Rocket Lake has arrived. Intel confirmed that 11th-gen desktop chips were on their way back in October and teased the new processors at CES in January, but it wasn't until March 2021 that they officially went on sale.
The company's latest silicon might still be based on the outdated 14nm process, but it does come with a new CPU architecture and integrated graphics solution, as well as updated AI smarts.
But will Rocket Lake be able to rival AMD's Ryzen 5000 series, now considered to be the gold standard when it comes to desktop performance? Here's everything you need to know.
Intel Rocket Lake release date
As many rumours suggested, Intel officially launched its Rocket Lake desktop chips on 16 March 2021, before the new CPUs went on sale from 30 March 2021.
They're already available at plenty of retailers in the UK and US - check out our guide on where to buy Intel Rocket Lake for more information.
Intel Rocket Lake price
While Tiger Lake processors are only available within particular laptops, it's a different story for the desktop chips. There are few surprises when it comes to Rocket Lake's suggested pricing, although it's only provided in US dollars:
- Core i9-11900K - $513-$539
- Core i7-11700K - $374-$399
- Core i5-11600K - $237-$262
- Core i5-11400K - $157-$182
This only serves as a rough guide, as prices can and do vary between retailers. They're likely to be slightly more expensive than previous-gen Comet Lake chips wherever you buy from, although that's no surprise considering we saw a similar price hike on AMD's Ryzen 5000 series.
Intel Rocket Lake key specs
Intel revealed a few key details about Rocket Lake at CES 2021, so it wasn't a surprise to see them make it into the final product. This includes the move to a new Cypress Cove architecture, arguably the biggest change for Intel desktop chips since 2015. However, it's still based on the 14nm process, with the Ryzen 5000 series moving to 7nm in 2020. Nonetheless, Intel says Rocket Lake will be capable of up to 19% more instructions per cycle (IPC) generation over generation, allowing devices to better handle complex tasks.
The chips also move to Intel's new integrated graphics solution, which is claimed to deliver 'up to 50% better integrated graphics performance'. Many desktops come with discrete GPUs from the likes of AMD and Nvidia, but it's impressive to see such a big improvement in integrated performance.
New AI integration was the third key area, with Intel's Deep Learning Boost capable of running complex AI workloads on top of your existing workload. This should lead to more optimised performance, although it's not clear how much of a tangible effect this will have.
The new Rocket Lake processors are headlined by a new Core i9-11900K, which looks set to go toe-to-toe with AMD's latest Ryzen 9 5900X. Both chips are designed to be able to handle graphic intensive gaming at Full HD (1080p), with synthetic benchmarks indicating Intel has a performance advantage of 8% in Total War: Three Kingdoms and 4% in Cyberpunk 2077 and Watchdogs: Legion respectively. We'll have to wait and see how well these claims stand up to real-world usage.
Most people won't be buying the most expensive chip, though. Here's what you can expect from the full lineup:
- Core i9-11900K - 8 cores, 16 threads, 3.8GHz base clock speed, 5.3GHz max boost speed, 125W TDP
- Core i7-11700K - 8 cores, 16 threads, 3.6GHz base clock speed, 5.0GHz max boost speed, 125W TDP
- Core i5-11600K - 6 cores, 12 threads, 3.9GHz base clock speed, 4.9GHz max boost speed, 125WTDP
- Core i5-11400K - 6 cores, 12 threads, 2.6GHz base clock speed, 4.4GHz max boost speed, 65WTDP
Here's a summary of all the key new features coming to the full Rocket Lake range:
A subsequent tweet from Intel's Chief Performance strategist makes for encouraging reading. It suggests the Core i9-11900K CPU is as much as 11% faster than the equivalent AMD chip (Ryzen 9 5950X), based on PCMark benchmarks:
At #CES21 we looked at Rocket Lake-S gaming. Here’s a sneak peek of Core i9-11900K PCIe Gen 4 storage performance - up to 11% faster on PCMark 10 Quick System Drive Benchmark vs the 5950X. Thanks @Malventano for the data. Backup: https://t.co/LcI5n5Cok2 pic.twitter.com/NhblHRQJSC— Ryan Shrout (@ryanshrout) February 23, 2021
The only Rocket Lake feature that Intel confirmed in its original Medium post was support for PCIe 4.0, the latest generation of motherboard interface for SSDs, graphics cards and more. It was also described as "another fantastic processor for gaming", and we wouldn't expect Intel to rest on its laurels when you consider the strength of the competition.
Elsewhere, Rocket Lake also supports improved DDR4 memory speeds, increased max display resolutions and more CPU PCIe lanes. See full details in the infographic below:
Rocket Lake didn't officially go on sale until 30 March, but an unboxing video of the top-spec Core i9-11900K was uploaded to YouTube ahead of time. User Vassi Tech claims it arrived early following a pre-order:
However, benchmarks show encouraging signs for Rocket Lake's performance capabilities. Twitter user @TUM_APISAK is becoming a regular at unearthing benchmark performance, although we can't be 100% sure of the accuracy of these figures.
The 8-core i7-10700K in the current generation scored 148 for single-core performance, suggesting the new processor provides a boost of around 21% over its predecessor. However, that's expected to be the highest number of cores available with Rocket Lake, ditching the 10-core option from the current Comet Lake.
@TUM_APISAK was back at it again in December 2020, revealing a high-end chip that could go head-to-head with AMD's Ryzen 9 5800X:
Rocket Lake— APISAK (@TUM_APISAK) December 3, 2020
1 Processor, 8 Cores, 16 Threads
GenuineIntel Family 6 Model 167 Stepping 0
Base Frequency 3.41 GHz
Maximum Frequency 4.98 GHz
HP OMEN 30L Desktop GT13-0xxx
Geekbench 5 score
1645 - 9783https://t.co/tFJdin96zJ pic.twitter.com/rtKLMsFO1X
Then, in January 2021, the same leaker tweeted Geekbench 5 benchmark results that make for encouraging reading. In particular, single-core performance is significantly higher than the Ryzen 9 5900X:
For comparison, Wccftech suggests AMD's chip records around 1,660 in single-core performance and 10,4000 for multi-core. It's also worth remembering there are two other chips in the Ryzen 5000 series that should, in theory, be even more powerful.
Those max clock speeds only serve as a guide, though. YouTuber PC Wale has managed to overclock the i9-11900K to an incredible 6.5GHz max frequency, although liquid nitrogen was needed in order to make it possible:
These highly controlled conditions are in no way representative of real-world usage, but they do offer an insight into what Rocket Lake CPUs are capable of. Expect more overclocking tests to be published online as the chips officially go on sale.
Of course, it's worth noting that this is the most powerful and expensive processor in the Rocket Lake range. Cheaper chips won't offer quite the same level of performance, although we are expecting a nice boost across the board.
Rocket Lake may have just launched, but Intel is also readying 12th-gen Alder Lake chips for release. Expect it to arrive before the end of 2021, consisting of both desktop and laptop processors.
Looking further ahead, we're also expecting 13th-gen Raptor Lake CPUs for a range of different devices in 2022.