Intel Core i9-11900Ok Overview: Not a Nice Flagship CPU

The Core i9-11900K is Intel's flagship in its new Rocket Lake-S desktop CPU series. Earlier this week we tested another new Rocket Lake processor, the mid-range Core i5-11600K, and found it to be a decent offering. While it's not competitive enough with the Ryzen 5 5600X at MSRP as the AMD CPU is currently overpriced, we felt that the best 6-core option for those currently buying is actually the older Core i5-10600K 10th generation or even better. the $ 200 10600KF model that is available immediately.

While the 11600K was a bit disappointing, it showed strong gains overall over its predecessor in terms of productivity utilization and very little improvement in gaming performance. We purposely skipped the 10900K for our first day coverage as the 10600K just looked like the more reasonable product and stood a chance against the Ryzen competition.

Usually the flagship CPU hits the headlines, but honestly, with a list price of $ 540 (in 1,000 lots) and a current retail price of $ 615, the Core i9-11900K just doesn't stand a chance in places like Newegg. We saw that on paper, then the pre-release reviews confirmed it. But because you want to know where it is, we're here. Needless to say, shopping for high-end computer parts is not a good time.

Even at $ 540, we don't know why this CPU is there. You will understand this when we look at the benchmark charts. Intel itself recently admitted in an AMA that they started work on 11th Gen Core processors in the first quarter of 2019 and may not have expected Ryzen's performance to scale as well as it did when it switched to 7th nm. Keep in mind that the 12-core, 24-thread Ryzen 9 5900X costs $ 550, although availability has been poor for that part, the performance deficit is going to be pretty ugly on most tests.

If you missed our previous coverage of the prices and specs of these new 11th generation core processors, here's a quick refresher …

Core i9-11900K Core i7-11700K Core i9-10900K Core i9-10900KF Ryzen 9 5900X
Price (RRP) $ 539 $ 399 $ 488 $ 472 $ 549
Current retail $ 615 $ 420 $ 460 $ 420 $ 550
Cores / threads 8/16 10/20 12/24
Base frequency 3.5 GHz 3.7 GHz 3.7 GHz
Max turbo 5.3 GHz 5.0 GHz 5.3 GHz 4.8 GHz
L3 cache 16 MB 20 MB 64 MB
iGPU model UHD graphics 750 UHD graphics 630 N / A
TDP 125 watts 105 watts

Unlike the 10-core / 20-thread Core i9-10900K, the 11900K is an 8-core, 16-thread piece that includes a 16MB L3 cache and a 125-watt TDP. Despite less L3 cache and fewer cores, the list price has increased from $ 490 to $ 540. That's a 10% price increase for 20% fewer cores.

It is certainly a little more complicated as the 11th generation architecture is completely different from the previous 10th generation series. Rocket Lake is a new architecture, or rather a hybrid architecture, that has backported the 10nm Sunny Cove cores from Ice Lake, so the code name was changed to Cypress Cove.

This provisional solution currently seems completely unnecessary. All Intel had to do was keep the 10th gen prices where they are now – undercutting AMD Zen 3 parts – and we think they could have sold well. Intel just had to make the price cuts official and we would change our CPU recommendations accordingly.

Instead, the 11900K is a more complex CPU that is more expensive to manufacture and, in many ways, worse. This is all the more confusing as you find that Intel's real next-gen CPU is just around the corner and should be a lot better.

The 12th generation Core series, code-named "Alder Lake", is expected in late 2021. This should mean that Intel should switch to a 10 nm process on the desktop and at the same time use a new LGA 1700 socket and other technologies such as DDR5.

Then why should Rocket Lake be released? Why should new Z590 motherboards be released that don't support the 12th generation parts coming later this year? You can see that I am not interested in this version and the Core i9-11900K is not getting my recommendation. Instead of ending the review here, let's look at the results so you can get the full picture.

To test the Intel CPUs, I used the Gigabyte Aorus Z590 Master with BIOS version F5a. The card was configured with 32 GB DDR4-3200 CL14 dual-rank and dual-channel memory, and cooling was provided by the Corsair iCUE H150i Elite Capellix White. The entire hardware was installed in a Corsair 5000D Airflow housing and supplied with power via the RM850x power supply unit. The Ryzen test system has the Gigabyte X570 Aorus master motherboard with the same cooler, memory and power supply.

For this test, we only consider results for Intel CPUs that are not limited to performance, i.e. no TDP-limited tests. This is the way we usually test Intel CPUs, as it is also how most Z490 and Z590 cards are out of the box. So while we're using the standard clock multiplier tables, none of the Intel CPUs adhere to performance limits.

All productivity benchmarks were performed with a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, then we switched to an RTX 3090 for the gaming tests.

Benchmarks

We'll tell you right away that we want to skip part of our productivity tests as the results are pretty boring. The 11900K is slower than the 10900K and costs more at the same time. Hence, it is not a good CPU choice for workstation and productivity loads. The Cinebench R20 multi-core results summarize it well. Compared to the previous 8-core part of the generation, the 10700K, the 11900K looks great as it boosts performance by 20%.

However, the new 8-core part does not replace the 10700K, but the 10900K. In this match it was 8% slower, an impressive expense for a CPU with 20% fewer cores, but not impressive considering the price either.

The real problem for the 11900K, however, is the Ryzen 9 5900X, which is a whopping 42% faster in this test. That's not a small margin, and you certainly wouldn't expect both CPUs to be the same price on that basis.

If we look at the single-core performance, we can see that the 11900K is 14% faster than the 10900K and is just behind the 5900X. For single or low-threaded workloads, the 11900K is unlikely to outperform the 12-core AMD processor.

Intel has managed to go backwards with its new Core i9 processor. This time around, the 11900K is 4% slower than the 10900K or 30% slower than the 5900X in the 7-Zip compression test.

When measuring decompression performance, the 11900K is 16% slower than the 10900K and 40% slower than the 5900X. A similar ugly edge as in the Cinebench R20 multithread benchmark.

The 11900K managed to match the performance of the 10900K in Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 but is also 8% slower than the 5900X.

When transitioning to the Blender Open Data benchmark, we see that the 11900K is again slower than the 10900K and lags behind with a margin of 8%. However, if you're looking to spend ~ $ 500 on a CPU and do a lot of core-intensive productivity tasks like rendering, the 5900X is the way to go, and that's where the Ryzen 9 part offers 40% more performance.

power consumption

This is the icing on the cake for AMD or the death knell for Intel. We just saw that the Ryzen 9 5900X was 40% faster in Blender, which is a massive margin in AMD's favor. But it also managed to achieve this margin while using 25% less electricity than the 11900K.

So 40% more performance, 25% less system performance. I probably don't need much more to say. Let's keep playing and see if the 11900K can redeem itself there.

Gaming performance

To kick off the gaming benchmarks, we have Watch Dogs Legion. Here the 11900K manages to get to the top of our chart and boost the 10900K's performance by 3%. Not exactly an exciting margin, but better than the alternative. The 11900K is also 4% faster than the 5900X.

Unfortunately, the performance in F1 2020 is declining. We see a 6% drop in frame rate to 261 fps, which is admittedly more than enough.

However, if you compare CPUs directly, it means the 11900K is 4% slower than the 5900X, which is not going to help Intel claim the gaming performance crown.

When tested with Horizon Zero Dawn, no performance improvement was seen for the 11900K over the 10900K, which is the same as the 5900X.

The 11900K is also the same as the 10900K in Borderlands 3, making it 6% faster than the 5900X. This is a small margin, but also a clear win for Intel in this title.

Moving on to Death Stranding, we see the 11900K displacing the 10900K by 5%, but unfortunately still 7% slower than the 5900X.

We see nearly identical performance between the 11900K and 10900K in Hitman. The new 11th generation processor was 6% slower than the Ryzen 9 5900X in this gaming test.

The results of Star Wars: Squadrons are a bit brutal. Here the 11900K is 9% slower than the old 10900K and 11% slower than the 5900X. Not a good result for the new Intel Core i9 flagship processor.

Serious Sam 4 is another example where the 11900K is a step backwards for Intel as it loses by 9% over the older 10900K. Worse still is the 18% loss over the 5900X.

The Core i9-10900K was a little beast in Rainbow Six Siege, and while the 538 fps relevance can certainly be argued, it remains the fastest CPU in this game. We see the same situation with the 11900K dipping performance and lowering frame rates by 7% to lag just behind the 5900X.

Last up we have Shadow of the Tomb Raider, where the 11900K is 2% faster than the 11900K, but hey, at least it was faster and also managed to match the 5900X.

Average gaming performance

Here's a look at the 10 game average, showing that Intel isn't going to hit the game crown with its 11th generation Core series, at least not based on our sample of games. In fact, they managed to reduce overall performance as the 11900K was 2% behind the 10900K.

It should be noted, however, that this is an insignificant margin and that both CPUs allow the same gaming experience when using typical quality settings in the game with a high-end GPU like the RTX 3090 at 1440p or higher.

At least for gaming, the 11900K doesn't fare badly, but why spend roughly the same amount on a power-hungry 8-core processor when you can get a more efficient 12-core CPU from AMD that is faster for productivity tasks?

Try something else

The main problem with the Core i9-11900K is that the price just doesn't make sense. Assuming good availability for both the 11900K and 5900X, both of which sell at MSRP, there's no reason to consider Intel's offering.

We also can't overlook that the cheaper i9-10900K, released a year ago, is faster in most applications, certainly faster for heavy core workloads, and basically on par for gaming performance. Currently, the 10900K retails for $ 460 while the 11900K appears to start at $ 615. Obviously, the new CPU isn't worth a 34% premium. Why did Intel even bother?

If you're wondering what an acceptable price for a part like the 11900K, we'd say around $ 400-420 would be reasonable. This is based on the fact that the Ryzen 7 5800X, which is also an 8-core processor, costs $ 450 and offers comparable gaming and application performance with significantly lower power consumption.

In a way, we just checked the 11.7 million, which happens to be around $ 400-420, which is acceptable based on our previous estimate. The 11700K is based on slightly inferior silicon than the 11900K, but overall performance should be very similar.

But wait, you can also buy the Core i7-10700KF for just $ 300 and that would be the 8-core CPU you need to buy now. However, sales could end soon. So when that part goes back to $ 380, you can buy AMD too.

Intel is sticking around and will need Alder Lake to deliver the goods later this year before AMD counters with Zen 4. Hopefully some exciting battles are ahead because Intel's 11th generation isn't right now.

Purchasing links:
  • Intel Core i7-10700KF on Amazon
  • Intel Core i7-11900K on Amazon
  • Intel Core i7-11700K at Amazon
  • Intel Core i5-11600K on Amazon
  • Intel Core i5-10600KF on Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 9 5900X on Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 7 5800X on Amazon

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