Intel’s 11th Gen Core i9 processor increases Microsoft Flight Simulator by 20 percent

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I built a new gaming PC in September to play new games like Microsoft Flight Simulator Cyberpunk 2077, and Assassin’s Creed ValhallaI thought choosing Intel’s Core i9-10900K and Nvidia’s RTX 3090 would make this machine last for years and deliver top performance in demanding titles like Microsoft Flight SimulatorI was wrong. Microsoft Flight Simulator is a notorious beast of a game and is quickly becoming the new thing Crysis test for PCs.

It struggled to run smoothly above 30fps with all settings at up to 1440p on my PC, and even AMD’s Intel beat Ryzen 9 5950X only slightly improved the situation for some.

Intel’s latest 11th generation processor comes with a big promise of up to 19 percent IPC (instructions per cycle) improvements over the existing i9-10900K, and more specifically the appeal of 14 percent more performance at 1080p in Microsoft Flight Simulator with high settings. This piqued my curiosity, so I’ve been testing the i9-11900K for the past few days to see what it has to offer Microsoft Flight Simulator specific.

It’s less than a year after the i9-10900K was released and I’m already considering upgrading to Intel’s new i9-11900K as I’ve found it boosting Microsoft Flight Simulator by 20 percent.

Intel’s Core i9-11900K processor.

The edge Don’t typically rate processors, so we don’t have dedicated hardware test rigs or multiple CPUs and systems to provide all the benchmarks and comparisons you’d normally find in CPU ratings. For that we recommend that you visit the excellent people of Tom’s Hardware KitGuru, or Eurogamer‘s Digital foundry

Intel’s new Core i9-11900K comes with eight cores, 16 threads and increased clock speeds up to 5.3 GHz. On paper, that sounds like it would be less powerful than the 10900K with its 10 cores, 20 threads and increased clock speeds up to 5.3GHz, but the reality is much more complicated thanks to the way games and apps are designed. Most Flight simulator currently works in a main thread that is often limited by how well your CPU can run single-threaded applications and games.


Intel Core i9-11900K

Prices taken at time of publication.

Intel’s new Core i9-11900K desktop processor is the latest high-end consumer chip. It has eight cores, 16 threads and a top clock speed of 5.3 GHz.

So in recent years, Intel has managed to stay on top with its single-threaded performance, despite AMD offering more cores. That was until AMD’s Ryzen 9 5950X managed to beat Intel’s latest performance advantage late last year. Intel’s new 11th generation chips are trying to reclaim its traditional advantage.

Microsoft Flight Simulator is a good example of where Intel usually has an advantage. It’s also an increasingly rare example of a game that is very sensitive to your entire system components and not just how good your GPU is at rendering games.

Microsoft Flight Simulator is a demanding title on PC.

Intel’s Core i9-11900K does its job well enough here to boost performance by about 20 percent, depending on resolution. I’ve tested several flights that take off from different airports and fly over some of the world’s most beautiful locations and the most demanding cities the game has to offer. Everything feels smoother with Intel’s latest chips, but the results aren’t dramatic enough to get me past 60fps without throttling some settings. A flight over Seattle with all settings up shows a 24 percent performance improvement with the new 11th Gen Core i9 at 1080p and an 18 percent increase at 1440p.

On my i9-10900K PC, I saw average frame rates of 38fps at 1440p and 33fps at 1080p. The Core i9-11900K managed to boost it to 45 fps on average at 1440p and 41 fps on average at 1080p. However, averages during a particular benchmark do not always tell the whole story. All the hours I’ve played Microsoft Flight Simulator, I’ve noticed that the game drops and stutters less than before. It’s still not perfect, but it’s certainly smoother overall.

When I roll the game back to the high settings it immediately jumps to an average of 66fps at 1440p – showing how much the ultra settings hit the frame rates. Personally, I can hardly tell the difference between high and ultra settings Microsoft Flight Simulator so the boost here is noticeable thanks to the smoother gameplay.

I have also tested Shadow of the Tomb Raider and the Cinebench R23 and Geekbench 5 benchmarks. Shadow of the Tomb Raider saw a small increase of about 3 percent at both 1080p and 1440p, while the i9-11900K achieved some impressive single-core performance gains in both Cinebench and Geekbench.

Intel Core i9-11900K benchmarks

Benchmark Intel Core i9-10900K Intel Core i9-11900K % change
Benchmark Intel Core i9-10900K Intel Core i9-11900K % change
Microsoft Flight Simulator (1080p) 33 fps 41 fps 24.2% up
Microsoft Flight Simulator (1440p) 38 fps 45 fps 18.4% up
Shadow of the Tomb Raider (1080p) 176 fps 181 fps 2.8% up
Shadow of the Tomb Raider (1440p) 154 fps 159 fps 3.2% higher
Cinebench R23 single wire 1281 1623 26.6% up
Cinebench R23 multi-thread 14,968 14,826 0.94% decreased
Geekbench 5 single wire 1336 1766 32.1% up
Geekbench 5 multi-thread 10,709 11,148 up to 4%

I should note that I was also hoping for most of my tests with my existing Z490 motherboard, but that didn’t go to plan. I traded in the chip with the latest BIOS update for 11th Gen processors and found that the system rebooted in games for a few minutes without even a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). I was unable to fully resolve the issue in time for review, but the Asus Maximus XIII Hero (Z590) board provided by Intel worked fine.

You should be able to use 11th Gen processors with Z490 motherboards with ease, as most manufacturers have already released BIOS updates to support Intel’s latest processors. Some even support M.2 NVMe storage with PCIe 4.0 with these latest chips, while others, such as Asus, only support PCIe 4.0 on the primary PCIe x16 slot with 11th generation processors.

Intel’s 11th Gen processors finally deliver PCIe 4.0 support, which is great news for storage. Manufacturers have begun to fully support PCIe 4.0 drives in recent months, with Western Digital, Samsung, GigaByte, and MSI all launching super-fast drives. If you have a compatible PCIe 4.0 NVMe drive, the upgrade to 11th Gen processors is well worth it. I’ve achieved read speeds of 6729MB / s and write speeds of 5206MB / s with Western Digital’s new SN850 1TB drive. Corsair’s MP600 also achieves 4987 MB / s read and 4259 MB / s write speeds. Using Intel’s older 10th generation chip, the Corsair drive achieved 3484MB / s read and 3235MB / s write, so an 11th generation upgrade improved speeds by more than 40 percent. If you work with a lot of files every day, upgrading to 11th Gen processors for PCIe 4.0 alone is worth it.

Western Digital’s SN850 has super-fast PCIe 4.0 speeds with Intel’s 11th generation processors.

I don’t think the Core i9-11900K does enough for me personally to upgrade from a 10900K, but the PCIe 4.0 support would tempt me more if I needed the speeds there. At $ 550 (if you can find it at this retail price), the Core i9-11900K is in between AMD’s offerings, being less expensive than the top 5950X and 5900X Ryzen 9 chips and $ 90 more than the 5800X.

There’s some solid single-thread performance here, and the 11900K and AMD’s 5900X and 5950X are all claps depending on the games. However, Intel’s performance improvement comes at the expense of energy efficiency. Tom’s Hardware found it that the 11900K “sets the new high power mark” in several of its power tests, pulling over 200 watts in the same test that pulled AMD’s Ryzen 9 5900X 116 watts. If you even need a new CPU, it’s worth considering how much Intel’s latest chips affect your energy bill and the games you play.

Whether you decide to upgrade to Intel’s 11th Gen or one of AMD’s chips will likely depend on the games you play and stock availability. Many games fare poorly using multiple cores on CPUs, especially since console gaming hardware doesn’t offer solid CPU performance and spreading multiple rendering and physics threads across different cores can complicate game design. Intel’s new chips can better handle these individual threads to improve performance, but it is very game dependent.

In front of Microsoft Flight SimulatorThe general consensus is that the game should be urgently moved to DirectX 12 to improve the performance of the multi-core CPU. But Intel’s IPC improvements have helped until the Direct X 12 update arrives with the Xbox Series X release this summer.

Where Intel may have an advantage over AMD is the availability of chips. Finding AMD’s latest Ryzen processors has become increasingly difficult in recent months due to a global chip shortage. Intel partners have already accidentally sold some 11th generation desktop CPUs, which may indicate that the offering will be more stable in the coming weeks.

The winner between Intel and AMD is the company that can get these chips in the hands of PC gamers eager to upgrade. Like the GPU market right now, benchmarks don’t matter when the best chip is often the only one you can actually buy.