Intel Core i9-11900K processor review

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An Introduction

Core i9-11900K processor review
Rocket-Lake-S, the new gaming king?

We review Intel's new Desktop flagship processor, the 8-core Core i9-11900K. The 11th generation Intel Core desktop processors, previously known as RKL aka Rocket Lake-S, have been released to battle with AMDs popular Ryzen 5000 series processors. The Rocket-Lake-S 11th generation series processors have been the topic of much discussion the past few months. Intel making a move towards PCIe Gen 4.0 (on the processor's lanes, but not mobo-chipset) and making a shift towards new Cypress Cove CPU cores (which technically are Sunny Cover cores, you know, from 10nm Tiger Lake). Yes, Intel has been unable to move towards 10nm for its fabrication process, so again this is a processor series that is fabbed on 14nm. While the performance is there, the bigger that number, the more extensive power consumption and heat will be. It's been a hell of a time and a hell of a ride for Intel. To date, they cannot meet the incredible demand for their wide portfolio of processors and chipsets. AMD is breathing down its neck for a few years now with Ryzen, and Ryzen 5000 is/was effectively the fastest IPC-based processor series with proper TDP. And as this review will prove, they still are.

AMD moved towards the 7nm fabrication node completely and is reaping the fruits of that node; Intel has a tough time breaking away from 14nm. Initially, they wanted to move to 10nm, but that has proven impossible for various reasons. Something had to change, though, and for Intel, that had to be its architecture. For the laptop parts, there's tiger lake on 10nm, with Golden Cove CPU cores. Here's what Intel did, they took these CPU cores (which offer more IPC) and reversed engineered them back (ported if you will) towards 14nm. And that my friends are what is now called Cypress cove cores, the cores that Rocket-Lake-S series processors now use. So while they gain the generational performance increase in IPC, they however still have to face the fact that they're on 14nm, and that means high voltages, high (and hungry) clock frequencies, and thus energy efficiency is getting a thing on its own. 

14nm++++

  • Skylake, Core 6th Gen - August 2015
  • Kaby Lake, Core 7th Gen - January 2017
  • Coffee Lake, Core 8th Gen - October 2017
  • Coffee Lake Refresh, Core 9th Gen - October 2018
  • Comet Lake, Core 10th Gen - April 2020
  • Rocket Lake, Core 11th Gen  - March 2021

I had to look this up and think a bit back in time to see and remember what the first 14nm product was, and that was 2015 where Intel released its Skylake architecture. The good news is, though, that RKL will be the last in that long line of 14nm products. Intel is listing the procs at 125 Watt, not bad at all for a fast 8-core part. However, in pale comparison, a Ryzen 9 5950X with its 16 cores is rated 105 Watts on TDP. Next to that, Intel is using multiple power states. That TDP might be 125 Watt, but the flagship Rocket-Lake-S processor has a secondary PL2 state where it can utilize 250 Watts of power for almost a minute, and motherboard manufacturers are free to tweak that timeframe even longer. It is a bit worrying perhaps, but then again, most of us don't really care too much about TDP; performance is where it's at. The generational increase for RKL brings new benefits to the eco-system as well, AVX512, support for 20 PCIe 4.0 lanes from the CPU, and faster memory support. The new Z590 chipset-based motherboards have native USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 (20 Gbps) and get a doubled up bandwidth link from CPU to the chipset, moving from DMI x4 to DMI x8, but still a PCIe Gen 3.0 x8 link.

It has been a long wait with some discomfort, as some retailers started selling RKL processors early in March 2021 already. Still, finally, we can share with you features, metrics, and benchmarks of the new 11th generation Intel Core desktop processors, The successor to CML, aka Comet Lake, now RKL Rocket Lake with the flagship model Core i7-11900K, has eight cores and can reach a turbo frequency of up to 5.2 GHz even 5.3 GHz with proper cooling (Velocity Thermal Boost) on selected CPU cores.


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Proc Cores/Threads Base AllCore Turbo Turbo 2.0 Turbo 3.0 TDP Price $
i7-11700K 8C / 16T 3.6 GHz 4.6 4.9 GHz 5.0 GHz 125W -
i9-11900K 8C / 16T 3.8 GHz 4.8 5.0 5.2 GHz 125W

The 11th generation into Core desktop processors is running up-to 8 cores, which's two down from 10th generation processors. Likely, Intel needed the transistor space on 14nm for the increase in IPC, bigger Tier1 and 2 caches, and of course, the new Xe-based integrated graphics solution. The processor socket sticks towards 1200 pins, aka LGA1200. After a BIOS update, Z490 will also be compatible with 11th Gen processors, be sure to check out compatibility with your motherboard manufacturer. Among the main features, we have HyperThreading through the entire line of Core products, so that's from Core i3 to Core i9, up to 8 cores and 16threads, and up to 5.3GHz for a single-core boost if your cooling allows the processor to do so. The new Z590 motherboards will last for Comet Lake-S (last gen) and Rocket Lake-S (11th-gen). 

That means the flagship desktop processor is the Core i9-11900K with eight cores + sixteen threads hyperthreading (SMT), where a single core can go up to 5.3 GHz (if cold enough).  A Core i7-11700K with eight cores and sixteen threads would lock in at 5.0 GHz on a single core. There will be unlocked Core i5 processors, the best being the six-core Core i5 11600K which we'll review in another article. On the next page, you can look closely at the processor prices and compare these back and forth for this specific review.

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