Intel’s (INTC) - Get Intel Corporation Report next-gen desktop CPU line delivers meaningful improvements, but it still might not be anything that AMD (AMD) - Get Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. Report needs to sweat too much -- at least if recently-leaked benchmarks paint an accurate picture.
When running the popular Geekbench 5 benchmark in a test measuring single-core performance, an 8-core CPU based on Intel’s next-gen Rocket Lake-S platform, which is set to arrive in Q1 2021, ran neck-and-neck with AMD’s 8-core Ryzen 7 5800X. And it did so in spite of having a 3.4GHz base clock speed -- 400MHz slower than the 5800X.
On the other hand, the Rocket Lake CPU trailed the 5800X by 6% in a Geekbench 5 test measuring multi-core performance. And -- due to having two fewer cores -- it trailed the most powerful chip in Intel’s current Comet Lake-S desktop CPU line -- the 10-core Core i9-10900K -- by 12%.
Doubtlessly, if the Rocket Lake CPU was pitted against AMD’s 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X or 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X, it would have trailed in the multi-core test by a significant double-digit margin.
As others have noted, the Rocket Lake chip in question might be an engineering sample, and Intel could ultimately launch a flagship Rocket Lake CPU with somewhat higher base and boost clock speeds. But with Intel having said that Rocket Lake will top out at 8 cores, it’s pretty much a given that the most powerful CPUs for AMD’s recently-launched Ryzen 5000 line will maintain a healthy multi-core performance lead, while remaining close to Intel in single-core performance.
Regarding the latter point, it’s worth noting that in a leaked benchmark involving the strategy game Ashes of the Singularity, an 8-core Rocket Lake CPU (said to be called the Core i9-11900K) trailed AMD’s 5950X by about 10%.
The 5950X does have twice as many cores as the Rocket Lake chip, but given that Ashes of the Singularity is (like many games) heavily dependent on single-core performance, the 5900X and 5800X would likely deliver numbers that are in the same ballpark. Certainly, reviews of the chips suggest as much.
With all that said, demand for gaming hardware has gone through the roof in recent months, and AMD’s most powerful Ryzen 5000 CPUs remain out of stock at major retailers and are selling for sizable aftermarket premiums. As a result, if gaming demand is still elevated at the time that Intel launches its Rocket Lake-S line, its single-core performance gains relative to Intel’s Comet Lake-S line -- made possible by the use of a new CPU core microarchitecture known as Cypress Cove -- could still lead them to be well-received by gamers.
At the same time, AMD’s leadership probably isn’t losing sleep over Rocket Lake’s pending arrival, given what Intel has disclosed and what leaked benchmarks suggest.