We recently compared AMD's Ryzen 5 3600 with high-end flagship CPUs like the Core i9-10900K and Ryzen 9 3950X, as well as the Radeon RX 6800 GPU in a variety of games, and found that at 1440p there was little difference in performance, so the budget Ryzen part did very well.
In this article, we'll take a look at Intel's Core i5-10400F, a direct competitor to the Ryzen 3600. The cheaper 10400F variant is essentially the same processor we tested last year, but drops the integrated graphics. Once again it's about seeing how this processor behaves in conjunction with a high-end GPU of the last generation.
As we found in the Ryzen test, the R5 3600 is no longer as cheap as it used to be for those who want to build a new PC in early 2021. The CPU is now 18 months old and was released for $ 200 in mid-2019. Last year we saw it sold for just $ 150, but today it's back to $ 200 and sometimes even a little higher.
Meanwhile, Intel is selling the Core i5-10400F for just $ 166, an interesting role reversal from what we observed months ago. Back then, Intel Z490 motherboards were pretty expensive while decent AMD B450 boards were relatively cheap, making the Ryzen 5 part the better overall deal. In fact, our i5-10400 review said conclusion …
"As for the immediate future, we'd bet the Ryzen 5 3600 will continue to sell for $ 175 or less. Rumors of a reinforced 3600XT are coming soon. In order for Intel to keep up in terms of value, the i5-10400 has to be brought down to ~ $ 150, and of course, upcoming Intel B460 boards have to prove their worth too. Opening the memory overclocking would surely help Intel too. This is something you absolutely must do at this point. "
Basically we said the Intel CPU had to be cheaper and guess what, today it's about 17% cheaper. There's a lot more to this comparison, and we'll discuss all of the pros and cons towards the end of the article. But first, let's see how the 10400F handles the RX 6800 and how that performance compares to the R5 3600 along with the high-end parts like the 10900K.
We'll examine performance in 21 games using 1080p, 1440p, and 4K and 32GB of DDR4-3200 CL14 memory. We are aware that the 10400F will be limited to DDR4-2666 on cheaper B-series boards, but for this comparison we wanted to keep the test hardware as apple-to-apple as possible.
Please note that you need a Z490 motherboard for DDR4-3200 or faster. So far we've seen a performance increase of up to 10% when using DDR4-3200 over 2666 with Intel CPUs, although the performance increase is less on average. With that in mind, let's jump into the benchmark charts …
Starting with Godfall, we find that the 10400F is up to 15% faster than the R5 3600 at 1080p when comparing average frame rate, but only 4% faster when comparing 1% low data.
The margin is slightly reduced at 1440p, here the 10400F was 12% faster and delivered a 10900K-like performance under these more GPU-constrained conditions.
At 4K, we then see consistently identical performance.
Next up we have Watch Dogs: Legion and here the 10400F is roughly on par with the R5 3600 and only 9% slower than the 10900K at 1080p while it could keep up at 1440p and 4K.
In realistic gaming conditions where you would play at 1440p or higher, the 10400F can get the most out of the RX 6800.
The performance in Dirt 5 is similar between 10400F and 3600. Both offer similar performance to the flagship CPUs at 1080p and then identical performance at 1440p and 4K.
The 10400F also delivered a comparable average frame rate in Assassin's Creed Valhalla, although performance had dropped to 1%, but the game still seemed to run smoothly. It's a little worrisome to see that the 1% performance at 1440p drops 13% compared to the Ryzen 5 3600.
The Core i5-10400F did very well in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, delivering comparable performance to the R5 3600. While that meant the 1% low performance on the 10900K was well below that at 1080p, the performance was 1440p compatible.
The 10400F performs well in Cyberpunk 2077, and even at 1080p, it delivers performance close to that of the 10900K, as does the R5 3600.
Still, the 10400F was a bit better at 1080p and 1440p, and while you won't notice the difference, it was faster.
For those looking for maximum performance at 1080p, the 10400F is not enough, although I have to wonder how important the difference between the Core i5 and Ryzen 5 processors is here as we have over 300 fps. At 1440p the power margins are neutralized and the CPU becomes somewhat irrelevant.
Another title where the 10400F lags a bit behind at 1080p, but we're talking about an average of almost 300 fps with a 1% low of almost 200 fps. So I have to ask myself again how important this difference is to most players. At 1440p we see very little difference and no difference at 4K.
At F1 2020, where we hardly notice any performance differences between all four test CPUs, the 10400F reached the 3950X at 1080p, making it only 5% faster than the 3600, but with average frame rates above 200 fps there is little to gain a 5% Boost.
The margins at 1440p are roughly the same and only shrink slightly. At 4K we see identical results as the game is completely limited to the GPU.
The 10400F is similar to the R5 3600 in Horizon Zero Dawn, making it only 6% slower than the 10900K at 1080p and 5% slower at 1440p. For the most part, you are nearing the max of the RX 6800 with the Core i5 processor in this title.
Another example where the 10400F isn't much slower than the 10900K and is comparable to the R5 3600, this time in Red Dead Redemption 2.
If we move on to WWII, we see a slight decrease in performance on the Core i5 processor, even though it was comparable to the R5 3600, which is 10% slower than the 10900K at 1080p.
Resident Evil 3 isn't CPU intensive at all, so performance across all test CPUs is similar. Basically, the 10400F is no slower than the 10900K and can therefore get maximum performance out of the RX 6800.
Doom Eternal isn't particularly CPU-intensive and so the 10400F and 3600 are evenly matched, only 10% at 1080p and 6% at 1440p behind the 10900K.
The Core i5-10400F scales better than the R5 3600 in Death Stranding and offers 18% more performance at 1080p, which is a significant increase in performance. However, this margin is reduced to just 2% at 1440p.
The 10400F also performs significantly better than the R5 3600 in Hitman 2, offering 16% more power at 1080p and up to 14% more power at 1440p when you compare the 1% lower results.
Unexpectedly, the Core i5-10400F drops a bit in War Thunder, and this can even be seen at 1440p, where it was 6% slower than the Ryzen 5 3600, not a terrible result but certainly weaker than expected given many other games already tested .
The 10400F does well in The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt and is just behind the 10900K. It was also 6% faster than the R5 3600 at 1080p, then 4% at 1440p.
The frame rates are similar in PUBG too. The 10400F lags a bit behind at 1080p, especially if you look at the 1% low data, but that difference is made up once we're GPU-locked at 1440p.
Finally we have Gears 5 and here the 10400F is similar to the 10900K at 1080p. Then when we hit 1440p, all four CPUs are performing the same. So it doesn't matter which of these four CPUs you use in Gears 5 with the RX 6800, the performance will be largely the same.
That's all 21 games, and as expected, the Core i5-10400F did well, performing similarly or slightly better than the Ryzen 5 3600. Now let's look at the FPS average to get a better idea of how they have been compared in this wide range of games.
No real surprises, the 10400F and the 3600 are evenly matched and offer roughly the same level of performance with the RX 6800 at 1080p, 1440p and 4K.
Compared to the 10900K they are ~ 9% slower at 1080p and only 4% slower at 1440p, with no real difference at 4K. The low-latency DDR4-3200 dual-rank memory probably helps the 3600 a little more than the 10400F, but in either case they are very close for gaming overall.
What we learned
The Core i5-10400F is a very powerful gaming CPU and an excellent price-performance ratio for a high-end GPU like the Radeon RX 6800.
Since the 10400 and 3600 were so evenly matched when the Core i5 was first tested, we recommended the Ryzen CPU for several reasons. First, the 3600 was a bit cheaper, which wasn't a big deal, but along with savings on cheaper B450 motherboards, the Ryzen 5 package was just more affordable.
The Ryzen 5 3600 on a B450 or newer motherboard also has a strong upgrade path. You're upgrading to an 8, 12, or 16-core Zen 2 processor, but now you can use higher IPC Zen 3 processors that scale up to 16 cores on the same motherboard. The R5 3600 is usually a bit more powerful in applications, which is another plus.
On the flip side, the Core i5-10400F needs a Z490 motherboard for maximum performance as the B and H series boards limit you to DDR4-2666, although realistically this isn't a big deal breaker as gaming performance is for most equal is part. Overclocking is off the table too, unless you have a Z-series motherboard.
The cheapest Z490 motherboard we'd look into is the MSI Z490-A Pro for $ 160. That's not terrible, but you can buy a higher quality B550 motherboard like the MSI B550 Gaming Plus or the Asus TUF Gaming B550-. Plus for around $ 150. The MSI B550M Bazooka is also great value for money at $ 130.
Since the motherboard is up to $ 30 cheaper, you'll pay a similar amount for a Ryzen 5 3600 on a B550 board as you would for the Core i5-10400F on a Z490 motherboard, at least if prices are similar in your region what we see in the US at retailers like Amazon or Newegg.
When you factor in the cost of the motherboard, both options cost roughly the same at the end of the day. You could save more by buying an Intel B460 board and opting for lower clock speed memory. However, on the Ryzen side, you can also do that by purchasing an A520 or cheaper B450 motherboard.
At first we thought the scaled-down Core i5-10400F would be a better buy, but after a full analysis it turns out that it offers the same value as the Ryzen 5 3600 at best.
The 3600 benefits from a superior upgrade path, support for PCIe 4.0, and overclocking B- and X-series motherboards. Ultimately, we think this remains the better choice. We just can't let go of the fact that it is no longer available at an attractive discount (see our price list for more information), but this is the world we live in right now.
Given the current prices, we consider parts like the Core i5-10400F to be a viable alternative. If the availability or pricing of Zen 2 CPUs in your region is even worse, we can always buy the Core i5. I saw that it was a very powerful processor. Unfortunately, while you can easily grab the 10400F, it's nearly impossible to get your hands on an RX 6800 graphics card, let alone one at a reasonable price.
- Intel Core i5-10400F at Amazon
- AMD Ryzen 5 3600 on Amazon
- AMD Radeon RX 6800 on Amazon
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 on Amazon
- Intel Core i5-10600K at Amazon
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 on Amazon
- AMD Ryzen 9 5900X on Amazon
- AMD Ryzen 5 5600X on Amazon