CES 2021: Intel Announces 11th Gen Rocket Lake-S Desktop Processors
Rocket Lake-S Takes Aim At The Desktop Gaming Crown
The new 11th Gen Core desktop processors are official, and they feature new architecture (it was fun while it lasted, Skylake), though still on the 14nm process. The new flagship will be the Core i9-11900K, which is, doubtless to the surprise of some, an 8-core processor (the previous i9-10900K was a 10-core design). Some will look at a regression in total cores with the new 11th Gen desktop as sign that Intel isn’t trying to compete with AMD on desktop right now, but there’s more to the story.
It was Intel’s decision to backport their 10nm architecture to 14nm for desktop that necessitated this generation’s limit of 8 cores/16 threads, same as mobile, placing the 11th Gen Core well behind AMD in total core/thread count. However, Intel claims that the IPC improvements of up to 19% gained by leveraging that 10nm architecture results in single-threaded performance higher than AMD’s fastest desktop CPUs, and the company’s benchmarks show a return to the top of 1080p gaming benchmarks after being displaced by the likes of the Ryzen 5900X (more on this later).
A Single-Threaded Focus
The headline is clearly the massive up to 19% IPC improvement claim, but there are other notable features provided by Rocket Lake-S, which include native DDR4-3200 support (now at parity with AMD Ryzen CPUs there), as well as an increase in overall PCI Express lanes – from 16 to 20. Oh, and they are PCE Express 4.0 lanes now (more on this shortly).
Intel offered a preview of the Core i9-11900K, but did not provide information about other members of the upcoming 11th Gen “Rocket Lake-S” family, so we should expect a formal product announcement – including pricing – down the road.
Aside from the massive up to 19% IPC improvement claim, other features from Rocket Lake-S include native DDR4-3200 support (now at parity with AMD Ryzen CPUs there), as well as an increase in overall PCI Express lanes – from 16 to 20. Oh, and they are PCE Express 4.0 lanes now (more on this shortly).
Backwards compatibility is a welcome sight, as existing 400 Series motherboard owners have an upgrade path, and Intel also mentioned “new overclocking features and capabilities” with Rocket Lake-S.
PCI Express 4.0: Now On Intel
We knew this was coming, but interestingly enough this new Gen4 support is not limited to the new 500 Series chipset boards. We asked Intel about PCI Express 4.0 support on 400 Series chipset boards, and Intel said this is enabled when using Rocket Lake-S on 400 Series chipsets, but ultimately support will come down to individual motherboard support.
We looked at the Z490 Taichi last year – which prominently featured PCIe 4.0 support on the box – and we will be verifying that when we get our hands on a Rocket Lake-S CPU.
Gaming Performance: Intel Back On Top?
While we must of course wait for independent testing to verify this, Intel’s slide shows a lead of up to 8% for the Core i9-11900K vs. the Ryzen 9 5900X in the games they selected, which is obviously a huge win for team blue:
AMD’s dominance in the wake of the Ryzen 5000 launch seemed pretty secure heading into this year, but Intel might just be the go-to gaming processor when these Rocket Lake-S parts are available (let the stoning from team red begin).
11th Gen Desktop Parts Coming In Q1
We don’t have a fixed release date for Rocket Lake-S beyond “Q1”, with a presumption of perhaps a late-March launch (Q2 begins in April). Of course a huge part of the enthusiast hardware landscape right now is simply availability, and here Intel has a chance to gain some ground unless AMD’s Ryzen 5000 Series availability improves. Intel did not comment on availability upon launch, and as these 11th Gen parts are likely a couple of months away from release we will have to wait and see.
Anyone who has tried to purchase a Zen 3 CPU knows that, as of today anyhow, Ryzen 5000 Series processors are sold out everywhere online, and 10th Gen Intel CPUs are readily available. Still, we don’t know what yields of the new Rocket Lake-S will be. It could be that a (very) mature process does work in Intel’s favor this time.