Core i5 10600K and i9 10900K: performance analysis

Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Battlefield 5, Far Cry 5

If you've read our Ryzen 3100 and 3300X review - or indeed, any of our recent processor reviews - you'll be familiar with our CPU test suite, which currently numbers nine games released between 2013 and 2020.

We've tried to represent as many of the most commonly used game engines as possible within our selection, including the likes of CDPR's REDengine, Ubisoft's Dunia, EA's Frostbite and of course the inimitable CryEngine. While games based on the same engine can of course perform differently, in many cases they do at least share characteristics - like a dependence on single-core speed or a proclivity for soaking as many threads as are offered up. This makes these results more broadly useful, and means they could even serve as a basic predictor for performance in unreleased games like Assassin's Creed Valhalla or Cyberpunk 2077 - although we offer no guarantees!

As well as selecting games that do actually stress CPUs, we've also aimed to choose scenes that show the game at its most challenging - circumstances where you'll notice frame drops on lesser CPUs, even when paired with the best available graphics card. We've included some built-in benches, but most of our tests are taken from in-engine cutscenes and live gameplay where you're most likely to notice any frame-time variability.

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

Assassin's Creed has long been one of our favourite games to benchmark CPUs and GPUs alike, thanks to its detailed character models and lush open world environs, and the most recent release, Odyssey, takes this to a new level on its ultra high quality preset.

Intel processors tend to do very well in most games, and ACO is no exception for our tenth-generation CPUs. The Core i9 10900K performs to the same high standard as the 9900K and 9700K, around 88fps, while the Core i5 10600K delivers a commendable 84fps. That's only five per cent behind the Core i7 and Core i9s we've tested, and six percentage points clear of the closest AMD opposition which tend to produce average frame-rates in the upper 70s.

As well as looking at the average frame-rates, it's also important to note the lowest one per cent scores. This is a measure of the slowest frames to render we recorded during each run, giving you an idea of how variable the frame-rate is throughout the test scene. Narrower bars in the chart below indicate a more consistent experience, while wider bars suggest more severe dips or stutters. You can see that as well as offering a higher average frame-rate, Intel's processors deliver don't dip nearly as low, with even the Core i5 9600K managing a lowest one per cent score of around 60fps. The Ryzen 3900X delivers a similar result, but the other Ryzen processors we tested prove much more variable, suggesting that their relatively close average frame-rates flatter to deceive.

Assassin's Creed Odyssey: Ultra High, TAA

  • Core i9 10900K
  • Core i5 10600K
  • Core i9 9900K
  • Core i7 9700K
  • Core i5 9600K
  • Ryzen 9 3900X
  • Ryzen 7 3700X
  • Ryzen 5 3600X
  • Ryzen 3 3300X
  • Ryzen 3 3100
  • Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Ryzen 5 2600
  • Core i9 10900K
  • Core i5 10600K
  • Core i9 9900K
  • Core i7 9700K
  • Core i5 9600K
  • Ryzen 9 3900X
  • Ryzen 7 3700X
  • Ryzen 5 3600X
  • Ryzen 3 3300X
  • Ryzen 3 3100
  • Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Ryzen 5 2600
  • Core i9 10900K
  • Core i5 10600K
  • Core i9 9900K
  • Core i7 9700K
  • Core i5 9600K
  • Ryzen 9 3900X
  • Ryzen 7 3700X
  • Ryzen 5 3600X
  • Ryzen 3 3300X
  • Ryzen 3 3100
  • Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Ryzen 5 2600

Battlefield 5

Our next title is Battlefield 5, one of many recent EA games to use DICE's Frostbite engine. Our test scene comprises of the first in-engine portion of the Tirailleur war story, where the player character Deme is thrust into action as his convoy is ambushed by German aircraft in the early days of Operation Dragoon.

The results here are far from extraordinary from our 10th-gen Intel CPUs, with the extra cores and threads not translating into any meaningful gains in performance. The Core i9 10900K claims the top spot alongside the Core i7 9700K with around 170fps, with the Core i5 10600K managing 166fps - it's all very much margin of error stuff. Again though, there is a noticeable gulf between Intel and AMD, with the best CPUs from Team Red only managing to hit around 155fps - and the 3600X delivering 144fps on average.

Worst one per cent scores are also higher for Intel, with the Core i9 10900K delivering by far the best result at 103fps. By comparison, the best AMD chips manage only around 73fps, which is enough of a difference that you're likely to notice it in-game.

It's a similar story at 1440p, where our Intel processors manage around 142fps, and AMD sits about 10fps behind. That's around a seven per cent lead for Intel across the board. There's still a difference evident at 4K, although by now the Intel-AMD gap has shifted to only around five per cent and individual CPU models are largely a wash, with even the Ryzen 5 2600 managing to deliver the same frame-rates as the Ryzen 9 3900X.

Battlefield 5: Ultra, RTX off

  • Core i9 10900K
  • Core i5 10600K
  • Core i9 9900K
  • Core i7 9700K
  • Core i5 9600K
  • Ryzen 9 3900X
  • Ryzen 7 3700X
  • Ryzen 5 3600X
  • Ryzen 3 3300X
  • Ryzen 3 3100
  • Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Ryzen 5 2600
  • Core i9 10900K
  • Core i5 10600K
  • Core i9 9900K
  • Core i7 9700K
  • Core i5 9600K
  • Ryzen 9 3900X
  • Ryzen 7 3700X
  • Ryzen 5 3600X
  • Ryzen 3 3300X
  • Ryzen 3 3100
  • Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Ryzen 5 2600
  • Core i9 10900K
  • Core i5 10600K
  • Core i9 9900K
  • Core i7 9700K
  • Core i5 9600K
  • Ryzen 9 3900X
  • Ryzen 7 3700X
  • Ryzen 5 3600X
  • Ryzen 3 3300X
  • Ryzen 3 3100
  • Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Ryzen 5 2600

Far Cry 5

The Dunia engine that underpins Far Cry 5 has a lot of history, having first been developed as an open world offshoot of the CryEngine for Far Cry 2 in 2008. The engine has seen continual improvement since then, but still relies on single-threaded performance to a greater extent than any other game in our CPU test suite. That suggests that Intel's new processors should dominate at 1080p, and the results here back up that assertion.

The Core i9 10900K's 5.3GHz boost capability certainly comes in handy here, with those higher clock counts translating into the highest average frame-rate we've ever recorded by a significant margin: 170fps. That's six per cent faster than the Core i9 9900K, the previous champion, and fifteen per cent faster than the Core i7 9700K. The Core i5 10600K also acquits itself well here, with an average frame-rate that's four per cent higher than the outgoing Core i5 9600K.

AMD does poorly by comparison, with most processors managing only around 125fps. For context, the 10600K outperforms the more expensive 3900X by 22 per cent, while the 10900K increases that advantage to 36 per cent. That's a difference you're really going to feel in-game, especially if it means that you're able to take full advantage of a 165Hz monitor to get even silkier on-screen action.

It's not just the average scores that are impressive either. The new Intel processors' frame-times are consistent too, which you can check by looking at those all-important lowest one per cent scores. The 10900K hits 114fps here, another new record, while the 10600K manages 105fps in the same measure - a result that exceeds its ninth generation counterpart by a stonking 33 per cent.

AMD's offerings are more acceptable at 1440p, where we're still looking at a gap of around 10 per cent between the best chips that each team has to offer. It's only really at 4K where processor choice becomes academic, with the Core i9 10900K managing the highest average at 79fps but the Ryzen 3100 delivering 77fps. Again though, look at the width of those bars in the chart, and you'll see Intel still tends to deliver a more stable experience - so your Intel vs AMD choice could still determine whether you're able to achieve a locked 60fps or not.

Far Cry 5: Ultra, TAA

  • Core i9 10900K
  • Core i5 10600K
  • Core i9 9900K
  • Core i7 9700K
  • Core i5 9600K
  • Ryzen 9 3900X
  • Ryzen 7 3700X
  • Ryzen 5 3600X
  • Ryzen 3 3300X
  • Ryzen 3 3100
  • Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Ryzen 5 2600
  • Core i9 10900K
  • Core i5 10600K
  • Core i9 9900K
  • Core i7 9700K
  • Core i5 9600K
  • Ryzen 9 3900X
  • Ryzen 7 3700X
  • Ryzen 5 3600X
  • Ryzen 3 3300X
  • Ryzen 3 3100
  • Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Ryzen 5 2600
  • Core i9 10900K
  • Core i5 10600K
  • Core i9 9900K
  • Core i7 9700K
  • Core i5 9600K
  • Ryzen 9 3900X
  • Ryzen 7 3700X
  • Ryzen 5 3600X
  • Ryzen 3 3300X
  • Ryzen 3 3100
  • Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Ryzen 5 2600

Intel Core i9 10900K and Core i5 10600K analysis

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About the author

Will Judd

Will Judd

Senior Staff Writer, Digital Foundry

A bizarre British-American hybrid, Will turns caffeine into technology articles through a little-known process called 'writing'. His favourite games are Counter-Strike, StarCraft and Fallout 2.

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