I consider the Intel Core i5 11600K to be Pat Gelsinger’s favorite CPU in this new 11th Gen Rocket Lake lineup, it’s definitely mine so far. Intel’s new CEO has been speaking at length recently about his desire to see the company return to its heyday, a return to the tick-tock CPU production cadence of yesteryear, and put engineering at the forefront of everything it does. the company.
And the i5 11600K has a bit of the nostalgia chip for me, itself a throwback to the days when our recommendation on a new CPU architecture would inevitably fall to Core i5 CPUs rather than the higher-end i7. In this case it’s a real strong recommendation over the mediocre Intel Core i9 11900K as well as the i7 11700K.
This is one of the only new processors that PC gamers should be interested in from Intel’s 11th Gen desktop CPUs, and it’s probably the go-to chip for anyone looking to build a mainstream gaming PC today. You know, if you can find a graphics card to go with it, anyway.
Previously, that recommendation was aimed strictly at AMD’s latest hex-core chip, the Ryzen 5 5600X. But now, I’m not so sure.
This is Intel’s top-of-the-line six-core CPU from the Rocket Lake range, offering solid clock speeds, HyperThreading, unlocked multipliers for overclocking, and a $270 price tag that makes the $350 Ryzen 5 5600X look really expensive.
It’s a different proposition within the 11th Gen lineup compared to the 11900K as well. Where the Core i9 is weaker, on paper, compared to its last-gen equivalent, with fewer cores and a lower overall clock speed, the Core i5 11600K improves on its 10th-gen predecessor in almost every area.
The only point it doesn’t have is the almost irrelevant 3.9GHz base clock figure. The Core i5 10600K has a nominally higher 4.1GHz base, but you’ll never see that in use anyway. But the 4.6 GHz total figure (which you do see solidly in multi-threaded workloads) and the 4.9 GHz single-core number are both a step higher than the Comet Lake i5.
It also has PCIe 4.0 support built into the CPU itself, though sadly not across the new Z590 chipset. So far, we haven’t had the best experience with the PCIe 4.0 performance of the Rocket Lake chips, neither the high-end Core i9 nor this i5 11600K. However, the ups and downs in our performance tests with 11th Gen CPUs lead us to believe that this could be due to teething problems related to Intel’s inaugural PCIe 4.0 platform.
That doesn’t change the fact that Intel’s 500-series motherboards don’t support the chipset, and that reduces the effectiveness of the platform as a whole. That may not be a deal breaker right now, but with PCIe 4.0 SSD prices falling, it will be the connection of choice in the future.
But with Rocket Lake, this is more than just a higher clocked version of the Comet Lake i5, it’s actually an entirely new architecture. Intel’s desktop chips have been stuck on slight iterative updates to the 14nm Skylake core design released in 2015, but for this 2021 release it has pulled the 10nm Sunny Cove design from its latest generation Ice Lake mobile CPUs. and has backported it to its mature 14nm production process.
Intel has also included the Xe GPU architecture that debuted in its latest Tiger Lake mobile processors. There are fewer execution units (EUs) within the desktop version (32 vs. 96), but honestly, that’s of little consequence to gamers who will be using a discrete GPU alongside their new processing silicon. The usual caveats about stock graphics cards apply.
All of that means you’re getting a hefty IPC boost of around 19 percent over previous desktop CPUs, as well as some smarter silicon to go along with the quirks of Intel’s PCIe 4.0 support. That extra performance is the upside, the downside is that you lose the area and efficiency benefits of smaller 10nm node offerings, resulting in a bigger, hotter, more power-hungry chip.
The main goal of the Core i9 11900K flagship was to retake the lead at the top of the gaming CPU market, to get ahead of the AMD Ryzen competition for better or worse. And while it does from a raw frame rate perspective, the actual relative processing performance, platform, and value proposition of the top Rocket Lake chip lag far behind what the Ryzen 9 5900X and Ryzen 7 5800X can offer.
But this is much more like it. As a mainstream six-core CPU, the Core i5 11600K takes aim squarely at AMD’s equivalently-specced Ryzen 5 5600X, and here the benchmark battle across the board is much more even competition.
In gaming, the i5 11600K is generally capable of virtually identical performance to the 5600X, give or take a few frames per second here and there. It’s also almost up compared to Intel’s i9 11900K. Suffice to say, this is a more than capable gaming processor that won’t get in the way of your graphics card’s ability to cause its silicon end to break.