Intel Core i7 11700KF processor review

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Final Words & Conclusion

Final words & conclusion

First our generic bit on RKL and accompanying chipsets. Intel now offers PCIe Express Gen 4.0 to its real-estate; the downside, only the 20 CPU lanes are gen 4.0. The Z590 chipset still sits at Gen 3.0; this also means that if you use 16 lanes for your GPU, there are only four lanes left for a PCIe Gen 4.0 SSD, any other Gen 4.0 SSD connected to the motherboard after that will have to revert to gen 3.0. Is that a big deal? No, we don't think so. The relevancy of PCIe Gen 4.0 M2./ NVMe SSDs still is debatable at best, but in the coming year, we'll see that host infrastructure advance with much faster NVMe based SSDs, and that's where its importance will grow. A good example is our recent Sabrent M.2 SSD review, where we reached 7 GB/sec in peak performance. The processor series does not require a new motherboard if you already own Z490, but again making a move from Comet to Rocket Lake hardly makes sense. If you are on an older platform, it is somewhat mandatory to go with a Z590 motherboard if you want to utilize PCIe gen 4, and Z590 will not be cheap. Aside from improved VRM, DMI with 8x Gen 3.0 lanes, and USB 3.2 2x2, there really isn't much difference compared to Z490 though. So pick your battles there, I'd say. Rocket Lake series processors will be the last one supported on the 1200-pin infrastructure. I've stated this in a recent discussion on the website and forums, but considering that you upgrade a motherboard+CPU likely once every four years, we do not see it as incredibly significant for your purchasing decisions. But for you to upgrade, the processor needs to be just right. Later this year, Alder lake will make its introduction, with a BIG.little design, energy-friendly cores, and performance cores mixed.  But back to Rocket Lake, we do like the increased performance that the series offers, but we can also tell that Intel had to open up a bag of tricks to achieve that. I am referring to the longer-lasting turbo power states of a PL2 mode resulting in high(er) energy consumption and thermals. There's little wrong with it overall as it is not something new; however, the duration and power allowance nearly doubled up, so that means a 125 Watt TDP rated processor is allowed to jump to 225~250 Watts for almost a minute. No question about it will influence heat, and as such, we cannot recommend mainstream heatpipe coolers; you need a proper premium cooler. LCS is the way to go as the proc running towards 250W is harsh for any cooler. The TDP as a discussion by itself, do people care about it? Not so much, we think. But sure, it is significant but manageable.


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Tweaking

You will have noticed that we have left out the overclocking chapter. Despite being an unlocked model, this processor would not even take an extra 200 MHz (4800 MHz on the all-core frequency). After fiddling, trying, and spending way too much time we forfeited, left things at defaults, and walked away agonized. This also makes me write a warning, you need to carefully consider if paying more for a K model is worth it for you. The problem, however, is that the non-K model (a regular 11700) normally would have been the way to go. However Intel was smart here, the K models are 125W and have a far higher base clock, 1100 MHz higher(!). The non-K/KF models are configured as 65W parts. So as far as  11700KF goes, this still is the best part performance/price-wise within the 11700 range.

Gaming performance

We were caught off-guard to see the 11700K(F) to be slightly faster in gaming (here and there) than the 11900K. Looking back and forth the answer seems to be located in the base clock frequency as the 11700KF is clocked 200 MHz higher there. That can make a distinction in many-threaded games with all-core turbo being more limited to the PL2 states. Overall though the processor does well in games. Here and there the results remain mixed though. Depending on where and how you look, Intel and AMD are relatively close with the usual differentials and offsets on both sides from a game performance point of view, however, Intel does show the upper hand. We stated this many years already; a GPU bottleneck is far more important to deal with and spend your money as opposed to a CPU bottleneck. Intel's game performance with super-fast graphics cards solely comes into play in framerate bound situations; Intel can thank the high-frequency Turbos there, (depending on conditions and proc). The reality remains that it's only the 1000 USD graphics cards where you can more easily tackle the FPS differential with a faster GPU. Below it, you are more GPU bound. Comparing apples and oranges; some pure raw wins are for Intel and some for AMD, but everything is relative when it comes to gaming as 98% of the time, your actual limitation is the GPU and not CPU. The vast majority of you guys have a GPU limited graphics card. With eight cores, the reality is absolutely and unequivocally because you can game pretty darn well and even will be future-proof with Rocket Lake-S. 

BIOS Optimized settings

This review we performed at reference setting. Much like the 11400KF we reviewed, we also wanted to include a result set with all-core tweaks from the motherboard manufacturer enabled. However, it hardly made any difference with optimizations enabled, so we left that for what it is. 

Power consumption

With eight cores, you get a 125 Watt TDP processor. It all is more complicated these days. Intel applies that secondary power stage where the processor can run twice that TDP value for a minute. That with the IPC increase Cypress cover cores get is the holy grail for added threading performance; it does, however, make energy consumption peak with higher values during that long boost. The system at idle with a GeForce RTX 3090 installed / 16 GB memory / SSD, and the Z590 motherboard hovers at roughly 70 Watts. That's fine, really, but the load values are significantly different. When we stressed the processor 100% run, we reach approximately 275 Watts with this 8-core processor (for the entire PC with GPU in idle). That means under load and divided per core; this processor is utilizing high up there in energy compared to all recent processors tested. These values differ a lot between motherboards brands, due to factory tweaks but also included added ICs like Thunderbolt or extravagant Ethernet jacks and RGB. All consume additional power. Rocket Lake-S is a processor series with many dynamics and complications. Gear 1 and 2 settings show pretty striking differences in power consumption. For this generation, the Gear 1 mode, in which the memory controller works with the same clock rate as the main memory. In Gear 2 the memory controller's clock rate is halved at the cost of performance. Gear 1 operates up to DDR4-3733 with the Core i7, considering we recommend 3200 or 3600 MHZ DDR4, this mode remains the recommendation one. 

Conclusion

It seems that the more cores the RKL generation has available, the more complicated things get. Ergo perhaps that's the reason why Intel dropped from 10 cores towards 8. The energy levels and accompanying heat to deal with swiftly become challenging once the processors have longer PL2 states. However, and I've stated this in the 11900K review also, Intel does manage to get the most utmost out of 14nm fabrication. I think we can all agree though backporting the CPU cores from 10nm towards 14nm might work, but is not well suited for 14nm overall. It would have been very interesting to see what this generation would have been capable of on 10nm or 7nm, as really the power draw is the root of all issues. Performance overall isn't bad, however, when compared to a Ryzen 7 5800X (the main competing processor) the 11700K(F) loses its appeal quickly. Multi-threaded performance and applications run quite a bit slower than that of Ryzen. Gaming wise Intel does manage to do adequately with the fastest graphics your money cannot buy you.

Pricing wise the KF model will set you back 380 USD, a Ryzen 7 5800X will cost you 449 USD (or at least these are the MSRPs). So if gaming is what you are after, and perhaps not so much the rest of it all, the 11700KF series can be a rational choice. Remember, this proc will also be compatible with most (cheaper) Z490 and B560 motherboards as well as offering PCIe Gen 4.0 compatibility on sixteen lanes as well as four for a nice fast Gen 4.0 NVMe SSD. We're not confident that the Core i7 11700K(F) is a processor series that brings enough to the table when it comes to complex long-lasting multi-threaded workloads, here the Ryzen 7 5800 is the better choice by a good margin for various reasons. The thing is though, most Intel processor customers purchase one as a gaming CPU, and therein Intel did alright. Please also factor in the price; you need to keep in mind, it's roughly 5% away from the far more expensive 11900K, so relative to that processor, this processor can make more sense in relation to the price tag. However, as a complete design and more effective widespread workloads, the 5800X is the more sensible choice here. The last tip; if you are after true value for your game PC, definitely check out our Core i5 11400F review.  Footnote, we purchased this processor ourselves, it was not provided by Intel.

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