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Intel Rocket Lake Price, Benchmarks, Specs and Release Date, All We Know

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Intel's 11th-Gen Rocket Lake is purportedly headed to the launch pad for blast off in late March, promising to upset our list of Best CPUs for Gaming and CPU Benchmarks Hierarchy. Rocket Lake certainly couldn't come at a better time for Intel, either – AMD's Ryzen 5000 processors have thundered into the desktop PC market, upsetting Intel's Comet Lake chips and taking the lead in every metric that matters, including gaming. Surprisingly, even those these chips aren't slated for release until March 30, a German retailer has already sold several hundred chips to the open market, leaving us even more clues

Intel's response comes in the form of Rocket Lake, and the company says the chips come with a 19% improvement in instruction per cycle (IPC) throughput and blistering 5.3 GHz (+) clock speeds that will reestablish its performance leadership in gaming.

Rocket Lake will bring the backported Cypress Cove architecture to the desktop PC, Intel's first new microarchitecture in six years. But unlike the forward progress we see with the company's 10nm Tiger Lake chips for laptops, Rocket Lake-S represents 14nm's last hurrah on the desktop and marks the seventh and final iteration of the longest-lived leading-edge node in Intel's history (it debuted in 2015). 

Intel's current integrated graphics are woefully inadequate for gaming, and we haven't seen a meaningful iGPU performance boost for desktop PCs since Kaby Lake arrived back in 2016. This changes with Rocket Lake, which comes with Intel's performant 12th-gen Xe graphics. Intel says the new engine doubles graphics performance over the previous-gen chips, bringing 1080p-capable gaming (albeit with low fidelity settings) to mainstream CPUs. We do know that Intel has also plumbed in support for Resizable BAR, which boosts performance with discreet GPUs.

Rocket Lake supports the PCIe 4.0 interface, which provides twice the bandwidth of PCIe 3.0. That addresses a key weakness exacerbated by AMD's now two-year-long advantage with its uncontested leadership position in I/O connectivity. Intel has also bumped up Rocket Lake's memory throughput to DDR4-3200, a nice step up from the prior gen's DDR4-2933.

So what's the catch? Rocket Lake tops out at eight cores and sixteen threads due to the backported architecture, a step back from the 10-core Comet Lake i9 models. "Backporting" is a method that allows Intel to take a new design built on a smaller process node, in this case 10nm, and etch it on an older, larger node (in this case, 14nm). 

Intel backported the 10nm Sunny Cove cores found in Ice Lake processors to the less-dense 14nm process to create Rocket Lake's Cypress Cove architecture, leaving the chip designers with fewer transistors to make the new chips. As a result, Intel had to remove two cores; there simply wasn't enough room in the chip package for a larger die. 

That's an odd development in light of Intel's 10-core Comet Lake flagships, not to mention that eight cores certainly feels inadequate in the face of AMD's 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X. Intel is betting heavily on its 19% IPC gains and high clock speeds to offset the lower core counts, and the company may have a split product stack, with Alder Lake hybrid chips coming in later to address the higher core count segment. 

Rocket Lake slots into Intel's 11th-gen processor family, but all signs also point to refreshed Comet Lake chips for Core i3 (and lower) 11th-gen processors, which is another interesting development. Intel has slowly teased out the details of the Rocket Lake chips, but the company hasn't provided the full details yet. However, retailer listings and a string of leaked benchmarks have pretty much filled in the gaps, so let's cover what we know so far.

Intel 11th-Gen Rocket Lake At a Glance

  • Maximum of eight cores, 5.3 GHz peak boost speed
  • New Cypress Cove architecture featuring Ice Lake Core architecture and Tiger Lake Graphics architecture.
  • Support for PCIe 4.0 - 20 lanes (four to storage)
  • New microarchitecture for the desktop
  • AVX-512, Thunderbolt 4 support
  • Intel plans to launch Rocket Lake in March 2021 
  • Intel 12th-gen Xe LP Graphics increase graphics performance by 50%
  • Support for DDR4-3200 for Rocket Lake, DDR4-2666 for Comet Lake Refresh
  • New overclocking features for more flexible tuning performance
  • Intel Deep Learning Boost and VNNI support
  • Backward compatible with 400-series motherboards (caveats apply)

Intel Rocket Lake Release Date and Availability

Intel has given an official Q1 2020 release window for Rocket Lake-S processors, but MSI narrowed it down to late March. We've also seen Intel's Rocket Lake packaging emerge, which takes a new design approach to liven up the series, so it's clear we're on the cusp of Intel's launch. 

Intel also officially announced that its 10nm hybrid Alder Lake-S chips would launch in the second half of 2021. That timeline indicates that Rocket Lake will likely serve either as a short-lived stopgap or as part of a split product stack for the mainstream desktop, with the Alder Lake chips stepping in as the high core count flagships. The Alder Lake-S processors are thought to come with DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 support, marking a big step forward for the desktop PC. 

Intel 11th-Gen Rocket Lake Specifications

Intel 11th-Gen Core Rocket Lake and Comet Lake Refresh SKUs*
Cores / ThreadsBase-Boost (Single/All Core)TDPiGPUL3Part Numbers
RKL-S Core i9-11900K (KF)8 / 163.5 - 5.3 / 4.8125WXe 32EU16MBBX8070811900K - BX8070811900KF
RKL-S Core i9-11900 (F)8 / 162.5 - 5.2 / 4.765WXe 32EU16MBBX8070811900 - BX8070811900F
RKL-S Core i7-11700K (KF)8 / 163.6 - 5.0 / 4.6125WXe 32EU16MBBX8070811700K - BX8070811700KF
RKL-S Core i7-11700 (F)8 / 162.5 - 4.9 / 4.465WXe 32EU16MBBX8070811700 - BX8070811700F
RKL-S Core i5-11600K (KF)6 / 123.9 - 4.9 / 4.6125WXe 32EU12MBBX8070811600K - BX8070811600KF
RKL-S Core i5-116006 / 122.8 - 4.9 / 4.365WXe 32EU12MBBX8070811600
RKL-S Core i5-115006 / 122.7 - 4.6 / 4.265WXe 32EU12MBBX8070811500
RKL-S Core i5-11400 (F)6 / 122.6 - 4.4 / 4.265WXe 24EU12MBBX8070811400 - BX8070811400F
CML-R Core i3-103054 / 83.8 - n/a65W?8MBBX8070110305
CML-R Core 13-10105 (F)4 / 83.7 - n/a65W?6MBBX8070110105 - BX8070110105F
CML-R Pentium G66052 / 44.3 - n/a58W?4MBBX80701G6605
CML-R Pentium G64052 / 44.1 - n/a58W?4MBBX80701G6405

*Specifications are not official; credit @harukaze5719 and @momomo_us

A flurry of leaked benchmarks have emerged from Asian regions, including full-on reviews of some Rocket Lake-S chips. That, along with listings at retailers and submissions to public databases, has given us a decently clear image of the new Rocket Lake family. However, these specifications are not official, and clock speeds can change as the chips come closer to market. Most of the tests are conducted on Intel reference validation platforms (RVP), indicating the silicon is still under development.

As we can see above, Intel spreads the Rocket Lake (RKL-S) chips into the familiar Core i9, i7, and i5 families, but there's a fly in the ointment: Intel has purportedly decided to use refreshed Comet Lake (CML-R) chips for its Core i3 and Pentium families. Those chips feature the same architecture as other Comet Lake chips but come with slightly increased clock speeds and have already shown up at Malaysian retailers

As before, Intel offers graphics-less F-series models across its Core i9, i7, i5, and i3 families. The F-series models come with the same clock speeds and other features as the fully-featured models.  

Intel has confirmed that the Core i9-11900K, the new flagship model, comes with a dual-core 5.3 GHz boost and 4.8 GHz all-core boost, matching the previous-gen Core i9-10900K. It's noteworthy that these are Thermal Velocity Boost frequencies that only activate if the processor is under a certain temperature limit, but most motherboard makers ignore those limits anyway. That means the chips will likely operate at these speeds regardless of temperature limits, at least on higher-end motherboards. 

Intel has confirmed the chips feature a 150W PL1 power rating (at the base frequency), a 25W increase over the 10900K, and an identical 250W PL2 (boost) rating. Intel has also bumped up Rocket Lake's memory throughput to DDR4-3200, a nice step up from the prior gen's DDR4-2933, but some of the early benchmark leaks have shown the chip running at slower memory frequencies, meaning they aren't a good measure of what we'll see in the final shipping models. Additionally, the Comet Lake Refresh chips (Core i3 and below) support DDR4-2666, so we won't see marked improvements in terms of memory speed with the lesser Rocket Lake models. 

The Rocket Lake chips generally expose higher boost frequencies across the entire range, and Intel has confirmed that the chips come with the Xe LP graphics engine. Intel says it added a 'third more' EUs to the chips to boost performance up to 50% over the previous-gen UHD 630 graphics. It isn't clear if the increased EU count is over the existing UHD 630 graphics, which would mean we're looking at chips with a maximum of a lackluster 32 EUs, seemingly confirmed by the architecture breakdown below and the leaked specifications, or if it represents an increase over the Tiger Lake chips, which would beef up the Rocket Lake processors with 128 EUs.

Unfortunately, 32 EUs would hamper gaming performance significantly, and we've already seen benchmarks of the UHD 750 (GT1) engine with 32 EUs. On the other hand, doing 128 Xe EUs on 14nm would use up a considerable amount of die space, and most desktop users (at least in the DIY space) will simply use a dedicated GPU anyway. For now, it appears that Intel has carved the Xe LP graphics engine into UHD Graphics 750 (GT1) with 32 EUs, UHD Graphics 730 (GT1) with 24 EUs, and an as-yet-undefined UHD Graphics P750 (GT1) that may encapsulate the Iris graphics offerings.

Intel's Xe graphics also bring in-built AV1 decode acceleration, which is helpful because the codec reduces bandwidth up to 20% for video streaming (such as 4K and 8K content). Rocket Lake also features Intel's 'new' Always-On QuickSync Video. This feature allows Xe Graphics to run concurrently with a discrete GPU so you can offload some workloads, like video streaming with QuickSync, to alleviate the burden on your discrete GPU. This feature has already been around for several years, but it required BIOS support, and you had to manually enable the integrated graphics unit after you installed a video card. Intel says the technique is now a supported and validated configuration that's enabled by default in the BIOS.

Intel Rocket Lake Price

Pricing details have emerged in the form of retailer listings in several foreign countries, but it's important to note that Intel hasn't revealed the official pricing for Rocket Lake yet. 2Compute, a Belgian retailer, currently lists the Core i9-10900KCore i7-10700K, and Core i5-10600K for $555, $398, and $282, respectively. 

Using this as a gauge of its Rocket Lake listings, we see that Core i9-11900K and Core i7-11700K could cost up to 8.8% and 14.3% more, respectively, while the Core i5-11600K may arrive with a 3.9% higher price tag than the Comet Lake chips. However, we should take this information with a grain of salt - other retailers have listed the chips at slightly lower pricing than the Comet Lake equivalents. 

For now, the jury is out for Intel's Rocket Lake pricing, but given the general indications, we shouldn't expect a huge pricing delta compared to the Comet Lake processors. 

Intel 11th-Gen Rocket Lake Benchmarks

(Image credit: Intel)

Intel has slowly teased bits of info about Rocket Lake, but here's probably the most important new detail: Intel shared benchmarks that say the 8C/16T Core i9-11900K reclaims the gaming performance crown from AMD's Ryzen 9 5900X at 1080p. As always, we should approach vendor-provided benchmarks with caution.

Intel's wins are slim, though. Intel ran these tests with an EVGA RTX 3080 XC3 graphics card, and the company's claimed lead ranges from 2% to 8% (roughly a 4% advantage overall). That paints a picture of a closely-contested battle in gaming performance between Rocket Lake and Zen 3, particularly at higher resolutions.

Intel's traditionally higher overclocking ceilings could prove to be an advantage against the Ryzen 5000 processors — it's important to remember that Intel tested the Rocket Lake chip at stock settings. If these slim deltas play out in our testing and the Intel chips overclock well, pricing might be the determining factor if you're on the hunt for a gaming processor in 2021.

We've also seen benchmark submissions from a Rocket Lake chip overclocked to 6.9 GHz on liquid nitrogen, along with a string of benchmarks conducted on engineering samples, but we should keep in mind that these are pre-production chips and might not fully encapsulate the performance we'll see when the chips come to retail. 

Intel Rocket Lake Cypress Cove Architecture

Image 1 of 2

Intel Rocket Lake-S Architecture

(Image credit: Intel)
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Intel Rocket Lake-S Architecture

(Image credit: Intel)

Intel finally confirmed one tidbit that wasn't entirely clear: The new chips feature the backported Cypress Cove architecture, its first new microarchitecture for the desktop PC since Skylake arrived back in 2015. Intel says this new architecture is based on Ice Lake's 'Sunny Cove' architecture and also comes with the same performant 12th-gen Intel Xe LP graphics engine found in the Tiger Lake processors. 

"Back-porting" is a method that allows Intel to take a new design built on a smaller process node, in this case 10nm, and etch it on an older, larger node (in this case 14nm). The chips come with a new microarchitecture, but they still leverage Intel's 14nm process, although we don't know which revision (14nm++++?).

Rocket Lake also marks Intel's first desktop PC chips that support the PCIe 4.0 interface, a needed addition that comes two long years after AMD led the industry with the first PC chips to support the interface. Intel also reworked the internal PCIe subsystem to accommodate a x4 direct connection (the chips now support 20 lanes) for M.2 SSDs to the CPU. The chip also exposes 16 lanes to the system. 

Intel also widened the DMI 3.0 connection (the pathway that connects the CPU and chipset) from four lanes to eight, doubling throughput up to a theoretical ~7.86 GB/s. However, caveats apply when it comes to support with previous-gen motherboards, which we'll cover below.

The wider DMI connection should help with bottlenecks for devices attached to the chipset, like SSDs in RAID. However, the most recent unofficial information points to PCIe 3.0 support for devices connected to the chipset, and not PCIe 4.0. We do know that the chipset now features an integrated USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 controller, doubling support over the existing interface to 20Gbps. 

Intel also touted support for its Deep Learning Boost (DLBoost) and VNNI features, which require support for AVX-512 instructions. Thus, Intel has confirmed support for AVX-512 with Rocket Lake, and both DLBoost and VNNI will enhance performance in workloads that leverage AI algorithms. 

Enthusiasts can also look forward to new undefined overclocking features, which would be helpful as Intel's overclocking headroom, while shrinking, still tends to be a big advantage over AMD's chips. We’re pretty sure Rocket Lake's new overclocking scheme includes support for the new sub-ambient coolers from EKWB QuantumX Delta TEC and Cooler Master MasterLiquid ML360 Sub-Zero that Intel helped design to bring exotic cooling to the masses.

Intel also added new features to the graphics engine, with new HEVC, VP9, and SCC encoders that support up to 4K60 12b and hardware-accelerated AV1 support for 4K60 10b. Keep your eye on AV1; this seems to be the looming industry standard. Intel also touts the increased display resolution, with now stretches up to three screens at 4K60 or two screens at 5K60. 

(Image credit: Intel)

Intel presented this die shot of the Rocket Lake chips during its CES 2021 live stream.  

(Image credit: @Locuza_)

The company hasn't shared the Cypress Cove architecture's deep-dive details yet, but chip detective @Locuza_ shared the following Rocket Lake-S die annotation. We caution that Intel hasn't confirmed the marked units, but the arrangement aligns with our general expectations of the new design. 

Intel has made significant alterations to the L2 and L3 caches – we now have a 512KB  of L2 cache, a doubling over Skylake, and 16MB of L3 spread across eight 2MB slices. The L1I and L1D caches remain similar to those found on Skylake. 

Even though the images aren't scaled similarly, we can also see that the Xe LP graphics cores appear to be much smaller than those found on Tiger Lake. However, that isn't entirely unexpected: The Rocket Lake chips purportedly come with up to 32 EUs, while Tiger Lake scales up to 96 EUs. We can also see that the uncore is much larger than that of the Tiger Lake-U die used for comparison, which isn't surprising given the support for 20 lanes of PCIe 4.0. 

Intel 11th-Gen Rocket Lake Motherboard Support

Can you use your 400-series motherboard for Rocket Lake processors? Yes, but serious caveats apply. 

The Rocket Lake-S chips are backward compatible with most 400-series chipsets. The LGA 1200 socket adheres to the same physical dimensions, and PCIe 4.0 will work on existing motherboards that support the interface. However, Rocket Lake-S isn't compatible with the H410 and B460 chipsets because they use a different 22nm chipset. 

Rocket Lake's wider x8 DMI connection is only active on 'select' 500-series chipsets, so the chip defaults to a x4 connection on B560 and H510 motherboards. The same x4 connection applies for Rocket Lake processors in 400-series motherboards. 

Most Comet Lake chips are forward-compatible with the new 500-series motherboards that debuted recently, the lone exception being Celeron models with 2MB of CPU cache. There are a few restrictions, though: Comet Lake chips also only use a x4 DMI connection on all 500-series motherboards. 

Intel has also enabled overclocking on its B560 and H570 chipsets, a first. At least for now, that appears to be limited to memory overclocking. We'll learn if the chips support overclocking the CPU as the chips come to market. 

Socket 1200 motherboards will be short-lived. According to Intel's own documentation, the hybrid Alder Lake-S processors that arrive in the latter half of 2021 will drop into Socket 1700. That means there will be no forward compatibility for Socket 1200 motherboards with future Intel processors. 

We have a deeper dive into the chipset and coverage of all forty-five Z590 motherboards for Rocket Lake and Comet Lake processors here. You can also follow this link to see the differences between Intel's Z590, H570, B560, and H510 chipsets

Given that the Rocket Lake 500-series motherboards come with the same physical LGA 1200 socket dimensions as the 400-series, existing LGA 1200 coolers should be compatible between the two series. In fact, Noctua has already begun to prepare its compatibility matrix. Thus far, the list spans over thirty Z590 and eleven B560 motherboards.

Rocket Lake is poised for liftoff soon, and we'll update this article as new details come to light. 

  • JayNor
    I believe both Tiger Lake and Ice Lake Server chips doubled the ring bus bandwidth. relative to Ice Lake laptop. It will be interesting to see if that makes it into the Rocket Lake design.

    Also ... PCIE3 cards are supposed to work on a PCIE4 bus, by design. In fact, authors commented that PCIE3 and PCIE4 functionality were demoed on Intel's FPGA PCIE5 chiplet implementation in 2019.
  • mdd1963
    yayyy, more 14 nm option! :/

    (This next Intel gen had better have quite a few tweaks, faster RAM speeds at 3600 MHz stock, etc., to fend off the Ryzen 5800X/5900X it seems, if the first few CPU-Z and Ashes leaks are accurate..)
  • shady28
    PPL making comments about nanometer process tech - need to read this.
    "The results? Well, the Intel 14 nm chip features transistors with a gate width of 24 nm, while the AMD/TSMC 7 nm one has a gate width of 22 nm (gate height is also rather similar). "

    "Another interesting thing to note here, the gate width is not following the naming scheme as you might have expected. The 14 nm transistor isn't 14 nm in width, and the 7 nm transistor isn't 7 nm wide. The naming of the node and actual size of the node have had a departure a long time ago, and the naming convention is really up to the manufacturer - it's become more of a marketing gimmick than anything else. "
  • ingtar33
    4 different clocked versions of their 8c/16t flagship?

    so my friend at intel is right again. Intel is binning the ever loving <Mod Edit> out of their chips in this release, (to the point there is no overclock headroom) in order to factory overclock them. I mean what's the point of selling a K series chip if there is nothing to overclock intel? Then selling the chips that don't measure up and overclock as high as lower clocked versions. He said the yield on the top end part was so low that it would be essentially a paper chip, available only to reviewers. He said the yield to get those high clocks were so bad that at most there might be a couple thousand ever sold to the public as intel apparently takes a major loss in selling them.

    I hope reviewers mention there is no overclock for these chips, and mention the fact that the top end chip will probably never see store shelves...
  • tomachas
    But where the benchmarks at 4K ? Huh?
  • TerryLaze
    mdd1963 said:
    yayyy, more 14 nm option! :/

    (This next Intel gen had better have quite a few tweaks, faster RAM speeds at 3600 MHz stock, etc., to fend off the Ryzen 5800X/5900X it seems, if the first few CPU-Z and Ashes leaks are accurate..)
    There are so few 5800/5900 around that they don't really need to compete, only the 5600 is decently available and for anything below that it's an AMD free market.
    If they are just a little bit better than 10th gen they are going to sell them like crazy.
    AMD only has three models right now, even if everybody that wants one of those three waits until they can get one it's not going to make much of a difference, everybody else that needs a different model is forced to go intel.
  • Conahl
    ahh, there is the oh so usual positive spin on some negative towards intel, from the pro intel TerryLaze.

    and what happens IF rocket lake is just hype, or the power usage of these chips is worse, priced too high, then to top that off, zen 3 starts to be come more available then it currently is ?

    with intels track record from is PR teams the last few years, it would be better to take anything intel says. with a good cup of salt.
  • mdd1963
    "not to mention that eight cores certainly feels inadequate in the face of AMD's 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X. "

    Much less , the 5950X...?
  • TerryLaze
    Conahl said:
    and what happens IF rocket lake is just hype, or the power usage of these chips is worse, priced too high, then to top that off, zen 3 starts to be come more available then it currently is ?
    The same thing that happens for the last three years will happen, intel will still sell everything.

    Even if intel released the same 10th gen as 11gen and only left the new iGPU they would still make all the sales, now it has that it has the new arch it has pcie4 it has better memory will sell at least as well as 10th gen.
  • Conahl
    maybe, but i think its time intel pulled its head out of its butt, and realized that most that buy the top 3-4 tiers of its cpus, probable wont use the IGP. use that die space for other things.