Intel Core i9 11980HK Evaluate: The Quickest Tiger Lake CPU

Today we're taking a look at the Core i9-11980HK, the fastest processor Intel has in its Tiger Lake H45 range. A few weeks ago we tested the new Core i7-11800H, which impressed with performance improvements over Intel parts of the previous generation, but ended up with mixed feelings.

The i7-11800H couldn't outperform AMD's equivalent Ryzen 5000 parts in most productivity applications, and the generally higher pricing of the Intel platform weakened its gaming advantage, where Intel does well.

The Core i9-11980HK is the top processor in Intel's mobile stack, so we'd like to see how it compares to a Ryzen 9 mobile chip or Intel's own Core i7-11800H, which is a more mainstream offering typically found in the same systems is available. How much did Intel get out of its best Tiger Lake 8-core silicon?

In this test, we pay special attention to this comparison between the 11980HK and the 11800H. Both CPUs are very close to each other in their basic design and specifications. Both are 8-core chips with 16 threads and 24 MB L3 cache. Both have the same integrated Intel Xe graphics. The main difference lies in the clock rates: The 11800H has a base frequency of 2.3 GHz and a maximum turbo clock of 4.6 GHz, the 11980HK has a base frequency of 2.6 GHz and a maximum turbo clock of 5.0 GHz, a sufficient CPU -Cooling provided. This means that the Core i9 model has a clock speed advantage of around 10 percent.

The other benefit of the 11980HK is on the platform side. Although most of the specifications are identical for all Tiger Lake H45 processors: 20 PCIe 4.0 lanes on the CPU, Thunderbolt 4 support, DDR4-3200, 10 nm SuperFin process nodes – but as an HK model, the 11980HK also supports overclocking.

While all Intel H-series processors configure any power limit (including over the standard 45W even with parts locked), only the 11980HK actually allows you to change the clock multiplier table and some other values ​​in Intel XTU or other utilities. Usually, however, this is only relevant for the most powerful laptops, as the performance and temperature limits will be a concern for most designs.

The test system for today's benchmarking is the MSI GE76 Raider, a similar laptop from the same product family that we examined when testing the Core i9-10980HK.

Inside this laptop is the GeForce RTX 3080 laptop GPU with 16 GB of VRAM and a power limit of 135-155 W. For our tests, we use 16 GB of high-quality dual-channel DDR4-3200 memory, which is the same for all the laptops we use the H-series standardized has been tested.

This is a nice notebook with a 17 inch 1440p 165Hz display that does the GPU really well as this type of hardware has gone beyond 1080p resolutions in modern games. It's not the slimmest or lightest model, but neither is it meant to be. This is a performance-oriented laptop that is still relatively portable and has a nice metalwork quality, although I could take or leave the RGB light bar along the leading edge.

However, this isn't a laptop test, but a test of the Core 9-11980HK, so like all of our previous laptop tests, we've normalized this system performance. This means that we keep all the boost behavior in stock, but use a long-term power limit of 45 W, the default setting for these processors.

This gives us the ability to make apple-to-apple comparisons between different laptops while ignoring OEM configurations or potential cooling / performance differences between models. As a result, it is a real test of CPU capabilities compared to others, not just a test of how well a particular OEM can configure their system to consume the most power.

We'll also be adding some performance scaling data to the test later so you can see how different chips perform at different power levels, which can be helpful in your purchase decision. On to the benchmarks!

Benchmarks

First is Cinebench R23. With this workload, the 11980HK does quite well and offers a performance increase of 7 percent compared to the Core i7-11800H. This makes the 11980HK more competitive with Ryzen, achieves the performance of the Ryzen 7 5800H and, with the same performance configuration, falls behind the Ryzen 9 5900HX by 9 percent.

The margin is only single digits, however, and we're seeing a significant 28 percent increase in performance over the previous generation Core i9-10980HK on this heavy, multi-threaded workload, a good sign of the efficiency improvements Intel has made here.

The single-thread performance results in Cinebench R23 are strong for Intel with a few restrictions.

The 11980HK is slightly faster than the Ryzen 9 5900HX in this test, I saw a 3 percent performance difference which is close to the margin of error, but it is faster. It's also slightly faster than the Core i7-11800H and 17 percent ahead of the 10980HK.

The gains achieved here between the 11980HK and the 11800H are not as high as the differences in the nominal clock rates suggest. Since the 11980HK is a 5.0 GHz part and the 11800H comes at 4.6 GHz, the Core i9 part should be about 8-9 percent faster, but here it's only 3 percent faster. Why this?

Well, that's because the 11980HK rarely runs at its full 5.0GHz clock frequency, it can do this in very short bursts, but it is rare that sustained performance will be at that clock frequency. The Cinebench R23 single thread takes several minutes, so the 11980HK works at a lower clock rate most of the time.

In our long Handbrake CPU coding test, the 11980HK is slightly faster than the 11800H: 4% to be exact. This is big enough to be out of error, but isn't an overwhelming difference between the 8-core pieces, and the Core i9 processor is clearly only marginally more efficient over a longer period of time.

In the end, the Intel part ends up 15 percent behind the Ryzen 9 5900HX and 15 percent ahead of its predecessor, the 10980HK.

We see similar results with the Blender Classroom workload. Here the 11980HK is 8 percent faster than the 11800H, but 14 percent slower than the Ryzen 9 5900HX. With this type of heavy, multi-threaded workload that takes several minutes, the 45W Ryzen processor has an efficiency advantage and therefore also a performance advantage.

In Chromium code compilation, which is another long-term, highly multithreaded workload, the 11980HK does well: 6% faster than the 11800H, which basically rivals AMD's 5900HX. With a 20 percent lead over the 10980HK, there are many reasons to upgrade to a new laptop model from Intel's direct predecessor generation, the gains here are pretty big for a laptop form factor.

If we move on to shorter tests, Intel's Tiger Lake H45 is clearly the way to go for this generation Matlab.

With a larger amount of L3 cache than AMD equivalents, the 11980HK outperforms the 5900HX by 10 percent at this workload at 24MB versus 16MB. Combined with the great single-thread performance, Intel scores well in this type of test.

Similar story in our Microsoft Excel number crunching test. This was one of the biggest differences between the Core i9-11980HK and the Core i7-11800H at around 19 percent, which appears to be a by-product of higher clock speeds at a given power level and this MSI laptop's ability to increase in terms of performance power.

The result is a 20 percent higher performance than AMD's Ryzen 9 5900HX in this workload.

For general everyday loads, measured in the Essentials test of PCMark 10, there is no difference between the Tiger Lake H45 and AMD's Ryzen 5000 series. So, if all you're into is just simply loading apps, surfing the web, video conferencing, and the like, then any part of the current generation will be a good fit for you.

We see similar results with the PCMark 10 application workload. There's not much between the Ryzen 9 5900HX and the Core i9-11980HK, which makes sense given what we've seen in previous tests comparing light-threaded performance.

The Core i9-11980HK is the clear winner in 7-Zip compression. The Core i9 part performs strongly with a performance advantage of 14 percent compared to the Ryzen 9 5900HX – AMD's parts of the current generation correspond more closely to Intel's 10th generation in this workload.

However, this is reversed when you look at decompression. Now the 11980HK is 15 percent slower than the Ryzen 9 5900HX and just a few percent ahead of the i7-11800H. AMD processors are very powerful in decompression workloads and have been for a while.

In Adobe Photoshop with the Puget Systems benchmark, the Core i9-11980HK does well and easily outperforms the Ryzen 9 5900HX, although both systems realistically offer a similar level of performance.

While the 11980HK is a decent 10 percent faster than the 11800H, which is the difference in clock speeds, the 11980HK is not much faster than the 10980HK. I believe a lot of this is due to this workload, which prefers the frequency where the 10th gen Core i9 part actually has a little advantage over the 11th gen in light-threaded applications like this one.

In DaVinci Resolve Studio 17, the comparison between different laptops is always a bit difficult because the GPU has a significant influence here. What we can see, however, is that the new 11980HK model with the same RTX 3080 laptop GPU performs better than the 10980HK and delivers a 13 percent higher score. There is a GPU difference, but overall it seems that Intel and AMD are very competitive in this type of workload of this generation.

Very similar result in the Adobe Premiere Export Test from Puget Systems. 15% better performance compared to the 11980HK compared to the 10980HK allows the Intel system to get good and competitive performance with the Ryzen 9 5900HX.

Finally, we have Adobe After Effects. The combination of the 11980HK and RTX 3080 laptop GPU is very powerful in this workload and delivers strong performance that outperforms most of the other systems we tested and delivers significantly better results than the 10980HK.

Performance scaling

The performance scaling data shows how the Core i9-11980HK compares to other CPUs at various performance levels. We were only able to bring the MSI GE76 Raider to around 75 W permanently, as the cooling solution in this device is more geared towards the GPU. Still, we can see some clear trends here …

The basics are that the 11980HK is between 5 and 10 percent ahead of the 11800H at a certain power level, with the margin shrinking at higher power levels, but still noticeable. The general performance scaling behavior we observed with the 11800H also persists, as the scaling is much better at higher power levels than AMD's Ryzen 8-core processors, but overall the CPU is less efficient than the Ryzen 9 5900HX at lower TDPs.

In the real world, this means that laptops with bigger, more powerful coolers have a smaller power range between the 5900HX and the 11980HK, and somewhere between 85 and 95W I would expect the two to be about the same. However, when it comes to slimmer and lighter systems, and even full-size gaming laptops, AMD has the edge. The higher the power level, the further away the 11980HK is from the 10980HK.

Gaming benchmarks

Now let's look at some games. We focus on 1080p tests where the display is connected to the CPU's integrated graphics and using technologies like Nvidia Optimus. This gives us the CPU-limited results, but is still a realistic use case for most laptops.

In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, we see a drop in performance when comparing the 11980HK to the 10980HK in the same laptop with the same GPU. The new 11th generation model is five percent slower and offers the same performance as the 11800H we previously tested with the RTX 3070 laptop GPU inside. This is a little disappointing, but not a complete surprise.

However, in most cases this is not the type of result you will see …

In Borderlands 3, the 11980HK is significantly faster, especially at 1 percent lows, where the new model delivers 15 percent higher results that are more in line with AMD's processors. The average frame rates have also increased by 4 percent gen-on-gen.

In Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order, which is usually relatively single-threaded, the 11980HK enjoys an 8 percent performance gain on average over the 10980HK when using the same RTX 3080 laptop GPU. The Ryzen 9 5900HX is once again head to head in a CPU-limited benchmark.

In Rainbow Six Siege, Intel processors have a clear advantage over AMD and deliver higher frame rates than the Ryzen 9 5900HX. The 11980HK is 10 percent faster than the 10980HK using the same GPU in this test, a good result for Intel's latest generation.

There are many times when you are primarily GPU limited on a gaming laptop, even if you are playing at 1080p. Control is one of those examples where there is no performance difference between the two configurations.

If you play these types of titles, or mainly play at a higher resolution like 1440p, the CPU doesn't play too much of a role when you buy it at the Core i7 or Ryzen 7 and above levels.

Death Stranding is another solid result for the Core i9-11980HK and its performance improvement over the Core i9-10980HK. We're seeing a 10 percent difference here, which is on the higher side of the margins I've seen so far.

The whole thing is rounded off by the Hitman 3 Dartmoor benchmark. I might have expected a larger performance delta between the 11th and 10th generation systems in a very CPU-heavy game, but it turned out that the difference is only 4 percent in favor of the new 11980HK. That holds together with the 5900HX and 11800H in the flood of modern laptop processors.

Benchmarks

In a direct comparison of the MSI GE76 with the RTX 3080 and either the Core i9-11980HK or the Core i9-10980HK, the newer 11th generation model is only 3% faster on average with an 18 test sample at 1080p.

Core i9-11980HK vs. Core i9-10980HK

That's pretty negligible, and it's disappointing to see a drop in performance on a handful of titles. However, this is offset by a performance increase of 7% or more on six of the titles. So it depends on which games you are playing exactly to benefit from the IPC uplift with the new Tiger Lake processors, or whether the clock speeds are relevant, in which case last-generation models have an advantage.

However, for productivity workloads, the 11980HK is much faster than the 10980HK. In intensive multi-threading tests, the new 11th generation model is up to 30 percent faster at 45 W, and this value will increase at higher power levels.

This is accompanied by a single-thread performance gain of around 15 percent, the biggest leap that Intel has made in the H series for some time.

Core i9-11980HK vs. Core i7-11800H

The difference between the 11980HK and the model just a few rungs below, the Core i7-11800H, is small. For multithreaded workloads, we've seen only single-digit increases in general, with some outlier tests breaking into double digits.

And then there isn't much of a difference in single- or lightly-threaded tests, especially in longer-term single-threaded tests, as the 11980HK can only reach 5 GHz in short bursts.

Core i9-11980HK vs. Ryzen 9 5900HX

When it comes to comparing Intel and AMD, we have the battle between the Core i9-11980HK and the Ryzen 9 5900HX. AMD has an even higher tier CPU, the Ryzen 9 5980HX, but this chip seems rare and we haven't been able to test it yet. In any case, the results are mixed.

For longer-term multi-thread workloads, AMD has a clear advantage; the 11980HK falls behind by up to 15 percent. However, on other workloads, the 11980HK is faster, has a small advantage in single-threaded workloads, and has some edge-case wins in other tests like Matlab and Excel, which are cache-heavy.

The average results of all of these numbers put the 11980HK and 5900HX heads and heads, but it comes down to which tasks you mainly do on your laptop and which CPU is the more powerful choice.

What we learned

Overall, the Core i9-11980HK doesn't change much of what we know about Intel's Tiger Lake H45 processors. With slight clock increases over the Core i7 model, the 11980HK is only marginally faster than the Core i7-11800H for most productivity workloads – typically this margin is 5 to 10%.

This suggests that 11980HK CPUs are better sorted and more efficient than lower tier 8-core CPUs, which is great for those looking for the absolute fastest Tiger Lake chip you can get. But the margin isn't big enough to significantly change Intel's competitiveness in high-performance productivity or gaming laptops.

The good news is that Intel is offering owners of 10th generation (or older) laptop computers a significant upgrade for productivity tasks. The 11980HK is at least double-digit percentages faster than the 10980HK in almost any workload, with the heaviest single-threaded applications seeing 30 percent gains.

We are no longer in the era of small Skylake iterations year after year, this is a complete architecture overhaul of a new 10nm SuperFin process node with many advantages in every area.

That being said, it's hard to get excited about the 11980HK. It's competitive with the AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX to some extent, but loses out on multi-threaded workloads where it's clear that the Zen 3 is more efficient. Intel seems to be most competitive in gaming when comparing the Core i9 to Ryzen 9, but even then we haven't seen any game-changing differences where the GPU often plays a much more important role.

The Core i9 11980HK also suffers from product cannibalization. I just don't see a compelling reason to buy a 11980HK laptop when the 11800H exists and offers 95% of its performance, especially when the Core i9 CPU is typically a $ 300 option in otherwise identical laptops.

The value proposition isn't great either when comparing Core i9 11980HK laptops to Ryzen 9 5900HX laptops with similar GPUs. Typically, the AMD configuration is available for $ 500 or less under certain circumstances, which currently sets the value firmly in AMD's court.

With the two platforms generally delivering similar performance, with AMD favoring productivity and Intel's games, we don't think the sizeable price difference is even close to being justified.

The only point left to discuss is Intel's platform advantage, which to some extent is still relevant today. The 11980HK offers PCIe 4.0 support and Thunderbolt 4, the latter of which could be a major selling point for some. Intel CPUs can also be found in a wider variety of laptops and with greater availability.

At the end of the day, however, we strongly recommend that you focus primarily on Core i7 or Ryzen 7 offerings in this generation of laptops, which are top performance and value for most buyers.

Purchasing abbreviation
  • Intel Core i9-11980HK Laptops on Amazon
  • Intel Core i7-11800H laptops on Amazon
  • MSI GE76 Raider 11th Gen on Amazon
  • Ryzen 7 5800H Laptops on Amazon
  • Ryzen 9 5900HX Laptops on Amazon
  • GeForce RTX 3080 Laptops on Amazon
  • GeForce RTX 3060 Laptops on Amazon

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