Intel Core i9 11900K vs AMD Ryzen 9 5900X

Benchmarking the Rocket Lake 11900K Against the AMD 5900X CPU

WePC 11900k VS 5900x

Edit  01/05/2021 – Following BIOS updates from Intel, the performance of the 11900K has improved significantly from that shown below. Based on third-party testing, the CPU is now showing increases of up to and around 10% over previous performance, although the 5900X is still the clear overall winner, comfortably beating the 11900K in most games. We will be doing our own benchmarking to test this post-update performance ourselves; once we have, we will update the below figures accordingly.

Update – 30/03/2021 – The Intel 11th Gen Processors are out today! Click here to find a retailer. 

The clash of the titans! It’s the blue team against the red team in the battle of the flagship CPUs: the Intel Core i9 11900K vs the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X.

Read through the below to see how the two chips match up in terms of specifications, technology and most importantly in gaming and workstation performance benchmarks.

11900K vs 5900X Specifications

The below is a comparison of the specifications of the Intel 11900K and AMD 5900X. Also included is the Intel 10900K for reference.

 Intel i9-10900KIntel i9-11900KAMD Ryzen 9 5900X
Speed (Boost)3.70 GHz (5.30 GHz)3.50 GHz (5.30 GHz)3.70 GHz (4.80 GHz)
Cores (Threads)10 (20)8 (16)12 (24)
L3 Cache20 MB16 MB64 MB
L2 Cache (per core)256 KB512 KB512 KB
L1 Cache (per core)64 KB96 KB64 KB
TDP125 W125 W105W
process size14 nm14 nm7nm
RRP$488$539$549

Intel vs AMD

The CPU feud between Intel and AMD hasn’t just sprung up out of nowhere. It’s the next battle in an endless war that began in 2017. AMD released their first Ryzen CPUs and established themselves as a competitor in the market.

Intel still has a stranglehold on market share, and until recently, with powerful single-core performance, their products were considered the ultimate gaming CPUs. Historically, AMD focused on multithreaded excellence, creating incredibly versatile CPUs, but their 5000 series changed everything, seizing Intel’s last bastion…gaming superiority. With the release of the i9 11900K, we’re finally witnessing Intel’s counteroffensive.

As these companies rise and fall, inching ahead of one another, there are some consistencies to speak of. AMD chips are normally more affordable and almost always feature backward compatibility. Most Intel chips are only compatible with a new socket. We’ll discuss whether that’s the case this time around a bit later.

Cores and Threads

Responsible for most of the instruction handling and execution, cores are the most important part of a CPU. Their format and abundance define how a computer will function and what it’s capable of, so it’s the perfect place to start this comparison.

The Ryzen 9 5900X features a mammoth 12 cores. Many consider this overkill for the current gaming climate, and it sort of is, but another word for overkill is future-proof. With this monster chip in your case, you’re set for years of gaming releases.

Word on the wire is Intel is sticking to their guns and the 11900K will feature 8 cores. While that’s plenty for gaming, it gives AMD a quad-core premium. Even though there are said to be some serious gen-to-gen upgrades in efficiency from Coffee to Rocket Lake due to the 14-nm Cypress Hill core structure, it’s going to have to perform incredibly well to keep up with the 5900X.

Both chips also feature multithreading (or hyperthreading if you’d prefer), a technology that essentially splits a core in two, enabling it to take on nearly twice as many instructions per cycle. Multithreading tends to increase latency, but as it stands, the only CPUs with faster single-thread performance than the 5900X are the 5950X and Apple’s new M1 processor.

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Clock Speed

When it comes to assessing the hypothetical performance of a CPU, clock speeds are the second most telling spec. They essentially dictate how fast your CPU can run. In terms of gaming, faster clock speeds amount to a more responsive and smooth experience.

The 5900X has a 3.7GHz base clock and a 4.8GHz boost clock. Considering the sweet spot for modern gaming is between 3.5 and 4GHz, we once again see what could be considered overkill from the Ryzen chip.

The i9 chip is said to have a base clock of 3.5GHz, and as a result of Intel’s new Thermal Velocity Boost technology, a boost clock of 5.2GHz, which is nuts! We can’t really say with much confidence if this will allow the i9 to perform on the same level as the 5900X, but it’s certainly starting to look like there might be a glimmer of hope.

Architecture

The Ryzen chip is the product of their flagship Zen 3 microarchitecture. Unlike Intel who never seems to make any drastic architectural changes in one leap, AMD practically overhauled their whole process, amounting to lower latency (their only downfall in the past), higher IPCs, and zero increases in power consumption.

Built using AMD’s minuscule 7-nm process, the 5900X has 6MB L2 and 64MB L3 caches ensuring your games never miss a beat. It’s also backward compatible with the AM4 socket, so you can save yourself some money on that front and your bills too because it only pulls 105 watts. With support for DDR4-3200 memory, this chip features some of the fastest data transfers in computing – gaming or otherwise.

The i9 11900K is our first encounter with Intel’s Rocket Lake architecture, and to be fair, they do seem to have made some significant changes, one being backward compatibility. There is a Z590 chipset being developed in conjunction with 11900K, but this CPU will work with the LGA 1200 socket. You can also expect between 10 and 19% higher IPCs, and it supports the same DDR4-3200 memory as the 5900X, but cache capacities are way off AMD level.

Multitasking

AMD multitasking has been on point for years now, making them favorites in professional spaces. It’s not that Intel CPUs are incapable of multitasking, they’re just nowhere near as good as AMD’s multi-threaded monsters, and it doesn’t look like that will be changing any time soon. Despite hyperthreading, the 11900K is still very much a single-core-centric CPU designed for one major purpose, taking back the gaming throne.

The beauty of the 5000 series is that it makes no compromises. It was the best for multitasking and the best for gaming too. I don’t think anyone truly believes Intel really stands a chance against 24 threads with only 16. It’s like a two-armed person taking on someone with six arms in a juggling competition. Even if you leveled the playing field and gave them both 8 cores and 16 threads, the AMD chip would still be far more capable of shouldering parallelizing workflows. It’s just what it’s designed to do.

Workstation Performance Benchmarks

Unsurprisingly the 5900X excels compared to the 11900K in any multicore processes as can be seen in the above benchmarking, with its greater number of cores and larger L3 cache proving themselves.

Again unsurprisingly the Intel 11900K does come out ahead though in single-core testing.

Overall the 5900X is the superior workstation CPU, though this is to be expected given that Intel’s focus for the 11900K has been towards gaming and single-core heavy activities where they believe they can get the edge.

Gaming Performance Benchmarks

Despite claims that the 11900K would herald in a 32% improvement in single-core performance over its predecessor, enough to take the lead over the 5900X, our in-game testing at the time of release does not back this up at all.

Surprisingly the 11900K underperforms the older 10900K in some of the games we tested it on, it does however manage to beat the Ryzen 9 5900X more often than it loses to it, particularly in CPU heavy titles like Shadow Of The Tomb Raider and Far Cry 5. That being said, there are games such as Red Dead Redemption 2 where the two chips break even. Indeed on older and less CPU demanding games like CS:Go, we actually think the AMD processor does better than it’s Intel rival. A puzzling development indeed given Intel’s claimed architectural improvements.

So why is this? Currently the argument is that, given the CPU has only just been released, the underperformance is the result of compatibility issues with the 11900K and that further BIOS and firmware updates will unlock the true potential of the chip. For now, it’s a game of wait and see, but the early results are certainly disappointing for Intel!

Verdict

As the above tests show, the 5900X has a significant edge over the 11900K when it comes to multicore performance – nor surprises there, so if you’re interested in building a workstation PC then the 5900X is definitely the pick for you.

When it comes to gaming the picture is a bit more muddy. Although the 11900K is certainly an improvement over the 10900K when it comes to single core performance on paper, and also beats the 5900X in this department, in terms of actual gaming FPS the 5900X beats the Intel 11900K as much as it loses to it. In fact on older, less CPU heavy games, the 5900X seems to have the edge. Perhaps further firmware updates will change this and unlock some additional potential from the 11900K but this is how we found it on review.

Considering both CPUs are currently priced within $10 or so of each other, there isn’t really much reason to pick the 11900K over the 5900X as far as we can see if you intend to keep the CPU at stock settings. Where the 11900K may come into its own however is in the overclocking department. Although we can’t give a definitive recommendation on this until further tests occur, the extra clock speed of an overclocked 11900K might make it the superior card for gaming-focused consumers.