Watch the death throes of the best budget gaming CPU around

I've been testing the Intel Core i5 11400 recently, but not in the same way as renowned chip guru Fritzchens Fritz (via Tom's Hardware). Y'see, mine's still functioning because I actually used a CPU cooler on it. But while you can watch the death throes of one of the finest budget gaming processors on the market in this video, it's far more interesting to see what's happening while it's still alive.

Fritz delidded his sample and clocked it way down to ensure it could at least function without a dedicated chip chiller and not go into an emergency shutdown, and with his thermal camera you can actually watch the individual CPU cores spark into life under testing. 

It's fascinating to see in real time, like watching neurons firing in some simple digital brain.

"The Rocket Lake design is not very well optimized for such low power consumption," writes Fritz. "In multi-threading workloads it was pretty hard to prevent the system from emergency shutdowns. At stock settings the chip was not able to run for a longer time without any cooler. With reduced VCCSA (Offset -200mV), lower memory clocks, disabled Hyperthreading, AVX, and iGPU, the CPU was able to run single thread workloads with dynamic clocks for an undetermined time."

His Core i5 11400 was still able to run at over 2GHz in the single threaded Cinebench R15 benchmark without a cooler, and that's what enables us to watch the load bouncing around between physical cores. Fritz did manage to get the processor running multi-threaded loads at a solid 800MHz, though there's no video footage of that.

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Potentially because that's the actual run which causes the death of the CPU itself, and would have turned this interesting YouTube vid into a genuine silicon snuff film.

The sub-$200 Rocket Lake Core i5 11400 just highlights the switcheroo that is the current processor market. Now Intel is the company offering outstanding value budget gaming CPUs, with AMD ruling the roost at the high end with the most expensive, most powerful chips around. Quite the change from the old Bulldozer days.

So it's a shame to see one die, but it does give us a rare glimpse into the physical workings of a gaming CPU.

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.