the Intel Core i9-9900k reached a temperature of 54°C  while outputting 132 Average FPS. On the other hand, the Intel Core i5 12600k was using 71% more resources while reaching 59°C temperature and giving out an average of 140 FPS. This time the Intel Core i9-9900k used a smaller portion of resources to reach higher temperatures. Lastly, the Intel Core i5 i5 12600k also beat the Intel Core i9-9900k in the 1% low FPS drops. 

Battlefield V

The Battlefield V was tested on 1080p resolution with high settings. The Battlefield V test also showed very similar results to the previous Cyberpunk 2077 benchmark. 

i5-12600k vs i9 9900k in Battlefield V
YT/Testing Games: Battlefield V Benchmarks

Battlefield V is a fairly CPU-intensive game although not very much compared to others in this comparison. The Battlefield V test showed A 5% increase in average FPS from the Intel Core i5 12600k over the Intel Core i9-9900k. This difference is very little as the game is more GPU intensive. On average the Intel Core i9-9900k was outputting 211 FPS compared to the 222 FPS of the Intel Core i5 12600k. The Intel Core i9-9900k was also beat in the area of 1% low FPS drops by the Intel Core i5 12600k. Regarding usage and temperatures, the Intel Core i9-9900k was using 58% CPU resources with temperatures reaching up to 56°C whereas the Intel Core i5 12600k was using 62% resources to reach 62°C temperature. As can be observed, the difference in average FPS between the two CPUs was very little just like the Cyberpunk 2077 comparison. 

Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5 was tested on high settings at 1080p resolution. It is one of the best-rated racing games out there. 

i5-12600k vs i9 9900k in Forza Horizon 5
YT/Testing Games: Forza Horizon 5 Benchmarks

Forza Horizon 5 isn’t very CPU intensive but relies more on the power of the GPU. The Forza Horizon 5 benchmark showed that the Intel Core i5 12600k was 9% faster than the Intel Core i9-9900k. The Intel Core i9-9900k was using 37% CPU resources and reached a temperature of 48°C temperature while outputting an average of 154 FPS as opposed to the Intel Core i9-9900k which was using 33% resources to reach a temperature of 52°C while outputting 164 FPS on average. Like previous benchmarks, the 1% Lows were also in favor of the Intel Core i5 12600k. Overall, there was little difference between Intel Core i5-12600k vs i9 9900k like the previous benchmark due to low CPU requirements.

Mafia Definitive Edition

Mafia was tested on the same 1080p high settings as all the other games we tested. As it just so happens, the results aren’t very far off either.

i5-12600k vs i9 9900k in Mafia: Definitive Edition
YT/Testing Games: Mafia Definitive Edition Benchmarks

Mafia Definitive Edition was a remake of the classic game and was received quite fondly by the general gaming community. The game isn’t very CPU intensive as can be seen from the usage in the graph. The Intel Core i5 12600k was faster than the Intel Core i9 9900k still but by a very small margin of just 4% increased average FPS. At 32% CPU usage, the Intel Core i9 9900k was reaching a temperature of 51°C and outputting 157 FPS on average. Similarly, the Intel Core i5 12600k was reaching a temperature of 57°C when using 33% resources and outputting 163 average FPS. Just like the previous comparisons, the Intel Core i5 12600k was also better at 1% low FPS drops which were mostly higher than the Intel Core i9 9900k.  

Death Stranding

Death Stranding was tested on high settings and on 1080p resolution. It was also the most CPU-intensive game on this list.

i5-12600k vs i9 9900k in Death Stranding
YT/Testing Games: Death Stranding Benchmarks

Death Stranding is a really nice-looking game that requires a powerful CPU and GPU for smooth gaming. On average, the Intel Core i5 12600k was ahead by 7% in FPS over the Intel Core i9 9900k in the benchmark. While reaching a temperature of 54°C, the Intel Core i9 9900k was consuming 84% CPU resources and outputting 156 average FPS as compared to the Intel Core i5 12600k which was using up to 75% resources and reaching 57°C of average temperature. Similarly, the Intel Core i5 12600k was also ahead in the 1% Low FPS with a higher average FPS. Also like previous benchmarks, the differences in performance were way too little. 

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator was on the same 1920 x 1080 resolution with the maximum settings possible. 

i5-12600k vs i9-9900k In Microsoft Flight Simulator
YT/Testing Games: Microsoft Flight Simulator Benchmarks

MS Flight Simulator is far less CPU dependent than other games on this list. On average, the Intel Core i5 12600k was just 2% faster than the Intel Core i9 9900k at maximum. The Intel Core i9 9900k actually surpassed the Intel Core i5 12600k in FPS counts a few times during the test and was mostly ahead in 1% Low FPS drops. While Intel Core i5 12600k was pushing out 108 FPS while using 20% CPU resources and reaching 49°C temperature, the Intel Core i9 9900k was using 24% CPU resources and reaching 48°C temperature to output 106 FPS. Overall, the Intel Core i5 12600k was just a touch ahead of the Intel Core i9 9900k in gaming but otherwise, the performances were nearly identical. 

The Witcher 3

The game we’re testing last on this list is The Witcher 3, which was tested on the same 1080p resolution and ultra settings.

i5 12600k vs i9 9900k
YT/Testing Games: The Witcher 3 Benchmarks

Witcher 3 is a very popular game and is widely regarded as one of the best open-world RPG games out there. It’s a fairly GPU-intensive game but can also get CPU intensive in crowded areas where large processing is required for AI. From the benchmarks, we can observe an average 5% increase in FPS from the Intel Core i5 12600k over the Intel Core i9 9900k. At a specific point, the Intel Core i9 9900k was using 34% CPU resources and reaching 49°C while pushing out 177 FPS whereas the Intel Core i5 12600k was using the same 34% CPU resources while reaching a temperature of 57°C and outputting 182 FPS. For the 1% lows, the Intel Core i5 12600k was ahead by a small margin like a trend in these tests. In the end, the difference in performance was also quite small between both processors. 

i9-9900k vs i5-12600k Application Benchmarks

A separate set of test components were used for the application benchmarks in the Intel Core i5 12600k vs Intel Core i9 9900k test. All graphs were obtained from CPU-Monkey. We’ll be taking a look over how the Intel Core i5 12600k compares to the Intel Core i9 9900k in rendering and editing workloads. We’ll be testing how long it takes for each processor to complete a task in the applications and then comparing which one was faster based on how well they score. All the tests here were done without overclocking. 

Cinebench R23

i5-12600k vs i9 9900k in Cinebench R23 (Single-Core)
i5-12600k vs i9 9900k: Cinebench R23 (Single-Core)

We’ll be starting off this comparison with the Cinebench R23 Benchmark. Cinebench R23 is one of the best and most accurate CPU and GPU benchmarking tools. The Intel Core i5-12600k and i9 9900k were tested on the Cinebench R23 for the rendering process. For single-core performance, we can observe that the Intel Core i5 12600k was performing 33% faster than the Intel Core i9 9900k which was a huge boost in performance. The Intel Core i5 12600k scored 1918 in the single-core test compared to the Intel Core i9 9900k which scored 1284.

i5-12600k vs i9 9900k in Cinebench R23 (Multi-Core)
i5-12600k vs i9 9900k: Cinebench R23 (Multi-Core)

Similarly, the Intel Core i5 12600k was also 30% faster in the multicore test compared with the Intel Core i9 9900k which was also an amazing improvement thanks to the new architecture. The Intel Core i5 12600k was scoring 17660 in the multi-core test compared to the 12450 cores of the i9 9900k.  It is also worth noting that the Cinebench R23 benchmark utilizes all cores and hyperthreading features which Intel decided to move away from in the 9th generation Coffee Lake Refreshed processors. This may also be the cause of such huge gains in performance.

Cinebench R20

i5-12600k vs i9 9900k in Cinebench R20 (Single-Core)
i5-12600k vs i9 9900k: Cinebench R20 (Single-Core)

Cinebench R20 was also used for the benchmarking of these two CPUs as it’s still a fairly popular choice for comparing CPU performance. Although there weren’t any huge differences between the Cinebench R23 test and the Cinbench R20 test. Cinebench R20 was also tested by rendering a 3D scene. Firstly, the Intel Core i5 12600k was performing 30% better than the Intel Core i9 9900k on single-core performance. The Intel Core i5 12600k was scoring 741 compared to the Intel Core i9 9900k which was reaching a score of 518. 

i5-12600k vs i9 9900k in Cinebench R20 (Multi-Core)
i5-12600k vs i9 9900k: Cinebench R20 (Multi-Core)

For multi-core performance, the Intel Core i5 12600k was 25% faster than the Intel Core i9 9900k and the Intel Core i5 12600k was scoring 6702 compared with the 4995 scores of the Intel Core i9 9900k. The smaller difference compared to the single-core performance is due to the higher overall Power core count of the Intel Core i9 9900k. Like the Cinebench R23 test, this one also has hyperthreading impacting the difference in performance.  

Cinebench R15

i5-12600k vs i9 9900k in Cinebench R15 (Single-Core)
i5-12600k vs i9 9900k: Cinebench R15 (Single-Core)

Cinebench R15 was the original most popular CPU benchmarking tool because of its high accuracy which is also based on the Cinema 4 set and used for 3D rendering. We’re using it again for the same reasons we did the R20 test. According to the Cinebench R15, the Intel Core i5 12600k was overall faster in performance by smaller margins, unlike the previous Cinebench tests. For single-core performance, the Intel Core i5 12600k was 20% faster than the Intel Core i9 9900k. The Intel Core i5 12600k was scoring 274 points as compared to the Intel Core i9 9900k which scored 219.

i5-12600k vs i9 9900k in Cinebench R15 (Multi-Core)
i5-12600k vs i9 9900k: Cinebench R15 (Multi-Core)

Next up, the multi-core test showed a similar 14% difference in favor of the Intel Core i5 12600k compared with the Intel Core i9 9900k. The Intel Core i5 12600k scored 2596 points for the multi-core test and the Intel Core i9 9900k scored 2245 points. Like previous Cinebench tests, the Cinebench R15 test also showed similar results with the Intel Core i5 12600k being ahead by fairly large margins although the differences were smaller compared to the previous tests.

Geekbench 5

i5-12600k vs i9 9900k in Geekbench 5, 64bit (Single-Core)
i5-12600k vs i9 9900k: Geekbench 5, 64bit (Single-Core)

Geekbench 5 is widely used across different CPUs for testing their capabilities and comparing results. For the Intel Core i5-12600k vs i9 9900k comparison, Geekbench 5 was used for benchmarking individual scores of both processors and then comparing afterward. For the single-core test, the Intel Core i5 12600k was 28% faster than the Intel Core i9 9900k which is a nice boost from the previous generation. The Intel Core i5 12600k was scoring 1854 compared with the i9 9900k which scored 1342.

i5-12600k vs i9 9900k in Geekbench 5, 64bit (Multi-Core)
i5-12600k vs i9 9900k: Geekbench 5, 64bit (Multi-Core)

Also, the Intel Core i5 12600k was also 26% faster in multi-core performance compared to the Intel Core i9 9900k. The Intel Core i5 12600k scored 11912 compared with the 8779 scores of the Intel Core i9 9900k. Geekbench 5 is a more memory-driven test less dependent on core counts and hyperthreading that’s why the difference wasn’t huge because the two processors have similar base clock speeds. Overall, the Intel Core i5 12600k had huge gains over the Intel Core i9 9900k in the Geekbench 5 test. 

V-Ray

i5-12600k vs i9 9900k in V-Ray CPU-Render Benchmark
i5-12600k vs i9 9900k: V-Ray CPU-Render Benchmark

V-Ray is used widely for testing the processing speeds of CPUs because of its huge rendering and converting workloads. It is mainly software made for artists and creators developed by Chaos. The V-Ray benchmark also relies on the type of memory a lot so the highest-performing RAM was used for both CPUs based on the compatibility. V-Ray Benchmark saw big margins of improvement in favor of the Intel Core i5 12600k being 22% ahead of the Intel Core i9 9900k. V-Ray test could only be done in multi-core performance as it’s not an official benchmarking tool. Overall, in the multi-core tests at least, the V-Ray Benchmark was seeing excellent improvements from the Intel Core i5 12600k. The Intel Core i5 12600k was scoring 11742 whereas the Intel Core i9 9900k reached a score of 9155.

iGPU

i5-12600k vs i9 9900k in iGPU - FP32 Performance (Single-precision GFLOPS)
i5-12600k vs i9 9900k: iGPU – FP32 Performance (Single-precision GFLOPS)

iGPU software was used for the integrated graphics benchmark. iGPU tells us about the capabilities of the integrated graphics of CPUs. For the test, the Intel Core i5 12600k’s Intel UHD Graphics 770 was compared against the Intel Core i9 9900k’s Intel UHD 630. The generational improvement should also be included in the integrated graphics and that’s what we’re going to see. The Single-precision GFLOPS test shows that the Intel Core i5 12600k’s UHD 630 scored 38% faster than the Intel Core i9 9900k’s UHD 770. The UHD 770 scored 742 against the UHD which had a score of 461. This means the Alder Lake integrated graphics are also much more powerful compared to 9th generation Coffee Lake Refreshed CPUs. 

Blender 3.1 

i5-12600k vs i9 9900k in Blender 3.1 Benchmark
i5-12600k vs i9 9900k: Blender 3.1 Benchmark

Blender is a free and open-source program for 3D rendering and designing. Blender 3.1 was released very recently in March 2022. The Blender benchmark was done by rendering some 3D scenes and noting down the time it took for each processor to complete the task. Blender test saw huge improvements in the favor of the Intel Core i5 12600k. From what we can observe, the Intel Core i5 12600k was 31% faster than the Intel Core i9 9900k in performing all tasks at base clocks. The Intel Core i5 12600k reached a score of 249 compared to the Intel Core i9 9900k which reached a score of 171.  

Which One Is Better?

Overall, the Intel Core i5-12600k vs i9 9900k was a fun match up and it came close in the gaming benchmarks but the application tests showed the true capabilities of the newer 12th generation Intel CPUs. The Intel Core i9 9900k vs Intel Core i5 12600k were almost identical in performance in the gaming benchmarks. This means that if you plan to upgrade from the Intel Core i9 9900k to the Intel Core i5 12600k,  you won’t find any large margins of improvement if gaming is the main reason you want to upgrade. Secondly, the Intel Core i5 12600k completely outclassed the Intel Core i9 9900k in the application benchmarks with an average of 30% overall faster processing and rendering speeds. 

Talking strictly about gaming, the Intel Core i5-12600k vs i9 9900k gaming benchmarks showed very small margins of difference at 1080p resolution and high settings. It is also worth noting that the difference in average FPS would only decrease the further you go up the resolutions. This means that if you play on 1440p or 4K resolutions, there will be virtually no difference in performance between these two CPUs for gaming. In actuality, the Intel Core i5-12600k vs i9 9900k gamings tests only saw a small 8% average increased FPS from the Intel Core i5 12600k. These were quite similar results that’s why it is recommended not to upgrade from the Intel Core i9 9900k to Intel Core i5 12600k if you game at high resolutions as there aren’t any significant changes and increments in FPS.

Nextly, the Intel Core i5-12600k vs i9 9900k application tests are where we really see the 12th generation Alder Lake Intel Core i5 12600k outshine its predecessor 9th generation Coffee Lake Refreshed Intel Core i9 9900k in performance. On average, there was a 27% faster processing and task completion rate offered by the Intel Core i5 12600k compared to the Intel Core i9 9900k. The differences between the two processors were huge and in the favor of the Intel Core i5 12600k. Alongside this, the Intel Core i5 12600k also has a better integrated graphical processing unit in the UHD 770 compared to the Intel Core i9 9900k’s UHD 630. So if you’re planning to upgrade from the Intel Core i9 9900k to the Intel Core i5-12600k for rendering and heavy workloads that should be done in a short time, the Intel Core i5 12600k has a much higher chance of doing them quicker.  

To wrap it up, the Intel Core i5 12600k was faster than the Intel Core i9 9900k in both gaming and application benchmarks. Faster in application-based processing, less in gaming performance. It depends on your preference but for gaming, a mere 5% increase isn’t worth spending so much more money on buying a new CPU. For applications, it’s great but it doesn’t feel the same when you’re not getting the most of both worlds so we recommend you don’t upgrade from Intel Core i9 9900k to Intel Core i5 12600k just yet and wait for the 13th generation Raptor Lake processors which have a much higher chance of providing the best in gaming too. 

Abdemanaf has been a creative writer since 2011. He first dwelled in the tech world in early 2015 and has since compared many product offerings by different companies. Abdemanaf started working for Tech4Gamers in February 2022 as a blog and comparison writer.