Should You Wait For Intel Rocket Lake-S?


On October 29th, 2020, Intel released some new details about their upcoming 11th generation Core desktop processors, aka Rocket-Lake-S. According to Intel, these will be released in Q1 of 2021, which could be as late as March 31st, 2021. Given this, the question is should you wait for Intel Rocket Lake-S, or get something else before then?

The obvious reason for Intel to release this information so far in advance is to try to discourage people from buying new AMD Zen 3 systems between November 5, 2020, and whenever Rocket Lake-S is actually released. Intel’s recent history for hitting projected release dates has not been very good.

Intel Cyprus Cove Achitecture

The new Cypress Cove architecture uses a combination of the Ice Lake Core CPU architecture and the Tiger Lake integrated graphics architecture. Having a CPU with integrated graphics (especially if the performance is decent) can be useful in some situations. It lets you build a less expensive system that works perfectly well for some workloads. On the other hand, most PC enthusiasts typically use a discrete graphics card.

The only actual performance comparison that Intel makes between Rocket Lake-S and Comet Lake-S is “50% Higher Performance vs. Gen9 integrated graphics (projected)”. This is probably the least relevant performance delta to focus on!

Should You Wait For Intel Rocket Lake-S?
Cypress Cove Architecture

One welcome improvement is that there will be up to 20 PCIe 4.0 lanes connected to the CPU. This will be Intel’s first desktop processor with PCIe 4.0 support. There will also be a new memory controller that supports DDR4-3200 RAM.

These processors are rumored to work with existing 400 series motherboards, but you will want a new 500 series motherboard to get full feature support.

On the negative side, Rocket Lake-S will top out at 8C/16T, which is a step back from Comet Lake-S (which has up to 10C/20T). This means that Intel is counting on IPC improvements, and possible frequency increases to get better single-threaded performance. Intel claims a “double-digit” IPC improvement compared to Comet Lake-S.

Rocket Lake-S Architecture Improvements

You can see the improvements and features that Intel decided to highlight in these slides. They don’t disclose whether this is 14nm or 10nm, but most people think it is 14nm. Having an IPC improvement is nice, but you also need to know what has happened to clock speeds. They may be lower with the first iteration of a new architecture or if this is 10nm instead of 14nm.

If clock speeds are lower, you may not see much actual performance improvement, even with “double-digit” IPC improvements.

Rocket Lake Key Platform Features
Workloads Used For Testing

Looking at the Workloads and System Configurations slides, it is almost like Intel is not even trying! It looks like they built two similar systems with no discrete graphics, and then ran 3DMark Fire Strike and 3DMark Night Raid to test the CPU and integrated graphics.

Both systems have DDR4-2933 RAM (even though Rocket Lake-S supports faster DDR4-3200 RAM. The Comet Lake-S system has an Intel 760p TLC SSD, while the Rocket Lake-S system has a slower Intel 660p QLC SSD. To be sure, storage performance does not affect these benchmarks, but using different storage in the two systems just shows sloppiness.

Should You Wait For Intel Rocket Lake-S?

Should You Wait For Intel Rocket Lake-S?

In case you can’t tell, I am not very impressed by this news. I think the new AMD Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 series processors in existing AMD 500 series motherboards are going to be a much more versatile and better performing platform. I have serious doubts about whether Rocket Lake-S will match Ryzen 5000 for single threaded performance. We also know that the top-end Rocket Lake-S will only have 8C/16T, so it will be competing against the mid-range 8C/16T Ryzen 7-5800X. Here are some of my recent posts about Ryzen 5000 series processors.

Final Words

It looks like it will make a lot of sense to consider a complete AMD platform for a new build. This would include an AMD Ryzen 5000 series CPU, an AMD 500 series chipset and an AMD Radeon 6000 series video card, so that you get the benefit of AMD Smart Access Memory. These three videos show AMD’s version of all this.

We won’t know anything for sure until we see 3rd party testing of all of these new components and how they work together. There is also an open question about the availability of AMD Ryzen 5000 series CPUs and AMD Radeon 6000 series video cards when they are first released.

If you have any questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. I am pretty active on Twitter as GlennAlanBerryThanks for reading!

Categories HW News, Intel, PC Hardware

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