Intel Rocket Lake release date just tipped by MSI

Intel Rocket Lake
(Image credit: Intel)

Intel’s 11th-gen Rocket Lake desktop processors will release in March, according to a post by an MSI representative on the South Korean Danawa forums.

As spotted (and translated) by Twitter user @harukaze5719, the new CPUs are “scheduled to be released at the end of March," and could be compelling rivals to AMD’s Ryzen 5000 processors.

This backs up a previous rumor that Rocket Lake would release in March, well under a year after the 10th-gen Comet Lake CPU launch. The forum post, since edited, also confirmed that Rocket Lake will be backwards compatible with the older H410, B460 and Z490 motherboard chipsets, presumably alongside any newer versions; Intel always releases several new chipsets to mark a new CPU generation.

The post does indicate that older chipsets will need a firmware update to work with the new chips, though, with the Z490 set to get its updates available first. In any case, backwards compatibility means that Rocket Lake will use the same LGA1200 socket that Comet Lake introduced. That'll come in handy for people looking for a processor upgrade but don't want to splash out on a new motherboard at the same time. 

It’s possible that the success of the Ryzen 5000 family pushed Intel to launch Rocket Lake sooner rather than later, hence an earlier than expected release window. It’s already shaping up to be quite the showdown, with one leaked benchmark handing the apparent 11th-gen Intel Core i9-11900K a small advantage over the high-end Ryzen 9 5950X in gaming.

This would be in spite of Rocket Lake’s reported use of an aging 14-nanometer manufacturing process, as unlike AMD, Intel has yet to make the jump to more efficient 10nm or 7nm designs. However, Rocket Lake is also said to bring numerous other improvements over Comet Lake, including PCIe 4.0 support, Thunderbolt 4 compatibility and Xe graphics support.

PCIe 4.0 would be a particularly welcome feature, as although 10th-gen motherboards supported the faster connection, the Comet Lake CPUs themselves didn’t ꟷ perhaps this suggests Intel was thinking about backwards compatibility for future processors from the start.

We're expecting to hear more about Intel's next-gen processors at CES 2021, which thanks to the coronavirus pandemic will basically be a virtual event. Check back with Tom's Guide for all the best news from the major tech showcase

James Archer

James is currently Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, but before that was Audio Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covered headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also wrote computing and gaming news for TG, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.