11th-gen ‘Tiger Lake H' performance deep-dive: Intel gets back in the game
PCWorld|July 2021
Intel’s 10nm Tiger Lake H puts it back into the fight with AMD’s best.
GORDON MAH UNG

Whoa, folks—don’t head for the parking lot because this ball game ain’t over yet. Sure, you’ve been watching Intel’s older 10th-gen H-class CPUs get blasted off the mound all afternoon by Team Ryzen, but the coach just gave the signal and Intel’s new rookie star is warming up in the bullpen: the 11th-gen “Tiger Lake H” processors for gaming and creative laptops.

Unlike the once great but should-have retired-two-seasons-ago 10th-gen Comet Lake chips, Tiger Lake H features truly new cores and is built on Intel’s most advanced 10nm “Super Fin” technology (go.pcworld. com/sprf).

You can read more about Tiger Lake H’s processor lineup here (go.pcworld.com/ tgln), and dig into all the new 11th-gen laptops announced (go.pcworld.com/tglp) so far, but rather than yakety yak, let’s find out just how fast the new 11th-gen chip is.

HOW (AND WHAT) WE TESTED

To do that we got our hands on Gigabyte’s new Aorus 17G laptop. On the outside, it’s mostly the same as the previous 10th-gen– based model (go.pcworld.com/p10g), but the Aorus 17G we’re testing today features the 8-core, 11th-gen Core i7-11800H CPU inside. It packs the same GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU (go.pcworld.com/n38r) with a TGP of 105 watts as the previous version, but it’s hooked up to the 11th-gen Tiger Lake via PCIe Gen 4, rather than the slower Gen 3 connection used by Intel’s older CPU. The 11th-gen chip has enough spare PCIe lanes that Gigabyte pairs that GPU with a speedy 1TB Samsung PM9A1 on the Gen 4 bus too. Finally, unlike with the previous Core i7 model, Gigabyte uses 32GB of DDR4/3200 memory instead of DDR4/2933—an odd limitation of the last processor. You can see the plentiful PCIe lanes Intel has put into the Tiger Lake H (page opposite).

For comparison laptops, we sought only 8-core CPUs configurations—no 6-core or 4-core laptops allowed.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (go.pcworld. com/14az) with Ryzen 9 4800HS, GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q and 16GB of DDR4/3200. It has a 14-inch screen and weight of 3.6 pounds.

Asus ROG Flow X13 (go.pcworld. com/13ax) with Ryzen 9 5980HS, GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q, 32GB of LPDDR4X/4266. It has a 13-inch screen and weight of 3 pounds.

Asus ROG Strix G17 with Ryzen 9 5900X, GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU with a TGP of 130 watts and 32GB of DDR4/3200. It has a 17.3-inch screen and weight of 6 pounds.

Gigabyte Aorus 17G (go.pcworld. com/17ag) with Core i7-10870H, GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU with a TGP of 105 watts and 32GB of DDR4/2933. It has a 17.3-inch screen weight of 6.1 pounds.

Dell XPS 17 9700 (go.pcworld. com/17dx) with Core i7-10875H, GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q and 32GB of DDR4/3200. It has a 17-inch screen and a weight of 4.6 pounds.

All of the laptops are running Windows 10 2H02 19042.928 as well as the latest drivers and BIOSes available directly from the manufacturers. While we have tested each laptop’s different power state in their own individual reviews, today we’re sticking only to the laptops highest sane performance plan and fan settings available. By sane, we mean the settings most people would run—not 100 percent fan speeds. For the Asus laptops, that’s the laptop’s Turbo setting, while the Dell was tested in its Ultra Performance mode, and the pair of Gigabyte laptops were set to Boost for the 10th-gen and either its Creator or Gaming Mode for the 11th-gen version. The fan profile for the Gigabyte notebooks were set to Gaming for all testing.

Before we get too far into the numbers, we do want to warn you that today’s comparison sticks mostly to CPU performance rather than gaming performance. That’s because we ran into a driver issue on the 11th-gen–based Aorus 17G. It became stuck on one of Nvidia’s Studio Drivers (which revolve around optimizations in content creation apps) instead of an Nvidia Game Ready driver. We’re working to solve the issue with Nvidia and Gigabyte and will run our gaming results once we have all three of the 3080 laptops running on the same gaming driver.

A WORD ABOUT WEIGHT

In the charts below, you’ll notice we included the total weight of the laptop along with the CPU model. That’s because size and weight matter a lot in notebooks, and especially gaming notebooks. A larger laptop means you can have more cooling, which means you can have generally better performance.

For example, the older Dell XPS 17 9700 is about 4.6 pounds and ultrathin. Despite wielding a 10th-gen chip with higher model number, it actually tends to trail the 6.1-pound Aorus 17G with its beefier 6.1-pound chassis. It also goes without saying that you should also be really impressed by the Asus Flow X13 and its Ryzen 9 5980 in these benchmarks because it often trades blows with the new 11th-gen Core i7-11800H in the 6.1-pound new Aorus 17G while weighing as little as a MacBook Pro M1 (go.pcworld.com/13m1).

The final point we want to make is that most of the big laptops here don’t just offer bigger CPU performance—they also offer far more graphics punch with their higher-end GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPUs. The cooling in those bulkier builds can handle more GPU firepower too.

3D MODELING PERFORMANCE

We’ll kick this off where we typically do: 3D modeling performance using Maxon’s popular Cinebench R20 benchmark. It’s based on the same engine used in the company’s Cinema4D software that’s sold both standalone and integrated into apps like Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects.

Modeling typically loves more cores and faster cores, and you can see the weakness of Intel’s 10th-gen 14nm CPUs in the bars at right. Even a year-old Ryzen 4000 CPU in a laptop that’s much, much lighter than the 10th-gen laptops is faster.

The good news, though, is that the 11th-gen Core i7-11800H is breathing down the neck of the Ryzen 9 4900HX. No, it’s not faster, but remember that this is a Core i7 versus a Ryzen 9 part.

Next we move on to the open-source Blender 2.92, which is incredibly popular with indie movies as well as hobbyists due to its cost: free. Free doesn’t mean bad, though, and Blender has a huge following. We use the Barbershop scene for our workload, which is more intensive than the standard BMW scene we’ve used before. The result again puts that monstrous Ryzen 9 5900HX with a decent lead, but that 11th-gen Core i7-11800H isn’t doing too shabbily—especially when you look at the performance of the older 10th-gen CPUs, which finish last.

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