Intel's 11th-gen desktop CPUs could win gamers back from AMD

Devindra Hardawar
·Senior Editor
·3 min read

Intel already dropped the biggest news about its 11th-gen Core desktop CPUs in January: They'll be up to 19 percent faster than its 10th-gen chips. Now, the company is finally able to give us more information about its next family of CPUs, codenamed "Rocket Lake S." The fastest offering will be the Core i9-11900K, an 8-core chip that reaches up to 5.3GHz on a single core. Notably, that's two fewer cores than last year's 10900K. Intel clearly had to make some tradeoffs since it's not moving to a newer manufacturing process; by sacrificing a few cores, it's able to wring out more performance from its aging 14nm hardware.

Paradoxically, that's great news for gamers. Most PC titles don't take full advantage of multiple CPU cores, instead it's single-core performance and high clock speeds that matters the most. Intel claims the 11900K is 14 percent faster than its last chip while playing Microsoft Flight Simulator in 1080p with high settings, as well as 13 percent speedier in Total War: Three Kingdoms. Additionally, Intel says the chip beats out AMD's flagship Ryzen 9 5900X by 11 percent and 10 percent in those respective titles.

Intel 11th-gen desktop CPU stats
Intel 11th-gen desktop CPU stats

Based on the figures Intel has shared so far, there doesn't seem to be a major downside by going with an 8-core flagship chip, instead of a 10-core model. That's even true for tasks that can actually take advantage of multiple cores, like video and photo creation. The company claims the 11900K is a whopping 88 percent faster than the previous model when it comes to video editing, as well as 35 percent faster than the Ryzen 9 5900X. At this point, it seems like the speed improvements in 11th-gen hardware was worth the sacrifice, but I'm waiting on third-party benchmarks for a final confirmation.

You can expect some speed improvements across Intel's new lineup, like a 16 percent speed bump in Gears 5 on the Core i5-11600K, compared to last year's 10600K. As usual, these chips really aren't meant to be an immediate upgrade for anyone rocking last-gen hardware. But for anyone running older chips — like my tried and true Core i7-8700K — it's suddenly more compelling to stick with Intel rather than jump ship to AMD.

Intel 11th-gen desktop CPU stats
Intel 11th-gen desktop CPU stats

Across the board, you can expect up to 50 percent faster graphics on the 11th-gen CPUs, thanks to Intel's new UHD graphics with Xe GPU hardware. (Though really, if you're getting one of these chips, you'll definitely be pairing it with a dedicated GPU.) They'll support up to 20 PCIe 4.0 lanes, DDR4-3200 RAM, as well as the ability to better handle new media compression, like 10-bit AV1, 12-bit HEVC and E2E. These chips will be powered by the company's new 500-series chipset, which includes support for faster USB 3.2 performance (2x2 20Gbps), discrete Thunderbolt 4, and double the bandwidth capabilities between the chipset and CPUs.

Intel 11th Gen Rocket Lake S
Intel 11th Gen Rocket Lake S

Together with a bevy of overclocking improvements, including support for better memory tweaks on the H570 and B560 chipsets, Intel is making a real push for performance-oriented users. But given just how strong AMD's Ryzen chips have been over the years, it may still make more sense to jump ship. That's particularly true if you care about more efficient thermal performance, as well as upgradability. It's unclear how future Intel CPUs — which will hopefully be moving on from its 14nm process — will support its latest batch of chipsets. AMD, meanwhile, has historically done a better job of making its new hardware backwards-compatible with older chipsets.