Rocketlake Review – Do BIOS updates help? Featuring AsRock z590 PG Velocita

When Rocket Lake launched, I declined to call my coverage of it a “review” because the motherboards I had available were either using early (buggy) BIOSes and/or were experiencing other problems. Have these BIOS updates improved the situation at all? Keep reading.

Parts used for this review

CaseNZXT H440
CPUIntel i9-11900K and i9-10900K
RAM16GB (2×8gb) G-Skill TridentZ RGB 3466MHz DDR4
MotherboardASRock z590 PG Velocita
StorageIntel Optane 905p 380GB
CoolerScythe Fuma 2
PSUCorsair CX750M
MonitorNixeus EDG34 144Hz FreeSync Ultrawide Monitor

We’d like to take a moment to thank ASRock for sending us the motherboard, Scythe for sending us the cooler, and Intel for sending us the CPUs & NVMe drive. In this review we’ll cover what has changed with subsequent BIOS and Microcode improvements.

So what’s changed?

The biggest improvement, by far, has been in memory performance. When I first tested this motherboard, memory latency was 59.2ns as recorded by AIDA64. After being properly updated, this was reduced to 48.0ns – approximately 20% faster. Cache performance has increased as well, mostly by trivial amounts, but L2 Cache read performance increased from 1502 GB/s to 1623.1 GB/s, an increase of 8%.

Beta BIOS (left) vs Release BIOS (right)

Passmark’s MemoryMark test also showed improvements, with an overall score of 4137 vs 3711 with the older BIOS. The biggest gains here were in memory latency and database operations. Memory latency showed improvements of ~20%, database operations performance increased by 11.5%.

Beta BIOS (left) vs Release BIOS (right)

We also noticed improvements in the RealBench test suite, most notably in it’s heavy multi-tasking benchmark which increased performance by 7% – with a score of 222,946 (new BIOS) vs 207,449 (Old BIOS). It’s image editing benchmarks saw improvements of 2.4%, with a score of 274,541 (new BIOS) vs 268,088 (old BIOS)

Gaming Results

With our Rocket Lake preview, the gaming results were absolutely brutal. Only in Ashes of the Singularity was there a performance increase using Rocket Lake, the previous generation i9-10900k outperformed its successor in every other title tested. With the latest BIOS updates, it’s not quite as brutal. Let’s first look at the positive results.

Ashes of the Singularity showed the best improvements in gaming, with an 18% increase in performance vs the i9-10900k. This is a bit better than the results with the old BIOS, which showed a 14% improvement.

With Marvel’s Avengers, Hitman 2, and Thief we see a lead of ~10fps for the i9-11900k (vs the previous generation i9-10900k). Hitman 2 and Thief’s results are of particular interest, because in earlier testing these titles were losses for Rocket Lake.

Finally, in Cyberpunk 2077 the i9-11900k takes the lead by a small margin of 3.1fps.

Now let’s take a look at where Rocket Lake loses, which happens more often than it wins. Previously, CS:GO had especially bad results for Rocket Lake – regressing in performance by over 30%. This has improved significantly with BIOS and microcode revisions. While it’s still a loss for Rocket Lake, the performance deficit has been reduced to 6%

Most other games I tested showed little or no changes compared to prior testing. Here are the results of the other titles tested.

Conclusion

The BIOS and Microcode updates for Rocket Lake have improved performance in some areas, most significantly in memory bound tasks. In the end, our conclusion hasn’t changed much compared to our preview testing. Only in certain workloads is Rocket Lake worth considering, such as AVX or Encryption.

Gaming performance has improved compared to earlier BIOSes, but that’s not much praise given that the previous results were a massacre. The current results are absolutely unimpressive – with Rocket Lake losing in 11 out of 16 titles tested. Gamers can and should look to Intel’s 10th generation Comet Lake CPUs if they are looking for value, or AMD Ryzen 5000 CPUs if they want the absolute best gaming performance.

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