Intel Core i7-11700K vs. AMD Ryzen 7 5800X

After nearly six months of AMD dominating the desktop market, Intel is back with its 11th-generation desktop platform. The i9-11900K leads the lineup, though most system builders will likely settle for the more reasonably priced 11700K. Boasting eight cores, 16 threads, and a blistering clock speed, the 11700K does most of what the 11900K does, just for less money. But how does it compare to AMD’s similarly priced Ryzen 5800X?

These two eight-core processors hit the sweet spot for enthusiasts, balancing excellent gaming performance with enough power to run CPU-intensive applications. Although the 11700K hasn’t officially been launched just yet, we compiled a few prerelease benchmarks to see how it compares to the 5800X.

Pricing and availability

AMD-Ryzen-5000

AMD released the 5800X alongside its other Ryzen 5000 processors on November 5, 2020, for $449. Unlike the 5600X and 5900X, the 5800X hasn’t had many issues with availability. As of March 2021, you can find the 5800X readily available at most retailers for its launch price. There are some secondhand chips available, though they sell for anywhere between $400 and $450. The 5800X is a relatively new processor, so it’s still best to pick it up at retail.

The 11700K hasn’t officially been launched yet, though some retailers have started sending out chips ahead of its March 30 launch. Intel’s recommended price is $399, and most retailers have the 11700K listed at that price. That said, we were able to find other listings with prerelease prices ranging anywhere from $420 to $520. We expect the 11700K to sell out immediately after launch, but we don’t anticipate shortages on the level of the RTX 3080 or 5900X.

Assuming Intel’s upcoming chip will sell for its MSRP, $50 separates the 5800X from the 11700K, this time in Intel’s favor. Given the state of PC components in 2021, we’d normally recommend buying the processor you can find in stock. But the 5800X hasn’t had too many availability issues, so price actually plays a factor in our comparison. As we’ll dig into in the next section, the 5800X earns its $50 premium. That said, you can save some money with the 11700K without giving up too much performance.

Performance

The upcoming 11700K is based on the new Cypress Cove microarchitecture that Intel backported from its 10nm Ice Lake mobile CPUs to its familiar 14nm process node. The new architecture offers up to a 19% improvement in instructions per clock (IPC) according to Intel. However, like Intel’s previous chips based on the 14nm process node, thermals and power consumption are an issue based on early benchmarks.

The 5800X is based on the 7nm process node AMD used in its previous Ryzen 3000 processors. It features the new Zen 3 microarchitecture, though, offering up to a 19% increase in IPC and an improved chiplet design. Unlike Zen 2, Zen 3 groups all eight cores into a unified area instead of splitting them into two four-core sections. Consequently, every core is able to access a shared pool of 32MB of L3 cache. (The Zen 2 design split the cache between the four-core groups.)

Intel Core i7 11700K AMD Ryzen 7 5800X
Architecture Rocket Lake Zen 3
Process node 14nm+ 7nm
Cores 8 8
Threads 16 16
Base clock 3.6GHz 3.8GHz
Max single-core boost clock 5.0GHz 4.6GHz
Max all-core boost clock 4.6GHz TBD
Cache 16MB 36MB
Max memory speed support 3,200MHz 3,200MHz
TDP 125W 105W
CPU socket LGA 1200 AM4

Spec for spec, there isn’t much to note. Both processors offer eight cores and 16 threads, the AMD chip features more cache, and the Intel one can reach higher clock speeds. We’ve been here before between Intel and AMD.

It’s Intel’s product line that’s interesting. The 11700K is almost identical to the more expensive 11900K. Both processors come with the same core count, cache, and TDP. Clock speed is the only difference, with the 11900K boosting up to 4.7GHz on all cores and 5.3GHz on a single core. Leaked CPU-Z benchmarks show the 11700K and 11900K performing identically in single-core workloads.

The leaked benchmarks don’t show the multithreaded performance of the 11700K. They do, however, show it for the 5800X and 11900K. Although the 11700K and 11900K are slightly faster in single-core workloads, the 5800X beats them both in multithreaded workloads. The 11900K even falls short of the 5800X. It would seem, then, that the best scenario for the 11700K is that it matches the 5800X in multithreaded performance, and we don’t expect that will be the case.

As mentioned, some retailers have already started selling the 11700K, and Anandtech was able to snatch one before its street date. In Blender, the 11700K took a negligible lead over the 5800X, but in Cinebench, the 5800X jumped back to the top in the single- and multithreaded benchmarks. Handbrake is one of the most telling benchmarks, with the 5800X vastly outperforming the 11700K (68 frames versus 60 frames). For reference, Intel’s gen-on-gen improvement was only two frames in this benchmark.

AMD has led the charge in productivity apps for a while, so none of these results are surprising. It looks like AMD might hang onto the gaming crown, too. The 5800X leads in nearly all titles at 1080p, though some, such as Gears Tactics, still favor Intel. It’s clear from the low-resolution benchmarks that the 5800X is a better gaming processor. In practice, the 5800X leads slightly, but you won’t notice a huge difference between the two.

Keep in mind that all of this analysis is based on a single batch of third-party benchmarks and some leaked CPU-Z results. It’s important to wait for more benchmarks, but we have a pretty good idea of how the 11700K will stack up against the 5800X. At its best, the 11700K matches the 5800X. It seems Intel has reached a point where it’s behind the curve, making the 11700K feel like the company is playing catch-up. Six months ago, it would’ve put Intel back in a dominating position. Now it feels like too little, too late.

Chipset support and features

Gigabyte X570 Aorus Elite Product Shot

Intel’s new processor generation brings a new range of motherboard chipsets. There aren’t any changes to the naming convention, with Z590 replacing Z490, B560 replacing B460, and so on. The flagship Z590 chipset comes with range of improvements, including PCIe 4.0 and Thunderbolt 4 support. The most expensive Z590 boards are already available ahead of launch, and you should see cheaper options pop up closer to launch.

As with previous generations, CPU overclocking is available only on Z-series chipsets, although Intel has expanded memory overclocking to its B560 and H570 motherboards. The 11700K uses the same LGA 1200 pin layout as Intel’s last-gen processors, making it backward compatible with Z490 motherboards. That said, you may need to upgrade to Z590 for features like Thunderbolt 4.

AMD’s Ryzen 5000 CPUs make use of the existing 500-series chipsets released alongside the Zen 2 Ryzen 3000 CPUs. This is the last chipset with the AM4 socket, which AMD has used since the launch of first-gen Ryzen processors. The flagship X570 chipset supports PCIe 4.0 and a higher base memory speed but lacks Intel-exclusive features like Thunderbolt. It’s best to pair the 5800X with an X570 or B550 motherboard. With that combo, you’ll be able to overclock your processor and access new features like PCIe 4.0.

That said, the 5800X supports last gen’s X470 and B450 chipsets with a BIOS update. If you don’t have an older Ryzen processor and want to use a 400-series motherboard, you may have to request a boot kit from AMD.

Behind the curve

The 11700K looks like an impressive processor from early benchmarks, but it doesn’t beat the 5800X. At $50 less, the 11700K can save you some money, but you’ll trade a bit of performance in the process. It’s possible that there’s a side of the 11700K we won’t see until after launch, but prerelease benchmarks already paint a pretty clear picture.

We don’t want to discredit the 11700K, though. Indeed, it offers significant improvements over last gen’s 10700K, and if you already have a Z490 motherboard, upgrading is simple. If you’ve stuck with AMD for the past few generations, though, there isn’t much of a reason to jump to Intel’s platform.

The 11700K and 5800X are close in terms of price and performance, putting the focus on what components you already have. If you’re a new builder, Intel’s platform offers exclusive features like Thunderbolt 4. AMD, on the hand, offers overclocking on cheaper chipsets. It depends on what is important to you.

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