The biggest PC gaming questions AMD needs to answer in 2021

2020 was a good year for AMD. A really good year. It continued its impressive run on the CPU front with its Zen 3 architecture, giving us the likes of the Ryzen 9 5900X, which managed to steal the gaming crown from Intel. Not only that, it came out swinging in the graphics card space too, with the RDNA 2-powered AMD RX 6800 XT proving that it could square up against the competition’s second-generation RTX graphics cards, like the Nvidia RTX 3080, and not instantly come away with a bloodied nose.

It didn’t quite land a knock-out blow in either bout, but it’s an easy points decision for its Zen 3 CPUs, and its GPU scrappiness gives it plenty of wins there too.

AMD is back. And taking the fight to the competition. And this leads to genuine choice in both CPUs and GPUs. In fact, it has a comfortable lead over Intel in CPU terms and that’s not purely down to the improvements to its Zen architecture. Don’t get me wrong, Zen 3 is stunning, and if you were to ask me to build a system right now, I’d definitely point to AMD’s offerings. But AMD’s lead is partly down to Intel’s failings as well (particularly when it comes to moving to a smaller production process), and that’s not something AMD can count on continuing.

AMD cannot rest on its laurels. This is just the start. It still has a lot to do if it’s going to win out. But what does AMD need to really push forward? Here are the questions AMD needs to answer in the next twelve months.

How will AMD react to Intel Rocket Lake?

On the face of it, Intel’s 11th-gen CPU family, codenamed Rocket Lake, isn’t that worrying for AMD—a variant of the Sunny Cove architecture that can be found in its Ice Lake laptop CPUs backported to 14nm production process hardly instils fear. Yeah, you read that right, Intel is about to introduce yet another family of processors using its 14nm production process. 

The expectation is that Rocket Lake represents a 10+ percent IPC improvement over Comet Lake, which will give Intel the lead over AMD once again. Not by a huge margin, but potentially enough to reclaim that ‘best for gaming’ moniker.

Still, Rocket Lake isn’t expected to compete with the higher core counts that AMD already has, topping out at eight cores in fact. So AMD doesn’t have too much to worry about on this front. Maybe AMD will release some XT variants of the new Zen 3 chips that can boast higher clock speeds in order to compete with the improved IPC of Rocket Lake. 

Maybe it doesn’t have to. 

The Zen 3 and Rocket Lake architectures could be so close to each other in gaming that this doesn’t really matter, and also it’s not obvious that AMD has the potential inventory to even produce more chips anyway.

What Rocket Lake does bring to the table though, is support for PCIe 4.0, which is an area that AMD has enjoyed sole control over for the last two years. It’s about time that Intel caught up here, and there is a slew of new drives that will make both platforms sing. 

Again, this is Intel catching up with AMD, so it doesn’t necessarily have to react particularly strongly. Maybe filling out its current stack with more affordable chips is all that’s needed.

How much CPU market share can AMD grab from Intel? 

You only have to look at market share to put AMD’s current successes into perspective. Going by the Steam Hardware Survey (we’ll go with the previous month’s figures, as the most recent numbers are a little odd, to say the least), AMD has 25 percent of the CPU market and accounts for just 16 percent of GPUs in gaming machines. There are loads of caveats with this, and we don’t really need to go into the minutiae, but the general vibe is clear—AMD is playing serious catch up in both areas.

In order to match its competitors, AMD needs to get its hardware into machines. This is something we have started seeing, with big system builders not just offering AMD alternatives, but actually launching new hardware with AMD front and centre. It’s also a question of offering plenty of more affordable SKUs, so little Timmy can get in on the AMD action too.

AMD has launched its ‘enthusiast’ class hardware, but now needs to filter Zen 3 down to more affordable renditions that people can buy and that don’t require a bank loan to do so. The halo hardware is still important, but it’s actually the likes of the GTX 1660 that sells by the bucket load, not the RTX 3080. Likewise, it’s all very well having a brilliant CPU like the Ryzen 5 5600X out there, but it’s still a $300 chip, which is more than your average gamer is happy spending.

AMD needs a $100 Zen 3 CPU and a $200 graphics card if it really wants to win the hearts and minds of gamers. And given its recent bullishness that saw it add $50 onto the pricing of the initial Ryzen 5000 chips, I’m not convinced that is something it is interested in doing. Raising its average selling price (ASP) to show off to prospective investors is the name of the game right now. The fact that the likes of the excellent Ryzen 3 3300X sold out pretty much immediately, and are still incredibly hard to find, suggests that this isn’t a focus for AMD. 

If it wants to increase market share, AMD needs affordable options as well as the high-end. Get that right and we wouldn’t be surprised to see AMD see a five or even ten percent improvement from where it is today.

Can AMD see more laptop wins for both CPUs and GPUs? 

As we’ve said, AMD needs to get its hardware into more machines, and the laptop space is as vital as ever. AMD has made some impressive inroads with its Ryzen 4000-series laptop CPUs (the Asus Zephyrus G14 is an awesome laptop), but we’re expecting even bigger things from its Zen 3 mobile chips. Improved efficiency and performance tend to go down well in mobile computing.

Getting RDNA 2 into laptops needs to be a focus too, though, if only to give us some competition against Intel’s integrated offerings and Nvidia’s total dominance in the gaming space. 

Competition is essential to drive things forward, and for too long there just hasn’t been enough of it. AMD is competing on the desktops, why not in laptops as well?

CES 2021 starts next week and the expectation is that we’ll be seeing AMD CPUs in plenty of new laptops. What is less certain is whether we’ll see any of its mobile GPUs. 

Conversely, Nvidia’s Ampere mobile GPUs are sure to put in a showing, which is possibly why AMD is going to have a hard time convincing laptop builders that it has the better option. We’ll have to wait and see, but it’s fair to say that its graphics arm still isn’t quite on the same footing as its CPU division.

Will game development on AMD-based consoles help PC performance on its hardware?

AMD’s hardware can be found powering the Xbox Series S/X and the PlayStation 5, so could this lead to games developed for those platforms having a performance advantage on PCs using AMD’s hardware? 

It’s doubtful, but not out of the question. 

There may be a few tricks that AMD can pull here to help, but these are likely to be small percentage improvements, which can be gobbled up by the raw performance that Nvidia offers, not to mention optimisations on the side of PC devs when it comes to it. 

Remember us talking about market share? It makes sense for developers to ensure good optimisation on GeForce hardware given it makes up over 80 percent of the discrete graphics card market on PC.

For proof of this, you only need to remember that AMD’s hardware powered the last-gen consoles as well, and no real advantage ever emerged there. Though admittedly the tech in those machines was already out of date in terms of its PC equivalent by the time they launched. There was the odd game here and there, sure, but nothing definitive. 

There are other reasons for that too—the work required to move a game from a closed platform like a console to an open one, with myriad hardware configurations, like a PC, is not a simple task and a lot of the tightly focused, close to the metal optimisations on the consoles are lost. 

The biggest PC gaming questions Intel needs to answer in 2021

New year, same old problems for the biggest beast in computer chips? Yes, and no. For sure, in 2021 Intel faces the same old questions over its production process problems and CPU roadmap as it has for literally years.

But there are also intriguingly Rumsfeldian known unknowns concerning Intel’s nascent graphics project, the GPU architecture known as Xe and more specifically the upcoming DG2 gaming GPU.

Can Intel really take the fight to AMD and Nvidia for true gaming performance and in so doing help solve the graphics supply issues that are currently pushing GPU pricing out of control?

Returning to CPUs, the back end of 2021 might—just might—see the arrival of something revolutionary in the form of Intel’s Alder Lake architecture. Question is, will Alder Lake be so radical the software ecosystem, including not just games, but the Windows OS itself, won’t be ready? For better or worse, 2021 looks like being a pivotal year for Intel.

Can Intel solve its 10nm woes and get its CPU roadmap back on track?

This is the most critical question of all. Intel originally planned to ship 10nm chips way back in 2015. Here we are in 2021 and we’re still waiting for a full roll out of 10nm products. As we write these words, you can still only buy mobile CPUs up to four cores on 10nm.

Such are the ongoing limitations of Intel’s 10nm production tech, we’re expecting yet another new 14nm family of CPUs, Rocket Lake, to launch in March. That’s pretty remarkable given the first 14nm processors went on sale in 2014.

For now, all bets are off. It’s worth repeating that Intel has not only failed so far to scale its 10nm chips beyond four cores, but also has so little faith in 10nm that its future roadmap contains yet another new family of 14nm desktop processors. That is a truly grim narrative.

Indeed, if Intel can’t get 10nm on track by the end of this year, it’s just possible the company that once lead the world in chip manufacturing tech may begin to reconsider the very notion of producing CPUs and other chips in-house.

Will Intel Rocket Lake regain the gaming CPU crown?

With a maximum of eight cores, fair to say that Intel’s upcoming 14nm Rocket Lake CPUs have zero chance of taking the multi-threading crown. After all, AMD will sell you a mainstream CPU platform with 16 cores and 32 threads.

But what about gaming? Few, if any, games scale well beyond eight cores, so performance or instructions per clock (IPC) and per core—plus outright operating frequency—remain critical for gaming performance. 

Rocket Lake uses a new core, known as Cypress Cove, designed originally intended for 10nm but backported to 14nm. Closely related to the Sunny Cove cores found in Intel’s Ice Lake mobile chips, Intel says Cypress Cove cores will deliver double digit percent IPC performance improvements over existing Comet Lake Processors.

Factor in reports of Rocket Lake engineering samples running at 5.3GHz and it’s very possible that it could retake the single-core performance crown away from AMD’s Zen 3-based Ryzen 5000 processors despite the disadvantages of that ancient 14nm process.

The catch, apart from the eight-core limitation, will likely be heat and power consumption. With huge, power hungry cores originally intended for 10nm making do with 14nm transistors, Rocket Lake may set records beyond single-core performance. It might create a new standard for TDP and heat generation. And not in a good way.

Oh, and one more bit of good news re Rocket Lake. It will finally bring PCI Express 4.0 support to the desktop for Intel. That’s no biggie for graphics cards, but means next-gen SSDs are finally go for Intel.

Can Intel’s Xe graphics take the fight to AMD and Nvidia and stop GPU prices from spiralling out of control?
What with Intel’s 10nm woes and its patchy record in consumer graphics (anyone remember Larrabee?), it would be a brave soul that gave Intel the benefit of the doubt over Xe, its new graphics architecture.

And yet there are positive signs. Xe is already out in mobile form, both as the integrated graphics solution in its Tiger Lake mobile CPUs and in discrete form in DG1, a GPU designed for thin-and-light laptops.

Early signs are that in Xe Intel has a decent graphics architecture that should be at least reasonably competitive if it can scale up to a high performance desktop GPU.

Intel has indeed confirmed that a high performance graphics card, known as DG2 and aimed at enthusiasts, is coming later this year. The latest indications from Intel’s graphics driver releases point to a chip with 512 of Intel’s execution units and raw graphics processing power comparable to AMD’s latest Radeon RX 6000 GPUs. Earlier rumours likewise pointed to a gaming card roughly on par with Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3070.

If that proves accurate, DG2 will inject a very welcome added level of competition into the graphics markets at a time when supply is almost non-existent and prices are spiralling out of control.

The catch, as ever with Intel, could be manufacturing. The good news, arguably, is that Intel has said production of DG2 will be farmed out to a third party fab, which most observers assume will be TSMC. The bad news is that TSMC is already struggling to keep AMD supplied with chips. So the supply side constraint impacting the whole graphics market would seem initially unlikely to be helped by another company competing for a limited supply of TSMC wafers.

The unknown factor is whether Intel’s rumoured use of TSMC’s 6nm half node in the context of AMD remaining on TSMC 7nm might make a differnce. Could that allow Intel to ramp up some volume? Here’s hoping, because Intel Xe doesn’t need to be world beating to make a huge difference. Nvidia RTX 3070 class performance for less money would be a beautiful thing.

Can Intel regain the performance and technological leadership with Alder Lake?

That’s the big question. Or should that be little question? After all, one of Alder Lake’s most important innovations is the adoption of a so-called big.LITTLE architecture to desktop and laptop PCs.

In other words, if Alder Lake arrives as expected in late 2021 it will combine large high performance cores with smaller, low power cores in a single CPU. It’s an approach first seen in ARM-based chips for phones and tablets and more recently in Apple’s M1 processor.

In that sense, it’s neither truly new nor radical. But in the context of the PC it’s both novel and potentially problematical. Firstly, while the benefits in terms of battery life for laptops of the smaller cores are obvious enough, it’s not clear why big.LITTLE is an advantageous approach at all for a desktop PC. Sure, the smaller cores will presumably lend a helping hand in multi-threaded tasks. But would the die space they take up be better utilised by more full-power cores?

Then there’s the question of software support. Without full operating system awareness of the topology of such a hybrid architecture, performance-critical threads would inevitably end up on the small cores at least some of the time, compromising performance.

Early testing of Intel’s Lakefield chip, a sort of test bed for the big.LITTLE approach which combines a single big Sunny Cove core with a quartet of low-power Tremont cores, has proven that the latest Windows kernel is capable of scheduling threads appropriately to at least some degree. But that’s a long way from being a guarantee that scheduling of threads on a high performance hybrid x86 CPU in Windows will always be optimal and transparent to applications.

For what it’s worth, AMD has been openly sceptical about the benefits of such hybrid architectures for traditional PCs. And it’s hardly a given that Intel will even get Alder Lake out the door this year. But if it does, it will certainly make for an intriguing technological battle with Intel in the unusual position of being, arguably, the underdog.

How to watch AMD’s CES 2021 keynote with CEO Lisa Su

This year CES is a virtual event. The impact of COVID-19 has meant the annual tech pilgrimage to Vegas has been replaced by a more sedate affair. The good news is that it’s much easier for everyone to watch the most important presentations, including the main CES 2021 keynote by AMD’s Dr Lisa Su. The official patter goes something like this:

“During the keynote, Lisa Su will outline the company’s innovative vision for the future of research, education, work, entertainment, and gaming and will be joined on stage by key partners sharing how AMD technology allows them to offer some of the most exciting products, services, and experiences to people around the world. Throughout the keynote, you can expect a showcase of product demos and groundbreaking innovation, as well as new additions coming to AMD’s high-performance computing product portfolio.”

That doesn’t give away too much about what is going to appear on the virtual show floor, although I expect AMD to focus on its new Zen 3 powered laptop processors. These Ryzen 5000 laptop APUs (codename Cezanne) are rumoured to be everywhere at CES 2021, and you can expect them all to break cover after the keynote finishes.

There may also be a mention of AMD’s Epyc server chips (codename Milan), but we’ll have to see on that front. Either way, you can bet that Dr Lisa Su will hold up at least one chip in her keynote.

AMD had a great 2020, and while its releases of Ryzen 5000 CPUs and Radeon RX 6000-series GPUs were the things that stand out most, it’s also worth remembering that it had some great wins on the laptop front as well. The likes of the AMD Ryzen 4900HS made it into the Asus Zephyrus G14 to great effect, and suddenly Intel’s vice-like grip of the PC laptop market wasn’t quite so dominating. If 2021 continues this trend, that can only mean good things for gaming laptops.

These are the Intel Z590 motherboards desperate for your attention

Motherboards aren’t always the most exciting prospect for your average PC builder, but if you’re willing to spend a pretty penny then you’ll find plenty more, let’s say, extravagant options. None more so than the line-up of Z590 motherboards for Intel Rocket Lake CPUs announced just yesterday, which really, really want your attention.

But down below I’ve picked out the flagship motherboards doing everything they can to catch your eye.

ROG Maximus XIII Extreme Glacial. This is a motherboard with supreme ‘look at me’ energy, and comes with an EK water block ready to cool the CPU, VRM, M.2 drives, and chipset. This is truly an immense motherboard, with equally generous RGB to match.

Then there’s the Z590 Taichi from ASRock. This motherboard is one of the more understated flagships of the lot. It looks lovely enough in full RGB fare, too. But it, like a few others in the ASRock Z590 line-up, comes with its own flash novelty with the hopes of swaying PC builders to its shores. That’s its built-in GPU scaffolding, otherwise known as the ASRock Graphics Card Holder.

This optional rigging keeps your GPU steady from the back-rear of the card, which should help keep today’s monstrous units from putting all their weight on your poor PCIe ports.

Furthermore, MSI is back with a brand new GODLIKE motherboard and it’s really pushing the boat out with the Z590 design. With no more floor space to conquer, MSI is building up. The GODLIKE is donned from head to toe in shielding, heatsinks, and RGB lighting. It’s surely going to be a pricey motherboard when it launches on January 27, and probably as heavy as all hell, too.

Intel’s promising a 19 percent instructions per clock (IPC) boost with its latest Rocket Lake CPUs over existing 10th Gen Comet Lake chips. That seems to be paying dividends in the single-core performance racket going off early benchmarking figures, with the Core i9 11900K and Core i7 11700K looking like they lead the way in gaming for now—we’ll have to ratify those numbers for ourselves before we can say anything for definite, however.

Gigabyte is bringing perhaps one of the most restrained Z590 flagships to the market, but even the Aorus XTREME isn’t wholly free of some generous ‘thermal reactive armor’, or metal plating as it’s known in the biz. With a rather subdued and sleek design, however, it’s my favourite of the lot, too.

We’ve also heard from Colorful regarding its Z590 designs, the iGame Z590 Vulcan Q and iGame Z590 Vulcan X. These motherboards come with all the trimmings in a simple format, but that white clean-cut aesthetic is sure to win over a few folks.

All of the above offer PCIe 4.0 support with Intel’s latest 11th Gen chips, which means Intel fans can make good use of the wave of PCIe 4.0 SSDs now flooding the market.

But while some of these motherboards appear to be raring to go, Intel isn’t expected to have Rocket Lake on the shelves until March. Plenty of time to decide which motherboard fits best then, and don’t forget that there are also those with the H570, B560, and H510 chipsets available in the near-future, too

Viewsonic unleashes new 144Hz 4K and 240Hz QHD gaming monitors

Viewsonic has unwrapped its new-for-2021 range of high-refresh gaming panels at CES. Highlights include a pair of 32-inch 4K models with 144Hz refresh rate, and a 27-inch 1440p panel running at 240Hz.

Kicking off with the Viewsonic Elite XG320U, but has been taking its sweet time to actually become available. Still, it might just be the most appealing of the bunch and worth the lengthy wait.

It’s a 32 incher with a 4K IPS panel running at 144Hz and offering DisplayHDR 600 certification. The latter is a relatively low level of HDR support and suggests the XG320U could be relatively affordable. Critically, it also includes HDMI 2.1 support, enabling high refresh larks with both PC and console.

Its sister screen in the new range is the ViewSonic Elite XG321UG. It too is a 32-inch 4K IPS model running at 144Hz, but this time with DisplayHDR 1000 certification and a peak brightness of 1400cd/m2.

That crazy brightness is enabled by a 1,152-zone mini-LED backlight, so the XG321UG promises to be quite the eye-popper. We imagine the price will be startling, too.

Oddly, the XG321UG does not come with HDMI 2.1 support, implying that this model is aimed primarily at PC rather than console gamers.

For fans of even higher refresh rates, may we suggest the new Viewsonic Elite XG271QG. It’s a 27-inch QHD monitor with 2,560 by 1,440 pixels and 240Hz refresh rate. It also comes complete with Nvidia G-Sync support including Nvidia Reflex Analyser. That’s a new feature from Nvidia enabling gamers to precisely measure screen latency, the better to fine-tune rigs for fast responses.

It also ties in with the new Nvidia Reflex SDK, which is designed to help game developers reduce latency. Developers of titles including Apex Legends, Fortnite, Valorant, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare have all used the Nvidia Reflex SDK to minimise latency. Our very own Alan Dexter went hands-on with the technology recently, declaring it useful for helping out lower-end graphics cards with their latency issues.

This gaming PC with a GTX 1660 is only $820 right now

With AMD still dealing with some shortages of its newer Ryzen CPUs, and basically all graphics cards being out of stock everywhere, more people than ever are turning to pre-built desktops to get up-to-date hardware. Now you can get a desktop with Nvidia’s mid-range GTX 1660 graphics card for just $819.99 on Newegg. That’s $30 off the previous price, making it the cheapest PC with a GTX 1660 on Newegg.

This desktop from ABS has an Intel Core i5-10400F processor, a 6-core/12-thread CPU with a maximum turbo clock of 4.3GHz. That’s not one of Intel’s newer 11th-gen chips, but it’s still more than capable of playing games and managing Chrome tabs. You also get 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD (of an unspecified type), a 500W power supply, and an Intel B460 motherboard.

The graphics card on offer is the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660, a mid-range GPU that works best at 1080p or 1440p gaming. We have a review of the GTX 1660 if you’re interested in exact performance details. The 1660 was succeeded by the GTX 1660 Super later in 2019, but PCs with that card are at around $100 more expensive than what you can get here.

ABS is also throwing in a “gaming keyboard and mouse” in with your purchase, though the accessories probably aren’t as good as any gaming keyboards or gaming mice made by a big-name manufacturer.

Intel’s creating a new level of Ultraportable gaming laptop all its own with 35W Tiger Lake CPUs

Intel has announced a whole new segment of gaming laptops, with specifically designed, higher-performance, 10nm Tiger Lake processors. The new Ultraportable gaming laptops are designed specifically to offer “great mobility with enthusiast level of gameplay”, according to Intel’s recent CES 2021 event. 

The takeaway specs Intel is touting cover machines under 18mm thick which are capable of delivering 70+ fps at 1080p with game settings on High. In current PC gaming parlance ‘High’ settings are a step or so down from the top graphics presets in most titles.

To enable such performance this new kind of gaming laptop gets its own Tiger Lake H35 series of 10nm CPUs. They are essentially the same quad-core Tiger Lake chips but running at 35W as opposed to the 28W maximum of the current Ultrabook range. That will deliver single threaded performance around 4 – 5 percent higher than the top 28W Tiger Lake chips around today, and with around 10 percent higher multi-threaded performance too.

There are three new chips in the Tiger Lake H35 range, all ready to be dropped into new Ultraportable gaming laptops presumably from now, with the promise of over 40 designs in the first half of the year. 

The Core i7 comes in plain 11370H and Special Edition 11375H trims, which means you get a single-core max of 5GHz with the SE and 4.8GHz with the standard chip. There is also an Intel Core i5 11300H, which comes with a lower maximum frequency and less L3 cache, but all three are four core, eight thread chips.

Interestingly they can all be configured down to hit 28W, with correspondingly lower frequency potential, which means that they should be able to be retro-fitted into any current Tiger Lake laptop that is using the 28W SKU. The obvious benefit being that even configured down to 28W the new H35 chips are capable of higher clock speeds than their forebears. 

Intel Core i7 11375H SEIntel Core i7 11370HIntel Core i5 11300H
Cores | Threads4 | 84 | 84 | 8
cTDP Up Base clock3.3GHz3.3GHz3.1GHz
cTDP Down Base clock3GHz3GHz2.6GHz
Max 1-Core Turbo5GHz4.8GHz4.4GHz
Max 2-Core Turbo4.8GHz4.8GHz4.4GHz
Max 4-Core Turbo4.3GHz4/3GHz4GHz
L3 Cache12MB12MB8MB
cTDP Up35W35W35W
cTDP Down28W28W28W

The Core i7 1165G7, for example, has a 28W base clock speed of 2.8GHz, while the Core i7 11370H comes with a 28W base clock of 3GHz. 

The new mildly higher-spec Tiger Lake CPUs ought to pair up nicely with the less thirsty members of Nvidia’s soon-to-be-unveiled RTX 30-series laptop GPUs, as they also come with PCIe Gen4 and support for Resizable BAR.

Intel says it has “partnered closely with Nvidia and ecosystem to bring more performance leveraging standard PCIe protocols.” In case you’ve forgotten, Resizable BAR is the protocol AMD brought to the fore with its Smart Access Memory feature, where it allows the CPU unfettered access to the GPU’s memory pool, rather than just in 256MB chunks as it is now.

Nvidia is expected to announce support for Resizable BAR in its own CES presentation tomorrow, and Intel is also promising that support will cover select 10th Gen chips too. Given that a lot of this year’s new laptops will still be sporting 10th Gen Intel CPUs that is handy. Realistically it’s not going to make a huge difference in performance terms, but every little helps, especially within the tight constraints of an Ultraportable gaming laptop.Image 1 of 2

This whole Ultraportable schtick is a smart play, as it allows Intel to talk about its 11th Gen gaming laptops and claim it’s now launched the 11th Gen Tiger Lake-H series at the start of the year. That’s vital in marketing currency when AMD is about to unleash a whole slew of new Ryzen-powered laptop APUs tomorrow. Sure, Intel still dominates gaming laptops, but the majority of new machines we’ll see at CES 2021—all sporting the new Nvidia RTX 30-series GPUs—will be shipped with the last-gen H-series versions of its Comet Lake processors.

That’s because its high-end 10nm gaming laptop chips aren’t coming for a while yet—probably well into the spring or even summer—because the real Tiger Lake H-series of mobile gaming CPUs is still ‘coming soon.’

Those will eventually be the full-fat eight-core, 16-thread notebook chips, with 5GHz+ clock speeds, and “desktop caliber performance.” This delay before we get to see genuine 10nm gaming laptop CPU SKUs from Intel likely explains why it had to backport its 10nm architecture to 14nm for the Rocket Lake, else it would have been a very long time before Intel could wrestle back the top gaming CPU crown from AMD.

If it could have gotten the 10nm production process running to a level where it could release high core count mobile CPUs hitting over 5GHz at the start of this year, then surely it wouldn’t have needed to backport anything, and we’d be seeing the same Tiger Lake core hitting the desktop.

As it is, it couldn’t and the result is Tiger Lake-H later in the year, a mild 35W update launching today, and Rocket Lake sometime later.

LG outs 160Hz 1ms 4K panel, plus first OLED monitor, 40-inch 5K2K model and more

LG has a new 160Hz 4K monitor to behold, the LG UltraGear 27GP950. It’s an update of the already-awesome LG 27GN950. But that’s not all, LG’s new screens for CES 2021 include a new 34-inch 160Hz ultrawide model, a 32-inch OLED display and a 40-inch 5K2K monitor. Phew.

As its name implies, the LG 27GP950 is a 27-inch monitor and as with most premium LG models, it uses a Nano IPS panel. According to Displayspecifications, highlights include VESA DisplayHDR 600 certification, 1ms G-to-G response times and 98 percent coverage of the DCI-P3 gamut. Nice. But the kicker is support for up to 160Hz refresh. LG says the 160Hz rating is available via ‘overclocking’.

The extent to which overclocking a monitor is comparable to, say, overclocking a CPU, and likewise whether it amounts to much more than marketing, is debatable. But thanks to a firmware update late last year, the outgoing LG 27GN950 was already capable of 160Hz, though many users reported that the 160Hz mode was sensitive to DisplayPort cable quality and needed to buy new cables to get the full 160Hz running reliably.

Anyway, 160Hz is currently as good as it gets for 4K. So if you want maximum resolution and refresh rate, put the LG 27GP950 on your shortlist. Also worth noting is HDMI 2.1 support, making this a good match with the new 4K@120Hz capable consoles.

Other intriguing new displays from LG include the new LG 40WP950 and LG 32EP950. The former is a new 40-inch ultrawide model with 5,120 by 2,160 pixels, otherwise known as 5K2K. The 32EP950, meanwhile, is LG’s first OLED monitor, measuring 32 inches and packing a full 4K pixel grid.

LG 34GP950

LG’s 34GP950 combines ultrawide 1440p resolution with 160Hz refresh
The catch? Both models are limited to 60Hz refresh rate. Not ideal for gaming, but then you’ve go to start somewhere. Existing high refresh ultrawide displays, for instance, started off at 60Hz. So here’s hoping these panels become the basis of high-refresh models in future.

Rounding out LG’s line up for CES 2021 are a pair of more conventional gaming monitors. The LG UltraGear 32GP850 combines 180Hz refresh with 1440p in a 32-inch form factor, while the LG UltraGear 34GP950 is a 34-inch ultrawide 3,440 by 1,440 model with 56 local dimming zones and up to 160Hz refresh.

Pricing hasn’t been announced for any of the new models, but you can expect the LG 27GP950, LG 40WP950 and LG 32EP950 to all carry hefty four-figure price tags, while the LG 32GP850 and LG 34GP950 will be more affordable.

New benchmarks show Intel Rocket Lake chips leading Comet Lake and AMD Zen 3 in single-core

Early benchmarking results for Intel’s Core i7 11700K are in and it’s showing promising signs for performance gains over current Intel 10th Gen processors—even with a couple cores shy of the 10-core compliment on Comet Lake’s top chip. Similarly, figures from Core i9 11900K testing suggests it’s also taking the lead in single-threaded performance, which could make for two venerable gaming chips out of Rocket Lake, at least.

The Core i7 11700K result (spotted by Tum_Apisak) comes from Geekbench 4, which you might know isn’t the most representative benchmark around. Still, it offers a rough picture of performance for the upcoming Rocket Lake processors. 

With a single-core score of 7,857, the Core i7 11700K would sit comfortably above the Intel Core i9 10900K, which is still largely dominate in single-threaded workloads today and tends to score upwards of 6,900 in the single-thread test on a relatively comparable system. 

As a benchmark, Geekbench 4 measures memory performance as a part of its CPU test, which can mean comparable scores aren’t always readily available, especially in the case of the Core i7 11700K result here today, which doesn’t specify the exact memory speed for the benchmarked system.

Yet it’s looking promising for Intel Rocket Lake in terms of single-core performance, and that shouldn’t come as too great a surprise considering Intel is touting a double-digit instruction per clock (IPC) improvement with the shift to the Cypress Cove architecture from Comet Lake, itself a derivative of the Skylake architecture.

Cypress Cove is actually a blend of 10th Gen Intel Ice Lake CPU cores (Sunny Cove) and 11th Gen Tiger Lake graphics (Intel Xe), ported over to the 14nm process node from the more advanced, but not yet readily available on desktop, 10nm process node.

One side effect of that transition has been the reduction of total available core counts with Rocket Lake. While the Core i9 10900K offers 10 cores and 20 threads, the top Rocket Lake chip, the Core i9 11900K, is an eight-core, 16-thread part. The same goes for the Core i7 11700K.

Even a rather significant IPC increase can’t overcome the lack of two physical cores on die, and it looks like the Core i7 11700K can’t quite match the Core i9 10900K in multi-core tests, at 42,011 to 49,107. The equally-threaded Core i7 10700K, however, it should have beat relatively easily.

As for the Core i9 11900K, that chip is reportedly in the hands of Chinese YouTuber ChaoWanKe a little early (via Videocardz). It, too, is showing signs of a slight lead in single-threaded performance, but once again falls a little behind the more core saturated Comet Lake and AMD Zen 3 parts.

It looks like Intel’s new Rocket Lake Core i9 11900K could maintain a lead over at least the Ryzen 9 5900X in single-threaded performance, if only by a hair. That’s potentially a good sign for gaming, but we’ll have to wait until more conclusive data to say for sure.

Intel Rocket Lake processors are expected to arrive in March, at least according to a Gigabyte press release, although we are set to hear more at CES 2021. We’ve also seen a handful of Z590 motherboards ahead of the launch, all indicative of a Q1, or thereabouts, release date.