Top i5 CPU for Gaming (2020)

We reviewed over 15 Intel processors and, in the end, we selected the Intel Core i5-6600K as the best i5 CPU for gaming when it comes to overall speed and overclock features (see more below).

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Top Pick
Intel Core i5 6600K 3.50 GHz Quad Core Skylake Desktop Processor, Socket LGA 1151, 6MB Cache (BX80662I56600K)
Intel Core i5-9400F Desktop Processor 6 Cores 4.1 GHz Turbo Without Graphics
Intel Core i5-8600K Desktop Processor 6 Cores up to 4.3 GHz Unlocked LGA 1151 300 Series 95W
Intel Core i5-9600K Desktop Processor 6 Cores up to 4.6 GHz Turbo unlocked LGA1151 300 Series 95W
Intel Core i5 6500 3.20 GHz Quad Core Skylake Desktop Processor, Socket LGA 1151, 6MB Cache
Title
Intel Core i5-6600K
Intel Core i5-9400F
Intel Core i5-8600K
Intel Core i5-9600K
Intel Core i5-6500
Clock Speed
3.5 GHz
2.9 GHz
4.3 GHz
4.6 GHz
3.6 GHz
Core Count
4
6
6
6
4
Top Pick
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Intel Core i5 6600K 3.50 GHz Quad Core Skylake Desktop Processor, Socket LGA 1151, 6MB Cache (BX80662I56600K)
Title
Intel Core i5-6600K
Clock Speed
3.5 GHz
Core Count
4
Image
Intel Core i5-9400F Desktop Processor 6 Cores 4.1 GHz Turbo Without Graphics
Title
Intel Core i5-9400F
Clock Speed
2.9 GHz
Core Count
6
Image
Intel Core i5-8600K Desktop Processor 6 Cores up to 4.3 GHz Unlocked LGA 1151 300 Series 95W
Title
Intel Core i5-8600K
Clock Speed
4.3 GHz
Core Count
6
Image
Intel Core i5-9600K Desktop Processor 6 Cores up to 4.6 GHz Turbo unlocked LGA1151 300 Series 95W
Title
Intel Core i5-9600K
Clock Speed
4.6 GHz
Core Count
6
Image
Intel Core i5 6500 3.20 GHz Quad Core Skylake Desktop Processor, Socket LGA 1151, 6MB Cache
Title
Intel Core i5-6500
Clock Speed
3.6 GHz
Core Count
4

Best i5 CPU for Gaming

The Intel Core i5 6600K is a bundle of everything you could ever want out of the best i5 CPU for gaming: great price for great clock speeds. It even allows you to overclock, which makes this at the top of our list.

Pros:
  • Lets you overclock
  • Overall good clock speed
  • Affordable mid-range gaming
Cons:
  • Only 4 cores
  • AMD Ryzen 2600 still performs better
  • Overclocking not as consistent as Ryzen

The Intel Core i5 6600K is one of the simplest i5 CPUs ever made due to its cost-efficient features and an overall affordable price. Ever since the emergence of the AMD Ryzen, Intel made the price more competitive to directly go up against AMD’s more affordable processors. In turn, i5 CPUs for gaming these days are easily within your grasp thanks to their drastic price drop minus the compromisation of its tried and tested performance. The 6600K may only have 4 cores but it can certainly overclock if you know how to tune it properly. If you need the best example of what a good i5 processor should be, get the 6600K.

Best Value Intel CPU for Gaming

We always keep the Intel Core i5-9400F on our list due to the processor being so easily digestible especially for PC gaming newcomers. It works as an excellent entry-level mid-range gaming and without any further complications. Just attach this to your PC and everything should be running smoothly in no time.

Pros:
  • Very affordable
  • Smooth performance on a budget
  • Cooler included
Cons:
  • No overclocking
  • Limited to 6 cores
  • Only slightly faster than i5-8400F

The Intel Core i5-9400F is the successor of the widely-used i5-8400F. For the most part, the 9400F serves as an excellent plug-and-play type of CPU that comes at a generously small price. If you need a good mid-range gaming process, this ought to do it. After all, the 6 cores it carries should work properly on modern game titles of today. Just do not expect this to run at a steady pace if you are planning to stream your game. In fact, we highly advise that you do not ever use this for streaming. If your only reason for building a PC is for gaming and nothing else, then this is affordable enough within your budget.

Best 8th Gen i5 CPU for Gaming

If there is a resolve of what makes the best 8th Gen Intel i5 CPU, it is the Intel Core i5-8600K. A lot of gamers praise it for its affordability and resource-friendly consumption. When you need a good all-around i5 processor, this should be your prime choice.

Pros:
  • Decent 6 cores
  • Best for mid-end gaming
  • Smooth at 1080p or even more
Cons:
  • Inconsistent overclocking
  • No multi-threading
  • Significantly more expensive than 6600K

Even to this day, the Intel Core i5-8600K holds up as a great choice for mid-range gaming. Sure, it is not as cheap as the 6600K but it definitely lives up to anybody’s expectations regarding overall performance and benchmarking on modern games. It includes 6 cores to maintain cool temperatures and sufficient processing power when multitasking and the package includes a cooler too. The only reason why we could not put this over the 6600K is that – while it allows you to overclock – the total clock speed tends to be inconsistent, leading to some fuzzy performance. But still, it makes a great CPU – especially if you want to buy one that is more powerful than the 6600K.

Best i5 CPU for Overclocked Gaming

The i5-9600K is quite possibly the cheapest mid-range 9th gen release that Intel ever released. Right from the start, it can speed boost up to 4.2 GHz; making this a must-buy for mid-range PC gamers – especially those that prefer overclocking.

Pros:
  • Affordable
  • Good overclock performance
  • Overall consistent performance
Cons:
  • Just a bit better than 6600K
  • Only 6 cores
  • No extra threads

If overclocking is your main forte in an Intel i5 CPU, then the Intel Core i5-9600K should be your priority option. IT has a sweet and consistent overclocking speed that performs at safe temperatures, making mid-range gaming feel much faster than your average casual gamer. That said, this i5 CPU is arguably a good choice especially for when you are the competitive gamer type, be it MOBA, shooters or RTS. Nevertheless, the 9600K is your best mate in maintaining good speeds under 6 cores.

Best i5 CPU for Low-End Gaming

While it does not flaunt the same performance and high definition experience of the 6600K, the Intel Core i5 6500 is a good choice if you are in a desperate need to play your desired current games in at least the minimum settings. It is no fuss nor does it hold anything extra other than the fundamentals.

Pros:
  • User-friendly for budget gaming
  • Best for low-end PC
  • Very affordable
Cons:
  • Only 4 cores
  • No overclocking
  • Long loading times

The Intel Core i5 6500 makes a great pick when you are in a tight budget yet you plan on playing today’s top games at just the minimum settings. That said, it performs just right. However, the main drawback here is that loading times are not too speedy. You could go better off with an i7 7700 for a slightly higher price but at least the latter has much shorter load times. So, why get this? Easily enough, it is because it is downright affordable and durable. It holds up to modern games – be it as aesthetically pleasing as Monster Hunter World: Iceborne or well-performing on fast-paced games like League of Legends or CSGO. Whatever your pick may be, the Intel Core i5 6500 is enough to get you playing at just the right numbers.

What We Would Buy

The Intel i5 series still holds up to the modern times and we are happy to know that the i5 chips currently available are at their cheapest in the market. As such, any choice you pick in this list is labeled as the best i5 CPU for gaming. But if you need our personal recommendation, we’d go for the i5-6600K for its total performance and good overclocking speeds. The Intel Core i5-9400F is also a good choice for when you still want to play on a mid-end rig but without overclocking and spending too much. The Intel Core i5-8600K – while it surpasses many things over the 6600K – has some hiccups but it still lives up and play games at medium settings at smooth rates. The Intel Core i5-9600K is the most expensive in the list yet it performs at superior speeds, marking this as one of the best i5 CPUs to ever exist. But, if you want the best low-end i5 that intel has to offer, it is the Intel Core i5-6500 that you want.

Editor & reviewer of gear from iOS control pad’s to high-end PC gaming hardware. He’s been gaming since the 1980s and mostly plays CS GO & Overwatch.