Since I wrote this article back in 2018, the 9th gen CPUs have been released. Due to this I no longer recommend you consider the i5 8600k unless you are on a really tight budget.
It is still an awesome chip but you are much better off getting the new i5 9600k over the old i5 8600k. However, if you can stretch to the i7 8700k I highly recommend you do so. It has dropped in price recently thanks to the release of the new 9th gen CPUs.
Lets dive into the differences between these two chips with a direct i5 8600k vs i7 8700k comparison.
Lets Talk Specifications
The i5 8600k is the cheaper of the two 8th generation chips built upon the 14nm architecture. It has a stock clock speed of 3.6 GHz which boosts to 4.1GHz for all six cores, 4.2 GHz for dual/quad cores and around 4.3Ghz for single core. If you have the 7th generation i5 7600k you can expect a speed increase of around 15%.
The i7 8700k is the pricey top of the range option with the same 14nm architecture. Intel have been following AMD’s path by increasing the cores and threads across their CPUs. The i7 8700k is Intel’s first CPU with 6 cores and 12 threads to be considered a mainstream processor.
The stock clock of the i7 8700k comes in at 3.7 GHz which can be overclocked to 4.7 GHz with some users achieving up to 5.0 GHz depending on the chip. It boasts 12MB of (L3) cache and 2 channels of DDR4 RAM.
Compared to previous generations the main performance improvements come from the higher core count. You can expect up to a 50% performance improvement over the 7th generation i7s.
i5 8600k vs i7 8700k For Gaming
If you are purely looking to upgrade your CPU for gaming then you can’t go wrong with the cheaper i5 8600k. The price per performance of the i5 8600k is considerably higher than the i7 8700k because it’s around $100 dollars cheaper.
It is always worth considering the price per performance ratio of any component you are looking to upgrade. RAM for example is extremely expensive at the moment so its price per performance is very high. Unless you are upgrading from 8GB -> 16GB then that would be a solid price per performance compared to 16GB – > 32GB.
The i5 8600k will run any current game without any struggles and perform any rendering or high CPU intensive task with ease.
With that said why even consider the i7 8700k then? Why did I choose it over the i5 8600k? I was upgrading from an i5 3570 which at the time was a solid CPU and can still hold its own today with most games at medium settings.
The problem was I have a GTX 1070 and my CPU was bottlenecking my system so I needed to upgrade. I could have gone with the i5 and this would have been a good fit. However, I wanted my rig to be future proof and choosing the i7 probably gives me a few years more legroom compared to the i5.
So for an extra $100 I get a few years more out of my build without needing to upgrade again. I don’t see myself needing to upgrade again for the foreseeable future since my rig is now able to play anything at max settings at a steady 144 frames.
If you are a fan of VR, have a VR kit or looking to potentially join the VR craze in the near future then this should definitely be a deciding factor when choosing between these two chips. Both are labelled and marketed for being VR ready but I would definitely recommend the i7 8700k over the i5 8600k.
When it comes to VR frames are even more important because a low frame rate ruins your immersion and can cause nausea and disorientation. The i7 8700k will be able to manage any VR experience alongside a solid GPU and will provide you with a better experience overall compared to the i5 8600k.
There are a few things to consider before biting the bullet and grabbing yourself a new 8th gen CPU. You may already be aware but for those of you who aren’t you can’t just buy a 8th gen CPU and slot it into your motherboard.
A CPU is only compatible with certain motherboard chipsets which means they can only be used with motherboards with the correct socket. For the i5 8600k and i7 8700k you will need to buy a new 300 series motherboard.
Luckily for you I did the research on which motherboard is best! There are a huge range of Z370 boards on the market from Asus, MSI, Gigabyte and more. There is a great resource that has benchmarked and assessed each of them to give you an idea of the ones to consider and the ones to avoid. Check it out here.
If there is one component to never cheap out on in your rig it’s the motherboard. A poor motherboard can cause serious problems and can even bring down other components which can result in an expensive malfunction.
When it comes to picking a motherboard you want to choose one with all the ports you require, a solid heatsink, good power phases and VRMs (for overclocking) and an easy to use BIOS interface.
After researching the different top midrange to top bracket of boards I ended up narrowing down my selection to the ASRock Z370 Extreme 4 and MSI Z370 Gaming M5.
I picked the slightly more expensive MSI Z370 Gaming M5 because it had all the ports I needed, has great overclocking potential and I like the aesthetics considering I also have an MSI red and black GTX 1070 Gaming X GPU.
The BIOS GUI is also really straight forward and easy to use. Overclocking the chip has been really easy and alongside my MSI GPU I can definitely recommend the MSI Z370 Gaming M5 motherboard you see above.
What About RAM?
Unfortunately there is another upgrade you will have to making along with the your new 8th generation CPU and 300 series motherboard.
Your motherboard will only support DDR4 RAM so unless you have DDR4 ram with your current setup then you will have to buy new RAM.
RAM comes in various speeds and can also be overclocked to provide better speeds. I ended up going with two Corsair Vengeance 3000MHz LPX 8GB sticks. They are a solid choice with good overclocking potential.
I would recommend you grab at least 16GB. Nowadays 8GB isn’t quite enough to run some games at max settings and if you already have a top end CPU and GPU you are wasting away the performance they provide if you only opt for 8GB of RAM.
The Final Word
The decision you make comes down to your budget. If you can afford the extra $100 for the i7 8700k then I fully recommend you pick one up. It will provide more longevity to your rig and you can be sure that you can run any game at max settings alongside a solid GPU.
If you are on a tighter budget and you want price per performance then go with the i5 9600k. It will hold its own close enough to the i7 8700k but you might end up upgrading your rig slightly sooner than you think.
Consider VR as well because a better CPU will provide you a with more immersive VR experience.
Don’t go for the older 8th gen i5 8600k its no longer worth your money now that the i5 9600k is out.