Today we've got a classic head to head CPU battle in our hands, with a comparison between the Ryzen 7 5800X and Core i7-11700K, both of which are 8-core, 16-thread CPUs that cost around $400. Timing couldn't be better for this comparison, since Intel's 11th-gen Core is readily available and from what we've heard AMD is finally flooding the market with Zen 3 CPUs, so buying a 5800X should be a lot easier than it's been since release.
As of writing, the Ryzen 5800X is selling for around $420 and it appears to be in stock just about everywhere, so things are looking promising. Then we have the Core i7-11700K which is a brand new product and has only been available for about 2 months now, currently selling for $399.
For the price, the Core i7-11700K should offer more than decent value and certainly nothing like the i9-11900K, which in this generation is essentially a binned version of the same chip to be sold for $600. There’s also the discounted previous generation 10700K at $330, though we won’t be looking at that today.
Before we get to the results, a few quick words on today's test setup...
Both CPUs have been tested using DDR4-3800 CL14 memory. We’ve got our hands on a high quality G.Skill TridentZ Neo 32GB kit and it’s very impressive. That’s the memory, and that means we won’t be using the typical CL14 3200 kit for this benchmark.
For the GPU, we're not using a GeForce RTX 3090 either, and the reason is that the Radeon RX 6900 XT is simply much faster at 1080p.
Although we’ve also tested at 1440p and 4K, 1080p is really where we're able to compare CPU performance as it helps to reduce the GPU bottleneck.
Our motherboards of choice, for the AM4 platform we have the MSI X570 Unify running the latest BIOS and for the LGA1200 platform the Gigabyte Z590 Aorus Master, using the latest BIOS, and of course, the latest display drivers and Windows 10.
In total, we tested 32 games at 1080p, 1440p and 4K. We’ll look at detailed data for about a dozen titles and then get into the usual performance breakdown with all the games.
To start things off, we’ll look at a few games that represent the kind of performance margins we typically see between these two processors when gaming. That is to say, for the most part they’re really close.
Playing Horizon Zero Dawn, the 5800X was 2% faster at 1080p, which is a negligible difference, especially with both CPUs enabling well over 100 fps at all times.
Watch Dogs: Legion is another game where the Ryzen processor is faster but by a meaningless 2% margin. Interestingly, a similar delta is seen at all three tested resolutions, even at 4K.
Of course, we’re talking about a disparity of just 1 fps. Though it was highly repeatable, so the Intel processor is somehow imposing a tiny performance penalty, though in actual gameplay the difference is meaningless.
We tested with the new Metro Exodus Enhanced version and found that despite being able to push well over 100 fps even at 1440p, thanks to variable rate shading, the CPU played virtually no role here, or rather, these two 8-core CPUs are powerful enough that it makes no difference.
We've heard that the new 11th-gen CPUs perform really well in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, leaving their Zen 3 competitors in the dust. However, that's not what I found in our testing, rather performance was once again similar.
Even in the CPU-heavy Cyberpunk 2077, we find very little difference between these AMD and Intel processors. The 11700K was 2% faster at 1080p while the opposite was true at 1440p and then identical results were seen at 4K. Overall, another game where frame rates are much the same using either CPU.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a good example of a game that wasn’t designed with high frame rates in mind and we actually see this a lot, especially with single player titles. The 6900 XT maxed out at just over 100 fps using either CPU, resulting in very similar 1080p and 1440p data.
Conversely, Fortnite was developed with high refresh rate gaming in mind, though the game can still be clunky at times. Anyway, here we’re looking at similar 1% low performance using either CPU, while the 5800X was up to 6% faster when comparing the average frame rate. Though we'd argue this is a negligible difference as both were pushing up around 200 fps.
Death Stranding is a game that certainly doesn’t require 200 fps, but if you have either of these CPUs with a 6900 XT, that’s exactly what you’ll get at 1080p and even 1440p.
Ryzen was ~6% faster, so technically the superior performer here, but with both CPUs pushing over 160 fps at all times in this test, you have to wonder if it matters.
Resident Evil Village is the newest game featured in this battery of benchmarks and as good as it looks, the Radeon RX 6900 XT had no issue delivering extreme frame rates in this single player title. That said, if you’re after maximum performance the 5800X was 12% faster at 1080p, though that margin is nearly eliminated at 1440p.
One of the biggest issues we saw with Intel’s 11th gen Core series was the regression in performance seen in some games. One such example is Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege. We saw in our 11900K review that the new flagship was 7% slower than the part it was replacing, and that handed AMD the win.
The 11700K doesn’t fare particularly well here, at least relative to the 5800X as the Ryzen chip is 18% faster when comparing the average frame rate and 33% faster for the 1% low. Those are big margins but with well over 300 fps, how many of you will notice the difference?
Also, for those gaming at 1440p the 5800X is only ~7% faster and then 5% a 4K.
Moving on, the Core i7-11700K stumbles in War Thunder, handing the 5800X a big 22% victory at 1080p and 1440p. For some reason the Intel CPU limits system performance much earlier than the 5800X and we can't tell if this is an 11th-gen issue as we haven’t tested the 10700K yet. But this isn’t the only game where Intel came up well short.
Performance also took a hit in World War Z and again while we are talking about seriously high frame rates, it was interesting to see the 5800X offering almost 30% more performance at 1080p. Again, we don’t know if this is another 11th-gen gremlin, or if Zen 3 is just particularly punchy here. We'll have to retest the 10700K or perhaps Intel is missing some optimization in their stack.
At least for this comparison, AMD is way faster, whether or not you need more than 200 fps in World War Z is hard to say though.
Now it’s time to compare these two CPUs across all 32 games, starting with the 1080p data.
The first thing that jumps out from these numbers is how the Ryzen 7 5800X is the more consistent performer. This is contrast to previous Ryzen generations, and clearly the path AMD has taken the past few years with Zen, Zen+ and Zen 2. When it comes to gaming performance they’ve been a bit all over the place, until now where Zen 3 just delivers.
We can see that at worst the 5800X is 2% slower than the 11700K. As we’ve said countless times in the past when comparing CPUs and GPUs, we deem any margin that’s 5% or less to be a draw. Basically the margins are so small you won’t realize the difference, and therefore it doesn’t matter.
Sticking with that guideline, we see that for 75% of the games tested, the margins are meaningless as both CPUs enabled the same gaming experience. That leaves 8 games where Ryzen did offer significant performance gains, though you’d need to evaluate each title individually as in some instances we're talking about games where you're in the hundreds of FPS, like World War Z for example.
It’s worth keeping in mind that those margins were seen at 1080p using a Radeon RX 6900 XT.
For those gaming at 1440p or 4K, the margins in most of these games shrink with few exceptions. Overall, the Ryzen 7 5800X was just 3% faster on average, so for the vast majority of games you’ll be looking at near identical performance using either of these CPUs.
A Match for Gaming, But Which CPU is Better?
When it comes to gaming, it doesn’t matter which of these CPUs you use, Ryzen 7 5800X or Core i7-11700K, performance is going to be much the same. For a list of different reasons though, one of these is better than the other, but we just wanted to make it clear and establish that if gaming is the only parameter and need to be considered, then both are great solutions and a true performance match.
With that disclaimer out of the way, which is the better CPU?
I’m sure it won’t surprise many of you to hear that AMD wins this comparison. The Ryzen 7 5800X is the better choice for a number of reasons, including significantly better power efficiency and a better upgrade path, thanks to what is overall a superior platform.
As we see it, there’s no advantage to buying the Core i7-11700K except for the rare scenario where you need integrated graphics (e.g. you can't find a GPU at a decent price and don't have an older graphics card to use in a new build).
For other aspects, some might point to overclocking, but there’s little to no headroom left, especially if you’re already running without power limits in place as we were for this testing. The tunability of both CPUs is fairly similar and most of the gains will come from memory tuning.
The big issue with the 11700K is power consumption, and while we didn’t show power data in this article as the focus was on gaming performance, you can simply look at any 11700K review to get that information. There are a few reasons why increased power usage is an issue: it means motherboard pricing goes up as a more robust VRM is required, and that certainly is the case for Intel motherboards. It also means you need to invest more in cooling, otherwise you’ll face high operating temperatures.
Speaking of which, the Ryzen 7 5800X is known to be a bit of a hot CPU despite using far less power than a part like the 11700K. But it’s true, with a quality cooler you’re still looking at load temperatures of around 80C with the Ryzen 7 processor.
Do note however you can’t compare operating temperatures between brands, so you can’t directly compare the 5800X and 11700K, just like you can compare GPUs, say the 6800 XT and RTX 3080. The reason is that they aren’t necessarily reporting the same thing, depending on offsets and probe locations, the readouts can be very different and therefore don’t make for an apples to apples comparison.
At the end of the day, it’s power consumption that matters the most, as long as the CPU is performing as expected and is able to maintain 100% stability.
In our book, the biggest win for AMD though is the AM4 platform. While it’s true that both LGA1200 and AM4 are at the end of their life, or at least that’s the expectation, you still have many more options with AMD.
Should you invest in the Core i7-11700K on a shiny new Z590 motherboard, that’s it you’re done, the system is effectively set in stone. There’s no future upgrade to be had, the Core i9-11900K has nothing to offer you as it’s essentially the exact same CPU. On the other hand, the 5800X has real upgrade paths on offer. You could move to the 12-core 5900X or even the 16-core 5950X, so the ability to double the core count and processing power exists on this platform.
But going back to gaming performance, as we opened with that, performance overall is much the same. The Ryzen 5800X costs a little more than the Core i7, currently at $420-430 depending on the retailer, perhaps most importantly it's in stock almost everywhere we checked. The Core i7-11700K is also readily available for $399, though you’ll typically make up the difference between these two on motherboard pricing.