Intel Rocket Lake (14nm) Review: Core i9-11900K, Core i7-11700K, and Core i5-11600K

Today is the official launch of Intel’s 11th Generation Core processor family, given the internal name ‘Rocket Lake’. Rocket Lake showcases new performance gains for Intel in the desktop space, with a raw clock-for-clock performance …

Today is the official launch of Intel’s 11th Generation Core processor family, given the internal name ‘Rocket Lake’. Rocket Lake showcases new performance gains for Intel in the desktop space, with a raw clock-for-clock performance uplift in a number of key workloads. In order to do this, Intel have had to retrofit its 10nm CPU and GPU designs back to 14nm, because only 14nm can achieve the frequency required. In exchange, the new processors to get this performance run hot, cost more for Intel to produce, have two fewer cores at the high end, but customers also get PCIe 4.0 on Intel’s mainstream desktop platform for the first time. In our review today, we will be going over Intel’s new hardware, why it exists, and how it performs, focusing specifically on Intel’s new flagship, the Core i9-11900K, which has eight cores and can boost up to 5.3 GHz.

Intel’s x86 Designs No Longer Limited to Intel on Intel: IP Blocks for Foundry, Cores on TSMC

Today Intel’s CEO Pat Gelsinger has outlined two key changes to Intel policy: one derived from Intel’s plans to offer foundry services to external partners, and the other from Intel starting to outsource its core compute product families in order to get the best product at a given time. Not only is Intel set to offer x86 core IP to customers through its new Intel Foundry Services, but also Intel is looking to creating leadership compute products on external nodes. These are complete 180º turns from how Intel has previously operated.

For the last 20-25 years, Intel has been steadfast in keeping the crown jewels of its product design firmly inside its very protective walls. Over the years, Intel’s x86 designs have mostly led the market in leadership performance and power (except for Pentium 4 and Rocket Lake), and limiting use/production for Intel-only use has enabled the company to improve that design with laser focus, manufacturing not-withstanding. Keeping the cores for internal use only means that neither customers nor competitors were able to see the raw design specifications, and for a long time this has enabled Intel to keep key features, such as its branch predictors, away from all but the most prying eyes.

In a twist to the norm, Intel is now set to dissolve those walls keeping its x86 cores it itself.

First up is Intel’s Foundry Services, a second crack at offering external customers the ability to use Intel’s manufacturing facilities. Idle fabs are costly, and so with IFS, Intel wants to enable a revenue stream while at the time meeting global demand for semiconductors, especially as it pertains to local supply chain security and migrating the world’s semiconductor reliance away from Asia more into the USA and EU. IFS will stand as a separate business unit inside Intel.

As part of IFS, Intel will both offer raw manufacturing services, similar to a standard foundry like TSMC and Samsung, as well as its portfolio of IP to customers. This is a Big Deal™.  Intel will enable a fully vertical model with its IP portfolio, allowing customers to choose from x86 cores, graphics, media, display, AI, interconnect, fabric, packaging, and other critical foundational IP from other sources (such as Arm, RISC-V). The exact way in which customers will be able to license the IP will be announced in due course, but if Intel were to follow the Arm model, then Intel customers will get access to Intel’s 86 core designs.

Arm’s model is bidirectional: core IP and architecture IP. The first allows you to build an SoC with defined cores, while the latter allows you to build your own cores with the instruction set (like Apple does with Arm). When applied to Intel, with the core IP, a customer can build designs based on Intel’s x86 cores with their own or external interconnects, or in different configurations to Intel’s standard model that are more optimized for what that particular customer requires. At the minute Intel is set only to offer core IP licenses, not architecture IP licenses.

If we take this idea and extrapolate, we could very well see x86 cores combined with new memory controllers, active interposers with custom interconnects.

Intel has kind of done this before, although it was very much a walled garden. Intel offered foundry services almost 7 years ago, under then CEO Brian Krzanich, that allowed very select customers to build new SoC designs, with Intel’s help, and only for very select pre-approved use cases. In that time, Intel’s effort for a proper foundry business was, in Gelsinger’s own words, ‘weak’. The new model is set to be more open, as far as we’re led to believe.

The only question becomes to what extent will Intel offer x86 cores. Will it be the latest cores designed internally, or would they be a couple of generations behind? Will those designs be offered on a variety of process nodes, or just on a singular process node? Would a customer be able to get a core IP license and build it at another fab? This is where the second part of the announcement comes in.

As part of today’s announcement, Intel has stated that it will be expanding its use of third-party foundry capacity. Pat Gelsinger highlighted that it would be leveraging its relationships with TSMC, GlobalFoundries, Samsung, and UMC, to enable the best manufacturing facilities for its leading edge product designs, from communications and connectivity to graphics and chiplets. This builds on the announcements made by former CEO Bob Swan last year in light of Intel’s own troubles on its 7nm process. Today’s announcements reaffirms Swan’s messaging, given that at the time the word ‘pragmatic’ was used, so while this has probably been in the works in a while, it is good to get a clear confirmation. As part of this announcement, to quote:

‘Gelsinger said he expects Intel’s engagement with third-party foundries to grow and to include manufacturing for a range of modular tiles on advanced process technologies, including products at the core of Intel’s computing offerings for both client and data center segments beginning in 2023’

The key phrase here is ‘core of Intel’s compute offerings’. It could be interpreted in two ways: at the core of a CPU design is a CPU core, which would mean an x86 design unless Intel were to skew away from x86 (unlikely). The other alternative could be an IO chiplet, which is also a ‘core part’ of a compute offering. Paul Alcorn from Tom’s Hardware has confirmed from Intel that the key element here is ‘compute cores’, and although Intel hasn’t specifically said the ISA of those cores, we are set to believe that Intel does indeed mean x86.

This means that other foundries will have access to the floorplans of Intel’s x86 designs, which used to be a big no-no at Intel. Now in saying that, foundries often have strict NDA requirements that stop them sharing designs with customers, as you might expect, but it’s the fact that Intel is even letting another foundry build x86 cores that is the highlight of this announcement.

All-in-all, Pat Gelsinger is enabling a roadmap that allows Intel to pivot, and pivot hard. Steering the Intel behemoth is difficult at the best of times, however Pat’s arrival and enthusiasm has certainly made the company more comfortable in finding where its next generation of revenue is coming from.

 

Today Intel’s CEO Pat Gelsinger has outlined two key changes to Intel policy: one derived from Intel’s plans to offer foundry services to external partners, and the other from Intel starting to outsource its core compute product families in order to get the best product at a given time. Not only is Intel set to offer x86 core IP to customers through its new Intel Foundry Services, but also Intel is looking to creating leadership compute products on external nodes. These are complete 180º turns from how Intel has previously operated.

For the last 20-25 years, Intel has been steadfast in keeping the crown jewels of its product design firmly inside its very protective walls. Over the years, Intel’s x86 designs have mostly led the market in leadership performance and power (except for Pentium 4 and Rocket Lake), and limiting use/production for Intel-only use has enabled the company to improve that design with laser focus, manufacturing not-withstanding. Keeping the cores for internal use only means that neither customers nor competitors were able to see the raw design specifications, and for a long time this has enabled Intel to keep key features, such as its branch predictors, away from all but the most prying eyes.

In a twist to the norm, Intel is now set to dissolve those walls keeping its x86 cores it itself.

First up is Intel’s Foundry Services, a second crack at offering external customers the ability to use Intel’s manufacturing facilities. Idle fabs are costly, and so with IFS, Intel wants to enable a revenue stream while at the time meeting global demand for semiconductors, especially as it pertains to local supply chain security and migrating the world’s semiconductor reliance away from Asia more into the USA and EU. IFS will stand as a separate business unit inside Intel.

As part of IFS, Intel will both offer raw manufacturing services, similar to a standard foundry like TSMC and Samsung, as well as its portfolio of IP to customers. This is a Big Deal™.  Intel will enable a fully vertical model with its IP portfolio, allowing customers to choose from x86 cores, graphics, media, display, AI, interconnect, fabric, packaging, and other critical foundational IP from other sources (such as Arm, RISC-V). The exact way in which customers will be able to license the IP will be announced in due course, but if Intel were to follow the Arm model, then Intel customers will get access to Intel’s 86 core designs.

Arm’s model is bidirectional: core IP and architecture IP. The first allows you to build an SoC with defined cores, while the latter allows you to build your own cores with the instruction set (like Apple does with Arm). When applied to Intel, with the core IP, a customer can build designs based on Intel’s x86 cores with their own or external interconnects, or in different configurations to Intel’s standard model that are more optimized for what that particular customer requires. At the minute Intel is set only to offer core IP licenses, not architecture IP licenses.

If we take this idea and extrapolate, we could very well see x86 cores combined with new memory controllers, active interposers with custom interconnects.

Intel has kind of done this before, although it was very much a walled garden. Intel offered foundry services almost 7 years ago, under then CEO Brian Krzanich, that allowed very select customers to build new SoC designs, with Intel's help, and only for very select pre-approved use cases. In that time, Intel's effort for a proper foundry business was, in Gelsinger's own words, 'weak'. The new model is set to be more open, as far as we're led to believe.

The only question becomes to what extent will Intel offer x86 cores. Will it be the latest cores designed internally, or would they be a couple of generations behind? Will those designs be offered on a variety of process nodes, or just on a singular process node? Would a customer be able to get a core IP license and build it at another fab? This is where the second part of the announcement comes in.

As part of today’s announcement, Intel has stated that it will be expanding its use of third-party foundry capacity. Pat Gelsinger highlighted that it would be leveraging its relationships with TSMC, GlobalFoundries, Samsung, and UMC, to enable the best manufacturing facilities for its leading edge product designs, from communications and connectivity to graphics and chiplets. This builds on the announcements made by former CEO Bob Swan last year in light of Intel's own troubles on its 7nm process. Today's announcements reaffirms Swan's messaging, given that at the time the word 'pragmatic' was used, so while this has probably been in the works in a while, it is good to get a clear confirmation. As part of this announcement, to quote:

‘Gelsinger said he expects Intel’s engagement with third-party foundries to grow and to include manufacturing for a range of modular tiles on advanced process technologies, including products at the core of Intel’s computing offerings for both client and data center segments beginning in 2023’

The key phrase here is ‘core of Intel’s compute offerings’. It could be interpreted in two ways: at the core of a CPU design is a CPU core, which would mean an x86 design unless Intel were to skew away from x86 (unlikely). The other alternative could be an IO chiplet, which is also a ‘core part’ of a compute offering. Paul Alcorn from Tom’s Hardware has confirmed from Intel that the key element here is ‘compute cores’, and although Intel hasn’t specifically said the ISA of those cores, we are set to believe that Intel does indeed mean x86.

This means that other foundries will have access to the floorplans of Intel’s x86 designs, which used to be a big no-no at Intel. Now in saying that, foundries often have strict NDA requirements that stop them sharing designs with customers, as you might expect, but it’s the fact that Intel is even letting another foundry build x86 cores that is the highlight of this announcement.

All-in-all, Pat Gelsinger is enabling a roadmap that allows Intel to pivot, and pivot hard. Steering the Intel behemoth is difficult at the best of times, however Pat’s arrival and enthusiasm has certainly made the company more comfortable in finding where its next generation of revenue is coming from.

 

Intel to Revive ‘Tick-Tock’ Model, Unquestioned CPU Leadership Performance in 2024/2025

As part of today’s announcements, during Intel’s Q&A session after the prepared remarks, CEO Pat Gelsinger explained how Intel is going to revive its fortunes when it comes to its leading edge compute products. One of Gelsinger’s…

As part of today’s announcements, during Intel’s Q&A session after the prepared remarks, CEO Pat Gelsinger explained how Intel is going to revive its fortunes when it comes to its leading edge compute products. One of Gelsinger’s mantras seems to be that unquestioned leadership products bring unquestioned leadership margins for those products, and for Intel to execute, it needs to return to its days of old.

In the past, through the 1990s, 2000s, and into the 2010s, Intel’s manufacturing philosophy was known as ‘Tick-Tock’. This means that for every product generation, the leading edge compute hardware was either a Tick (process node enhancement), or a Tock (microarchitecture enhancement). Each generation would alternate between the two, allowing Intel to take advantage of a familiar design on a new process node, or using a mature node to enable a new performance-focused design. That policy was scuppered when delays to Intel’s 10nm forced Intel into more of a Tick-Tock-Optimization-Optimization-Optimization model.

Today CEO Pat Gelsinger stated that at Intel’s core it has to re-establish the Tick-Tock model that enabled repeated leadership in the CPU ecosystem, buoyed by a healthy CPU roadmap. Part of this is re-establishing discipline in Intel’s ranks to continually provide both microarchitecture updates and process node updates on a regular expected cadence. Pat stated as part of the call that Intel will look towards a confirmed yearly process node improvement, and as a result, there might be a lot of Ticks in the future, with a push to more Tocks as well.

On top of this commentary, Pat Gelsinger also stated that Intel’s CPU roadmaps are already baked in through 2021, 2022, and 2023. The company is thus looking to 2024/2025 for ‘unquestioned CPU leadership performance’, which traditionally means the fastest processor for single thread and multi-thread workloads. This is for sure a laudable goal, however Intel will also have to adapt to a changing landscape of chiplet processor designs (coming in 2023), enhancing on-die accelerators (GNA already present), and also what it means to have leadership performance – in the modern era, leadership performance doesn’t mean much if you’re also pushing lots of Watts. Intel stated that its 7nm process is now comfortably on track to deliver Meteor Lake, a client CPU using tiles/chiplets, in 2023, however we are likely looking to a 7nm variant or even external processes for a 2024/2025 product. Intel has also stated that it is looking to consider the core of its leading edge compute on external foundry processes, although one might argue that this doesn’t explicitly say ‘CPU’.

It is also worth noting that Intel/Gelsinger isn’t calling its disaggregated silicon as ‘chiplets’, and prefers to use the term ‘tiles’.  This is because Intel’s tiles amount to long wires across 3D packaging technologies like EMIB and Foveros, compared to package-based multi-die interconnect that require buffers as well as control fabric. Tiles by this definition are more costly to implement than chiplets, and have additional thermal considerations by having high-powered silicon close together, so it will be interesting to see how Intel balances these new packaging technologies with the more cost-sensitive elements of its portfolio, such as client processors.

It’s been known that Intel’s microarchitecture teams haven’t been idle waiting for 10nm to come through the pipe, with a number of designs ready and waiting to go for when the process node technology matures. With any luck, if Intel can get a headwind with 7nm, when 2024 rolls around it might all come thick and fast.

Intel’s New IDM 2.0 Strategy: $20b for Two Fabs, Meteor Lake 7nm Tiles, New Foundry Services, IBM Collaboration, Return of IDF

The new CEO of Intel, Pat Gelsinger, has today outlined his vision for Intel over the coming years. During an online presentation entitled ‘Intel Unleashed: Engineering The Future’, Pat Gelsinger outlined five key topics upon which Intel w…

The new CEO of Intel, Pat Gelsinger, has today outlined his vision for Intel over the coming years. During an online presentation entitled ‘Intel Unleashed: Engineering The Future’, Pat Gelsinger outlined five key topics upon which Intel will work towards and what it means for the company at large. At the center of this is a reaffirmed commitment for Intel to retain its own fabs, but also double down on its ability to drive the latest technologies at scale by building new manufacturing facilities inside the US.

Intel’s DPG Launch Event April 6th: Early Look at 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable (Ice Lake)

Today Intel has announced that it will be holding a launch event on April 6th for the new vision of its Data Platform Group. This event is set to ‘unveil the next chapter’ in all the areas that Intel’s DPG touches, from edge to cloud…

Today Intel has announced that it will be holding a launch event on April 6th for the new vision of its Data Platform Group. This event is set to ‘unveil the next chapter’ in all the areas that Intel’s DPG touches, from edge to cloud, as well as offering an early look at 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable systems, which we’ve come to understand is the Ice Lake Xeon platform. Key speakers at the event include Intel’s new CEO, Pat Gelsinger.

How Wonderful Gets Done 2021

Subtly dropped in my email today as part of the Intel weekly on data center progress, the company have announced a ‘How Wonderful Gets Done 2021’ event built upon the Data Platform Group’s progress as well as the vision for the segment of Intel looking to the future. The key headliner, present in our email but not on Intel’s website, is that the event will host an ‘early look at 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processor-based systems’. It is unclear if this means CPUs or just OEM designs, or if we’ll see benchmarks, but it is clear that Intel’s OEM partners are practically ready to go based on some of the published data already available.


From the email

One of the accompanying videos on the event website is a 10 second montage of things forming the letter ‘X’, and the words ‘what will you solve for’.

The event will be held on Tuesday April 6th, starting at 8am PT, with keynotes from new Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, EVP and GM of DPG Navin Shenoy, and CVP and GM of the Xeon and Memory Group, Lisa Spelman.

Sessions for the day will include:

  • AI, Wei Li, VP and GM of Machine Learning Performance, Design Engineering Group
  • IoT, John Healy, VP IOTG, GM Platform Management and Customer Engineering
  • 5G Networking, Dan Rodriguez, CVP and GM, Network Platforms Group
  • HPC, Trish Damkroger, VP and GM HPC, Data Platfoms Group
  • Cloud, Rebecca Weekly, VP and GM, Hyperscale Strategy; Senior Principle Engineer, DPG

Recently it was announced that Pat Gelsinger will be hosting an event on March 23rd, and in that announcement an image of an Ice Lake Xeon Scalable wafer was given as the title image for that announcement, perhaps indicating that the release of ICL-SP is close. Intel did say at the beginning of the year that ICL-SP is expected to launch ‘within months’, and a number of Intel’s partners are already starting to demonstrate systems with appropriate processor support.

We also learned recently that Intel has already shipped 115K+ (and more) Ice Lake Xeon Scalable processors to over 30 of its high-profile customers, even though the processors have not yet been launched. This is typical for a server processor, as these customers also help test, debug, and deploy the hardware at scale so it is ready to go from day one.

Similarly, in discussions with Intel, it is clear that the company is keen to promote its combined solution efforts to the market when it comes to the data center – Intel’s value, according to the company, is in its ability to provide the CPU, the networking, the memory, the storage, the AI accelerators, the software, the optimizations, the range of options, and the support structure that its competitors cannot. This combined solution Intel believes affords its customers a better TCO offering, as well as better optimized performance especially now that workloads are hitting a variety of bottlenecks such as storage, connectivity, and acceleration.

We are all set up for the event and will be watching along. If there are opportunities to ask questions, you bet we will.

Source: Intel

Intel’s New Adaptive Boost Technology: Floating Turbo Comes to Rocket Lake

A couple of days after Intel officially announced its 11th Generation Core Rocket Lake, the press received an email about a new feature coming to the platform that wasn’t in our original briefing. The goal of this feature is to provide more perf…

A couple of days after Intel officially announced its 11th Generation Core Rocket Lake, the press received an email about a new feature coming to the platform that wasn’t in our original briefing. The goal of this feature is to provide more performance to users that have good processors, and Intel is calling it Adaptive Boost Technology.

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger To Host Webcast About Intel’s Future On March 23rd

Intel today has announced that the company will be holding an event on March 23rd to discuss the future of engineering at the company. Dubbed “Intel Unleashed: Engineering the Future”, the hour-long webcast will be hosted by recently hired…

Intel today has announced that the company will be holding an event on March 23rd to discuss the future of engineering at the company. Dubbed “Intel Unleashed: Engineering the Future”, the hour-long webcast will be hosted by recently hired CEO (and Intel returnee) Pat Gelsinger.

Join Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger for a business update and webcast address on the new era of innovation and technology leadership at Intel.

While Intel’s official description is short and at a high level, given the subject matter and the fact that the presentation is scheduled for after the stock markets close, we’re expecting that this will be Intel’s much-awaited announcement on the future of the company’s manufacturing plans. For the last several months the company has been juggling the question of when and where to use third-party foundries versus investing in their own manufacturing technologies. Intel’s 7nm problems have become a black eye for the company, and the prolific processor producer has been under pressure from some investors to cut back on expensive R&D and just use pure-play foundries like TSMC.

Prior to Intel hiring Gelsinger to be their new CEO in mid-January, the company had been preparing to detail its future foundry plans in its January 21st earnings call. However after bringing Gelsinger on board, that announcement was put on hold to give Gelsinger a time to get up to speed, and possibly make his own mark if he decided to take the company in a different direction than then-CEO BoB Swan was preparing to go.

If this does turn out to be a detailed disclosure of Intel’s foundry plans, then it’s not an exaggeration to say that this webcast will be one of the most critical Intel presentations in years. Gelsinger and the rest of Intel’s upper management have some very difficult choices to make about manufacturing, and no matter what direction they opt to take on Tuesday, it’s going to have significant ramifications for not only Intel, but the rest of the silicon foundry industry as a whole. So tech enthusiasts and investors alike are going to be paying close attention to this announcement.

Intel Launches Rocket Lake 11th Gen Core i9, Core i7, and Core i5

In the myriad of news and early reviews, Intel is today officially launching its 11th Generation Core family of desktop processors, also known as Rocket Lake, built on Intel’s most advanced 14nm process node technology. This new product family w…

In the myriad of news and early reviews, Intel is today officially launching its 11th Generation Core family of desktop processors, also known as Rocket Lake, built on Intel’s most advanced 14nm process node technology. This new product family will form the basis of Intel’s premium desktop portfolio for most of 2021, if not longer, and features processors with up to eight cores. Highlights include the new microarchitecture, Cypress Cove, and the Xe-LP graphics design, both of which are redesigns of Intel’s 10nm mobile products. These parts also include Intel’s first PCIe 4.0 offering on the desktop, new AVX-512 for desktop, better memory support, support for resizable BAR, new overclocking features, and enhanced multimedia acceleration.

AMD Ryzen Pro 5000 Mobile: Zen 3 comes to Commercial Notebooks

Alongside every launch of AMD’s consumer processors, the commercial offerings for business come along a few months after. Today we see the commercial launch of the Ryzen 5000 Mobile series, named Ryzen Pro 5000 Mobile. These are built on the sam…

Alongside every launch of AMD’s consumer processors, the commercial offerings for business come along a few months after. Today we see the commercial launch of the Ryzen 5000 Mobile series, named Ryzen Pro 5000 Mobile. These are built on the same Cezanne processor design, but with the added sprinkling of Pro level features required by commercial customers for widescale deployment, security, and stability. Alongside the increased performance from the previous generation, these new parts include the security updates in Zen 3 such as Shadow Stacks, Pro-level features such as DASH, and guaranteed silicon and imaging support.

The Tour of Italy with EPYC Milan: Interview with AMD’s Forrest Norrod

As AMD initiates the official global launch of its 3rd Generation EPYC enterprise processor family, codename Milan, we spend some time with AMD’s Forrest Norrod to discuss the new processors, how the pandemic has affected adoption, what new feat…

As AMD initiates the official global launch of its 3rd Generation EPYC enterprise processor family, codename Milan, we spend some time with AMD’s Forrest Norrod to discuss the new processors, how the pandemic has affected adoption, what new features have influenced AMD’s positioning of its new EPYC, and what future challenges are fast approaching the enterprise processors.