Intel Rocket Lake Revisited: Core i9-11900K Performance Boost After BIOS Update
A Little Microcode Goes A Long Way
Rather than simply updating our Rocket Lake-S launch review, I have taken it upon myself to write a companion article after some brief re-testing on the latest BIOS for our Z590 test board – the ASUS MAXIMUS XIII HERO.
Now up to version 0704 (as this was written, anyhow), there were some significant performance-minded changes made that actually alter the story with the Core i9-11900K a bit. Officially these changes include:
- Support Intel ABT (Adaptive Boost Technology) when using i9-11900K, i9-11900KF processors
- Improve system performance
- Update microcode of the 11th Gen Intel processors
- Improve system stability
You might be thinking, why does a simple BIOS update warrant a performance update article? Well, the numbers we saw on BIOS 0605 were, frankly, not all that impressive. Boost behavior was a bit reserved, even in an unlimited power state, with all-core clocks hitting a 4.8 GHz ceiling. Well, no more.
Higher Boost Clocks – Now 5GHz All-Core
After updating the BIOS I now find sustained all-core boost frequencies of a whopping 5.0 GHz, and this can obviously shave valuable time off multi-threaded workloads. To quickly illustrate, here is the new average of three runs with the Blender Classroom render, compared to previous results:
A savings of around 17 seconds might not seem like that much, but it’s a measurable example of the impact of this 200 MHz clock jump. So was the improvement limited to multi-threaded workloads considering Thermal Velocity Boost is now enabled on the i9-11900K? To spot-check I ran Geekbench three more times on the new BIOS, and here are the averages:
For whatever reason we actually see a slight regression in this test with single-thread integer/float performance, but significant multi-threaded gains as with Blender thanks to those higher all-core boost clocks.
Turning The Power To 11
Those impressive all-core boost clocks don’t magically happen without an increase in power draw, and in the default power limit-free operating environment of enthusiast motherboards it makes a pretty significant difference to add 200 MHz to all cores:
This is not a small increase. Just looking at reported package power via HWINFO64, during the same Blender Classroom workload the Core i9-11900K moves up from around 210 watts to 270 watts. I was using a 280 mm liquid cooler with the fans and pump set to 100% during all testing, so thermals weren’t an issue, and I recommend a powerful cooling solution if you plan on running without power limits.
How much does the promise of 5 GHz all-core frequencies affect your opinion of Intel’s 11th Gen launch? IPC gains were already significant over 10th Gen Core desktop, but AMD’s single and multi-threaded performance is so good with Zen 3 that Intel has more catching up to do. Still, there’s no denying that a simple BIOS update offering this level of improvement is both unusual for Intel, and welcome by those adopting the platform.
This 11th Gen desktop launch has certainly felt a little rushed, with the lack of a day-one Xe graphics driver perhaps a further sign of the compressed timeframe in launching these new products. But, a week later, we have a better product and working graphics drivers, so things have improved – though Intel’s power draw this generation might remind enthusiasts of a certain AMD product from 2014.
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