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Is the Core i5-9600K CPU Good for Gaming?

Find out if Intel's Core i5 9600K processor is good for gaming.

9600K Good for Gaming Chuck Fortner / Unsplash

Last Updated: November 26, 2022

Written by Kevin Jones

When selecting a CPU for gaming, the most important characteristics are the frequency (clock speed), core/thread count, cache size, and supported memory type. Additional considerations, such as integrated graphics and overclocking needs, may also influence your selection.

In addition to discussing how good the 9600K is for gaming, this article will discuss our recommended:

Check another CPU:

Core i5 9600K

Is the 9600K Good for Gaming?

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When using Intel's Core i5 9600K CPU for gaming, you can expect mediocre game performance with either a high-performance CPU cooler or a stock CPU cooler.

Check out our Recommended LGA 1151 Coolers below.

This performance assessment is based on the following characteristics of the CPU and their relevance to the latest graphics-intense games:

  • 9 MB of L3 cache is poor for performance
  • 6 cores allow for good performance
  • 3.70 GHz base frequency
  • 4.60 GHz single-core max turbo boost frequency is excellent for performance (requires a high-end cooler)
  • Max stock DDR4 speed of 2666 MHz can be mediocre for performance
  • Overclocking support can be excellent for performance (requires a high-end cooler)
  • PCIe 3.0 support can be poor for performance (limits potential of fastest SSDs and GPUs)
  • The 9600K has integrated graphics support, but this performance assessment assumes you will use a graphics card. Integrated graphics support is mediocre or worse with the latest graphics-intense games.
Check out these Intel Core CPUs that are Good or Excellent for gaming:

Is the Cache Size of the 9600K Good for Gaming?

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A CPU's cache is a small amount of memory, close to the CPU cores, containing recently used data.

Games performance can improve as cache size increases, as it will reduce delays when retrieving commonly used game assets from memory.

An L3 cache capacity of at least 20 MB is ideal for game performance.

The Intel Core i5-9600K has an L3 cache capacity of 9 MB.

The 9600K's lackluster 9 MB of L3 cache is poor for performance with the latest graphics-intense games.

Is the Core Count of the 9600K Good for Gaming?

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Increased core counts can improve the performance of games that use them, but most modern games don't benefit from having more than 6–8 cores. Remember that cache sizes often increase along with core counts, so if you want to increase your L3 cache, you may need to get a CPU with more cores.

Intel's Core i5-9600K CPUs have 6 cores.

The 9600K's 6 cores allow for good performance with the latest graphics-intense games.

Is the Clock Speed of the 9600K Good for Gaming?

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Single-core performance is essential for some games, as many don't take full advantage of multiple cores.

Turbo boost frequencies are only achieved under ideal circumstances. The safest strategy for consistent gaming performance with a basic cooler is to get a higher base clock speed processor. However, with adequate cooling, you may be able to maintain speeds near the max boost frequency.

When using a high-end cooler, the 9600K CPU's support for overclocking can be excellent for performance with the latest graphics-intense games.

The processor has a 3.70 GHz base frequency and supports a 4.60 GHz single-core max turbo frequency.

The 9600K has a 3.70 GHz base frequency, which is the speed before boosting. You can reach these base frequencies even without a high-end cooler.

With a high-end cooler, the 9600K's 4.60 GHz single-core max turbo boost frequency is excellent for performance with the latest graphics-intense games. You can maintain these frequencies with a high-end cooler.

Check out my article, Choosing the Best CPU Cooler for Intel's Core i5-9600K, for recommended coolers that can maintain these boost frequencies.

Is the DDR Support of the 9600K Good for Gaming?

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The 9600K CPU's support for DDR4 with a max stock speed of 2666 MHz can be mediocre for performance with the latest graphics-intense games.

Faster PC memory can improve game performance and frame rates, but using the fastest RAM may not have as much of an impact as upgrading your CPU and graphics card or adding more RAM.

Learn about our recommended RAM for the 9600K in Choosing the Best RAM for Intel's Core i5-9600K CPU.

What Does the K Suffix in 9600K Mean?

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Processor Name SuffixMeaning
K"K" means it's an unlocked CPU. Unlocked CPUs have configurable frequencies and thus support overclocking. Your "motherboard" must support overclocking to overclock unlocked CPUs. Motherboards with Z-series chipsets typically support overclocking. Learn more about what each chipset supports in my article Which Chipsets Work With Intel's Core i5-9600K CPU?.

The 9600K model name doesn't have an F suffix. Non-F CPUs contain integrated graphics, and a separate graphics card isn't required if your motherboard includes video-output connectors (e.g., HDMI).

The 9600K model name has a K suffix. K-suffixed CPUs can be overclocked with a compatible motherboard.

Motherboards with a Z-series chipset typically support overclocking. For example, motherboards with the Z370 or Z390 chipset usually support overclocking Intel's 9th Gen Core CPUs. Learn more about what each chipset supports in my article Which Chipsets Work With Intel's Core i5-9600K CPU?.

Intel Core i5-9600K Intel Core i5-9600K Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Cooling the 9600K

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A CPU cooler's TDP (Thermal Design Power) rating indicates how much heat it can dissipate in watts. If the cooler can't keep your CPU cool enough, your CPU may throttle (slow down), and your cooler will constantly run at full speed.

Intel CPU specifications indicate this power dissipation number as "Processor Base Power."

The Core i5-9600K has a TDP of 95 watts.

A CPU cooler can still work with a lower TDP rating than the TDP of a CPU. However, the CPU will eventually throttle itself to a lower frequency to allow itself to cool.

The CPU may not achieve or maintain maximum turbo speeds without adequate cooling.

Learn more in Choosing the Best CPU Cooler for Intel's Core i5-9600K.

Motherboard Requirements for Core i5-9600K Processors

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For Intel's 9th generation Core i5 9600K processor, you'll need a motherboard with an LGA 1151 socket and 300-series chipset.

Motherboards for Intel processors are made with chipsets provided by Intel. Each chipset offers a unique set of capabilities. However, motherboards must explicitly support features and capabilities for you to use them. Verify that a motherboard supports the features and capabilities you desire.

The "K" in the model name 9600K means it's an unlocked processor that supports overclocking. You will need a motherboard with the Z390 or Z370 chipset to support CPU overclocking.

For compatiblity with Intel's 11th generation Core processors, you can use any of the 300-series chipsets: Z390, Z370, H370, B365, B360, H310. These are roughly sorted from most to least functionality.

The Q370 chipset is also compatible, but is intended for business use cases; its availability in stand-alone motherboards is limited.

For a detailed comparison of these chipsets, check out my article Which Chipsets Work With Intel's Core i5-9600K CPU?.

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Check out my article, Choosing the Best CPU Cooler for Intel's Core i5-9600K, for more info about how to choose the best CPU cooler.

Best AIO Liquid Cooler: Enermax Liqmax III 360

  • This Enermax liquid cooler has an excellent cooling capability with a 360-watt TDP (Thermal Design Power).
  • Supports a variety of CPU sockets, including Intel LGA 2066, 2011-3, 2011, 1700, 1200, 1366, 1156, 1155, 1151, 1150 and AMD AM4, AM3+, AM3, AM2+, AM2, FM2+, FM2, FM1.
  • Quiet operation at 14-27 dBA.
  • Make sure your computer case dimensions support this, as it will take up a decent amount of space! Enermax Liqmax III 360 Enermax Liqmax III 360 Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Best Dual-Fan Air CPU Cooler: Be Quiet! BK022 Dark Rock Pro 4

  • Quiet operation at 12.8-24.3 dB.
  • The dual fans (120 mm and 135 mm) do a great job of cooling LGA 1151 CPUs with a 250-watt TDP (Thermal Design Power).
  • Supports a variety of CPU sockets, including Intel LGA 1150, 1151, 1155, 1156, 1366, 2011(-3) square ILM, 2066 and AMD AM2, AM2+, AM3, AM3+, AM4, FM1, FM2, FM2+.
  • Smaller models are available if you don't need as much cooling ability.
  • You can even add another 120 mm fan to it for more cooling! be quiet! BK022 Dark Rock Pro 4, 250-watt TDP be quiet! BK022 Dark Rock Pro 4, 250-watt TDP Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Runner-Up - Dual-Fan Air CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-D15

  • Dual 140 mm fans provide 220-watt TDP (183 NSPR) of cooling capability.
  • Supports a variety of CPU sockets, including Intel LGA 1700, 1200, 1150, 1151, 1155, 1156, 2011, 2066 and AMD AM4, AM3, AM3+, AM2, AM2+, FM2, FM2+.
  • Quiet operation at 24.6 dBA. Noctua NH-D15, Premium CPU Cooler Noctua NH-D15, Premium CPU Cooler Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
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Before purchasing memory, review your motherboard specification to verify which speeds are supported. For example, if a DDR4 motherboard stated that it supports "DDR4 3400(O.C.) / 3333(O.C.) / 3300(O.C.) / 3200 / 3000," that would mean that it could support DDR4-3400, DDR4-3333, and DDR4-3300 with memory overclocking, and DDR4-3200 and DDR4-3000 at stock speeds. Motherboard specifications also indicate the maximum capacity per stick of RAM (DIMM) and across all slots.

Learn More About the Intel Core i5-9600K

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You can find detailed 9600K specifications on Intel's site.

Other Considerations When Building a PC

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Want to brush up on other new technologies to consider when building a computer? Check out these articles: