Intel Core i5-11600k Review: A Powerhouse Processor Suitable for Gaming
It’s been a few years since I’ve done a processor review, but it’s time to look at an 11th gen Intel Core i5-11600k. As someone who uses their PC for everything from work to play, live streaming, and writing, it’s important that my computer not slow down or lock up when I’m trying to get simple, day-to-day tasks done. This is especially important as I write for a living right here at Esports Talk. My goal with this review is to look at the Intel Core i5-11600k and decide if it’s useful in streaming and gaming. I can tell you that it’s like night and day between this and the i7-7700k I ran before this.
We’re hip-deep in the 11th Gen of Intel processors, and the 12th Gen is slated to begin hitting shelves towards the end of this year. But even with that knowledge, “is the Core-i5 11600k worth putting in your machine” is the question I address here. Not everyone’s going to want to consider swapping out hardware just to put a brand-new processor in their machine, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I, however, did have to make some serious changes.
A Massive Step Forward
One of the things that AMD had going for them is that you could build an AMD rig with just about any budget. Things are getting better on that side of Intel, and I can easily recommend Intel processors again. It’s not all roses, but what it’s doing, it’s doing exceptionally well. Before I get started, a bit of a comparison:
- Intel i7-7700k
- ASUS Z270-A PRO Motherboard
- Corsair 100i 120MM Cooler
We were starting to look a little out of date, but I could handle the games I wanted to play for the most part. I saw some slowdown in the most recent titles, but I could handle online gaming – mostly. Warzone was a bit of a crapshoot, barely getting 30fps, and even my beloved FFXIV would occasionally feel the heat when it came to loading areas. In both this and the previous hardware, I run an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080. Sorry, no 3080 for me just yet.
- Intel Core i5-11600k
- ASUS ROG STRIX Z590-E Motherboard
- NZXT Kraken Z73 360MM Cooler
I did have problems running this processor with the 120MM cooler. It was running incredibly hot (80+ degrees Celcius). My previous processor also ran pretty hot too, but not when idle like this was. So I swapped it out for a much heavier-duty cooling system. I chose a 360mm, but Cooler Master gave me a link with what cooling systems you need for more recent 11th Gen Processors. My cooling system technically should have been enough, but it was getting old. It was time for a replacement anyway. As long as your cooling system can handle a processor with a TDP of 125W, you should be fine.
It’s also important to note that while Intel did provide the processor for this Intel Core i5 11600k review, the other hardware came out of pocket. My computer now runs at 30-35 degrees at low load, and while gaming, it doesn’t get much hotter than 50 degrees. There’s no more stress about that. But what did I do to determine the effectiveness of this processor? A bit of it is anecdotal (personal experience) and some hard numbers, courtesy of 3D Mark on Steam.
Must Proceed Swiftly
Overall, there’s a humongous jump in how my PC handles programs. With my previous setup, loading OBS would require a good 30-40 second wait if I dared click away from it. Even then, it was still a tedious wait. The Intel Core i5-11600k helps by loading Streamlabs OBS almost immediately. It’s a lot of little things that make up why it’s such a great processor. I took certain things for granted a few years ago. One thing that made streaming harder for me was trying to raid at the end of the stream. Trying to load a Google Chrome tab (or a browser in general) would slow things to a crawl.
I wouldn’t even be able to see the response to a raid because it was long over by the time my stream window loaded. That shouldn’t matter, but it’s nice to see. While we’re also talking about playing more intense online games, I also stream retro RPG randomizers over on my channel. Like Final Fantasy VI, Super Metroid/Zelda 3 Combo Randomizer, many of these would freak out on my old setup. If I dared to move the mouse, the audio would crackle, and the item trackers wouldn’t cooperate. That’s a thing of the past with the Core i5. No matter what I run, I can do it without fear of a slowdown.
Now, if I were to stream Warzone, Fortnite, Apex Legends, something to that effect, I’d likely do it through my streaming setup through my capture card. So far, though, I’ve had no problems streaming on this computer though. It is more resource-friendly to have an outside source, be it desktop or laptop, though.
Now, I will be hampered by my graphics card. That’s just the way it is. As an older GTX 1080, it’s decent but not as good as 2080 or 30XX. When playing Warzone, I don’t wait minutes to load into the game and can reliably get 30-50 FPS. Now, I still see the occasional stutter or lag pocket, but that’s more likely attributed to the servers than my actual computer. I ran through matches in Warzone, Apex Legends, and Fortnite with little to no difficulty.
It wasn’t just those shooters though. Destiny 2 became far easier to play. The movement was smooth, load times were more forgiving, and combat felt fluid in a way that I haven’t experienced in a while. No matter if I used a keyboard/mouse or controller, I didn’t have jerky controls, thanks to being throttled by old hardware.
3D Mark Results/Benchmarking
As far as benchmarking goes, I ran 3D Mark since it has a distinct focus on gaming. 3D Mark runs a battery of tests to check what FPS you’re expected to get across various games. In my first test, using my original hardware, I came out with a total score of 3.6. My graphics card score was 5,430, and my CPU Score was 1,284. My processor was dragging things down. My CPU Test showed 4.32 FPS, whereas the new processor showed 18 FPS. Now, we aren’t gaming with just our CPUs. That would be madness. But they contribute to the gaming experience.
When testing my new setup, my new score was 6,579. My graphics score went up to 6,705, and my CPU score shot up to 5,947. Instead of an average of 30-38 FPS, I had 38-43 FPS, but that’s not my limit, of course. This 3D Mark test also said I could get an estimated 115+ FPS in Apex Legends – not far off the mark. My old setup, carried by my graphics card, would still potentially get 95 FPS. Apex Legends isn’t as hard to run as, say, Warzone, though. I went from getting about 15-20 FPS in Warzone to 30-50, on average.
Combining this with Nvidia Reflex and an Acer x25 Predator, I feel like I can compete – if I were decent at FPS games. It does, however, make it easier for me to practice in shooters and fighting games. I also noticed an uptick in performance for the Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker Benchmark. It ticked me up to “High,” and I saw about a 5-10% difference across the board in how smoothly it ran. I can still easily get 90+ FPS in Final Fantasy XIV as it is.
Overall Thoughts/Is It Worth It?
With six cores and 12-threads, it’s unlocked and stacks up pretty well against similar gen AMD processors. It’s still under $300, so it’s what I’d consider a worthwhile processor. It’s not going to break the bank. It will still bring you the processing power you’re after. Even on incredibly graphics-intensive games like Final Fantasy XV, the benchmark didn’t lie – I could handle it smoothly and easily. In these games, I didn’t break past roughly 60% of my CPU used.
So for more intense games like Warzone, I want to stream on another system, with OBS on this machine. Truthfully, I’ve had no problem streaming anything on a single-PC setup since the upgrade, that’s for sure. It’s still recommended to have a two-system setup for intense games. I had no trouble getting 60 fps+ on pretty much every game I tested. Who is this for, though? Gamers won’t find anything really to hate here. Sure, it doesn’t come with a fan, but most people already have a cooling system/have one in mind.
That part didn’t upset me at all, but a very casual PC owner might find fault there. It’s a quality budget processor, won’t break the bank, and brings satisfying results. It’s also worth noting that my previous i7 had the same cooling connector bracket. I didn’t have to go and find anything specific, so it was very easy to set up and get my computer up and running. It was genuinely a night-and-day experience. I can do so much on my PC, more than I could with my i7. With a base clock speed of 3.8GHz and capping at 4.5GHz, there’s a lot to like here. My review of the Intel Core i5-11600k is an overall feeling of satisfaction. None of the issues while setting up were due to external hardware, not the processor itself.
- Quality, high-powered CPU
- Budget-worthy at under $300
- Made multi-tasking and gaming easier to handle without overheating my PC
- There are better multi-core processors for really heavy-duty work
- Does not come with a cooler – prepare to get your own
- Not particularly power-efficient (125W), if that’s a concern
Processor provided by Intel for the purposes of this review.