Rocket Lake-S (RKL), the 11th-gen refresh of Intel CPUs based on the Cypress Cove architecture, has had some interesting new leaks this week. That new leaks have seemingly been confirmed by a recent blog post from John Bonini, Intel’s VP and GM of Client Computing Group Desktop, Workstations and Gaming. According to him, RKL chips will be launched in the first quarter of 2021 at the earliest.
And now, a leaked roadmap from Intel, assuming it’s genuine, shows a very aggressive release schedule. The chips better be ready though, I don’t think gamers and content creators can handle another paper launch in 2021. Scalpers will certainly be waiting in the wings, so we will just have to be ready. Anyway, the leaked roadmap shows a possible launch window as early as March 2021.
Intel has been playing a bit of catch-up to AMD this past year, as Ryzen has been dominating the low-cost market for CPUs thanks to competitive pricing and great product stacks. The launch of Zen 2 has been notoriously profitable, even though the rollout of new CPUs and GPUs has been seriously hamstrung in 2020—thanks mostly to stocking issues of various kinds.
The current consensus is that Intel will probably continue to try to regain ground by focusing on expanding support for lower-end products, mostly taking more pains to support 400-series mobos. This is something that many manufacturers expect, and it looks like 2021 is going to be the year that Intel really fights back, with Rocket Lake-S leading the charge. And based on leaked benchmarks, it looks like even baseline 65W TDP parts can achieve an impressive 4.4 GHz single-core boost, with a 3.8 GHz all-core.
So far, the leaks show a variety of 11th generation chips, all featuring 8 core-16 thread configurations. They still bear that confusingly annoying 11xxx-series nomenclature though. Let’s just hope Intel doesn’t blunder as bad as they did with the likes of the 10980XE. The new chips do have some genuinely needed improvements though, like support for PCIe Gen 4.0, which will help offer better NvME options and more specialized graphics hardware. That, in particular, could be of interest to enterprise clients and pro content creators.
One potential hangup is support for the aging LGA1200 socket. The common approach for Intel has been to swap socket layouts every couple of CPU releases, something that AMD exploited a fair bit by extending tons of support for Zen and Zen+ into older mobos. It seems like the PCIe hangup could be a big hurdle for budget 400-series offerings, as many lower-end B460 boards flat-out don’t support it. It looks like the common approach for many manufacturers is to focus on getting microcode updates and BIOS patches ready for Z490 and higher-end offerings instead. Although according to leaks from various partners, like MSI, H410 and B460 boards will get select support where possible at a later date.
All this points to a very interesting approach by Intel, it will be just as intriguing to see how they handle pricing. The new 5000-series CPUs from AMD have pushed the pricing floor up a bit this time, giving Intel a bit of room to breathe. AMD is still raking in the profits though, so Intel can’t bank on having more money in the wallet to bail them out. They’re still going to have to price their new RKL chips in line with consumer interests. We’ve already seen what can happen when AMD pushed them onto the back foot in 10th gen, I doubt Intel wants a repeat performance of that embarrassment.
So based on all of this, we can expect to see the first shipments of Rocket Lake-S CPUs at the end of March.