In Q4 2020 AMD largely had the desktop x86 CPU market to themselves, exploiting TSMC's cutting-edge process technology and a brand new architecture to top charts and sell out at retailers worldwide. Evidence is mounting however that Intel's long silence may soon be broken, with 11th Generation (Rocket Lake-S) Core processors appearing in Passmark's benchmark results ranks and 3rd party 'confirmation' of a launch this quarter. We may be in the Winter months but the CPU market should soon be heating up once more.
'Forwards compatibility' with next-generation Rocket Lake-S CPUs for Intel's 400-series motherboards has been assumed since their launch in the middle of last year. The upcoming CPUs were expected to utilise the same LGA1200 socket and DDR4 memory as well as introduce PCIe 4.0 signalling, with 400-series support for the latter highlighted on many motherboard marketing paraphernalia. Last month that appeared to finally be officially confirmed as the vendors updated support sites with explicit compatibility criteria.
So it was with some interest that an MSI support ticket posted to Danawa.com (translated version via @harukaze5719) not only clarified this but also stated that the Rocket Lake-S CPUs would be released 'at the end of March'. That's the clearest time frame given for the series' release thus far.
Rocket Lake-S is expected to debut the new 'Cypress Cove' processor core architecture, pushing IPC forward following years on a quite static design but regressing back to a maximum of 8 cores per chip. Furthermore Intel will apparently be sticking with the 14nm process node and the relatively high power that requires, despite having transitioned to 10nm on the Ice Lake mobile platform some time ago.
The information neatly dovetails with a recent leak from Passmark's CPU ranking database. Intel's Core i7-11700K - an 8-core/16-thread processor clocking up to 5 GHz - has appeared that tops the single-core performance charts, hitting a score of 3548 (compared with 3509 aggregate score for the Ryzen 7 5800X) based on a single solitary sample. Previously Chiphell revealed a CPU-Z result for the flagship i9-11900K, making this two performance-oriented Rocket Lake-S chips peeking out from the woodwork on the eve of CES 2021.
And that date is significant. CES is one of the major tech expos that, despite COVID-related mitigations preventing the conference being held in-person, will still be a red-letter day for the industry. Even if the CPU launch is more than eight weeks away there would be no better time to get eyeballs on the new hardware this side of Computex.
So it's interesting to note other rumours (via WCCFTech) stating an Intel Z590 motherboard launch date of January 11th, coinciding with that CES keynote. A staggered release isn't unusual for Intel and it would mean that the platform is well seeded ahead of a processor release; that being said, buying a 10th-Gen processor in the expectation of tossing it out in favour of an 11th Gen chip only weeks later may be asking quite a lot of consumers.