Today is the official launch of Intel’s 11th Generation Core processor family, given the internal name ‘Rocket Lake’. Rocket Lake showcases new performance gains for Intel in the desktop space, with a raw clock-for-clock performance uplift in a number of key workloads.

In order to accomplish this, Intel has retrofitted its 10nm CPU and GPU designs back to 14nm, because only 14nm can achieve the frequency required. In exchange, the new processors to get this performance run hot, cost more for Intel to produce, have two fewer cores at the high end, but customers also get PCIe 4.0 on Intel’s mainstream desktop platform for the first time.

In our review today, we will be going over Intel’s new hardware, why it exists, and how it performs, focusing specifically on Intel’s new flagship, the Core i9-11900K, which has eight cores and can boost up to 5.3 GHz

Intel’s Rocket Lake: Core i9, Core i7, and Core i5

The new Intel 11th Gen Core desktop processor family will start with Core i5, with six cores and twelve threads, through to Core i7 and Core i9, both with eight cores and sixteen threads. All processors will support DDR4-3200 natively, and offer 20 PCIe 4.0 lanes in supported motherboards – these lanes will enable graphics and storage direct from the processor, typically in an x16/x4 or x8/x8/x4 combination.

Both the Core i9 and Core i7 this time around have the same core count - normally the Core i9 would offer an obvious difference, such as more cores, but for this generation the difference is more subtle: Core i9 will offer higher frequencies and Thermal Velocity Boost (TVB). The Core i9-K and i9-KF will also feature Intel’s new Adaptive Boost Technology (ABT). We’ll go over Intel’s Turbo nomenclature later in the article.

Intel 11th Gen Core Rocket Lake
Core i9
AnandTech Cores
Threads
Base
Freq
1T
Peak
nT
Turbo
TDP
(W)
IGP
UHD
Price
1ku
i9-11900K 8 / 16 3500 5300 4700 125 750 $539
i9-11900KF 8 / 16 3500 5300 4700 125 - $513
i9-11900 8 / 16 2500 5200 4600 65 750 $439
i9-11900F 8 / 16 2500 5200 4600 65 - $422
i9-11900T 8 / 16 1500 4900 3700 35 750 $439

At the top of the stack is the Core i9-11900K. Intel has set the 1000-unit pricing of the Core i9-11900K at $539. Note that Intel does this 1k unit pricing for OEMs, and the final retail price is often $10-$25 higher, but in the case of the Core i9-11900K, users are currently looking at a $615 price point at Newegg. This is well above AMD’s Ryzen 7 5800X at $449 SEP (MSRP), which is also an 8-core processor, and beyond even the Ryzen 9 5900X at $549 SEP. Intel is stating that along with better gaming performance, this processor also offers next-generation integrated graphics, support for new AI instructions, and enhanced media support for the price differential.

The Core i9-11900K is the highlight processor of today’s review, and it has a base frequency of 3.5 GHz, alongside a peak turbo of 5.3 GHz in Thermal Velocity Boost mode, 5.2 GHz otherwise on the favored core, or 5.1 GHz on non-favored cores. The all-core frequency is 4.8 GHz in TVB turbo mode, or 4.7 GHz otherwise, or it can ‘float’ the turbo up to 5.1 GHz when ABT is enabled, however ABT is disabled by default.

The only processor not getting TVB in the Core i9 family is the i9-11900T, which is the 35 W member of the family. This processor has 35 W on the box because its base frequency is 1.5 GHz, although it will turbo up to 4.9 GHz single core and 3.7 GHz all-core. These T processors typically end up in OEM systems and mini-PCs which are more likely to strictly follow Intel’s turbo recommendations.

All Core i9 processors will support DDR4-3200, and the specification is to enable a 1:1 frequency mode with the memory controller at this speed.

Intel 11th Gen Core Rocket Lake
Core i7
AnandTech Cores
Threads
Base
Freq
1T
Peak
nT
Turbo
TDP
(W)
IGP
UHD
Price
1ku
i7-11700K 8 / 16 3600 5000 4600 125 750 $399
i7-11700KF 8 / 16 3600 5000 4600 125 - $374
i7-11700 8 / 16 2500 4900 4400 65 750 $323
i7-11700F 8 / 16 2500 4900 4400 65 - $298
i7-11700T 8 / 16 1400 4600 3600 35 750 $323
 

The Core i7 family includes the Core i7-11700K, which we have already reviewed with our retail sample, and tested on the latest microcode to date. This processor offers eight cores, sixteen threads, with a single core turbo of 5.0 GHz on the favored core, 4.9 GHz otherwise, and 4.6 GHz all-core turbo. The rated TDP is 125 W, although we saw 160 W during a regular load, 225 W peaks with an AVX2 rendering load, and 292 W peak power with an AVX-512 compute load.

On the topic of memory support, the Core i7 family does support DDR4-3200, however Intel’s specifications for Rocket Lake are that any non-Core i9 processor should run at a 2:1 ratio of DRAM to memory controller by default, rather than 1:1, effectively lowering memory performance. This creates some segmentation between Core i9 and the rest, as for the rest of the processors the fastest supported 1:1 memory ratio is DDR4-2933. Despite this technical specification, we can confirm in our testing of our Core i7-11700K that all the motherboards we have used so far actually default to 1:1 at DDR4-3200. It would appear that motherboard manufacturers are confident enough in their memory designs to ignore Intel’s specifications on this.

On pricing, the Intel Core i7-11700K is $399, which is important in two ways.

First, it is $140 cheaper than the Core i9-K, and it only loses a few hundred MHz. That leaves the Core i9 high and dry on day one. Unless there’s something special in that chip we haven’t been told about that we have to discover come retail day on March 30th, that’s a vast pricing difference for a small performance difference.

Second is the comparative AMD processor, the Ryzen 7 5800X, which has 8 cores and has a $449 SEP. If both processors were found at these prices, then the comparison is a good one – the Ryzen 7 5800X in our testing scored +8% in CPU tests and +1% in gaming tests (1080p Max). The Ryzen is very much the more power-efficient processor, however the Intel has integrated graphics (an argument that disappears with KF at $374). It will be interesting to see what recommendations people come to with that pricing.

Intel 11th Gen Core Rocket Lake
Core i5
AnandTech Cores
Threads
Base
Freq
1T
Peak
nT
Turbo
TDP
(W)
IGP
UHD
Price
1ku
i5-11600K 6 / 12 3900 4900 4600 125 750 $262
i5-11600KF 6 / 12 3900 4900 4600 125 - $237
i5-11600 6 / 12 2800 4800 4300 65 750 $213
i5-11600T 6 / 12 1700 4100 3500 35 750 $213
i5-11500 6 / 12 2700 4600 4200 65 750 $192
i5-11500T 6 / 12 1500 3900 3400 35 750 $192
i5-11400 6 / 12 2600 4400 4200 65 730 $182
i5-11400F 6 / 12 2600 4400 4200 65 - $157
i5-11400T 6 / 12 1300 3700 3300 35 730 $182

The Core i5 spreads out a lot with more offerings, from $157 for the Core i5-11400F, up to $262 for the Core i5-11600K. All these processors have six cores and twelve threads, all have the traditional Intel Turbo 2.0, and all support DDR4-3200 (2:1) or DDR4-2933 (1:1).

Another difference within these parts is that the Core i5-11400 and Core i5-11400T have UHD Graphics 730, not 750, which means using a 24 EU configuration rather than the full 32 EUs.

Intel’s Competition: Intel vs Intel vs AMD

With both the Core i9 and the Core i7 being eight cores and sixteen threads, the natural competitor to both would be either (a) Intel’s previous generation of processors or (b) AMD’s Ryzen 7 5800X, which is starting to come back into the market with sufficient stock that it can be purchased at its suggested retail price.

Rocket Lake Competition
AnandTech Core i7
10700K
Core i9
10900K
Core i7
11700K
Core i9
11900K
  Ryzen 7
5800X
Ryzen 9
5900X
uArch Comet
Lake
Comet Lake Cypress
Cove
Cypress
Cove
  Zen 3 Zen 3
Cores 8 C
16 T
10 C
20 T
8 C
16 T
8 C
16 T
  8 C
16 T
12 C
24 T
Base Freq 3800 3700 3600 3500   3800 3700
Turbo Freq 5100 5200 5000 5300   4800 4800
All-Core 4700 4900 4600 4800   ~4550 ~4350
TDP 125 W 125 W 125 W 125 W   105 W 105 W
IGP / EUs Gen 9, 24 Gen 9, 24 Xe-LP, 32 Xe-LP, 32   - -
L3 Cache 16 MB 20 MB 16 MB 16 MB   32 MB 64 MB
DDR4 2 x 2933 2 x 2933 2 x 3200 2 x 3200   2 x 3200 2 x 3200
PCIe 3.0 x16 3.0 x16 4.0 x20 4.0 x20   4.0 x24 4.0 x24
MSRP $387 $499 $399 $539   $449 $549
Retail $322 $470 $419 $614   $449 $549

As we saw in our Core i7-11700K review, at $399/$419, the Ryzen 7 5800X at $449 is actually a good comparison point. On high-end gaming both processor performed the same, the AMD processor was ahead an average of 8% on CPU workloads, and the AMD processor came across as a lot more efficient and easy to cool, while the Intel processor scored a big lead in AVX-512 workloads.  At the time of our review, we noted that stock of AMD’s Ryzen 5000 processors would be a large part of the choice between the two processors, given that stock was low and highly volatile. Since then, as in our latest CPU Guide, stock of the AMD CPUs is coming back to normal, so then it would come down to exact pricing differences.

If we focus on the Core i9-11900K in this comparison, given the small differences between itself and the Core i7, you would also have to pit it against the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X, however at its $539 tray price and $615 Newegg price, it really has to go against the 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X, where it loses out by 50% on cores but has a chance to at least draw level on single thread performance.

Test Setup and #CPUOverload Benchmarks

As per our processor testing policy, we take a premium category motherboard suitable for the socket, and equip the system with a suitable amount of memory running at the manufacturer's maximum supported frequency. This is also run at JEDEC subtimings where possible. Reasons are explained here.

Test Setup
Intel
Rocket Lake
Core i9-11900K
Core i7-11700K
Core i5-11600K
ASUS Maximus
XIII Hero
0610/
0703**
TRUE
Copper
+ SST*
ADATA
4x32 GB
DDR4-3200
Intel
Comet Lake
Core i9-10900K
Core i7-10700K
ASRock Z490
PG Velocita
P1.50 TRUE
Copper
+ SST*
ADATA
4x32 GB
DDR4-2933
Intel Coffee
Refresh
Core i9-9900KS
Core i9-9900K
MSI MPG Z390
Gaming Edge AC
AB0 TRUE
Copper
+SST*
ADATA
4x32GB
DDR4-2666
Intel
Coffee Lake
Core i7-8700K MSI MPG Z390
Gaming Edge AC
AB0 TRUE
Copper
+SST*
ADATA
4x32GB
DDR4-2666
AMD
AM4
Ryzen 9 5900X
Ryzen 7 5800X
Ryzen 7 4750G
GIGABYTE X570I
Aorus Pro
F31L Noctua
NHU-12S
SE-AM4
ADATA
2x32 GB
DDR4-3200
GPU Sapphire RX 460 2GB (CPU Tests)
NVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti FE (Gaming Tests)
PSU Corsair AX860i
SSD Crucial MX500 2TB
*TRUE Copper used with Silverstone SST-FHP141-VF 173 CFM fans. Nice and loud.
**0703 was applied for stability support

We must thank the following companies for kindly providing hardware for our multiple test beds. Some of this hardware is not in this test bed specifically, but is used in other testing.

Hardware Providers for CPU and Motherboard Reviews
Sapphire
RX 460 Nitro
NVIDIA
RTX 2080 Ti
Crucial SSDs Corsair PSUs

G.Skill DDR4 ADATA DDR4 Silverstone
Coolers
Noctua
Coolers

A big thanks to ADATA for the ​AD4U3200716G22-SGN modules for this review. They're currently the backbone of our AMD testing.

Users interested in the details of our current CPU benchmark suite can refer to our #CPUOverload article which covers the topics of benchmark automation as well as what our suite runs and why. We also benchmark much more data than is shown in a typical review, all of which you can see in our benchmark database. We call it ‘Bench’, and there’s also a link on the top of the website in case you need it for processor comparison in the future.

Table Of Contents

  1. Rocket Lake Product List
  2. Why Rocket Lake Exists: Retrofitting 10nm to 14nm
  3. Motherboards and Overclocking Support
  4. New Turbo Features: Adaptive Boost Technology
  5. Power Consumption and Stability
  6. CPU Microbenchmarks
  7. CPU Testing
  8. Gaming Testing
  9. Conclusion
 
A Rocket Lake Retrofit: 10nm onto 14nm
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  • Makste - Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - link

    I again have to agree with you on this. Especially with the cooler scenario, it is not easy to spot the detail, but you have managed to bring it to the surface. Rocket Lake is not a good upgrade option now that I look at it. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - link

    (Sorry I messed up and forgot quotation marks in the previous post. 1st, 3rd, and 5th paragraphs are quotes from the article.)

    you wrote:
    ‘Rocket Lake on 14nm: The Best of a Bad Situation’

    I fixed it:
    Rocket Lake on 14nm: Intel's Obsolete Node Produces Inferior CPU'

    ‘Intel is promoting that the new Cypress Cove core offers ‘up to a +19%’ instruction per clock (IPC) generational improvement over the cores used in Comet Lake, which are higher frequency variants of Skylake from 2015.’

    What is the performance per watt? What is the performance per decibel? How do those compare with AMD? Performance includes performance per watt and per decibel, whether Intel likes that or not.

    ‘Designing a mass-production silicon layout requires balancing overall die size with expected yields, expected retail costs, required profit margins, and final product performance. Intel could easily make a 20+ core processor with these Cypress Cove cores, however the die size would be too large to be economical, and perhaps the power consumption when all the cores are loaded would necessitate a severe reduction in frequency to keep the power under control. To that end, Intel finalised its design on eight cores.’

    Translation: Intel wanted to maximize margin by feeding us the ‘overclocked few cores’ design paradigm, the same thing AMD did with Radeon VII. It’s a cynical strategy when one has an inferior design. Just like Radeon VII, these run hot, loud, and underperform. AMD banked on enough people irrationally wanting to buy from ‘team red’ to sell those, while its real focus was on peddling Polaris forever™ + consoles in the GPU space. Plus, AMD sells to miners with designs like that one.

    ‘Intel has stated that in the future it will have cores designed for multiple process nodes at the same time, and so given Rocket Lake’s efficiency at the high frequencies, doesn’t this mean the experiment has failed? I say no, because it teaches Intel a lot in how it designs its silicon’

    This is bad spin. This is not an experimental project. This is product being massed produced to be sold to consumers.
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - link

    One thing many are missing, with all the debate about AVX-512, is the AVX-2 performance per watt/decibel problem:

    'The rated TDP is 125 W, although we saw 160 W during a regular load, 225 W peaks with an AVX2 rendering load, and 292 W peak power with an AVX-512 compute load'

    Only 225 watts? How much power does AMD's stuff use with equivalent work completion speed?
    Reply
  • Hifihedgehog - Thursday, April 1, 2021 - link

    "The spin also includes the testing, using a really loud high-CFM CPU cooler in the Intel and a different quieter one on the AMD."

    Keep whining... You'll eventually tire out.

    https://i.imgur.com/HZVC03T.png

    https://i.imgflip.com/53vqce.jpg
    Reply
  • Makste - Tuesday, April 6, 2021 - link

    Isn't it too much for you to keep posting the same thing over and over? Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - link

    Overclocking support page still doesn’t mention that Intel recently discontinued the overclocking warranty, something that was available since Sandy Bridge or something. Why the continued silence on this?

    ‘On the Overclocking Enhancement side of things, this is perhaps where it gets a bit nuanced.’

    How is it an ‘enhancement’ when the chips are already system-melting hot? There isn't much that's nuanced about Intel’s sudden elimination of the overclocking warranty.

    ‘Overall, it’s a performance plus. It makes sense for the users that can also manage the thermals. AMD caught a wind with the feature when it moved to TSMC’s 7nm. I have a feeling that Intel will have to shift to a new manufacturing node to get the best out of ABT’

    It also helps when people use extremely loud very high CFM coolers for their tests. Intel pioneered the giant hidden fridge but deafness-inducing air cooling is another option.

    How much performance will buyers find in the various hearing aids they'll be in the market for? There aren't any good treatments for tinnitus, btw. That's a benefit one gets for life.

    ‘Intel uses one published value for sustained performance, and an unpublished ‘recommended’ value for turbo performance, the latter of which is routinely ignored by motherboard manufacturers.’

    It’s also routinely ignored by Intel since it peddles its deceptive TDP.

    ‘This is showing the full test, and we can see that the higher performance Intel processors do get the job done quicker. However, the AMD Ryzen 7 processor is still the lowest power of them all, and finishes the quickest. By our estimates, the AMD processor is twice as efficient as the Core i9 in this test.’

    Is that with the super-loud very high CFM cooler on the Intel and the smaller weaker Noctua on the AMD? If so, how about a noise comparison? Performance per decibel?

    ‘The cooler we’re using on this test is arguably the best air cooling on the market – a 1.8 kilogram full copper ThermalRight Ultra Extreme, paired with a 170 CFM high static pressure fan from Silverstone.’

    The same publication that kneecapped AMD’s Zen 1 and Zen 2 but refusing to enable XMP for RAM on the very dubious claim that most enthusiasts don’t enter BIOS to switch it on. Most people are going to have that big loud cooler? Does Intel bundle it? Does it provide a coupon? Does the manual say you need cooler from a specific list?
    Reply
  • BushLin - Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - link

    I won't argue with the rest of your assessment but given these CPUs are essentially factory overclocked close to their limits, the only people who'd benefit from an overclocking warranty are probably a handful of benchmark freaks doing suicide runs on LN2. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Thursday, April 1, 2021 - link

    That’s why I said the word ‘enhancement’ seems questionable. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - link

    ‘Anyone wanting a new GPU has to actively pay attention to stock levels, or drive to a local store for when a delivery arrives.’

    You forgot the ‘pay the scalper price at retail’ part. MSI, for instance, was the first to raise its prices across the board to Ebay scalper prices and is now threatening to raise them again.

    ‘In a time where we have limited GPUs available, I can very much see users going all out on the CPU/memory side of the equation, perhaps spending a bit extra on the CPU, while they wait for the graphics market to come back into play. After all, who really wants to pay $1300 for an RTX 3070 right now?’

    • That is the worst possible way to deal with planned obsolescence.

    14nm is already obsolete. Now, you’re adding in wating for a very long time to get a GPU, making your already obsolete CPU really obsolete by the time you can get one. If you’re waiting for reasonable prices for GPUs you’re looking at, what, more than a year of waiting?

    ‘Intel’s Rocket Lake as a backported processor design has worked’

    No. It’s a failure. The only reasons Intel will be able to sell it is because AMD is production-constrained and because there isn’t enough competition in the x86 space to force AMD to cut the pricing of the 5000 line.

    Intel also cynically hobbled the CPU by starving it of cores to increase profit for itself, banking that people will buy it anyway. It’s the desktop equivalent of Radeon VII. Small die + way too high clock to ‘compensate’ + too-high price = banking on consumer foolishness to sell them (or mining, in the case of AMD). AVX-512 isn’t really going to sell these like mining sold the Radeon VII.

    ‘However, with the GPU market being so terrible, users could jump an extra $100 and get 50% more AMD cores.’

    No mention of power consumption, heat, and noise. Just ‘cores’ and price tag.
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - link

    'Intel could easily make a 20+ core processor with these Cypress Cove cores, however the die size would be too large to be economical'

    Citation needed.

    And, economical for Intel or the customer?

    Besides, going from 8 cores to 20+ is using hyperbole to distract from the facts.

    'and perhaps the power consumption when all the cores are loaded would necessitate a severe reduction in frequency to keep the power under control.'

    The few cores + excessive clocks to 'compensate' strategy is a purely cynical one. It always causes inferior performance per watt. It always causes more noise.

    So, Intel is not only trying to feed us its very obsolete 14nm node, it's trying to do it in the most cynical manner it can: by trying to use 8 cores as the equivalent of what it used to peddle exclusively for the desktop market: quads.

    It thinks it can keep its big margins up by segmenting this much, hoping people will be fooled into thinking the bad performance per watt from too-high clocks is just because of 14nm — not because it's cranking too few cores too high to save itself a few bucks.

    Intel could offer more cores and implement as turbo with a gaming mode that would keep power under control for gaming while maximizing performance. The extra cores would presumably be able to do more work for the watts by keeping clocks/voltage more within the optimal range.

    But no... it would rather give people the illusion of a gaming-optimized part ('8 cores ought to be enough for anyone') when it's only optimized for its margin.
    Reply

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