Should I buy an Intel Core i5 9400 CPU?

Intel CPU
(Image credit: Intel)

Even right now, before the big Black Friday deals hit, the Intel Core i5-9400 is on sale at Amazon for a tempting $164. Yet that’s not even close to the cheapest we’ve seen this chip; last Black Friday, Best Buy sold the 9400 for an absolute steal at just $130. 

We have high hopes for sales on the 9400 and 9400F this year.

Of course, this chip is almost two years old now, so stock might prove to be an issue there. Even so, we expect to see some tasty sales, so keep an eye out. The i5-9400 is a solid yet affordable processor with some excellent versatility, great for budget gaming builds, home office PCs, or custom cloud storage systems. The included air cooler helps you save a few bucks, too!

What is the Intel Core i5 9400?

Intel Core i5 9400 Spec

Base Clock: 2.9GHz
Max Boost Clock: 4.1GHz
Cores/Threads: 6/6
TDP: 65
Cache: 9MB
Memory Support: 128GB DDR4-2666
Bus Speed: 8GT/s
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630
Lithography: 14nm
Release Date: 07/01/2019
Release RRP: $182

It was quite a surprise to the PC-building community when Intel announced that the i7 9700 and i7 9700K wouldn’t have Hyper-Threading technology, but this octa-core processor does still get work done. Individual core performance is solid, with a Turbo Boost clock of up to 4.7GHz, meaning that this CPU excels in both single-core and multi-core workloads.

The i7 9700 ups the cache from the more affordable 9th Gen Intel chips, with a 12MB Intel Smart Cache, but memory support and bus speed are the same as the i5 processors from the same generation. The maximum potential clock speeds here are also lower than those achievable on the 9700K (although that obviously requires a good cooler and some fiddling around in your BIOS).

What are the alternatives to the Intel Core i5 9400?

The immediate alternative on offer here is the Core i5-9400F, which is essentially the same CPU but without the integrated graphics. If you’re looking for a cheap processor for a gaming build which will include a discrete GPU anyway, the 9400F has gone for as little as $120 on Amazon.

The AMD Ryzen 5 2600X and 3600 are also reasonable competitors here, although we suspect the i5-9400 might see better value pricing during the Black Friday sale period. The 2600X uses its doubled-up threads and overclocking potential well, making it a better all-rounder than the 9400, although it does still lag behind a bit in gaming performance.

Should I buy the Core i5 9400 and at what price? 

If we see sales similar to last year, with the i5 9400 hitting $130 or lower, we can’t recommend it enough. Yes, it might lack the hyper-threading technology of its newer cousin the Intel Core i5 10400, but it’s still a brilliant budget processor for any sensibly priced gaming PC. 

The 10400 has been out for less than a year, so while keeping an eye on sales is worthwhile, it isn’t likely to see huge reductions. It’s worth noting that the i5 9400F might actually be a better option if it goes on sale for less than the 9400, but only if you have a good graphics card to pair it with.