Don’t buy a desktop PC with one of Intel’s newest processors – here’s why
Every year for the past decade, Intel has released a new generation of its Core processors. And every year, we recommend that people buy the latest version they can get. If you’re paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for a computer, you should get one that will feel fast and run whatever apps you use for as long as possible. But the 11th Gen Intel Core processors are a little different, and there are some models that we don’t think we should buy.
Specifically, the 11th gen Core i5, i7 and i9 processors that will be available on many desktops in the coming months are hard to recommend because they are only a little faster than the 10th gen processors they replace, and because they heat up a lot more and consume a lot more electricity than those 10th gen processors or competing AMD Ryzen chips. Here’s what you need to know about the issues with these processors, what you should look for instead if you’re buying a desktop PC, and why, on the other hand, we think Intel’s 11th generation laptop processors are safe to use. buy.
Hotter, more power-hungry desktops
To understand why these 11th gen desktop processors are having issues, you need to know a little more about how processors in computers, tablets, phones, and game consoles get better over time. First of all, there is the chip architecture, or how it was designed – a processor is structured much like the blueprint of a house, with processor cores, cache, and blocks for playing 3D games or high definition video files, all laid out in a precise arrangement. And then there is the manufacturing process, or how the chip is physically built in a chipmaker’s factory.
These two concepts are closely linked. One way to make a processor faster is to add more transistors to the design – a transistor is the basic building block of a computer processor, and the more you have, the more your processor can do. the number of transistors of a typical desktop computer processor has grown from tens of thousands in the late 1970s to billions today. When you use the computer, these transistors are all constantly on and off, requiring energy, which in turn produces heat. So, all other things being equal, a processor design with more transistors requires more electricity to run and a bigger fan to cool.
But newer manufacturing processes are making transistors smaller, which generally reduces the amount of energy needed to turn them on and off. This way, processor designers can add more transistors to make a processor architecture faster without worrying about making it physically larger or more power hungry. If you’ve ever wondered why a MacBook Air you can buy today is faster, smaller, thinner, and lighter than a MacBook Air of ten years ago, this is one of the top reasons.1
So what happened to Intel’s latest desktop chips? Compared to 10th gen chips, 11th gen processors have an updated architecture but not a newer manufacturing process. This means that they can sometimes be faster, as Intel has added more transistors to their design. But each of these transistors requires the same amount of electricity as those in 10th generation processors, and as a result, 11th generation processors heat up hotter and are more difficult to cool. And because processors are designed to slow down (or “speed up”) when they get too hot to avoid burning themselves, this increased heat can often negate any speed improvements Intel could have achieved by updating the architecture. processors in the first place.
What you should buy instead
10th Generation Intel desktop processors are still widely available and still perform reasonably well for most tasks, including gaming, professional photo and video editing, 3D modeling, and other tasks that benefit from great processor power. And if you just need a basic desktop for editing documents and spreadsheets, browsing the web, and chatting in video calls, the 10th Gen Core i3 processor is great value for money.2
We also like desktop processors from AMD, Intel’s biggest competitor in computer processors. The Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 9 processors from the Ryzen 3000, 4000 and 5000 series are all as good or better than Intel processors in terms of performance and power usage (a little better, once you start to compare Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 9 chips against Intel Core i7 and i9 alignments). But AMD is a small business, and it’s been a victim of its own success: AMD Ryzen systems are often harder to find and run out of stock faster than Intel PCs. The Ryzen 5000 processors in particular are worth the wait if you can get them, especially if you’re buying a PC for gaming or for professional work like video editing, coding, or 3D model design. Just know that they have a reputation for being hard to find in an industry where everything is currently hard to find.
11th gen laptop processors are good, in fact
Our issues with the 11th Gen Intel Core desktop processors do not extend to the company’s 11th Gen laptop processors, which are completely different chips despite sharing that name and this generation of Core. . (Perhaps to distinguish between the two 11th gen Core laptops are often sold with the Intel Evo brand instead, which literally downplays the “Core” by putting that word under the “Evo” in the fine print.) These chips offer a maximum of four processor cores, compared to six or eight cores in desktop chips, which means they aren’t as fast for some heavy-duty tasks like editing videos or playing games. But they generally offer a big performance improvement over their 10th gen counterparts, they work great for everyday computing tasks like browsing and editing documents and photos, and they offer excellent battery life. in the laptops we tested.
And while these processors were designed for laptops, they appear in some desktops, mostly all-in-one PCs and mini desktops. We would not recommend this type of computers if you are a professional photo editor or looking for a high end gaming PC, but they are great for daily web browsing, video chatting, working from home, distance education. , and less intensive games like Fortnite (or older ones like Fallout 4).
If you’re buying a desktop computer and need to know what kind of chip it has, you can look at Intel’s (admittedly baffling) model numbers to distinguish 11th gen laptop chips from desktop ones. . Laptop chips have a four-digit model number followed by the letter g and another number, like in i5-1135G7 or i3-1115G4. Desktop chips have five-digit model numbers which are sometimes followed by one or two letters, such as in i5-11400, i5-11600K, or i7-11700KF.
What if you still need to buy an 11th generation desktop PC?
A persistent shortage of silicon chips has made purchasing virtually any technology more difficult and expensive than it was a few months ago, and that will likely be true for most of 2021. So , what do you do if you need a desktop computer today, and one with an 11th gen Intel chip is your only option?
If you’re in that position, the 11th gen Core i5 processors are the least bad of the bunch. They use more power than 10th Gen i5 processors or AMD’s Ryzen processors, but they’re reasonably affordable, their six processor cores provide good enough performance for graphics-intensive games, and they don’t emit as much heat as that. cause major long-term problems. The 11th gen Core i7 processors run hotter and use even more power, but their two additional processor cores at least offer a noticeable speed boost for high-end video editing or 3D drawing applications – you wouldn’t notice the difference if you were just browsing or editing documents, however.
No matter what kind of work you do, you should completely avoid the 11th gen Core i9 models, which cost much more than the Core i7 versions and consume more power without offering noticeably better performance. Early reviewers even had issues with crashes and instability with Core i9 processors (although we would expect these issues to be resolved once Intel and PC makers have had time to fix the bugs. ).
1. Sometimes chipmakers choose to keep the architecture of a processor more or less the same while improving the manufacturing process. The result is a chip that functions the same but requires less power and heat and can be cooled with fewer fans or a smaller heat sink. This is why you often see new “thin” versions of video game consoles a few years after the originals came out.
2. There will be no 11th generation Core i3 desktop processors; Intel will continue to sell 10th generation Core i3 chips for low budget systems.