Intel Core i7-11700K Review: The Chip of Last Resort

High power consumption meets high pricing, again.

Core i7-11700K
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

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If you're interested in gaming and application performance, they're up next (feel free to skip forward). We also include power and efficiency testing after the gaming and application tests.

Intel has recommended Power Level 1 (PL1 — boost power), Power Level 2 (PL2 — sustained power), and Tau (boost duration) variables for all of its chips. Still, motherboard vendors are free to exceed those recommendations, even at stock settings, to differentiate their motherboards. As such, performance has long varied by motherboard based on the respective power settings. Our standard policy is to allow the motherboard to exceed Intel's recommended power limits, provided the chip remains within warrantied operating conditions.

As such, be aware that our stock settings reflect performance with lifted power limits to reflect the experience most enthusiasts will encounter, provided they top the chip with a capable cooler. We've used the Corsair H115i 280mm AIO liquid cooler for our tests, but be aware that lesser coolers will result in lower performance. 

You can consult the charts above for test results highlighting the differences in performance, power, clock rates, and thermals for three operating modes: Stock settings with no power limits enforced, stock settings with power limits enforced, and an overclocked configuration (your mileage will vary based on cooling capabilities and power delivery). 

We derive the performance measurements in the first two slides from a geometric mean of the performance measured during the benchmarks listed in the charts. As we can see, enforcing the Core i7-11700K's power limits results in slightly less performance in multi-threaded work, but we're looking at less than a 1% delta, meaning the chip already runs pretty hard inside of its power limits. As a result, unlocking the limits does little to boost performance. That leads to interesting results in the rest of the slides. We see little difference in single-threaded work, and once again, we see the common Rocket Lake trend of enforced power limits resulting in slightly faster performance in lightly-threaded work.

Per our normal routine, we put AMD's boost clocks to the test in both single- and multi-threaded workloads (methodology here). To keep the charts 'clean,' we only plot the maximum and minimum frequency recorded on any one core during the test. The lightly-threaded tests step through ten iterations of the LAME encoder, then single-threaded POV-Ray and Cinebench runs, PCMark 10, and GeekBench. 

There really isn't much to chew over here. The 11700K performs exactly as we expect and frequently reaches its 5.0 GHz boost clock. 

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Average Power (Watts)Peak Power (Watts)
Power Limits Enforced119W188W
Power Limits Unlocked150W261W
5.0 GHz All-Core Overclock223W283W

The multi-threaded series of tests runs the Corona ray-tracing benchmark, several HandBrake runs, POV-Ray, Cinebench R20, and four different Blender renders.

Things are a bit more interesting in the multi-threaded tests. We don't see much of a performance improvement from lifting the power limits — the tests, which consist of a fixed unit of work, finish in roughly the same amount of time — but as you can see in the table above, we do see a big increase in power consumption. Keep in mind that increase in power yields less than 1% more performance, at least with our motherboard. That's a terrible tradeoff. 

Overclocking the Core i7-11700K proved to be a bit more challenging than we expected, as we couldn't exceed a 5.0 GHz all-core overclock in a stable configuration. Try as we might, 5.1 GHz was elusive, so we settled for a 5.0 GHz overclock with a 1.43V vCore, load line calibration at Level 6, and a -2 offset for AVX2 (+2 over stock) and -3 offset for AVX-512. We also tuned the memory to DDR4-3600 with 14-14-14-36 timings in Gear 1. As you can see in the album above, overclocked power consumption peaked at 283W, but temperatures were manageable (AVX offsets help) at an average of 76C with a 94C peak. 

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Core i9-11900K and Core i5-11600K Test System Configurations
Intel Socket 1200 (Z590)Core i9-11900K, Core i5-11600K, Core i7-11700KCore i5-10600K, Core i7-10700K, Core i9-10850K
Row 1 - Cell 0 ASUS Maximus XIII Hero
Row 2 - Cell 0 2x 8GB Trident Z Royal DDR4-3600 - 10th-Gen: Stock: DDR4-2933, OC: DDR4-4000, 11th-Gen varies, outlined above (Gear 1)
AMD Socket AM4 (X570)AMD Ryzen 9 5900X, Ryzen 7 5800X, Ryzen 5 5600X
Row 4 - Cell 0 MSI MEG X570 Godlike
Row 5 - Cell 0 2x 8GB Trident Z Royal DDR4-3600 - Stock: DDR4-3200, OC: DDR4-4000, DDR4-3600
All SystemsGigabyte GeForce RTX 3090 Eagle - Gaming and ProViz applications
Row 7 - Cell 0 Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FE - Application tests
Row 8 - Cell 0 2TB Intel DC4510 SSD
Row 9 - Cell 0 EVGA Supernova 1600 T2, 1600W
Row 10 - Cell 0 Open Benchtable
Row 11 - Cell 0 Windows 10 Pro version 2004 (build 19041.450)
CoolingCorsair H115i, Custom loop


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Paul Alcorn
Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech

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

  • BeaRi72
    Or just buy i7 11700 (non-K).

    Increase PL1 in Bios -->

    same Speed, 40,- cheaper and, if needed, with box-cooler (with copper-core).
  • spongiemaster
    The 5800x is down to $406 at Amazon right now. If you're building a new system, there is no logical reason for a home user to pick a $6 cheaper 11700k over the 5800x at those prices
  • punkncat
    spongiemaster said:
    The 5800x is down to $406 at Amazon right now. If you're building a new system, there is no logical reason for a home user to pick a $6 cheaper 11700k over the 5800x at those prices


  • spongiemaster
    punkncat said:

    Ok, one reason, if you don't need a graphics card and an IGP is fine, then an 11700k would make more sense. If you don't have any graphics card and you need one for a new system, there's no point in buying anything at all right now. Wait until you get your graphics card, because there's no knowing how long that could take, and then buy the rest of the components. Prices are more likely to go down now than up, so you'll save money waiting. Depending on how long it takes to get your graphics, it may make more sense to wait a bit longer for Alder Lake or Zen 4.
  • Howardohyea
    A few days back I saw the 11700K was around 360 from Amazon, but then again with this CPU's low overclocking I guess that an cheaper i7 11700 non-K is better, just raise the power limit.

    Mostly same performance with 5800X (okay maybe less), you can save on the motherboard, CPU, and cooling.