Rocket Lake is finally here and today we’re checking out the new Core i5-11600K. That’s right, for this generation we’re skipping a day-one look at the Core i9 and even the Core i7 part, and instead are going straight to the more affordable Core i5. There are a few reasons for this. First, the 8-core Core i7 and Core i9 processors are essentially the same, and early reviews of those chips have already gone live weeks prior to the embargo.
For those of you interested, we'll still review the Core i9-11900K in a few days, but with a $540 MSRP, I reckon you’ll be able to guess my thoughts on that one. The 11700K at $400 is a little more palatable, especially if it's widely available. So that leaves the 11600K as the third unlocked Rocket Lake 11th-gen chip that's been announced so far.
Like the 10600K, the 11600K is a 6-core / 12-thread CPU packing a 12MB L3 cache and a 125 watt TDP, along with the same $262 MSRP. The new 11th-gen model does clock 100 MHz higher boosting to 4.9 GHz, though due to the AVX-512 support the base clock has been reduced from 4.1 GHz to 3.9 GHz.
It’s well worth noting that the 11th-gen architecture is entirely different from the 10th-gen series. Rocket Lake is somewhat of a hybrid architecture that’s the result of two different backported technologies. It’s a little complicated, but Intel has taken the 10nm Sunny Cove cores from the Ice Lake microarchitecture and redesigned them for 14nm, making something entirely new they've called Cypress Cove.
|Core i5-11600K||Core i5-10600K||Core i5-10600KF||Ryzen 5 5600X|
|Cores / Threads||6 / 12|
|Base Frequency||3.9 GHz||4.1 GHz||3.7 GHz|
|Max Turbo||4.9 GHz||4.8 GHz||4.6 GHz|
|L3 Cache||12 MB||32 MB|
|iGPU Model||UHD Graphics 750||UHD Graphics 630||N/A|
|TDP||125 watt||65 watt|
But it’s more than that, Intel also took the Xe graphics from 10nm Tiger Lake and backported that to this new hybrid 14nm design, though the name remains the same. It’s a bit of a mess, and we must wonder why they didn’t just scrap this hybrid architecture and focus on readying Alder Lake instead.
"Alder Lake" is Intel’s 12th-gen Core series that's slated for release later this year, is expected to use their more refined and much awaited 10nm process on a new LGA 1700 socket and offer DDR5 memory support.
Not-too-distant future releases aside for now, let’s take a look at the Core i5-11600K and see if it’s a worthy replacement for the now very affordable 10600K, while simultaneously defeating the overpriced Ryzen 5 5600X.
For testing the Intel CPUs we've used the Gigabyte Aorus Z590 Master using BIOS version F5a. The board was configured with 32GB of DDR4-3200 CL14 dual rank, dual-channel memory and cooling was provided by the Corsair iCUE H150i Elite Capellix White, essentially this is a 360mm AIO. All this hardware was installed in the Corsair 5000D Airflow case, powered by the RM850x PSU. The Ryzen test system features the black version of the same cooler, the same memory and power supply, with the key change being the Gigabyte X570 Aorus Master motherboard.
For this review, we’re going to look exclusively at results for Intel CPUs that aren’t power limited, so no TDP-limited testing. This is typically how we test Intel CPUs, as this is also how the majority of Z490 and Z590 boards operate out of the box. So while we'll be using the default clock multiplier tables, none of the Intel CPUs are adhering to any power limits.
Finally, all configurations were tested with an RTX 2080 Ti for productivity benchmarks, but for gaming all the benchmarks were conducted with the newer and faster GeForce RTX 3090. Let’s get into the results.
Starting with Cinebench R20, we see a very impressive 20% performance uplift for the 11600K over the previous generation and while that wasn’t enough to beat AMD's 6-core offering, it did get Intel up to speed. The 5600X is just 3% faster which is a negligible margin.
Basically, it appears as though AMD’s simultaneous multi-threading technology is still a bit more powerful because when we look at single-core performance, Intel is able to match AMD as both the 11600K and 5600X produce a score of around 600 pts.
The gains in the 7zip compression benchmark aren’t as impressive, though we’re still looking at a solid 14% uplift over the 10600K. For Intel that meant the new 11600K trailed the 5600X by a 12% margin in this test.
We’re also looking at a 14% uplift over the 10600K for decompression work, and again Intel’s SMT implementation isn’t as effective as AMD’s, resulting in a 19% deficit to the 5600X.
Intel’s 10th gen Core series was particularly weak for AES-256 encryption, but here we’re looking at a huge 57% performance uplift for the 11600K, placing it 6% ahead of the 5600X. An incredible performance uplift and this is the first benchmark we’ve seen where Intel now beats AMD.
The 11600K made another nice step forward, this time in the Blender Open Data benchmark where it matched the 5600X, offering a 15% performance boost over the 10600K.
Rendering performance in V-Ray has also been greatly improved as the 11600K offered 22% greater performance than the 10600K, again getting it within range of the 5600X.
We’re looking at a 14% performance uplift in the Corona benchmark and that was enough to get within 5% of the 5600X, here the AMD processor was 4% faster which is a fairly insignificant margin.
Next up we have Chromium code compilation performance and again the 11600K delivers a 14% performance improvement over the 10600K, placing it hot on the heels of the 5600X, again the AMD processor was just 2.5% faster which is a negligible margin.
Even in the DaVinci Resolve Studio 16 benchmark, we’re looking at a 10% improvement for the 11th gen Core i5 over its predecessor and that’s basically the same level of performance we received from the Ryzen 5 5600X.
The Premiere Pro gains are even larger, here the 11600K beat the 10600K by a 16% margin, and again, that meant it was able to deliver 5600X-like performance.
The performance uplift in Photoshop for the 11600K was huge, beating the 10600K by a 21% margin and that improvement was enough to see the new 11th gen part just edge out the 5600X, though we really are talking about comparable performance here.
The performance margins seen when testing with After Effects are also very similar. Here the 11600K provided a 19% performance uplift over the 10th gen model, placing it roughly on par with the 5600X.
This is where things go a bit wrong for Intel and their 10nm woes, which have seen them stuck on the tried a true 14nm process for seven generations spanning six years. Although the Core i5-11600K is able to match the Ryzen 5 5600X in almost all of our productivity benchmarks, it pushed total system usage 41% higher in order to do that. The results below measure the average power usage across the entire Blender Open Data benchmark.
Moving on to gaming benchmarks, here we’ve swapped out the RTX 2080 Ti for the more powerful RTX 3090. Starting with Watch Dogs Legion we’re looking at a mild 6% performance uplift over the 10600K, which places the 11600K on par with the 5600X.
Interestingly, frame rates in F1 2020 go unchanged as the 11600K matches the 10600K and leaves the 5600X to be 10% faster, or 13% faster if we compare the 1% low data.
The new 11th-gen Core i5 CPU still pushed over 240 fps on average, so the margins probably don’t matter, but it wasn't nice to see the 11600K trailing the 5600X, something we didn’t see much of in the productivity benchmarks.
Next up we have Horizon Zero Dawn and here we are looking at comparable performance with the Ryzen 5 5600X. The 1% low performance is identical while the AMD CPU was just 3% faster on average. The 11600K is also 3% faster than the 10600K, meaning the three CPUs deliver similar performance in this title.
Intel was already slightly ahead of AMD in Borderlands 3 and the 11600K manages to extend that margin, boosting performance over the 5600X by 4%. Not exactly earth-shattering but it was good to see Intel making some gains here.
Frame rates between the 11600K and 5600X are identical in Death Stranding. While that might not seem too impressive at first glance, you must realize that the 11600K is 18% faster than the 10600K, which is a mighty impressive performance uplift for the new Intel processor.
We’re looking at a 7% performance boost for the 11600K over the 10600K in Hitman 2, or 10% if we compare the 1% low performance. That’s a decent boost but it wasn’t enough to catch the 5600X which still leads by an 8% margin.
Sadly, we saw performance go backwards in Star Wars Squadrons as the 11600K dropped down to 249 fps from 259 fps with the 10600K, a small 4% performance reduction. The 5600X already had a big lead over the 10600K in this title. The result is that the AMD processor is 21% faster than the 11600K, which is a significant margin albeit downplayed by the extreme frame rates.
Serious Sam 4 shows little to no performance improvement for the 11600K over the 10600K. The 5600X remains 14% faster in this title which is a sizable advantage.
The Rainbow Six Siege results are a bit mixed, the 11600K does improve 1% low performance by 6%, but then we saw a 2% reduction for the average frame rate. The end result saw the 5600X deliver 14% greater performance, hitting no less than 506 fps.
The village we use for testing in Shadow of the Tomb Raider is very CPU demanding and here the 11600K does deliver a strong 11% performance uplift over the 10600K, which is great to see. It’s still not the fastest 6-core processor in this game as the 5600X was a further 8% faster hitting 159 fps on average.
Average Gaming Performance
Looking at the 10 game average we see that Intel hasn’t been able to reclaim the gaming crown, at least not for 6-core CPUs. Overall we’re looking at a small 5% improvement over the 10600K and while that’s welcome, this time AMD gets to be in front by a 7% margin. There’s not much more to say here as we suspect the massive 32MB unified L3 cache of the 5600X is just too much for the 11600K.
When it came time to overclock we were only able to get our 11600K sample stable at 4.9 GHz. It was possible to boot into Windows at 5 GHz, but even with an uncomfortable amount of voltage, we couldn’t stabilize the overclock.
At 4.9 GHz it was completely stable using 1.35v and this 6.5% increase in all-core frequency boosted the Cinebench R20 multi-threaded result by a mere 3%.
The 10600K on the other hand scaled far better with its 13% overclock from an all core of 4.5 GHz to 5.1 GHz as this boosted the score by 12%. This is interesting to note for those that plan to overclock these processors. Whereas the 11600K was 20% faster than the 10600K out of the box, it’s just 10% faster once both CPUs are overclocked to the max.
The Rainbow Six Siege results are also interesting. The 11600K saw a 7% boost once overclocked, while the 10600K saw less than a percent. Now you might think that’s not possible and I’ll admit it certainly doesn’t look right, but these results are based on a three-run average and we did triple-check.
Therefore it appears as though there’s some kind of bottleneck with the 10600K that’s not frequency-related. We did consistently see an uplift for the 1% low which was improved by around 8% via the overclock.
Lastly, here's a look at overclocking performance with Watch Dogs Legion, like what we saw with Cinebench R20, there’s little to be gained by overclocking the 11600K. We’re also only looking at a 3% overclock for the 10600K.
The Value Proposition
The new Core i5-11600K CPU is typically between 10% to 20% faster for productivity tasks when compared to the 10600K, in line with Intel’s claim of a 20% IPC increase. That means the new part is able to match the Ryzen 5 5600X in most scenarios, so Intel’s made up good ground on the productivity front. They’re still nowhere near AMD in terms of efficiency, and that’s of course down to the process node.
When it comes to gaming, AMD still came out on top. The Ryzen 5 5600X is about 7% faster than the 11600K based on our 10 game sample. Intel made a small 5% jump here from the 10600K, though we saw significant gains in a few titles like Death Stranding, in some others there was very little difference.
It is worth noting that gaming benchmarks were conducted at 1080p with an RTX 3090. This is done to measure pure CPU performance, though under more realistic conditions like playing games at 1440p or greater, the 7% margin the 5600X enjoys over the 11600K will be cut down significantly and in most instances entirely eliminated. So while the Ryzen 5600X is the better gaming CPU, it’s not worth paying a steep premium for the difference, as was the case with 9th and 10th-gen Core series over AMD’s Zen 2 range.
As of writing, we could find the Ryzen 5 5600X over on Newegg and Amazon selling for about $365 which is $65 over the MSRP. Meanwhile, the Core i5-11600K is listed on Amazon for $270 which is 26% cheaper than the 5600X. Frankly, the Ryzen part is not worth that price premium.
If both CPUs were available at their MSRP, then the 5600X would be the obvious choice as it’s faster and more efficient, plus it's supported on a wider range of motherboards. But at today’s prices we’d get the 11600K. Actually no, what we’d do is forget both the 5600X and 11600K and just get the outgoing 10600K, or even better the 10600KF.
The Core i5-10600K is $224 and the 10600KF model (no graphics) posing an even more attractive proposition at $200. Those 35% savings could then go into something else, especially if your focus is gaming. If you’re in need of a CPU upgrade today and have a budget between $200 and $300, the Core i5-10600KF is a cracking good CPU for the money.
If you’re after a good value motherboard to go with that, check out our Top 5 Best Z490 motherboards. The MSI Pro Z490-A Pro was a good option and can still be had for around $170. There’s also a few sub $200 Z590 motherboards that might be better, though we suspect a Z490 board is a better pairing with a 10th-gen processor.