Why these two CPUs are the only ones that matter in 2023

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If you’re shopping for a CPU, you might feel tempted by the newer releases, meaning AMD’s Ryzen 7000 and Intel’s Raptor Lake. But you’re often better off going against the current and picking one of the best processors in terms of value for the money instead of overpaying for something you don’t need.

Both Intel and AMD have released plenty of noteworthy CPUs in the past years and months, but two models stand out from the crowd, and you might be surprised to hear that neither belongs to the latest generation — although one of them is as recent as it gets.

Value above all else

Intel Core i5-13600K installed in a motherboard.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Unlike the GPU market, which is often fairly turbulent and sees its fair share of outrageous pricing, the processor arena almost seems calm by comparison.

Where are we at now? Well, Intel has steadily made its way through its Raptor Lake product stack and is reportedly readying for a desktop refresh while working on Meteor Lake for laptops. AMD, on the other hand, could still plug some gaps in its Zen 4 lineup, but instead, it just circled back to Zen 3 in a peculiar way.

While the two rival manufacturers tend to push the newest products and promote them heavily, the last-gen stuff is still readily available and used more often than you’d think. And unless you’re desperate for the best performance a processor can provide, you likely won’t even see much of a difference between these two CPUs and their current-gen counterparts.

It’s easy to be swayed by benchmarks, but real-world performance is harder to measure — can we really spot the difference between 145 frames per second (fps) and 135 fps? I, for one, cannot. If you’re like me, going for value over raw numbers might be the better option for you.

Let’s lift the veil of suspense and introduce you to these two underrated chips that you should consider for your next PC build.

Flying under the radar

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X3D box.
AMD / Micro Center

Cue the drumroll — I’m talking about the Intel Core i5-12400F and the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X3D. The first was released in 2022, and the latter is just over a week old.Both chips have their merits and their flaws, but the one thing that they have in common is that they’re shockingly good values for gamers, but not only gamers.

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X3D Intel Core i5-12400F
Architecture Zen 3 Alder Lake
Process node 7nm Intel 7 (10nm)
Cores/Threads 6/12 6/12
Base clock 3.3GHz 2.5GHz
Boost clock 4.4GHz 4.4GHz
TDP 105W 65W
Price $230 $150

With price tags hovering around the $200 mark (although the 12400F falls well under it), they’re no match for the Core i9-13900K or the Ryzen 9 7950X. but that’s fine — they don’t need to be.

Intel Core i5-12400F

Intel Core i5-12400F box sitting in front of a gaming PC.

If you’re looking for a well-rounded CPU that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, the Core i5-12400F simply makes a lot of sense. It’s a six-core CPU, and although it belongs to the generation of Intel chips that ushered in hybrid architectures, it actually only sports performance cores. You’re still getting six of them, though, and the clock speeds are pretty nice, although the base frequency is lower than that of the 5600X3D.

In gaming tests, the Core i5-12400F does its best and then some. Sure, according to various benchmarks, it’s around 20% to 25% slower than the Core i5-13600K in gaming scenarios and more than 25% slower in multi-threaded benchmarks, but the Core i5-13600K costs over twice as much as the 12400F (

). Say what you will, but that’s a sign of pretty good value for the Alder Lake chip.

Indeed, this CPU only costs

, and you’ve got plenty of solid motherboards for the LGA1700 socket that support DDR4 memory and are inexpensive. It’s a budget pick, sure, but it still nets you impressive levels of performance for a CPU at this price range.

There’s one downside: this is an F model, meaning you’ll still need to buy one of the best graphics cards to pair it with. You could always get the Core i5-12400 with integrated graphics, but high-level gaming becomes a pipe dream at that point. You still, however, get a budget productivity fiend that only consumes 65 watts of power, meaning it’ll keep things cool and stable.

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X3D

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X3D.
A screenshot from mryeester’s review of the 5600X3D. mryeester / YouTube

A Star Wars fan might say that the Ryzen 5 5600X3D was a surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one. That’s right; no one expected AMD to suddenly drop a Zen 3 chip halfway through 2023. However, now that it’s here, we might as well enjoy it while it lasts — and it might not last long, because it’s a limited-edition CPU released as a Micro Center exclusive. If you don’t live near a Micro Center, tough luck — turn back to the Core i5-12400F or explore the more expensive Ryzen 7 5800X3D, which also happens to be one of the fastest processors for gaming.

Now that it’s here, the 5600X3D unlocks AMD’s impressive 3D V-Cache technology at the affordable price of $230. Meanwhile, the previous cheapest option (the 5800X3D) costs around

these days. That’s a far cry from the newly released 5600X3D, but in terms of performance, the two chips are almost uncomfortably close.

In gaming scenarios, the Ryzen 5 5600X3D falls just below the Core i9-13900K in some tests — and that’s a $570 processor. On the whole, it’s around 10% slower than the 5800X3D, but costs $70 less, I’ll take it. Reviewers also found that it effectively dethroned the previous budget king, Intel’s Core i5-13400.

It’s a powerful gaming machine that’s cheap on its own, and seeing as it’s still an AM4 CPU, the entire platform is affordable. On the other hand, upgradeability is nearly nonexistent, unless you choose to swap to a 5800X3D one day.

Compared to the 12400F, the Ryzen 5 5600X3D wins out in gaming, but Intel takes the lead in productivity — no surprise there, as AMD’s 3D V-Cache chips were built for gamers. Various gaming benchmarks pin the Ryzen 5 5600X3D as about 17% to 25% faster than the Core i5-12400F, but you’re looking at na $80 difference between the two chips. Besides, the Core i5-12400F is up for grabs everywhere, while the 5600X3D will require a bit of a hunt for some people.

Let’s redefine ‘best’

Several Ryzen chips next to each other, including the 5 5600X3D.
A screenshot from Gamers Nexus’ review of the Ryzen 5 5600X3D. Gamers Nexus / YouTube

As a PC builder myself, I know I’m guilty of having that (painfully expensive) mindset of “if it’s not topping the charts, it’s not great.” We’re used to looking at PC hardware through the lens of benchmarks, and if a chip gets outperformed by a certain amount, we write it off as rubbish and move on to something better and more expensive. We’re always searching for the so-called best of the best, but sometimes, that’s sitting right under our noses.

The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X3D and the Intel Core i5-12400F aren’t the best CPUs you can buy in terms of raw performance — although the 5600X3D comes pretty close in gaming, but falls behind chips like the Ryzen 7 7800X3D.

Aside from these $400 to $500 competitors, both chips are surrounded by solid options like the Ryzen 5 7600X or the Core i5-13400F. However, you really don’t need to buy these marginally better chips just to get a slight boost. In the case of the 5600X3D, especially, you need to be careful, because this CPU can outperform current-gen offerings with ease, despite its limited core count and dated architecture.

If you’re looking to make reasonable choices when building or upgrading your PC, these are the two chips you need to consider. For at least 80% of all builders, there’s really no need to go beyond them — save your money and put it toward a better graphics card or even a high-quality power supply.

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