Something to look forward to: Intel today officially announced 11th Generation Core "Rocket Lake" desktop processors. Many of these new parts are available at lower prices than AMD's equivalent Ryzen 5000 CPUs. Is it time to get excited about new Intel CPUs?
Today we're putting the final pieces of the puzzle together on Intel's 11th Generation Desktop CPU Series before the reviews begin later this month. In the lead up to this launch, Intel had already given up on some information on Rocket Lake, as well as the insane stream of leaks we've received over the past few months, culminating in actual reviews of the Core i7-11700K processors for retail, the actual announcement.
We know the design is still based on the 14nm process but has a new core architecture codenamed Cyprus Cove. This is Intel's Ice Lake design originally intended for 10nm and backported to 14nm. This translates into an IPC improvement of 19% compared to Skylake and its derivatives over the past 5 years. It's not the latest core design from Intel, however, as Tiger Lake – actually at 10nm – uses a newer generation architecture in mobile devices.
Intel had previously reported to us about the Core i9-11900K and the inclusion of a maximum of eight CPU cores. There's a new built-in Xe GPU, new AI capabilities, and new platform support through Intel's 500 series motherboards. This is all that we have already covered. So let's get to the point with the full list of processors and prices.
While this table lists many individual processors – far too many in my opinion – the Rocket Lake basics are, as usual, broken down into three series: Core i9, Core i7, and Core i5. However, unlike previous generations, there are no Rocket Lake Core i3 models. Instead, Intel is rolling out updated 10th generation parts on the lower end, which we'll talk about soon.
The Core i9 and Core i7 parts are very similar: All contain 8 CPU cores and 16 threads with 16 MB L3 cache. The K models are unlocked SKUs that support overclocking, the F models don't have built-in graphics, and the T models are low power variants with a TDP of 35 W. The models with an iGPU use new Xe graphics, although for some reason these are referred to as the UHD Graphics 750. Here you will find 32 execution units with a performance increase of up to 50% compared to previous generations, according to Intel.
What separates them from the Core i9 and Core i7 parts that share the same basic layout? The basic answer is frequency. The Core i7-11700K and the KF are clocked with up to 5 GHz on a single core and with up to 4.6 GHz all-core. The Core i9-11900K and KF bring the single-core turbo to 5.3GHz, but that's with Thermal Velocity Boost, a feature that increases clock speeds when operating temperatures are low, and that feature isn't on the Core i7 activated. Without TVB, the 11900K is still at 5.2 GHz, an increase over the 11700K, but the all-core frequency at 4.7 GHz is only 100 MHz higher.
The other difference between the Core i9 and Core i7 parts is hidden in the footnotes of the SKU list. The 11900K and KF work with DDR4-3200 Gear 1 by default, while all other SKUs, including the Core i7 series, work with DDR4-3200 Gear 2 by default. These gears refer to the frequency ratio between the memory controller and memory itself, which in the past has been 1: 1 on Intel parts. Gear 1 is the usual 1: 1 ratio, while Gear 2 is a 2: 1 ratio, which cuts the frequency of the memory controller in half. This means that while the unlocked Core i9 processors run at a standard 1: 1 ratio, the locked Core i9 parts and Core i7 line use a slower 2: 1 configuration by default.
This leads to a further distinction between the Core i7 and i9 parts, as the i7 models have poorer memory performance. You may be familiar with these ratios if you are an AMD Ryzen user as the recommendation for these parts as well is to work in a 1: 1 ratio instead of increasing the memory frequencies and dropping back to 2: 1. So it will be interesting to see how this affects Intel processors.
With this in mind, motherboard manufacturers will likely ignore this recommendation and get all Rocket Lake processors in gear 1 (i.e. a ratio of 1: 1) ready to use immediately. AnandTech confirmed that this was the behavior they saw when testing their Core i7-11700K processor in retail stores: it was supposed to run at 2: 1 on Intel slides, but the actual default on the motherboard was 1: 1.
Before we look at the Core i5 line, let's discuss the prices for these parts. The most interesting thing is the pricing of the unlocked Core i7 models: $ 374 for the KF and $ 399 for the K SKU using Intel's standard tray pricing model. It should be noted that the tray prices for bulk units are not identical to those for an MSRP. Typically, Intel parts sell 10% above or near this tray price at launch before dropping to or below the advertised price in the following months.
In any case, it's an 8-core Rocket Lake CPU with 16 threads and a price of around $ 400, which AMD's 8-core Ryzen 7 5800X undercuts for $ 450. There may be some other platform costs to consider, such as: B. the difference in motherboard pricing. At first glance, however, this is an aggressive price tag from Intel that should compete heavily with what AMD has to offer. If these prices are correct, Intel could offer better per dollar performance in the eight-core space, as early 11700K reviews show it is close to the level of a 5800X.
SKU for SKU, these Core i7 parts are slightly more expensive than last-generation offerings: about $ 25 more than the Core i7-10700K and KF for the Intel tray price. However, these new parts are said to be faster and are currently even cheaper than the AMD line.
What doesn't make that much sense is the price of unlocked Core i9 models. $ 539 for the 11900K and $ 513 for the 11900KF translates into a $ 140 premium over the Core i7 models for a very small increase in frequency. The 11900K will compete with AMD's Ryzen 7 5900X for around $ 550, though AMD offers 12 cores versus Intel's 8. Additionally, given the regression, the 11900K will likely have a performance regression in core-heavy applications compared to the 10900K from 10 cores to 8 cores.
Intel seems interested in attracting die-hard enthusiasts and fans with a pricing model like this, as opposed to the 10th generation Core i9 series, which offered decent performance gains over the Core i7s on some workloads. The clear highlight in the 11th generation is the Core i7 part.
With the Core i5 series, Intel also wants to be very competitive in the mid-range.
All CPUs are six cores with 12 threads, 12 MB L3 cache and the same UHD Graphics 750 for the parts with an iGPU. The K parts are unlocked, while the clock rates also differ between the levels. The top-end pieces offer all-core and 4.9GHz single-core capabilities up to 4.6GHz, while a lower-end SKU like the Core i5-11400F offers 4.2GHz-All Core and 4.4 GHz single core functions.
AMD continues to undercut prices. The 11600KF should retail for around $ 260 at $ 237, less than $ 300 below AMD's Ryzen 5 5600X – and there is no price increase compared to the 10th Gen Core i5. But the really compelling products seem to be the minor parts, particularly the Core i5-11400F which is priced at $ 157, likely between $ 170 and $ 180 in retail. AMD doesn't have anything convincing in this price range right now, with the Ryzen 5 3600 selling for $ 200 and even the Ryzen 5 2600 for $ 190.
With the 11400F, which uses Intel's new Rocket Lake architecture and should have a healthy increase in performance, we should have increased competition in the $ 150-200 CPU market, and it will make it harder for AMD to sell a three Year-old CPU at such a price to justify high price. We have been recommending Intel Core i5 CPUs in this segment for months. If AMD doesn't make adjustments, Intel will continue to bring faster models to market.
For Core i3 and Pentium Gold processors, Intel is not yet releasing 11th generation options, but instead is updating the 10th generation Comet Lake offerings. These are fundamental frequency bumps, so something like the Core i3-10100 is now clocked 100 MHz higher and becomes the Core i3-10105 for the same price.
Intel has been talking about Rocket Lake's CPU features for a while, so we're only going to go through this in case you missed it. In addition to the new core architecture, another important innovation is the increase from 16 PCIe 3.0 to 20 PCIe 4.0 lanes from the CPU. This allows you to connect both an x16 GPU and an x4 SSD directly to the CPU for the best performance, unlike previous designs where M.2 SSDs had to go through the chipset. Intel finally comes to the table with PCIe 4.0 and brings AMD feature parity.
Thanks to the upgrade to Gen 12 graphics and related graphics, we also get a better engine for encoding and decoding media, although this functionality is not available with F-series SKUs.
11th generation processors support a variety of enhanced overclocking features. One of the most interesting is real-time memory frequency overclocking, which allows memory OCs in Windows to be tweaked without rebooting using the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility. Previously, you had to do most of the memory overclocking in the BIOS. Intel also offers a wider range of AVX offsets and controls. This is especially useful as these new processors support AVX-512 and overclockers will likely need to set a large offset to get a stable OC.
In addition to Rocket Lake, new Intel 500 series motherboards are also being launched. The main features are support for memory overclocking on H570 and B560 motherboards, a new x8 DMI for twice the bandwidth between CPU and chipset, and full support for PCIe 4.0 across the product range. These cards are also backward compatible with 10th generation processors.
You don't need a 500-series card to use an 11th generation processor, however, as Rocket Lake is compatible with some 400-series cards, namely the Z490, H470, and Q470. Unfortunately, the B460 and H410 boards do not support Rocket Lake because they use an incompatible chipset. Intel tells us that depending on your motherboard, you may get PCIe 4.0 support and the full 20 CPU lanes of PCIe on 400 series boards with Rocket Lake CPUs. However, this depends on whether the motherboard manufacturer enables this and what the board layout looks like.
We're going to close with a quick look at Intel's performance slides, which aren't very useful as they are limited in the information displayed – and we already have recent reviews of the Core i7-11700K on the web if you want to see an independent analysis. Intel only shows four games in its game comparisons, all of which were compared with a GeForce RTX 3080.
Intel shows "massive performance" which for them means an improvement of 8 to 14% over the Core i9-10900K in these four games. Compared to the Ryzen 9 5900X, Intel also wins in its benchmarks with a lead of 3 to 11%. Intel also expects the Core i5-11600K to be 7-16% faster than the Core i5-10600K in the same four games featured.
The other benchmarks from Intel are related to productivity performance. As in previous presentations, the main focus is on applications that are coded to make the most of Intel's accelerators. It is unclear whether, for example, the video creation shown here and the MLPerf gains shown here over the 5900X would also apply to the Core i9-11900KF, which does not contain the integrated GPU.
The key piece of information in today's announcement was the pricing, which provides context to the performance and specs that we already knew about – particularly the 11700K's performance. The new Rocket Lake CPUs are expected to go on sale on March 30th. Then the test reports will also be published. If all goes well, availability for Intel parts shouldn't be an issue, as we discussed in our update on CPU and GPU availability and pricing earlier this week.