All You Should Know about Intel Core i5-10400

By Yvonne

In its 10th Generation stack, Intel's Core i5-10400 ($182) is not the company's top-of-the-line six-core desktop CPU. (The unlocked Core i5-10600K, which we examined at launch last year, has that distinction.) The Core i5-10400 makes up for its lack of overclocking ability with persistence, though. The processor continues to compete against AMD's barrage of Ryzen 5 5600X and previous-generation 3600X powerhouse six-core CPUs, which won Editors' Choice awards.

If you currently have an LGA 1200 motherboard and want to gaming with a discrete GPU, the Core is a great value option. AMD's Ryzen 5 processors, if you can get one close to list price, make more sense simply as a midrange upgrade in terms of both cost per core and total performance. If AMD Ryzen 3000 and 5000 chips remain difficult to get and/or overpriced, the Core i5-10400 is a respectable option for PC gamers and mainstream consumers as a rare Intel value play.

Intel Core i5-10400

Intel Core i5-10400 specifications

To expound on our introduction, the Core i5-value 10400's proposition is significantly diminished by Intel's switch to the LGA 1200 socket with its "Comet Lake" 10th Generation desktop CPUs because you have to buy a new motherboard to use it. In contrast, AMD consistently supports Socket AM4 with its popular Ryzen CPUs.

Boards using that socket have been available for years through a variety of chipsets; you could even already own one. That is unlikely with Intel's new boards, which lowers the value of chips with poorer performance. Unless, for some improbable reason, you chance to hold an LGA 1200 board equipped with a 2020-release of a Pentium Gold or Core i3 CPU, the Core i5's performance isn't sufficient to warrant a standalone update in an existing board.

Speaking of the uphill battle Intel has been engaged in with AMD on the desktop, let's begin by taking a look at some of both companies' entry-level and midrange CPU lineups' fundamental specifications to see where the Intel Core i5-10400 fits in. These CPUs range in price from $150 to $300.

The six-core/12-thread Intel Core i5-10400 competes across the aisle with AMD's Ryzen 3 3400G ($149), Ryzen 3 3600 ($199), and Ryzen 5 5600X ($299) CPUs. It is at the low end of Intel's midrange offerings. The only AMD CPU in this price range with integrated graphics is the Ryzen 3 3400G; all other AMD chips require a standalone video card.

But first, we should note a few recent discoveries before moving on with this review. While it is customary to rate a CPU based on its MSRP or RCP (referred to as "recommended customer pricing" in Intel terminology), prices for 10th Generation Intel chips have recently been slightly reduced at a number of online stores. Although the Intel Core i5-10400 has a list price of $182, depending on where you buy, you might find it for between $150 and $160.

Even so, in my opinion, price reductions for this CPU and other less expensive 10th Generation models might not be sufficient to offset the overall adoption costs, which also include a motherboard with an LGA 1200 socket.

In order to update their existing AMD systems with CPUs like the Ryzen 5 3600, upgraders can do so for a lot less money than it would cost to build an Intel Core i5-10400 machine, thanks to AMD's continued reliance on Socket AM4. Because of Intel's fixation on updating its desktop sockets so frequently, the company's options for consumers on a tighter budget have once again been shot in the figurative foot.

With this chip and others in the Comet Lake family, Intel did make one clever power move: Hyper-Threading has been reintroduced to the Core i5-specification 10400's sheet. It increased the amount of threads available from the Intel Core i5-six 9400's cores and six threads to the Core i5-six 10400's cores and 12 processing threads. That's a significant issue, for sure, but it's literally necessary to make these Intel CPUs competitive right now against the juggernaut Ryzen.

An Intel UHD Graphics 630 integrated graphics processor is present on the Core i5-10400, as it is on many other CPUs in the Intel 10th Generation stack (IGP). The closest point of reference on the Ryzen side is the four-core/eight-thread AMD Ryzen 5 3400G with its Vega 11 onboard graphics because AMD presently doesn't provide any CPUs with an IGP and more than four cores onboard in its 3000 Series or 5000 Series Ryzen lines. There hasn't been a transition to the Zen 3 architecture and the Ryzen 50000 series for that and its Ryzen 3 equivalent, the 3200G. (But not yet.)

At this price range, including one makes sense because the Intel Core i5-10400 sits just on the line where Intel stops including its stock cooling in the package. Since this CPU does not support overclocking, practically everyone should be able to get by with the included fan. Everyone, that is, who is not forced to view this now-outdated design through a clear case window.

A Quick Look at Thermals and Overclocking

Even though the Intel Core i5-10400 never exceeded 57 degrees C during our tests, the overkill cooling system employed in our testbed is probably to blame. Expect increased temps, though probably not by much, if you choose to cool the Core i5-10400 on air (which, unless you happen to have an idle AIO liquid cooler lying around, we recommend at this price point).

We were unable to test the Core i5-10400 in an overclocked profile because it is not a "K"-series chip (in Intel's lineup, a CPU with a "K" suffix can be overclocked). The Intel Core i5-10600K, which was noted above, is the only six-core Intel-based alternative that can have its boost clocks increased.

Conclusion: Good in a Processor Pinch

The Core i5-10400 takes up the predicted position in the hierarchy of mainstream CPUs as a less expensive substitute for the Intel Core i5-10600K. The Core i5-10600K is the processor for you if you want a six-core 10th Generation Intel chip with a little bit more capability for productivity and some overclocking. However, the Core i5-10400 will still do the job for roughly 35% less if you're looking to cut money and don't plan to overclock.

The Intel Core i5-10400 is reliable for what it is when used alone, but as is customary these days, the Core i5-10400 falters when put up against the plethora of AMD choices. Even though the Ryzen 5 3600X is excellent but expensive and difficult to obtain, it is nearly always preferable to the Core i5-10400 (as well as the Core i5-10600K).

That applies to both their inherent CPU performance as well as their broad motherboard compatibility. However, the $120 Ryzen 3 3300X (if you can find one for anywhere near that price, that is) or the $99 Ryzen 3 3100 will perform better for gamers on a budget using a discrete GPU (ditto that).

Last but not least, despite having two fewer cores than the Core i5-10400, the Ryzen 3 3200G and Ryzen 5 3400G often outperform the Core i5 in gaming on their IGPs by a large margin (and keep in mind; they're both compatible with AM4). If you're looking for cheap, no-video-card gaming, there is no contest.

The Intel Core i5-10400 isn't a clear leader in any category, and even recent price drops for some 10th Generation chips in Intel's stack won't be enough to move the chip over its current standing. The Core i5 remains competitive at 3.5 stars here in early 2021 because to the latest Ryzens' high demand, exorbitant costs, and patchy availability. Let's hope that Intel's Rocket Lake-based equivalent (let's say it'll be a Core i5-11400 here for spitballing purposes) can finally defeat AMD, or at least match it, at its own game.