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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  • blppt - Tuesday, March 30, 2021 - link

    I disagree. I had a 9590 (which shipped WITH a small AIO cooler!) and the thing was shaky at best for stability, easily topping 90c at stock settings.

    Not the mobo fault either, I had the top end ASUS CHVF-Z 990FX, which was such a mature chipset it practically had grey hairs.
    Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - link

    the 9000 series all had stability issues. Backing off 1 clock bin or tinkering with voltage would usually fix them.

    Bulldozer didnt have the thermal density issues modern CPUs have. If you had the cooling, it would work. Bulldozer's issue was the sheer amount of heat being being generated would overwhelm many CPU coolers of the time, which were built aroudn the more tradiitonal ~100w power draw of intel I7s and the ~125-140 of phenoms. The 200+ that bulldozer was pulling was new territory.
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - link

    Certain motherboard makers played loose with the VRMs. AsRock in particular was known for its 9000-series-certified boards frying. MSI was also bad. Only a few boards were suited to the 9000 series and any enthusiast would have skipped the 9000 series in favor of one of the lower-leakage chips, which could be overclocked to the same 4.7 GHz. 5 GHz with Piledriver was not stable, requiring too much voltage. ASUS tried to hide that by under-reporting the voltage used in its flagship board. 4.4 GHz was optimal, 4.5 was okay, and 4.7 was as far as one wanted to go for frequent use. That's with the lower-leakage 'E' parts.

    "The Stilt" said AMD would have sent the 9000 series to the crusher had it not come up with an after-the-fact lower standard for leakage. So, Hruska gets his take spectacularly wrong in his Rocket Lake article. The 9000 series was not aimed at 'the enthusiast faithful'. Those people knew better than to buy a 9000 series chip, even though there were a few astroturfers trying to get people to buy them — like one guy who claimed his was running at 5.1 GHz 24/7.

    It was aimed at people who could be tricked by the 5 Ghz number. It was the most cynical cash grab possible. Not only did AMD offer only 4 FPU cores (important for gaming) it offered a CPU that was priced into the stratosphere while having un-fixable single-core performance.

    Piledriver's fatal flaw was its abysmal single-thread performance, not its power consumption. It could have been okay enough with the lower-leakage standard (and a more strict socket standard as Zen 1 had). But, reportedly, the 32nm SOI wasn't very good for some time (Bulldozer and the first generation of Piledriver), so AMD let the AM3+ spec be pretty loose (although not as loose as FM).

    Overclocking Piledriver even to 5 GHz wasn't enough to give it decent single-thread performance.

    I do have to agree that the 9590 was the single worst consumer CPU product ever released. It even edges out the Pentium III that wasn't stable — since that one was actually pulled from the market. Not only was the 9590 100% cynical exploitation of consumer ignorance, it was really bad technologically. Figures that Hruska would praise it.

    (If, though, one lived in Iceland with a solar array backed by an iron-nickle battery complex, the 9590 would have been okay for playing Deserts of Kharak, provided one didn't buy it at its original price.)
    Reply
  • blppt - Thursday, April 1, 2021 - link

    "Those people knew better than to buy a 9000 series chip, even though there were a few astroturfers trying to get people to buy them — like one guy who claimed his was running at 5.1 GHz 24/7."

    What is especially sad here is that even IF he managed to pump the 250-300W into that 9590 to run at 5.1 (all cores), it was probably still slower than a 4790K at stock speeds.
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Saturday, April 3, 2021 - link

    In single core, certainly. However, 2011 is stamped onto the spreaders of Piledriver and it hit the market in 2012. The 4790K hit the market in Q2 2014.

    In 2014, the only FX to consider was the 8320E. Not only was it cheap (at least at MicroCenter), it could run in any AM3+ board without killing it — and could be overclocked better than a 9000 series with anything below nitrogen, due to its much superior leakage.

    The 8320E was the only FX worth anyone’s time. Paired with a UD3P board it could do 4.4 GHz readily and could manage 4.7 with a fast fan angled at the VRM sink. Total cost was very low for the CPU and board from MicroCenter, which is why I recommended that setup to the tightest budget people. But, the bad single core was a problem for frametime consistency.

    AMD should have been publicly tarred and feathered by the tech press for the 9590. All the light mockery wasn’t enough.
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Friday, April 9, 2021 - link

    Broadly agreed, but I'd note that the 6300 was also reasonable if you were on a painfully low budget. I suggested it to a friend (his alternative was a Sandy Bridge i3) and it lasted him until a year back as his main gaming system. It's now moved on to another friend, who still uses it for games. Those chips have aged surprisingly well, all things considered, though it is probably holding his RX 470 back a little bit. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - link

    • The 9590 posted the highest results in the game Deserts of Kharak, in a dual 980 Ti setup at only 1080 or 1440. And, SLI setups showed competitive 4K scores for many games back then.

    • The overclocked 'The Stilt' said the 9000 series is not the chip to judge the design by because it has the worst leakage characteristics and would have been sent to the crusher had AMD not decided to create a lower standard after the fact. Instead, the chips that should be used to represent Piledriver are the 'E' series. They have the lowest leakage and can manage the same 4.7 GHz the 9590 uses with much more reasonable (although still non-competitive) demands. The 9000 series was really AMD's gift to Intel, by making the bad ancient Piledriver design look much worse.

    • AMD was a small cash-strapped company, thanks to Intel's monopoly abuses. When AMD was leading the x86 industry Intel kept it from getting the profit. So, Piledriver, although very bad in a number of ways, will never be as bad as Rocket Lake. The 9000 series is the only exception, though, since it was a purely cynical cash grab by AMD, using '5 GHz' to sucker people.
    Reply
  • blppt - Thursday, April 1, 2021 - link

    "The 9590 posted the highest results in the game Deserts of Kharak, in a dual 980 Ti setup at only 1080 or 1440. And, SLI setups showed competitive 4K scores for many games back then."

    As I stated, in the (exceedingly rare) case where a game or app can saturate all 8 cores, when the 9590 was in its prime, it could be competitive.

    That almost never happened, especially in games. About the only 2 I can think of offhand that could do that in the 9590's prime was GTA5 and Company of Heroes 2. And even then, you were using 150+ more watts to get the same or slightly better performance than Intel's high-end quad cores. Along with the required AIO water cooling and required high-end mobo with a beastly VRM setup. As far as I know, only 3 pricey mobos were approved for the 9590, my CHVF-Z, one Gigabyte board, and an ASRock.

    9590 was one of the worst cpus ever. Probably the single worst (special edition) cpu. I had one for years.

    This rocket lake, while disappointing, hot, and power consuming, is consistently competitive in every game versus its direct competitors. The 9590 cannot come close to saying that.
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Saturday, April 3, 2021 - link

    I cite Desert of Kharak because it’s the only game I’ve seen put the FX ahead of Intel at below 4K.

    Not only would the game need to be able to leverage 8 integer cores without needing more than 4 FPU cores, it would have to be able to saturate a narrow deep pipeline and not rely heavily on single thread IPC. It should also scale with clock and not need the best RAM and L3 performance. RTS is probably the best genre for the Piledriver design.
    Reply
  • Gondalf - Tuesday, March 30, 2021 - link

    AMD FX-9590 had not AVX-512. Very high performance have a cost.
    Try to image Zen 3 with AVX-512, it could not be a champion in low power consumption at all.

    If you do not like high power draw, simply disable AVX-512.
    Reply

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