Intel’s John Bonini, Intel VP and GM of Client Computing Group Desktop, Workstations and Gaming, writes that Intel’s upcoming Rocket Lake platform will debut in Q1 (other rumors say March), putting it about five months away. Beyond support for PCIe 4.0 and an emphasis on Intel’s continued ability to run at higher clock speeds than its rival, Bonini didn’t really tell us anything we didn’t previously know about the core.
The purpose for Intel’s tease was to steal a bit of AMD’s thunder from the Ryzen 5000 announcement and to firm up expectations that Rocket Lake would debut earlier, rather than later in the year. The big question about RKL, from the reviewer perspective, is whether it’s based on yet another Skylake iteration or if (as rumored) the company backported some of the capabilities of Sunny Cove or Willow Cove into a new core (reportedly nicknamed Cypress Cove).
It seems highly unlikely that Intel would recycle Skylake again, and if we assume the best-case scenario for Intel is full IPC uplift + no loss of clock, Rocket Lake might pick up a 1.15x – 1.2x boost in performance relative to Skylake. This would also explain why Intel is rumored to only be shipping eight-core Rocket Lake chips rather than 10-core Comet Lake parts — the higher IPC might compensate for the lower number of cores.
One market where Rocket Lake might shine, however, is lower-end integrated gaming systems. Ice Lake and Tiger Lake have both boosted Intel’s integrated GPU performance up to very respectable levels, and Rocket Lake reportedly ships with Gen 12 Xe-LP graphics. Give the chip a desktop-level TDP, and the end result might be a great low-end gaming solution. This is not to imply that Rocket Lake will only compete with AMD’s APUs at the lower end of the market, but Intel has told us virtually nothing about the CPU core, while the Xe-based GPU core is a little easier to predict.
The PCIe 4.0 support coming with Rocket Lake is a feature Intel some of Intel’s motherboard partners preseeded into the market last year with the launch of Z490. If you bought one of those boards with a 10th Generation chip, you’ll be able to upgrade to an 11th Generation CPU and unlock PCIe 4.0 support.
Given what we know about Zen 3, and the likely-significant uplift Intel will pick up with Rocket Lake, it seems likely the company will take a competitive stand around AMD’s 8-12 core pricing. Intel historically charges more per-core than AMD does (and does so successfully), so I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to come in at equal pricing.
Unless rumors about Rocket Lake configurations and core counts are wildly wrong, Intel will not be able to reclaim absolute performance superiority. Chips like the 16-core 5950X are going to make that impossible for any eight-core competitor. What I suspect Intel will try to do is reclaim specific markets like single-threaded performance and gaming, along with AI and AVX-512 support. Intel may not be able to challenge chips like the 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X with an eight-core Rocket Lake, no matter how additionally efficient, but it could price the chip well against the 5800X, or drop it in-between the 5800X and 5900X at a price/performance ratio that makes it a tempting alternative to either. The six-core market could also get pretty interesting, depending on what Intel brings to market and how aggressively the company wants to play things.
If Rocket Lake doesn’t launch until March 2021, it seems unlikely we’d see Alder Lake before 2022. I’m not going to say that Intel couldn’t launch two desktop sockets in the same year, but the company typically allows ~12 months to pass between generations. If it does launch RKL and ADL in the same year, expect Alder to drop no earlier than the holiday season.
- AMD Has Scaled Ryzen Faster Than Any Other CPU in the Past 20 Years
- Steam Shows CPU Core Counts Slowly, Finally, Creeping Upwards
- Intel Confirms 8-Core Tiger Lake CPUs Are on the Way