Core i5 10600K and i9 10900K: performance analysis

Crysis 3, Kingdom Come Deliverance, Metro Exodus, The Witcher 3.

Our gaming analysis of Intel's first 10th-generation CPUs continues with four more games, all featuring live gameplay instead of built-in benchmarks. Two are classic CPU crushers - Crysis 3 and The Witcher 3 - while the other pair are part of an exciting new breed of games that are set to remain a stern test of processor power well into the future - Metro Exodus and Kingdom Come Deliverance. We'd expect our 10th-gen representatives to offer some class-leading scores, but it's clear to see that Intel's strengths manifest more strongly in some games than others.

Once again, we have opted for scenes that are repeatable run after run and aren't too difficult to reach, an important factor when you're retesting a troublesome processor for the tenth time in a day - or you're a reader wanting to perform a similar test on your own rig to see if an upgrade would be worthwhile!

Remember that you can mouse over the results in the tables below (as long as you're not in a mobile browser) to get dynamically generated performance readouts for all processors we've tested. Meanwhile, clicking the graph swaps you into percentages to make judging relative CPU-to-CPU performance a little easier.

Crysis 3

Let's start with the only game series enshrined in a Digital Foundry member's bedroom: Crysis. Our test scene is from the second level of Crysis 3, Welcome To The Jungle. We actually use the ending of this level as our go-to graphics card test, but we've picked an earlier moment that proves more taxing for CPUs thanks to the large amount of on-screen foliage and some well-timed pyrotechnics.

The 10900K continues to set records, with a strong 207fps average - six per cent faster than the 9900K managed in the same test. The 10600K also impresses with an 186fps result that's very slightly faster than the outgoing Core i7 9700K. If we compare the generational difference between the two Core i5 models, the 10th-gen chip leads by 11 per cent - one of the largest differences we've seen.

Lowest one per cent scores are also improved across the board, with the 10900K achieving the first result in this category we've seen above 100fps - an arbitrary achievement, but an achievement none the less. For context, that's 11 per cent better than the 9900K, and 35 per cent higher than the best AMD result we recorded in this test, the Ryzen 9 3900X. The 10600K also shows huge improvements, 47 per cent to the better compared to its last-generation counterpart.

Crysis 3: Very High, SMAA T2X

  • 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 i5 10900K
  • Core i9 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

Kingdom Come Deliverance

Kingdom Come Deliverance is separated from Crysis 3 by five years, but it's another CryEngine title. We've included it largely because of its ultra high graphical quality setting, which is supremely punishing - you even get a little pop-up that informs you that you're using an experimental mode meant for next-gen hardware, which is always nice to see when you're looking for the most challenging gaming workloads.

The RTX 2080 Ti is just about capable of delivering a playable frame-rate here, but especially at 1080p you can expect a ton of frame-time variance, especially on lesser CPUs. The bar chart looks reasonable, but hit play on the embedded video (if you're on a desktop browser) and you'll see exactly what I mean, with some of the most ragged frame-time readouts we've ever seen.

While the frame-times may be turbulent, the overall rankings are quite sensible - another great reason to use this game for CPU testing. The 10900K sits at the top of the stack, just fractionally ahead of the 9900K, but the Core i5 10600K is much faster than its ninth-gen counterpart: 87fps versus 76fps, a 15 per cent improvement in average frame-rate.

The best AMD CPUs don't perform badly here, with average frame-rates in the upper 70s - broadly similar to every ninth-generation processor we've tested that isn't the 9900K. However, the strength of the Core i5 10600K is worrying, with this mid-range CPU boasting more than a 10 per cent lead over the high-end Ryzen 3900X.

We shouldn't neglect the lowest one per cent scores either, and here AMD is a little more competitive for a change. Pretty much every AMD CPU from the 3300X up manages around 30 to 33fps at worst, which isn't really that much higher than the ninth-gen Intel line-up or even the 10600K. It's only the 10900K that sits outside of the pack, with a lowest one per cent readout of 43fps - impressive stuff.

Kingdom Come Deliverance: Ultra High, SMAA

  • 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

Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus comes next. Like Battlefield 5, we first used this as a test of ray tracing performance for Nvidia's lineup of Turing graphics cards, but disable RTX and DLSS and you get an equally challenging CPU workout for processors of all flavours.

Looking at the most important 1080p test first, the Core i9 10900K and 9900K are nearly identical in terms of performance at around 192fps, with the Core i7 9700K recording a slightly higher score that remains well within the margin of error. The Core i5 10600K sits a little behind this trio, at 186fps, which is still a small advantage over the outgoing Core i5 9600K. There's a big gap to Ryzen too, with the 3700X performing best but only managing 170fps. If we examine the 3900X against the 10900K, it's a 22 per cent advantage for Intel.

At 1440p, the differences between different SKUs more or less evaporates, at least with the models we tested. Our ninth and tenth-gen Intel processors all end up around 140fps on average, with AMD around 130fps. There is still a difference when it comes to the worst one per cent scores, where the 10900K shows its class with a score of 85fps - compare that to 74fps for the 10600K and 67fps for the best-performing Ryzen CPU. At 4K, we're looking at only a difference of around 5fps from the best to the worst CPUs we tested, although again the 10900K does hold onto that top spot on the leaderboard.

Metro Exodus: Ultra, DX12

  • 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 10600K
  • 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

The Witcher 3

Our final test - excepting our investigation into RAM speeds on the following page - is The Witcher 3. This game remains a challenge even in 2020, especially when riding through the muddy streets of Novigrad, with clear differences between all of the processors we tested.

The 10900K is the top performer again, albeit by only a few frames per second against the 9900K. The 10600K also does well, splitting the difference between the last-gen Core i5 and Core i7 models we tested. While the 10600K only leads the 9600K by seven per cent when it comes to average frame-rate, the lowest one per cent scores tell a different story. Here, the 9600K manages only 57fps, while the 10600K achieves 95fps. This is probably a worst-case scenario for the 9600K compared against a good run from the 10600K, but it's still a big improvement that speaks to the quality of the experience that you'll be getting on the newer hardware.

AMD's best in this test is the 3900X, recording an average of 154fps, which means the 10900K holds a 21 per cent lead. If we look at the lowest one per cent scores, that grows to 43 per cent. So AMD is still capable of providing a high frame-rates here at 1080p, but you'll definitely see more consistent results on Intel hardware.

Witcher 3: Ultra, Post-AA, No Hairworks

  • 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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