AMD's Ryzen 5000 processors took the lead in the desktop PC from Intel's competing Comet Lake processors last year, upsetting our Best CPU for gaming recommendations and our CPU Benchmarks hierarchy. Intel's response comes in the form of its Rocket Lake processors, which dial up the power to extreme levels and bring the new Cypress Cove architecture to the company's 14nm process as Intel looks to upset AMD's potent Zen 3-powered Ryzen 5000 chips.
Have no doubt; Intel is pushing the Core i9-11900K's aging 14nm silicon to the absolute limits in an attempt to steal the crown from the Ryzen 9 5900X. Unfortunately, AMD has been plagued by chip shortages — you simply can't find the Ryzen 9 5900X in stock for reasonable pricing — leaving Intel an opening to capitalize.
That means Intel doesn't need outright benchmark supremacy to win this battle; it just needs a good enough blend of features paired with solid pricing and availability to score the win. We put Intel's flagship Core i9-11900K up against the Ryzen 9 5900X in a six-round faceoff to see which chip rises to the top. Let's see how they stack up.
Ryzen 9 5900X vs Intel Core i9-11900K Features and Specifications
|Suggested Price||Cores / Threads||Base (GHz)||Peak Boost (Dual/All Core)||TDP||iGPU||L3|
|Ryzen 9 5900X||$549||12 / 24||3.7||4.8||105W||None||64MB (2x32)|
|RKL-S Core i9-11900K (KF)||$539 (K) - $513 (KF)||8 / 16||3.5||5.3 / 4.8 (TVB)||125W||UHD Graphics 750 Xe 32EU||16MB|
The Core i9-11900K comes with eight cores and 16 threads, which is two fewer cores than the previous-gen Core i9-10900K and a woeful four cores behind the Ryzen 9 5900X. Core counts aren't the end-all-be-all, of course, as different architectures deliver varying levels of performance per core. According to our IPC measurements, AMD's Zen 3 cores are still slightly faster than Rocket Lake in most work, though the latter does pull out a few wins. Basically, we should regard the Rocket Lake cores and Zen 3 cores as pretty closely matched, so with four additional cores, the Ryzen 9 5900X should win in most of our threaded benchmarks.
Naturally, speedier clocks can extract more performance from each core. Two of the 11900K's cores boost to a peak of 5.3 GHz, and all cores can operate at 4.8 GHz simultaneously. Intel has four total boost technologies with the 11900K, including the new Adaptive Boost Technology (ABT). Think of this much like a dynamic auto-overclocking feature that applies to all-core boosts, but the chip remains within warranty. This feature is only available with Core i9 chips.
Intel's ABT tech pushes power consumption to the extreme, while AMD's chips stay in their sweet spot during normal operation courtesy of their own Precision Boost 2 tech that accomplishes a similar task as ABT, but in a more reasonable way. The Ryzen 9 5900X operates at a 4.8 GHz boost across two of its cores, comes with twelve cores and 24 threads, and has a 105W TDP rating. The 11900K comes with a 125W TDP rating, which, as we'll show in the power section, really doesn't mean much.
Both the Ryzen 5000 and Rocket Lake chips come with PCIe 4.0 support, though it is noteworthy that Intel's chipset doesn't support the speedier interface. Instead, devices connected to Intel's chipset operate at PCIe 3.0 speeds, meaning you'll only have support for one PCIe 4.0 m.2 port on your motherboard, whereas AMD's chipset is fully enabled for PCIe 4.0. Both chips also support two channels of DDR4-3200 memory.
The 11900K does have one big advantage over the Ryzen 9 5900X: The new UHD Graphics 750 comes armed with 32 EUs based on the Xe graphics engine, whereas all Ryzen 5000 processors come without integrated graphics. That means that if you don't have a discrete GPU, Intel wins by default. You could also buy Intel's 19-11900KF, which comes with a disabled graphics engine, for $23 less.
Both chips have their respective strengths, and those strengths are important enough differentiators that they could be the make-or-break decision based upon your needs. AMD's Ryzen 9 5900X comes with 12 cores and 24 threads that will leave the 11900K completely outmatched in threaded applications. Meanwhile, the Core i9-11900K comes with 5.3 GHz boost speeds that will equate to faster performance in single-threaded apps, meaning it will be snappier on the desktop.
The Core i9-11900K also has integrated graphics by default, though you can sacrifice those for a slightly lower price point. Meanwhile, AMD has no high-end options that come with integrated graphics.
Ryzen 9 5900X vs Core i9-11900K Gaming Performance
Below you can see the geometric mean of our gaming tests at 1080p and 1440p, with each resolution split into its own chart. As per usual, we're testing with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 to reduce GPU-imposed bottlenecks as much as possible, and differences between test subjects will shrink with lesser cards or higher resolutions. PBO indicates an overclocked Ryzen configuration. You can find our test system details here.
For our stock configurations, we tested the Core i9-11900K with both ABT enabled and disabled. As you can see, the delta between these two settings lands at 2% for 1080p when measured over our entire test suite, meaning the difference in gaming typically isn't going to be noticeable. However, a few heavily-threaded titles will benefit. We see a bit more gaming uplift with our overclocked setup, amounting to a more substantial 5.5% increase over the non-ABT configuration.
The 11900K has taken a big step forward over the 10900K in gaming, bringing Intel into closer competition with AMD and narrowing the delta between the highest-end chips. The Core i9-11900K is more competitive after overclocking, but the Ryzen 9 5900X still leads in both stock and overclocked configurations at 1080p, giving AMD the bragging rights. However, that picture changes when we look at 1440p, where the 11900K with ABT essentially ties the overclocked 5900X, and the Core i9-11900K takes a 2% lead after overclocking.
Flipping through the individual games shows that the leader can change quite dramatically, with different titles responding better to either Intel or AMD. Our geometric mean of the entire test suite helps smooth that out to one digestible number, but bear in mind – the faster chip could vary based on the game you play.
Overall, the two chips are very closely matched in our overall gaming tests, as performance will vary largely based on the type of title you're playing. One thing is clear – Intel's chip does not cement it as the clear leader in gaming, which Intel would need to justify the 11900K's price tag. When paired with lesser GPUs or when gaming at higher resolutions, the performance deltas between the two chips will shrink to the nearly imperceptible range, but the Ryzen 9 5900X does take the title overall at 1080p, possibly leaving a bit more headroom for future GPU upgrades.
Core i9-11900K vs Ryzen 9 5900X Application Performance
We can boil down productivity application performance into two broad categories: single- and multi-threaded. The first slide has a geometric mean of performance in several of our single-threaded tests, and the Core i9-11900K takes a 6.7% lead over the Ryzen 9 5900X.
You'll notice that engaging the ABT boost actually results in slightly lower single-threaded performance. As we see with AMD's auto-overclocking Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO), that isn't uncommon with auto-tuning approaches that are designed to boost performance in multi-threaded work. The 11900K also has slower performance in single-threaded work with a 5.2 GHz overclock, but that's because our overclock doesn't match the 11900K's 5.3 GHz boost that you'll get at stock settings.
Regardless, the Core i9-11900K has incredibly snappy performance in single-threaded tasks, like the LAME and FLAC encoders, and the Cinebench 23 and POV-Ray renderers. We also see very snappy performance in web browsers, which tend to be lightly threaded, and a bruising performance advantage in the single-threaded AVX-512-enabled y-cruncher.
Overall, the 11900K is impressive in single-threaded work, but it's too bad the chip bucks the trend of single-threaded prowess equating directly to superior gaming performance.
The first slide brings the performance value of the Ryzen 9 5900X's higher core counts into clear focus. This geometric mean of our threaded application workload results shows that the 5900X's four core advantage equates to a whopping 27% advantage over the 11900K in threaded performance at stock settings, and an equally impressive 26% advantage between the overclocked configurations.
The 5900X's advantage is evident across nearly the full gamut of our threaded benchmarks, with compression and decompression experiencing tremendous uplift on the strength of the 5900X's 12 cores. The 5900X also dominates in rendering workloads, like our various Blender, C-Ray ray tracing, Cinebench R23, and v-ray rendering tests.
Intel does tend to offer better performance in AVX-enabled workloads, granting the 11900K a convincing step forward over the 10900K in the AVX-512-enabled y-cruncher. However, Intel's AVX prowess doesn't equate to big wins in more realistic and common AVX code, like the x264 and x265 HandBrake tests that go to the 5900X in a convincing fashion. The 5900X is also superior in our LLVM compilation and NAMD simulation code tests.
Rocket Lake does post drastic improvements in AES and SHA3 workloads, which comes via specific optimizations in the Cypress Cove architecture for these types of workloads. But just like we see with AVX-512, these are relatively niche use cases in the grander scheme of normal desktop PC applications.
It's a tall order to ask the eight-core Core i9-11900K to match the 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X in threaded workloads, so we expected to see the Ryzen model easily beat Rocket Lake in threaded applications. And that's exactly what happened. Intel's Core i9-11900K suffers at the hands of its reduced core count, and even the previous-gen ten-core Core i9-10900K even beats it in several workloads. With a 27% advantage in threaded workloads, the Ryzen 9 5900X easily gets the nod for threaded productivity applications.
Conversely, the Core i9-11900K is impressive in single-threaded applications with a 6.7% lead over the 5900X, but that relies upon the operating system being relatively 'quiet' with no additional tasks running in the background. Not to mention that the typical PC use case involves several applications working concurrently. Given that most desktop PC use involves some level of multi-tasking, the Ryzen 9 5900X's additional core counts result in more tangible performance gains in real-world usage models, giving AMD the win in this category.
Ryzen 9 5900X vs Core i9-11900K Overclocking
We have long since reached the land of diminishing returns for overclocking the highest-end chips from both AMD and Intel. That's largely because both companies are engaged in a heated dogfight for performance superiority on the high end, so much of the overclocking frequency headroom is rolled into standard stock performance, leaving little available for tuners. You'll find larger overclocking gains with the downstream models.
Intel does benefit from higher attainable clock rates, though, especially if you focus on overclocking a few cores instead of the standard all-core overclock. Intel also exposes a wealth of tunable parameters with its Rocket Lake chips. That includes new overclocking offsets, like a separate AVX-512 offset and the ability to set voltage guardbands for the different flavors of AVX. Intel also added an option to completely disable AVX support, though that feature is primarily geared for professional overclockers. Rocket also supports per-core frequency and hyper-threading control (enable/disable) to help eke out more overclocking headroom.
Intel added support for real-time memory frequency adjustments, though motherboard support will vary by model and vendor. This feature allows you to shift from, say, DDR4-2933 to DDR4-3200 from within Windows 10 without rebooting. Intel also continues to support its existing mechanism for live memory timing adjustments from within the operating system, giving users a plethora of on-the-fly memory overclocking options.
Intel has long locked overclocking to its pricey K-series models, while AMD freely allows overclocking with all SKUs on almost any platform. However, we see signs of some improvement here from Intel, as it has now enabled memory overclocking on its B560 and H570 chipsets across the board. That said, Intel's new paradigm of Gear 1 and Gear 2 modes does reduce the value of memory overclocking, which you can read more about in our review.
AMD's Ryzen 5000 chips come with innovative boost technology that largely consumes most of the available frequency headroom, so as we see with Intel's flagship, there is precious little room for bleeding-edge clock rates. In fact, all-core overclocking with AMD's chips is lackluster; you're often better off using its auto-overclocking feature that boosts multi-threaded performance.
Intel's Core i9-11900K doesn't have as much overclocking frequency headroom as its predecessors, but it still has the highest attainable frequencies, particularly if you focus on per-core overclocking. Intel does charge a premium for its overclocking features, but it offers a wealth of tunable parameters for enthusiasts.
Core i9-11900K vs Ryzen 9 5900X Power Consumption, Efficiency, and Cooling
Power consumption and heat go hand in hand, and Intel's Core i9-11900K consumes more power than any of the company's previous mainstream processors. In fact, we recorded a peak of 295W during an AVX-512 Prime95 test.
While the Prime95 stress test isn't really indicative of what you'll see during regular use, we recorded much higher power draw across the board in all of the applications outlined above. That results in the eight-core11900K consuming not only more power than the previous-gen ten-core 10900K, which was already a power-hungry chip, but it also consumes far more than the competing Ryzen 9 5900X.
It's impressive that AMD has wrung so much performance out of its 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X, yet still manages to consume far less power than Intel's eight-core model. That benefit comes via TSMC's 7nm process, while Intel's 14nm process has obviously reached the end of the road in terms of absolute performance and efficiency.
In fact, a quick look at the renders-per-day charts reveals that AMD's Ryzen 9 5900X is in another league in terms of power efficiency — you get far more performance per watt consumed, which results in lower power consumption and heat generation.
AMD wins this round easily with lower power consumption, higher efficiency, and less thermal output. Intel has turned the power dial up to the extreme to stay competitive with AMD's 7nm Ryzen 5000 chips, and as a result, the Core i9-11900K is power-hungry and generates a tremendous amount of heat for an eight-core chip. Neither processor comes with a bundled cooler, but you'll need to budget in a beefier model to handle the 11900K's prodigious power draw and thermal generation.
Core i9-11900K vs Ryzen 9 5900X Pricing and Value Proposition
If we assume that you can find both the Ryzen 9 5900X and Core i9-11900K close to recommended pricing, Intel really missed the mark with the 11900K's suggested pricing. As the saying goes, there are no bad products, just bad pricing. And the Core i9-11900K definitely has bad pricing.
For gamers, the Core i9-11900K would have to show a more appreciable advantage to justify its price tag and power consumption — the performance deltas are so slim you likely wouldn't notice much difference with current-gen mainstream GPUs, especially at heightened fidelity settings. That makes it hard to justify the Core i9-11900K's $539 price tag.
AMD's $549 Ryzen 9 5900X offers superior performance in daily applications, particularly in heavily threaded work. Additionally, the 5900X's extra cores will equate to better performance in multitasking scenarios, not to mention simultaneous gaming and streaming. Overall, the Ryzen 9 5900X offers much more value for $45 per core than the 11900K's $67-per-core asking price.
However, availability reigns supreme in these times of a global chip shortage, and while Intel's Core i9-11900K arrived with solid availability, it is currently sold out at most major retailers. The situation appears far more dire with the Ryzen 9 5900X, though, which has suffered from poor availability and intense price gouging for several months.
Assuming you can find either of these chips at close to sane pricing, the Ryzen 9 5900X offers far more value for gamers and creatives alike, largely due to its solid blend of performance in gaming, single- and multi-threaded work. AMD also hasn't had to dial the power consumption up to the extreme, so you get a cooler chip that will ultimately result in a quieter system.
That said, the impact of the ongoing global chip shortage is undeniable, so you'll have to adjust your buying habits accordingly. Right now, the best chip might boil down to simply which one is available at sane pricing. Intel produces its own chips, giving it a natural leg up in terms of availability, so we'll likely see better availability with the 11900K than we do with the 5900X, at least in the short term.
Core i9-11900K vs Ryzen 9 5900X Bottom Line
|Intel Core i9-11900K||AMD Ryzen 9 5900X|
|Features and Specifications||X||X|
|Power Consumption, Efficiency, and Cooling||X|
|Pricing and Value Proposition||X|
The Ryzen 9 5900X wins four out of five categories, while also scoring a tie in the features section. Our CPU faceoff ends up being a five to two win in favor of the Ryzen 9 5900X, meaning that the choice should be quite clear for most enthusiasts.
The Ryzen 9 5900X ultimately wins on the strength of its better blend of gaming and application performance, not to mention that it comes with much lower power consumption that ultimately results in a cooler and quieter system. And that's despite it coming with four more cores than the 11900K.
AMD's successful formula has consisted of more cores, a newer architecture, and a denser 7nm node, but Intel launched the Core i9-11900K on an older, less-efficient 14nm node with fewer cores. As a result, Intel attempted to offset the reduced core count by dialing power consumption to the extreme to maximize performance. That results in much higher power consumption and increased heat, so you'll need a very capable cooler and robust motherboard to unlock the best of the 11900K, which adds cost.
The Core i9-11900K is impressive in gaming and lightly-threaded work, but it trails the similarly-priced Ryzen 9 5900X by large margins in threaded applications and doesn't cement itself well enough as a gaming leader to justify its premium price tag. That said, the 11900K and 5900X are so close in gaming that most won't notice the difference, especially with mainstream GPUs and higher resolutions. If you need integrated graphics, the Core i9-11900K is your obvious choice.
Of course, this is all provided that you can find either of these chips at close to suggested pricing. Like other chipmakers, AMD has struggled with chip shortages for several months, leading to poor availability and price gouging, and it doesn't look like the situation will improve drastically in the near term. Intel has appeared to maintain a better supply of its chips, and Rocket Lake is currently available for much more reasonable pricing than the Ryzen processors. That means the chip that you can find at reasonable pricing may win by default.