Skip to main content

Intel Core i5-11400 Review: Unseating Ryzen's Budget Gaming Dominance

Intel exploits the obvious hole in the Ryzen product stack

Intel Core i5-11400
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Our Verdict

Pound for pound, the Core i5-11400 is the uncontested best value for both gaming and application performance in its price class.

For

  • + Solid gaming and application performance
  • + PCIe 4.0
  • + Bundled cooler
  • + Memory overclocking

Against

  • - Power consumption

The Intel Core i5-11400 slots into the Rocket Lake family as a surprisingly well-priced and nimble chip with six cores and 12 threads for a mere $182, or you can opt for the graphics-less F-series model for as low as $157. Surprisingly, AMD doesn't have a modern chip to fend off the 11400, so it squares off with AMD's two-year-old $199 Ryzen 5 3600 that isn't competitive with the 11400 in gaming. That makes for a one-sided battle, leaving Intel to reign uncontested in the entry-level PC gaming market and earning the Core i5-11400 a spot on our list of Best CPUs.

After several years of heated competition, the $150 to $200 price range now delivers incredible value with six-core twelve-thread models from both AMD and Intel in a segment where quad-core chips used to dominate. However, AMD has largely abandoned delivering new products for this price bracket, instead focusing on building out its premium lineup with a Ryzen-refresh XT series last year that didn't address the sub-$250 market. AMD followed with the Ryzen 5000 series with an incredibly steep $300 price of entry with the beastly Ryzen 5 5600X, again not refreshing its sub-$200 lineup.

That leaves the Zen 2-powered Ryzen 5 3600 to soldier on as the premiere AMD competitor in this segment even though it debuted nearly two years ago. Unfortunately for AMD, the company has grappled with supply issues due to the pandemic and unprecedented demand. That means the aging Ryzen 5 3600 is also hard to find anywhere near acceptable pricing.

Intel's Rocket Lake launch brought the company's first new architecture in six years to the desktop PC. Still, the burden of the aging 14nm process proved to be too much for the highest-end Rocket Lake models, leaving them inadequately equipped against AMD's core-heavy Ryzen 5000 flagships. However, the new Cypress Cove architecture does grant a 19% IPC increase, and the ultra-mature 14nm process also hits high boost clocks (albeit at the expense of power consumption), allowing the Rocket chips to rival AMD's finest in single-threaded work.

Rocket Lake Headliners
Suggested PriceCores / ThreadsBase (GHz)Peak Boost (Dual/All Core)TDPiGPU
RKL-S Core i9-11900K (KF)$539 (K) - $513 (KF)8 / 163.55.3 / 4.8125WUHD Graphics 750 Xe 32EU
RKL-S Core i7-11700K (KF)$399 (K) - $374 (KF)8 / 163.65.0 / 4.6125WUHD Graphics 750 Xe 32EU
RKL-S Core i5-11600K (KF)$262 (K) - $237(KF)6 / 123.94.9 (TB2) / 4.6125WUHD Graphics 750 Xe 32EU
RKL-S Core i5-11400 (F)$182 - $1576 / 122.64.4 (TB2) / 4.2 65WUHD Graphics 750 Xe 24EU

As a result, Rocket Lake is generally competitive with Ryzen 5000 chips with the same number of cores. Intel's pricing is also aggressive, leading to unexpectedly good deals for Intel's mainstream chips. But while the Core i5-11600K is an attractive chip, its $262 price point is a bit steep for more value-conscious buyers, especially because the ongoing GPU shortage means they'll need to dedicate more of their budget to a graphics solution.

Given what you'll see in our testing below, the Core i5-11400 is unquestionably the best entry-level gaming chip on the market, particularly when paired with a B-series motherboard. In fact, if you aren't interested in overclocking to the extreme, the Core i5-11400 is also a far better deal than the Core i5-11600K. You won't be able to overclock the 11400's cores or graphics like you can with the 11600K, and you'll lose some of the 11600K's peak frequency headroom due to the 11400's lower 65W TDP rating, but you'll gain an extra $80 that you can spend on other additives, like a graphics card.

Despite its seemingly-low frequency range, the Core i5-11400 still beats all comparably-priced CPUs. It can easily push along most graphics cards on the market, especially at heightened resolutions and fidelity settings, and Intel also added support for memory overclocking to B-series motherboards for all SKUs. As we'll show below, you can also toggle a few power settings in the BIOS to get a sizeable overclock-esque boost for threaded workloads.

AMD desperately needs a Zen 3 chip in this price bracket to be competitive, but it's hamstrung with Zen 2 processors for now. AMD won't have an answer to the Core i5-11400 until it releases its non-X version of the 5600X to retail, or maybe a souped-up Ryzen 3 model that you can actually buy (unlike the mythical 3300X). Even AMD's Ryzen 5000G 'Cezanne' APUs might make some sense in this price bracket given the crushing graphics card shortages. Those chips aren't even available yet, though, because AMD has restricted them to the OEM market until later this year.

All of this means that, for now, AMD has completely ceded the entry-level mainstream gaming segment to Intel.  Let's see how the tables have turned. 

Intel Core i5-11400 Specifications and Pricing 

We've covered the Rocket Lake family in-depth in our launch-day review, so head there for finer-grained details of the architecture and broader product family. Intel spreads the Rocket Lake (RKL-S) chips across the familiar Core i9, i7, and i5 families, but Comet Lake Refresh (CML-R) chips step in for Core i3 and Pentium. Those chips feature the same architecture as other Comet Lake chips but come with slightly increased clock speeds. You can learn more about them here.

Intel's chip frequencies have become a confusing array of four different flavors of Turbo Boost, many with both single- and multi-core ratios, that differ based on each family of chips. We've narrowed these listings down to the peak boost frequencies in the table below, with each indicating the peak boosting tech used. You can find more information on Rocket Lake's boost tech and a more expansive listing of all the frequencies here

Intel 11th-Gen Core Rocket Lake-S Specifications and Pricing
Suggested PriceCores / ThreadsBase (GHz)Peak Boost (Dual/All Core)TDPiGPUL3
Ryzen 7 5800X$4498 / 163.84.7105WNone32MB (1x32)
RKL-S Core i7-11700K (KF)$399 (K) - $374 (KF)8 / 163.65.0 (TB3) / 4.6125WUHD Graphics 750 Xe 32EU16MB
Ryzen 5 5600X$2996 / 123.74.665WNone32MB (1x32)
RKL-S Core i5-11600K (KF)$262 (K) - $237(KF)6 / 123.94.9 (TB2) / 4.6125WUHD Graphics 750 Xe 32EU12MB
RKL-S Core i5-11400 (F)$182 - $1576 / 122.64.4 (TB2) / 4.2 65WUHD Graphics 750 Xe 24EU12MB
CML-S Core i5-10400$1826 / 122.94.365WUHD Graphics 63012MB
Ryzen 5 3600$2006 / 123.64.265WN/A3MB
CML-R Core i3-10325$1544 / 83.94.7 / 4.565WUHD Graphics 6308MB

Rocket's newest boost tech doesn't apply to the Core i5-11400 — the chip merely tops out at a 4.4 GHz turbo on one core and 4.2 GHz on all cores with Intel's Turbo Boost 2.0 (TB2) technology, which is the company's most basic and straightforward boost mechanism. Provided you give the chip adequate cooling (technically the stock cooler is adequate) and power, you should be able to hit these boost frequencies.

The Core i5-11400 comes with a 65W PL1 (base frequency-TDP) rating and a 154W PL2 (power during boost) rating, which is considerably better than the 11600K's 125W PL1 and 251W PL2. That means the chip will generate far less heat than the pricier overclockable model, but that requires stepping down from a 3.9 GHz base frequency with the 11600K to the 11400's 2.6 GHz, not to mention losing 500 MHz of peak boost frequency.

All of these same rules apply to the Core i5-11400F, except it comes without the integrated UHD Graphics 750 Xe engine with 32EUs that you'll find on the standard 11400 model. Aside from losing QuickSync capabilities or the ability to use the iGPU as a backup solution, sacrificing the integrated graphics units won't mean much to the overwhelming majority of gamers shopping in this price range. However, you get a $25 discount for forgoing graphics, and at $157, the Core i5-11400F is an amazing value.

The Core i5-11400 comes with a stock cooler, but as with all Intel coolers, it's a flimsy affair that most enthusiasts should plan on replacing. As we'll outline below, the cooler is adequate if you run the chip strictly within Intel's recommended power guidelines, but the chip runs faster with a more capable cooler. You also shouldn't plan on removing power limits if you're using the stock cooler.

As with the rest of the Rocket Lake lineup, the 11400 supports 20 lanes of PCIe 4.0, with four dedicated to one M.2 slot. However, the chipset still remains on PCIe 3.0, so you'll only find support for a single M.2 slot on 500-series motherboards. That still a solid step up from the PCIe 3.0 interface with the previous-gen Comet Lake processors. PCIe support can be a bit tricky with the Rocket Lake chips, especially given that most of them also drop into 400-series motherboards with varying trade-offs. We have a breakdown in the motherboard section here.

Intel has stepped forward from DDR4-2933 to DDR4-3200, but the company also introduced a new paradigm with Rocket Lake: Only the Core i9 chips support DDR4-3200 in an optimal configuration at stock settings. This setting is called 'Gear 1' and signifies that the memory controller and memory operate at the same frequency (1:1), thus providing the lowest latency and best performance in lightly-threaded work, like gaming.  

All other Rocket Lake chips, including the Core i5-11400, only officially support DDR4-3200 with the 'Gear 2' setting, which allows the memory to operate at twice the frequency of the memory controller (2:1) and results in higher data transfer rates. This can benefit some threaded workloads but also results in higher latency that can lead to reduced performance in some applications — particularly gaming. We have yet to see a situation where Gear 2 makes much sense for enthusiasts. Instead, this setting is most useful for those chasing overclocking frequency records that don't equate to real-world performance boosts.

The official top speed for the Gear 1 setting is DDR4-2933 for all Core i7 and i5 chips, and running DDR4-3200 in lower-latency Gear 1 mode is considered overclocking. If you plan to run the Core i5-11400 at DDR4-3200, you'll have to use the Gear 2 setting if you want to stay within the strict confines of the warranty. That said, Intel isn't known for harsh memory overclocking restrictions when processing returns, but running memory beyond the spec does technically void your warranty. We've found that Gear 1 provides the best all-around performance, so that's all you'll see in our testing. 

MORE: Best CPUs

MORE: CPU Benchmarks and Hierarchy

MORE: All CPUs Content

Paul Alcorn

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.

  • punkncat
    This feels much like a replay of 2017, in reverse....
    Reply
  • Why_Me
    The Ryzen 3600 is dead man walking.
    Reply
  • caromero1965
    Better to let Intel have lower margin sales and focus on servers and to some degree laptops. Follow the money.
    Reply
  • sosofm
    Why_Me said:
    The Ryzen 3600 is dead man walking.
    I don't think that. The power consumption is double in comparison with 3600 and 5600x . More power consumption = more heat =better cooling = more money.
    Reply
  • punkncat
    sosofm said:
    I don't think that. The power consumption is double in comparison with 3600 and 5600x . More power consumption = more heat =better cooling = more money.

    Under the most predominant use these will see a stock cooler should be (mostly) fine. A "gamer" would (probably not really be looking at) budget in a better cooling option anyway, IMO.
    The energy cost difference is on the level of a candy bar and a soda level for the year.
    Reply
  • octavecode
    2x Ryzen 3600 less power consumption than a single i5 11400, but intel gets the crown?
    No thanks...
    Reply
  • hotaru251
    punkncat said:
    This feels much like a replay of 2017, in reverse....
    except AMD likely will release a lower tier cpu as it took a bit for that to happen even last gen. (and when your CPU are selling out basically immediately no need to release a cheaper one yet)
    Reply
  • Why_Me
    sosofm said:
    I don't think that. The power consumption is double in comparison with 3600 and 5600x . More power consumption = more heat =better cooling = more money.
    octavecode said:
    2x Ryzen 3600 less power consumption than a single i5 11400, but intel gets the crown?
    No thanks...
    The 11400F w/stock cooler mops the floor with the 3600 . Add a $30 - $40 aftermarket cooler, remove the power limits in the bios and it gets even worse for the 3600. There's multiple reviews on the net to back that up.

    https://overclock3d.net/reviews/cpu_mainboard/intel_core_i5_11400f_and_asus_b560_plus_prime_review/1Intel Core i5 11400F and ASUS B560 Plus Prime Review
    https://www.tomshardware.com/news/intel-core-i5-11400-reviewIntel Core i5-11400 Review
    https://www.guru3d.com/articles_pages/intel_core_i5_11400f_processor_review,1.htmlIntel Core i5-11400F Review
    https://www.techspot.com/review/2232-intel-core-i5-11400f/Intel Core i5-11400F Review
    https://www.profesionalreview.com/2021/04/26/intel-core-i5-11400f-review/Intel Core i5-11400F Review

    pOpWJCWYa6k
    crU9V1GNocI
    Reply
  • JediWombat
    Utter nonsense. Intel's brand new processor outperforms AMD's almost-two-year-old chip? So it should! It's two years newer!

    Tom's Hardware is so blatantly biased towards Intel these days, you should be embarrassed.
    Reply
  • helper800
    JediWombat said:
    Tom's Hardware is so blatantly biased towards Intel these days, you should be embarrassed.
    If you see bias its because you are imagining things. Toms called it when AMD released the 3000 and 5000 series processors that they were better than intel's offerings at the time in their own respective ways. Though AMD costs more than this particular Intel processor, it took Intel breaking years of its own norms by adding so many features that AMD has had standard for over a decade that Intel effectively priced out its own top tier parts. It used to be that you had to pay the K tax to get overclocking on a 4 core 4-8 thread processor for almost 8 years. This is just one major norm intel had to break to remain relevant. Competition is good, and if AMD does not provide a compelling product at every price range Intel will come in with something good, and they did. Who cares about brand loyalty? We all win in these circumstances...
    Reply