Intel's Core i5 8400 is THE gaming Coffee Lake, ignore those K-series' 5GHz+ OC numbers

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The Intel Coffee Lake CPUs have launched, unleashing six core mainstream chips with all of the 14nm processing goodness Intel can bring to bear against AMD’s finest. But while the K-series Core i7 8700K might be grabbing all the headlines, with its Ryzen-beating multi-threaded performance and 5.2GHz overclocking chops, it’s the Core i5 8400 which is really the best CPU for gamers.

And that means we’ve got a new winner at the top of our list of the best CPU for gaming...

It’s normal for the Core i5 chips in a new generation to be the ones we end up recommending for gamers - historically, the HyperThreading tech only offers a little extra gaming performance with the Core i7 - but this is the first time I’ve recommended ditching the K-series processors in their entirety.

The Core i5 8400 is also one of the few Coffee Lake chips you can actually buy right now, thankfully it's also the best one for purestrain gamers. It's also an absolute bargain, and the cheapest hexcore around at just $187 (£172). Shame there are no bargain motherboard chipsets around yet...

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Intel Core i5 8400 specs

Intel Core i5 8400 specs

The Core i5 8400 is still a six-core CPU, but without HyperThreading it remains stuck at six threads of processing power. It’s also been saddled with a relatively low 2.8GHz base clockspeed, but is capable of hitting a maximum Turbo speed of 4GHz. That is, however, only on a single core, with the chip generally sticking to a 3.8GHz frequency during standard usage.

That would seem to make it very much the poor cousin to the Core i5 8600K. That’s still a resolutely six-core chip, but with an all-core Turbo of 4.3GHz (or 4.6GHz if you go for a belligerent Asus board that flouts Intel’s Turbo ratings), and is capable of overclocking to a massive 5.1GHz without much effort at all.

But the i5 8400 has still got the same 9MB of L3 cache, a lower-rated TDP of 65W - versus the K-series’ 95W TDP - and honestly performs like an absolute hero.

We’ve previously gone into depth on the Coffee Lake architecture, but suffice to say, it’s more or less the same 14nm design we’ve seen in Skylake and Kaby Lake, the 6th and 7th Gen, architectures.

This time, however, there is no option for backwards compatibility. The new Coffee Lake chips, such as this ‘ere Core i5, will only function within the confines of a 300-series chipset. And, until next year, your only option on that front is the high-end Z370 chipset. The H370 and B360 motherboards won’t be here for a while. That does take some of the shine out of this relatively budget-oriented hex-core CPU, as the expensive Z370 feature set isn’t really necessary with the 8400 and it’s locked down multipliers.

Intel Core i5 8400 benchmarks

Intel Core i5 8400 benchmarks

 

Intel Core i5 8400 performance

Intel Core i5 8400 performance

Back in the dark old Kaby Lake days of early 2017 there was only a modicum of gaming performance difference between the K-series Core i5 7600K and the Core i7 7700K. It was a no-brainer, then, for us to recommend gamers eschew the more expensive HyperThreaded chip in favour of the Core i5.

There was a non-K Core i5 - the i5 7400 - which had essentially the same core configuration, but with a slightly lower clockspeed. Sound familiar? But it was generally well off the pace of the 7600K in our gaming benchmarks so we largely ignored it. That was why I was less excited about the prospect of the Core i5 8400, despite its extra couple Coffee Lake cores. After all, if you wanted to save a few quid, and bag a hexcore chip regardless of its gaming performance, then AMD had you covered with the Ryzen 5 1600.

With the new Coffee Lake processors, however, there is zero difference in gaming performance between either of the Core i5s and the top-spec Core i7. And that remains the case whether you’re running the chips at stock speeds or hitting 5GHz+ with the K-series CPUs. The performance of the 8400 is genuinely pretty stunning for a processor that’s supposed to cost less than AMD’s cheapest six-core Ryzen 5. Then there’s the fact that it’s capable of delivering gaming frame rates that are higher than either the i7 7700K and i7 7800K.

Outside of the realm of gaming things are obviously different. The higher frequency of the overclocked i5 8600K, and the extra thread-count of the R5 1600 and 1600X, mean that they’re far better choices for anything that demands serious multi-threaded CPU performance. 

Intel Core i5 8400 verdict

Intel Core i5 8400 verdict

Forget all the headline-grabbing overclocking figures, this is the Coffee Lake chip for gamers. Sure, the tantalising prospect of having your K-series i5 running at a heady 5.1GHz, without melting through the layered PCB of your motherboard, is like a siren call to us PC people, but if it’s not delivering anything tangible for games that hardly matters.

We’re going to see a whole lot of gaming machines built around the Core i5 8400 in the coming year, and rightly so. It’s a seriously powerful little gaming chip for the money, and it’s definitely grabbed my attention.

As I said earlier, if you need high-performance CPU power for $250 or less, then the K-series Coffee Lake and the six-core, 12-thread AMD Ryzen 1600, or 1600X, will be great shouts. But, for us gamers, it’s all about the Core i5 8400. It's an incredibly good value chip delivering unprecedented gaming performance for the money. 

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DaddyO' Fourty five avatar[ZZZ] Ronin avatarM1ng0J1ng0 avatarFirerod avatarZipptye avatarhfm avatar+4
DaddyO' Fourty five Avatar
4
2 Weeks ago

Same performance as ryzen 5 in most cases, and these wont be at full stock until 2018, when people start buying them ryzen+ will already be out and kickin'

2
Zipptye Avatar
2
2 Weeks ago

you mean this one at newegg available right now? https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819117824&cm_re=i5-8400-_-19-117-824-_-Product

2
hfm Avatar
223
2 Weeks ago

The only thing I'm seeing from this is there's no reason to move away from my 7700K.

2
Dave James Avatar
454
1 Week ago

Absolutely. If you're rocking a modern i7 then you've really got no reason to upgrade for a good long while.

To be fair a Haswell i7 would still see you right.

1
TehJumpingJawa Avatar
3
2 Weeks ago

What an incredibly flawed appraisal.

1) The 8400 isn't available. Whether it retails above or below MSRP is yet to be seen.

2) For the foreseeable future the only motherboards available for the 8400 are the expensive premium Z370-based boards.

3) The R5 1600 overclocks out of the box and on a cheap-as-chips B350 board.

As a complete package, the i5 8400 is more expensive than the R5 1600, is significantly slower in multi-threaded workloads, and once OC'ing ability is factored in, isn't any quicker in single-threaded loads either.

Once the cheaper coffee lake motherboards hit the market the 8400 will become a reasonable alternative to Ryzen 5 for certain use-cases, but to propose it at the moment?

It's daft.

2
Dave James Avatar
454
1 Week ago

At launch you could buy an 8400 for around £180, with ASRock Z370 boards retailing for as little as £109. That's a pretty compelling gaming package.

As I said in the review above, for multi-threaded workloads the 12-threads of Ryzen help, but this appraisal is based on gaming performance, and across the board the Intel is either better or at least the same.

1
[ZZZ] Ronin Avatar
18
2 Weeks ago

What about VR gaming ? It appear that latest i7 have a huge (and better) impact on performance in VR (headset and sensor must be using hyperthreading ?), more than "normal" gaming in 2d. It can be great also to compare latest CPU for VR performance.

1
M1ng0J1ng0 Avatar
2
2 Weeks ago

The i7 does indeed help VR performance. I swapped out a haswell i5 (4670) for a i7 (4690k) on the same board a few weeks ago and it made a big improvement for VR. I'm curious too if this CPU would make a noticeable difference again in VR compared to to my current setup with a 1080 Ti.

1
Firerod Avatar
14
2 Weeks ago

i5-8400 is gaming king for performance/dollar ratio!

1
Streetguru Avatar
13
2 Weeks ago

I really don't get your logic, you didn't test with the stock cooler, which makes your temperature chart completely irrelevant. I also don't see where you're measuring your power draw.

As far as being the best gaming chip, the Ryzen chips are keeping up pretty well at a lower price point, and that's not to mention the platform should last longer than intel's platform, and you're giving up a good amount of multi-threaded performance, for a bit higher fps in some games. Which doesn't make any sense to me.

And this will change soon enough, but for right now you can buy an R5 1600 with a $70 ish motherboard and be pretty set. It also might have been nice to see your Ryzen chip OC'd a bit to near 4ghz as you can get. Should have also tested the R5 1400.

And why not replace Total War Atila with Total Warhammer 1 or 2?

1
Dave James Avatar
454
1 Week ago

We tested with our test rig's standard cooler to give comparative results, which are more important than a standalone figure that doesn't relate to anything.

And we used Attila as it's an incredibly intensive DX11 benchmark, while the DX12 Warhammer test was incredibly flaky for a long while.

As for the 8-thread Ryzen 5 chips, they perform significantly worse than the Coffee Lake hexcore in both gaming and multi-threaded tests.

1
Elz Sensei Avatar
1
1 Week ago

Hi guys!

I am currently running an AMD A-10 5800K CPU, with a GTX 660 Ti.

I want to game at 1080p at 60FPS, and I am also a computer science student, so I will be programming and probably running a VM or two every so often...

What should I get that will last me at least another 4 or 5 years, with the results I need,

Any honest input will be appreciated.

Thank you!

1