Intel Rocket Lake Core i9-11900K 8 Core Desktop CPU Review Ft. MSI MEG Z590 ACE, ASRock Z590 Steel Legend, AORUS Z590 PRO AX Motherboards

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PRODUCT INFO

Intel Core i9-11900K

30th March, 2021
Type CPU
Price $539.00 US

Six years! It's been six years since Intel last introduced a major architectural change on its desktop consumer lineup. It's been even longer since the company has relied on the 14nm process node & which isn't changing till later this year but with the ever-increasing competition from the AMD Ryzen CPU lineup, the company has decided to finally unleash a new architecture in its 11th Gen Rocket Lake Desktop CPU lineup.

The company has largely been stagnant in the consumer desktop space. The main reason for this stagnation has been Intel's reliance on its 14nm process node and Skylake architecture which has served the desktop space since 2015 up till 2020 (10th Generation Comet Lake) while Intel's 10nm process dilemmas and yields couldn't keep up with Skylake in mainstream desktop space.

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These only made things worse for Intel along with a re-emerged AMD who went guns blazing in the desktop market with its Ryzen 3000 and Ryzen 5000 CPUs, delivering advanced architectures while utilizing bleeding-edge process nodes.

One of the issue and an ongoing one is the competitive threat from AMD's Ryzen processors which aren't only tackling Intel in terms of pure core count but also in terms of IPC which has exceeded Skylake levels and also pricing in which AMD has simply made Intel's once iconic Core i5 and Core i7 lineups disappear from the game. However, 14nm did turn out to be a savior at the very end of its life cycle with AMD unable to meet the demand for its Zen 3 CPUs while 14nm is more stable than ever and even 10nm supply is getting better as the process matures and enters its 2nd (++) iteration on the desktop segment.

There's another key department where Intel still holds the lead over AMD which is due to the process maturation of the 14nm node over the years. In terms of clock speeds, Intel has taken the battle to AMD which makes sense in a way since while their remerged rival can beat them in terms of price, cores, they can surely flex their muscles in terms of clock speeds however, AMD has been knocking the socks off Intel with its impressive gen-over-gen IPC gains which invalidate the clock speed gains that intel has been so proud of. Those clock speeds also come at a big disadvantage on the existing 14nm node and that's power consumption. Intel Desktop CPUs are no longer the king in terms of efficiency.

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Intel 11th Gen vs AMD Ryzen 5000 Desktop CPU Prices:

Intel CPUCores / ThreadsClocks (Max)Price (MSRP)Prices (Newegg) - 30/03/2021Prices (Newegg) - 30/03/2021Price (MSRP)Clocks (Max)Cores / ThreadsAMD CPU
N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A$799.99 US (Out of Stock)$799 US4.7 GHz (105W)16/32AMD Ryzen 9 5950X
Intel Core i9-11900K8/165.3 GHz (125W)$539 US (K)
$513 US (KF)
$613.99 K (Out of Stock)$549.99 US (Out of Stock)$549 US4.6 GHz (105W)12/24AMD Ryzen 9 5900X
Intel Core i9-119008/165.2 GHz (125W)$439 US
$422 US (F)
TBDTBATBA4.7 GHz (105W)12/24AMD Ryzen 9 5900
Intel Core i7-11700K8/165.0 GHz (125W)$399 US (K)
$374 US (F)
$418.99 K$539.99 US$449 US4.7 GHz (105W)8/16AMD Ryzen 7 5800X
Intel Core i7-117008/164.9 GHz (65W)$323 US
$298 US (F)
TBDTBATBA4.6 GHz (65W)8/16AMD Ryzen 7 5800
Intel Core i5-11600K6/124.9 GHz (125W)$262 US (K)
$237 US (KF)
$269.99 K$485.99 US$299 US4.6 GHz (65W)6/12AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
Intel Core i5-116006/124.8 GHz (65W)$213 USTBDTBATBATBA6/12AMD Ryzen 5 5600
Intel Core i5-115006/124.6 GHz (65W)$192 US$217.99N/ATBAN/AN/AN/A
Intel Core i5-114006/124.4 GHz (65W)$182 US
$157 US (F)
$183.99N/ATBAN/AN/AN/A

This year, Intel has decided to kick things off with its first major architectural change and the last 14nm process family for the desktop platform, codenamed Rocket Lake. The 11th Generation line of processors is aimed at the enthusiast and mainstream segment, consisting of Core i9, Core i7, & Core i5 SKUs.

Main features of Intel's Rocket Lake Desktop CPUs include:

  • Increased Performance with new Cypress Cove core architecture
  • Up to 8 cores and 16 threads (Double Digit IPC Gains Over Skylake)
  • New Xe graphics architecture (Up To 50% higher Performance Than Gen9)
  • Increased DDR4 3200 MHz Memory Support
  • CPU PCIe 4.0 Lanes (Available on Z490 & Z590 Motherboards)
  • Enhanced Display (Integrated HDMI 2.0b, DP1.4a, HBR3)
  • Added x4 CPU PCIe Lanes = 20 Total CPU PCIe 4.0 Lanes
  • Enhanced Media (12 bit AV1/HVEC, E2E compression)
  • CPU Attached Storage or Intel Optane Memory
  • New Overclocking Features and Capabilities
  • USB Audio offload
  • Integrated CNVi & Wireless-AX
  • Integrated USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 (20G)
  • 2.5Gb Ethernet Discrete LAN
  • Discrete Intel Thunderbolt 4 (USB4 Compliant)

Their main competitor is the AMD Ryzen 5000 lineup based on the Zen 3 architecture that was introduced back in Q4 2020 and based on the Zen 3 core architecture. For this review, I'll be putting the Core i9-11900K to test on two Z590 motherboards, the MSI MEG Z590 ACE, AORUS Z590 Pro AX, and the ASRock Z590 Steel Legend.

Intel Z590 Express Chipset - The Top 500-Series PCH

Intel's Rocket Lake-S desktop CPU platform will feature support on LGA 1200 socket which made its original debut with Comet Lake-S CPUs although on 400-series motherboards. The Intel Rocket Lake-S processors will be launching alongside the 500-series motherboards but will be backward compatible with 400-series motherboards. In addition to the flagship Z590 motherboards, B560 motherboards will support memory overclocking which has been highly anticipated by budget PC builders.

Intel Z590 Platform Features:

The 11th gen desktop platform has a range of new features that mainly include:

  • Support for LGA 1200 Intel Core / Pentium Gold / Celeron Processors
  • TDP Support Up To 125W
  • DDR4-3200 Support For Core i9 & Core i7 Desktop Processors
  • Support For Intel Wireless-AX (CNVi)
  • 24 PCIe Gen 3 Lanes (PCH)
  • Six SATA III Ports (6 Gbps)
  • 3x USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 20 Gbps
  • 10 USB 3.2 Gen 2x1 10 Gbps
  • 10 USB 3.2 Gen 1x1 5 Gbps
  • 14 USB 2.0
  • x8 DMI Gen 3.0 (CPU-PCH Interconnect)
  • IRST 17 for PCIe storage RAID on CPU & PCH Support
  • Hardware-Level PCIe Gen 4 Integration from various board vendors
  • Up To 6 SATA III ports
  • Optane Memory Ready
  • Thunderbolt 4.0
  • Intel WiFi 6E Support

Intel Desktop Platform Chipset Comparison

Chipset NameCoffee Lake S (KBL-R) PCH / Z370 PlatformCoffee Lake S (CNL-H) PCH / 300 Series (Z390/H370, B360, Q370, H310)Comet Lake-S (CML-S) PCH / 400 Series (Z490)Rocket Lake-S (RKL-S) PCH / 500 Series (Z590)
Process Node22nm14nm14nm14nm
Processor8C, 6C, 4C (6 Consumer SKUs at Launch)
Enhanced IA and Memory Overclocking
Gen 9 Intel Graphics GT2 (Up To 24 EUs)
Consumer Only
8C, 6C, 4C, 2C (Full corporate/consumer SKU stack at launch)
Enhanced IA and Memory Overclocking
Gen 9 Intel Graphics GT2 (Up To 24 EUs)
Corporate/vPro & Consumer
10C, 8C, 6C, 4C, 2C (Full corporate/consumer SKU stack at launch)
Enhanced IA and Memory Overclocking
Gen 9 Intel Graphics GT2 (Up To 24 EUs)
Corporate/vPro & Consumer
8C, 6C (Full corporate/consumer SKU stack at launch)
MemoryUp To DDR4-2666 (Native)Up To DDR4-2666 (Native)Up To DDR4-2933 (Native)p To DDR4-3200 (Native)
Media, Display & AudioDP 1.2 & HDMI 1.4
HDCP 2.2 (HDMI 2.0a w/LSPCON)
HEVC & VP9 10-bit Enc/Dec, HDR, Rec.2020, DX12
Integrated Dual-Core Audio DSP
DP 1.2 & HDMI 1.4
HDCP 2.2 (HDMI 2.0a w/LSPCON)
HEVC & VP9 10-bit Enc/Dec, HDR, Rec.2020, DX12
Integrated Dual-Core Audio DSP
SoundWire Digital Audio Interface
DP 1.2 & HDMI 1.4
HDCP 2.2 (HDMI 2.0a w/LSPCON)
HEVC & VP9 10-bit Enc/Dec, HDR, Rec.2020, DX12
Integrated Dual-Core Audio DSP
SoundWire Digital Audio Interface
DP 1.2 & HDMI 2.0, HBR3
HDCP 2.2 (HDMI 2.0a w/LSPCON)
12-bit AV1/HEVC & VP9 10-bit Enc/Dec, HDR, Rec.2020, DX12
Integrated Dual-Core Audio DSP With USB Audio offload
SoundWire Digital Audio Interface
I/O & ConnectivityIntegrated USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)
Thunderbolt 3.0 (Alpine Ridge)
Integrated USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)
Integrated Intel Wireless-AC (Wi-Fi / BT CNVi)
Integrated SDXC 3.0 Controller
Thunderbolt 3.0 (Titan Ridge) w/ DP 1.4
Integrated USB 3.2 Gen 2
Integrated Intel Wireless-AC (Wi-Fi / BT CNVi)
Integrated SDXC 3.0 Controller
Thunderbolt 3.0 (Titan Ridge) w/ DP 1.4
Integrated USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 (20G)
Integrated Intel Wireless-AC (Wi-Fi6E/ BT CNVi)
Integrated SDXC 3.0 Controller
Thunderbolt 4.0 (Maple Ridge)
StorageNext Gen Intel Optane memory
PCIe 3.0, SATA 3.0
Next Gen Intel Optane memory
PCIe 3.0, SATA 3.0
Next-Gen Intel Optane memory
PCIe 3.0, SATA 3.0
Next-Gen Intel Optane memory
PCIe 4.0, SATA 3.0
SecurityIntel SGX 1.0Intel SGX 1.0Intel SGX 1.0N/A
Power ManagementC8 SupportC10 & S0ix Support for Modern StandbyC10 & S0ix Support for Modern StandbyC10 & S0ix Support for Modern Standby
Launch2017201820192020

Meet The LGA 1200 Socket - 11th & 10th Generation CPU Support

As mentioned earlier, LGA 1151's reign is finally over and the LGA 1200 socket is here now. The new socket definitely adds more pins to the socket but the dimensions and most of the physical looks of the socket remain unchanged. The new LGA 1200 socket does offer more pin connections to the CPU, allowing for more communication channels with the board itself and accommodate electrical pin configurations that are required to support 10th Gen CPUs.

While the LGA 1200 socket has the same dimensions as the LGA 1151 socket (37.5mm x 37.5mm), the socket keying has shifted to the left side, and Comet Lake/Rocket Lake CPUs are no longer electrically or mechanically compatible with Coffee Lake motherboards. So this is some bad news for those who may try to put an LGA 1151 CPU on the LGA 1200 socket for science! Some details of the new LGA 1200 package and socket for Comet Lake:

  • Comet Lake / Rocket Lake will transition to a higher pin-count package
  • Comet Lake / Rocket Lake  LGA will not have backward compatibility with legacy platforms
  • No changes to ILM dimensions or thermal solution retention
  • Comet Lake / Rocket Lake LGA improves power delivery and support for future incremental I/O features
  • Pin 1 orientation remains the same, but socket keying has shifted left

Cooler Compatibility With LGA 1200 Socket

Keeping the same dimensions has some advantages in the form of cooler compatibility. All users who are running the LGA 1151 socket or even LGA 1150 boards can use the same cooler on the Z590 boards without any hassle. The socket has the same dimensions and no changes are made aside from the ones I just mentioned above which don't affect cooler compatibility. The socket assembly and mounting remain the same.

Intel does offer a separate boxed cooler but it will be a much better choice to get an AIB cooling solution since those offer better cooling performance. It is recommended for the unlocked SKUs that users run them on a high-end air cooler or liquid cooling solution. Custom loop cooling will deliver even better results.

Products mentioned in this post

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Intel Core i9-10900K
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