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Monday, June 17, 2024

Intel Rocket Lake’s high pricing feels like a missed opportunity

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Intel has launched its new 11th Gen Rocket Lake CPUs… and effectively released them too, as retailers all over are starting to sell the supposedly still-unreleased processors to PC gamers looking for Intel’s latest gaming silicon. The actual on-sale date is meant to be March 30, which is when we’re allowed to bring you our full independent benchmark results too.

Unfortunately, one retailer in Europe went rogue a couple of weeks back and started selling CPUs to anyone who wanted one, apparently heedless of Intel’s sales embargo. And from that our colleagues at AnandTech were able to publish the first review of the Core i7 11700K. 

Since then Gamers Nexus has published its own performance data on the same CPU, having managed to secure one itself, and with redditors boasting of their own success at bagging even the high-end Core i9 11900KF, more reviews are certainly coming ahead of the review embargo too.

The full specs for the new Intel Rocket Lake chips have been revealed, along with basic pricing details too. The top-end eight-core, 16-thread Core i9 11900K has a price tag of around $539, while the GPU-less i9 11900F comes in at just $422. Then the Core i7 11700K, another, slower eight-core CPU is set at $399.

Frustratingly, that actually puts Rocket Lake above where the 10th Gen Comet Lake chips started. Then the Core i9 10900K started out at $488, so you’re getting two fewer cores for your backported Cypress Cove (née Sunny Cove) Core architecture and having to fork out an extra $50 for the privilege.

Lower down the stack is often where we see the value proposition pop up for recent Intel launches, and it is at least sticking to the same base pricing for its new Core i5 CPUs. I’m hoping the six-core, 12-thread Core i5 11400F performs as well as the 19 percent Rocket Lake IPC uplift promises, because that $157 chip could be the ultimate budget gaming CPU.

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Though how that all actually translates into final retail pricing, however is still kinda up in the air. Those are just the tray prices for the CPUs themselves, and when they hit retail the pricing will be different. Oh yeah, as I said earlier, they pretty much have hit retail now and the pricing is even more frustratingly spikey.

Micro Center has the Core i7 11700K available for pre-order now for $520, which makes it $120 higher than its tray price, and Newegg is listing the Core i9 11900K for $614, which is $75 above Intel’s listing price. Compare that with the Core i9 10850K, an admittedly slightly slower ten-core, 20-thread processor, which is retailing for just $320 today, the pricing for Intel’s new chips looks bizarre to say the least.

To me this feels like a massive missed opportunity for Intel, and has me questioning how much it really wants to wrestle back the gaming mindshare that AMD has dominated in the DIY PC space for the last few years. There was a chance here to get high volumes of chips out into the channel and have them priced at a level which could make it tough to recommend a Ryzen chip instead.

But the latest red team chips are as good for gaming as Intel’s finest, and it doesn’t look like Rocket Lake is really going to change that except in a few niche cases. With the pricing higher than Comet Lake we’re going to struggle not to recommend the Ryzen 7 5800X, an eight-core, 16-thread chip, using AMD’s latest Zen 3 architecture, because it’s cheaper and now actually available at just $449.

And, when you can find it, the 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X feels like the superior option to anything the 11th Gen seems to offer. With that in mind, why would you pay more for any eight-core Rocket Lake when AMD’s silicon is a possibility? 

The platform costs also work more in AMD’s favour too, with X570 and B550 motherboards being mature products now, with secure firmware, reliable pricing, and consistent support. And, y’know, a USB fail fix incoming too.

We can’t yet speak to the performance of Intel’s new Rocket Lake CPUs yet, maybe they can deliver higher gaming performance with that 19 percent IPC boost. But, as we haven’t managed to buy one ourselves, we are stuck waiting for the review embargo to pass at the end of the month.

And admittedly for our review samples to arrive in the country because Brexit has utterly ruined UK trade routes. But that’s another rant…

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