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Intel's 11th Gen Rocket Lake CPUs will arrive by March 2021

An image showing the 11th Gen logos for Intel's Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs.

Intel have unveiled the first details about their upcoming 11th Gen desktop Core CPUs today, confirming their rough release window and that they’ll have PCIe 4.0 support from the off. Code-named “Rocket Lake”, this new family of desktop processors will be arriving sometime between January and March next year, according to a new Intel blog post, succeeding their current line-up of 10th Gen Comet Lake CPUs.

Intel weren’t forthcoming about any other bits of information regarding their new generation of Rocket Lake chips today, admittedly, so we still don’t know what kind of manufacturing process they’re going to be using, for example, or whether they’re going to be compatible with the same Z490 motherboard chipset as Intel’s 10th Gen chips. Intel’s VP and GM of client computing group desktop, workstations and gaming John Bonini promised that they’ll “disclose more details in the near future,” though, so hopefully we won’t have to wait too long before we find out.

At the moment, it’s widely expected that Rocket Lake will still be based on Intel’s current 14nm (nanometer) manufacturing process (unlike Intel’s recently announced 11th Gen laptop CPUs, code-named “Tiger Lake” which have moved to 10nm), but will utilise a new microarchitecture known as Willow Cove, marking a long-awaited departure from Intel’s now five-year-old Skylake microarchitecture, which has formed the basis of all Intel’s desktop CPUs since, well, the introduction of their very first 14nm chips (also called Skylake) back in 2015.

We don’t know yet whether this means Intel will be adding yet another + onto their already mildly ridiculous 14nm++ process name (which is what their 10th Gen Comet Lake CPUs are based on), making it 14nm+++, or whether the shift in microarchitecture will prompt them to call it something a bit catchier. Personally, I’ll be taking bets on ‘Triple Max Zoom Plus’.

Whatever process it ends up using, though, the key bit of information to take away right now is the fact that Rocket Lake will finally bring Intel in line with AMD by adding PCIe 4.0 support to the mix. Intel were meant to introduce PCIe 4.0 support on their 10th Gen Comet Lake chips this year, but support for it got pulled just before launch. This is why you’ll find some Z490 motherboards do technically support PCIe 4.0 right now, but none of them can actually make use of it.

PCIe 4.0 allows PCs to chew through twice as much bandwidth as the existing PCIe 3.0 standard, and is set to become one of the key ‘next-gen’ components across PCs and console. Both the Xbox Series X and PS5 are built around PCIe 4.0, and Microsoft’s DirectStorage tech for PCs is also going to be leveraging its super fast speeds to cut down on game loading times when it launches next year.

As a result, anyone looking to upgrade their PC soon will probably want to wait until Rocket Lake comes out early next year to make sure it’s properly future-proofed. Or, you know, opt for an AMD-based system, which has had PCIe 4.0 support since last year. AMD are also due to be announcing their 4th Gen Ryzen CPUs tomorrow, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled tomorrow for lots more CPU announcements.

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Who am I?

Katharine Castle

Hardware Editor

Katharine writes about all the bits that go inside your PC so you can carry on playing all those lovely games we like talking about so much. Very partial to JRPGs and the fetching of quests. She's also RPS' resident deals herald.

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