Today’s Best Tech Deals
Picked by PCWorld’s Editors
Top Deals On Great Products
Picked by Techconnect’s Editors
It’s been a long road, but we may finally have an answer to the question of “which CPU is the best gaming laptop chip?” The short answer: Tiger Lake H.
The long answer is more nuanced, of course, so keep reading. You can also use our handy table of contents below to jump ahead:
- The Intel CPUs we tested
- What’s in a TGP
- 11th gen Core i9-11980HK vs Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU performance
- 11th gen Core i9-11980HK rendering performance
- Core i9-11980HK gaming performance
- PCIe performance
- CPU thread performance
The Intel CPUs we tested
Let’s walk you through the journey to get here. When we first reviewed the 11th-gen Core i7-11800H we were unable to load Nvidia’s Game Ready Drivers on the GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop. Instead, we concentrated on its CPU performance.
We then tested the 11th-gen Core i9-11980HK in an Intel reference laptop (essentially an MSI Creator Z16). With its GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop GPU, it’s hardly what we would consider a true gaming laptop.
With the MSI GE76 Raider and its 11th-gen Core i9-11980HK and GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop at a blistering 165 watts (it’s 155 watts out of the box), we have a better view into Tiger Lake H’s gaming prowess. Every laptop is different, but the performance of the 11th-gen Core i9 in the MSI GE76 Raider also gives us insight into the value of an 11th-gen Core i9 vs. an 11th-gen Core i7, and how much of a performance boost you get from an 11th-gen Core i9 in a 6-pound-plus thick laptop, versus that same CPU’s performance in a 4.5-pound laptop.
What’s in a TGP
One important detail worth pointing out is the different Total Graphics Power (TGP) ratings for each laptop. The TGP is the Nvidia spec for what the GPU’s maximum thermal budget is. Nvidia has a wide menu of options for every GPU, making apples-to-apples comparisons very difficult. Even if you could get the same TGP-rated GPU, you can’t divorce the GPU or CPU from the laptop. Ultimately every laptop has its own performance personality.
When you’re considering a 155-watt TGP laptop vs. a 130-watt TGP laptop vs. a 105-watt TGP laptop, it actually doesn’t matter if you can’t buy the one you want. Looking at high-end laptops, we know of only a single Ryzen 9-based laptop with a 155-watt TGP GeForce GPU in it. The vast majority are 130-watt TGP or lower.
11th gen Core i9-11980HK vs Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU performance
Our first result comes from Maxon’s Cinebench R20, a popular 3D rendering benchmark that loves core and thread counts. AMD’s Ryzen 9 5000 has long been the monster of multi-core performance, and the Ryzen 9 5900HX doesn’t disappoint. It scores a hair faster than, but is basically tied with, Intel’s new 11th-gen Core i9-11980HK chip.
This is not necessarily a loss for Intel. It’s actually good news that Intel has an 8-core that can compete with Ryzen 5000. You can see the chart below, where the light-blue bars show how poorly the previous 10th-gen Intel CPUs perform against Ryzen. In fact, a Ryzen 9 4900HS in a thin and light 3.5-pound gaming laptop matches much larger and much heavier laptops.
The vast majority of software doesn’t use all the cores of a Core i9 or Ryzen 9, so we also run Cinebench R20 using a single thread. Here, we see the MSI GE76 Raider and its Core i9-11980HK lead the Ryzen 9 5900HX by about 9 percent. The Ryzen 9 5980HS actually is the fastest Ryzen, but we wouldn’t feel bad about the performance of either Ryzen 5000 laptops.
Where 11th-gen really shows its strength is against its own kin, the 10th-gen Intel chip chips, which get left behind by more than 33 percent. We also see that 11th-gen Core i9 is only about 7 percent faster than the Core i7, and the difference between the thin and thick laptops with 11th-gen chips is less than three percent.
For another quick gauge of all-core performance, we run Chaos Group’s V-Ray, a ray tracing renderer. The results are unsurprisingly similar to what we saw with Cinebench R20, but with a very slight advantage for the 11th-gen Core i9 in the MSI GE76. If you continued with other CPU-focused tests, you’d see both Ryzen 9 5000 and 11th-gen Core i9 offer fairly comparable performance. The “wins” may lean toward Ryzen, but not enough to matter much. Intel’s 10th-gen looks rather weak—even a Ryzen 9 4000 in a tiny, thin laptop can nearly match it.
11th gen Core i9-11980HK rendering performance
AI isn’t just a bad Steven Spielberg movie, it’s also an approach to computing to make it smarter. In PCs we’ve mostly seen it used for recognizing patterns. Nero’s Score benchmark (free for download in the Windows Store or at Nero) does that by measuring how fast a PC can recognize and tag still images. The concept is similar to what your phone already does in recognizing and sorting images for you—it just does it with the aid of a massive data center.
The Intel 11th-gen Tiger Lake H simply crushes Ryzen 5000 and 10th-gen Intel CPUs, and it’s no surprise. Intel has been pushing AI and Deep Learning performance as a key feature of its chip, and it shows.
How much this matters to you very much depends on what you do, of course. AMD fans may point out that very few applications currently support AI or Intel’s DL Boost. From what we’ve seen so far though, it’s very compelling technology.
On a more practical level, you may be interested to see how these laptops perform in Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom Classic. For that we use UL’s Procyon benchmark, which runs scripts within Photoshop and Lightroom Classic to determine performance. Adobe products are rich applications with hundreds if not thousands of functions, and Procyon is but a small sample of them. Still, it’s probably about as real-world as you can get, a good gauge of the entire laptop’s performance with the CPU and GPU making up a large portion of that.
Who wins? We can say that the 11th-gen Tiger Lake has a definite edge, with the MSI GE76 and its Core i9-11980HK and GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU about 9 percent faster than the Asus Strix Scar G17 with its Ryzen 9 5900HX chip and GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU. While you might think the 165-watt TGP GPU in the MSI is the X factor here, the argument against that is the performance of the Gigabyte Aorus 17G. That laptop features a Core i7-11800H and a GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU at a 105-watt TGP, and it still comes in a hair faster than the Ryzen 9 and 130-watt GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU.
That’s all great for 11th-gen, but we also want to point out how you can rapidly hit diminishing returns with a fat GPU in Adobe products. For example, the Intel reference laptop with its Core i9-11980HK and GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop GPU is only 3 percent slower than the larger and heavier MSI laptop.
Besides still-photo editing, Procyon also has a mode where it uses Adobe Premiere Pro to export videos using the YouTube preset, at 4K resolution with Lumatri color correction and other tweaks. Once again the 11th-gen Core i9-11980HK with its 165-watt GPU and the 11th-gen Core i7-11800H with its 105-watt GPU outpace the Ryzen 9 5900HX with its 130-watt GPU. We should also point out that the Core i9-11980HK paired with the GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop GPU in the Intel reference laptop is almost as fast as the Ryzen, and only about 15 percent slower than the much larger MSI.
So yes, overall, the best performer is the 11th-gen Core i9 in the GE76 Raider, but we think there’s a good argument that newest GeForce RTX 30-series based laptops do well. We also think that while the smaller Intel reference laptop with its 16-inch screen won’t hang in gaming with the bigger gaming laptops, it might be the better laptop for a creation professional looking to shed pounds while only giving up a little performance.
Core i9-11980HK gaming performance
Our last CPU-focused test uses 3DMark Time Spy’s CPU test to measure the performance of the CPUs running a game physics engine. This test largely ignores GPU performance.
We don’t have results for all of the laptops we tested above, but those designs aren’t really focused on gaming as their primary strength. In fact, for our gaming section, we’ll concentrate only on the gaming laptops with the burly GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU. We also unfortunately do not have gaming numbers for the 11th-gen Gigabyte Aorus 17G in this section, as we were unable to install the latest Game Ready Drivers on it.
The winner is the 11th gen Core i9-11980HK. In second place is the Ryzen 9 5900HX, with the pair of 10th-gen Intel-based laptops in third place.
UL’s 3DMark is a “synthetic” benchmark rather than an actual game, but that has a lot of value. It is extremely reliable and repeatable, which is why it’s so popular in the overclocking scene. And unlike a game, which can be overly impacted by CPU performance, 3DMark graphics tests focus solely on GPU performance.
For this next result, we run Time Spy and report the GPU performance, so the difference between an Intel 11th-gen or 10th-gen, or AMD Ryzen 5000, doesn’t move the needle as much.
The test is a DirectX12 benchmark, and there are no advanced features such as ray tracing tested. The difference between a 130-watt TGP RTX 3080 and a 165-watt TGP RTX 3080 is about 27 percent in wattage, which works out to an 8-percent difference in performance. Going from a 105-watt TGP RTX 3080 to the 165-watt TGP RTX 3080, it’s about a 21-percent increase in performance for a 57-percent increase in TGP ratings.
Horizon Zero Dawn performance
As we said above, actual game performance isn’t confined just to the GPU. The CPU matters too. We can see that show up in our first game: Horizon Zero Dawn, where we run the game at 1920×1080 resolution set to Favor Quality. The overall winner is the 11th-gen Core i9-11980HK, which opens up a healthy 21-percent gain over the Ryzen 9 5900HX and decent 7-percent gain over the 10th-gen Core i7-10870H. Yes, we know, it’s an 11th-gen Core i9 vs. a 10th-gen Core i7, but we don’t believe a 10th-gen Core i9 would goose the score that much, as the 10th-gen Core i9 was no easy chip to tame. In everything except for the laptops with the very best cooling, it was always a tad underwhelming.
Would the Ryzen 9 5900HX have picked up more from a hotter GPU? Certainly. Would it have surpassed the 11th-gen Core i9-11980HK? Probably not, but it would have certainly performed better.
Far Cry New Dawn Performance
Up next is Far Cry New Dawn, which has long been a thorn in the side of Ryzen CPUs. The game engine the Far Cry series has basically been 15 to 20 percent slower on Ryzen, but that all changed with the Zen 3 cores and Ryzen 5000 on desktop. With its huge 32MB L3 cache and redesigned cores, it erased any deficit against Intel on desktops. The laptop version doesn’t get that same fat cache, which might be the reason for the Ryzen’s lackluster result. In fact, despite the Ryzen 9 5900HX’s 130-watt RTX 3080, it’s losing to a 10th-gen Core i7-10870H with a 105-watt TGP in this game.
Against the much faster 11th-gen Core i9-11980HK with its hotter GPU, Ryzen 9 5900HX gets crushed to the tune of 31.4 percent in Far Cry.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider Performance
Up next is Shadow of the Tomb Raider. For our testing we run the game at 19×10 using the Highest preset and with hardware ray tracing off. The winner is again the MSI GE76 Raider with its 11th-gen Core i9, which has a respectable 19-percent lead over the Ryzen 9 in the Asus Strix Scar G17. In the Intel vs. Intel race, the 11th-gen Core i9 outpaces the 10th-gen Core i7 by just over 5 percent.
We think a hotter GPU in the Ryzen 9 would make this close enough that, well, it probably wouldn’t matter all that much.
Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation performance
Moving to a different genre of gaming, we ran Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation, which is a real-time strategy game that was the showcase game for DirectX 12 originally. For this test we stick with 19×10 using its Crazy preset and run the GPU-focused benchmark. The results are fairly close, with the 11th-gen Core i9 in the MSI GE76 outpacing the 10th-gen Core i7 in the older GE76 laptop by just under 5 percent. The 11th-gen Core i9also eclipses the Ryzen 9 by about 15 percent.
Strange Brigade Performance
Our next game result is Strange Brigade, which oddly refuses to run on the Ryzen system. It will run in DirectX 12 mode, but we run the game in Vulkan, so we just won’t have a score for AMD/Nvidia laptop. We can say the game seems mostly GPU-bound, as both the 10th-gen and 11th-gen laptops with the same-wattage GPUs are dead even.
Also of note is the performance of the low-wattage GPU vs. the high wattage ones. We see the 165-watt TGP GPUs with their 57-percent advantage cough up a 29-percent advantage in frame rates.
Red Dead Redemption 2 Performance
RDR2 is a great Old West game, and apparently the only thing it cares about is the GPU.
There’s actually a good chance the Ryzen 9 with a hotter GPU would make it even or even possibly slightly surpass the 11th-gen Core i9, but with its 130-watt TGP, it’s behind by about 11 percent. Crank up that GPU, though, and we think it’d be so close it wouldn’t matter.
Metro Exodus Performance
Our final GPU-heavy test is Metro Exodus using the Extreme preset. The results actually give the 10th-gen a slight advantage, but we can call it a tie. Of course, it’s practically a tie for all if you could get the same GPU in all of them. If we had to proclaim winner it would be the 10th-gen Intel, followed by the 11th-gen Intel and then the Ryzen 9. All are so close here, there are no bragging rights.
Counter Strike: GO Performance
Most games actually aren’t that GPU limited. In fact, the most popular ones can be fairly lightweight on graphics. Counter Strike: Global Operations is one of those. It’s old, runs on just about anything, and is the most popular game on Steam right now.
We use the FPS Workshop mod for our runs at 19×10 using the High preset. It’s a very heft win for the 11th-gen Core i9 which gives us 40 percent more frames than the Ryzen 9. While the caveat that the Ryzen 9 would be aided by a higher wattage applies to some other runs, we don’t think it does here. We say that because the Ryzen 9 is basically dead-even with the 10th-gen Core i7-10870H in the Gigabyte Aorus 17G, which has a 105-watt TGP card in it.
You can also see the 11th-gen Core i9 give up 18.6 percent more frames than the 10th-gen Core 7-10870H in the older MSI GE76 too. Both laptops have 165-watt TGP parts.
Our last game benchmark will use Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, another popular eSports title with a large following. As you can see, you aren’t hurting for frames on any of the laptops here, but the clear winner is the 11th-gen Core i9-11980HK laptop, which has a 62-percent advantage over the Ryzen 9 in the Strix Scar G17. As we saw with CS:GO, the Aorus 17G and 10th-gen Core i7 is only slightly slower than the Ryzen 9 despite having a 105-watt TGP GPU.
In the same laptop body, the 11th-gen Core i9 has a 29-percent performance lead over the 10th-gen Core i7 in the older GE76 laptop. It’s yet another clear win for the 11th-gen chip.
Our last result looks at the PCIe bandwidth capability of the laptops using 3DMark’s PCIe Bandwidth module. The test transfers data to the graphics card and back. As you can see the 16 lanes of PCIe Gen 4 in the 11th-gen Core i9 has a huge advantage over the previous 10th-gen, which is limited to 16 lanes of PCIe Gen 3. The Ryzen 9 laptops do even worse, because AMD’s mobile parts are limited to 8 lanes of PCIe Gen 3.
In theory, the 11th-gen chips have a huge advantage in bandwidth. On paper, though, it probably isn’t the game-changing figure you think it is. That’s because few consumer applications or games take advantage of all that bandwidth.
AMD might be a little constrained, but probably not enough to matter. The strength of the PCIe bandwidth in the 11th-gen probably makes more sense put to other tasks. The laptop, for example, supports PCIe 4.0 SSDs, which far eclipse the performance of PCIe 3.0 drives and can even support multiple drives at Gen 4.0 speeds.
That’s a real advantage that favors the 11th-gen CPUs.
CPU thread performance
We’ll close out our review with two CPU tests, where we run the older Cinebench R15 using 1 thread all the way to 16 threads. Because few apps use all of the cores of a CPU, this is a good way to visualize the area of strength a particular CPU has. For example, the Ryzen 9 5900HX easily crushes the older 10th-gen Intel CPUs just above everywhere when we do this. Intel’s 11th-gen Tiger Lake H CPUs aren’t that weak, though, and you can see from the results.
To help you visualize this, we show the differences between the 11th-gen Intel and the Ryzen 5000 as a percentage change. As you can see, the 11th-gen Core i9-11980HK has a small advantage on lightly threaded tasks, while the Ryzen 9 5900HX has a slight advantage on heavily threaded tasks.
We’ve been waiting months to get a better idea of whether the Ryzen 9 5900HX or the 11th gen Core i9-11980HK is the better gaming CPU. From what we can see today, at least, we’d have to give it to the 11th-gen Core i9, which generally has a decent-to-dominant advantage in the games we ran.
If the Ryzen were paired with a faster GPU, would the competition be closer? Probably, but we don’t think it would be enough to overcome the 11th-gen Core i9. With that said, in most GPU-limited games, we think it would be so close you really couldn’t go wrong with either. In games that lean on the CPU more, as we saw in CS:GO and Siege, the Core i9 is unlikely to be touched by that Ryzen 9.
So yes, if you are chasing the highest frame rates in gaming period, the 11th-gen Tiger Lake H should be what you reach for most of the time.
Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
One of founding fathers of hardcore tech reporting, Gordon has been covering PCs and components since 1998.
- Content Marketing
- Digital Marketing Strategy
- Landing page
- Social media
- Wordpress web development