Intel Core i7-11700K Review: The Chip of Last Resort

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Intel Core i7-11700K Review: The Chip of Last Resort

The Intel Core i7-11700K offers excellent performance for an eight-core chip, but its pricing makes it the last resort that you should only buy if competing chips are out of stock and you need an eight-core chip specifically for productivity.

The $399 Intel Core i7-11700K processor slots into Intel’s Rocket Lake product stack at a price point that squeezes between two of AMD’s most popular Ryzen 5000 processors. The 11700K’s pricing should make it an attractive chip if you want the most performance from a mainstream Intel platform that you can get without paying the flagship price, but it faces stiff competition from the AMD chips that have dominated our list of Best CPUs (at least when they’re available at retail).

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Cypress Cove, Intel’s first new architecture for desktop PC chips in six years, grants the Rocket Lake chips a 19% increase in IPC in most workloads. But the backported Cypress Cove (which was designed for 10nm) comes with a big tradeoff: Rocket Lake is still etched on the 14nm process and tops out at eight cores and sixteen threads. That’s a step back from the previous-gen 10-core Comet Lake i9 models and pales in comparison to AMD’s beastly 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X flagship.

Rocket Lake’s 19% IPC gain largely offsets the performance hit from the reduced core count, but it left Intel in a tough spot as it carved its product stack into Core i9 and Core i7 families — both series top out at the same eight cores.

The $399 Core i7-11700K fits the definition of being a lower-end Core i9-11900K with the same eight cores and sixteen threads as the $539 flagship. And you could also save some cash by opting for the graphics-less Core i7-11700KF (it’s identical in every other aspect) and score the chip for $374. That opens up a $75 gap between the 11700K and the Ryzen 7 5800X, which also doesn’t come with an integrated graphics engine.

To account for the vagaries of binning and to hamstring the 11700K to create artificial segmentation, Intel dropped the 11700K’s peak boost frequency by 300 MHz compared to the Core i9-11900K, reduced the memory frequencies in low-latency mode, and dropped its support for the new Adaptive Boost Technology (ABT). The ABT tech is effectively an auto-overclocking feature that doesn’t void your warranty, but the 11700K is a fully overclockable chip. That means that losing that feature, or the extra 300 MHz of peak boost speed, might not dissuade overclockers looking to save $140 over the 11900K.

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