Above you can see that at stock (SpeedStep enabled) the CPU sits at 100x12 (1200MHz) and runs on just 0.816 Vcore. Temperatures were excellent hitting mid to high 20’s which is not too bad for a room that is set to 23c, just an average delta of 5.5c! Stressing the stock settings saw the CPU multi rise to 36 (33+3) thanks to Intel Turbo Boost technology 2.0. This equated to an immediate increase in clockspeed to 3.6GHz.
Obviously we were never going to be satisfied with a ‘mediocre’, automatic overclock so we entered the very good Click BIOS and began fiddling with the settings.
You have a variety of ways to adjust the settings in the BIOS, a short sample of which can be seen above. You can either use the UEFI based BIOS, the Click-BIOS II utility or MSI Control Center. The Click BIOS II utility is pretty much identical to the UEFI BIOS interface and uses the same input method of navigation keys or point and click mouse control which is much faster than the old method of scrolling through pages of settings using the direction and TAB keys. Perhaps the only difference between the Click BIOS II and UEFI BIOS is that the UEFI BIOS has three overclock section, ECO, Standard and OC Genie allowing you to set the parameters of them individually along with a multitude of profiles under each section. These profiles can not only be backed up to the BIOS itself but can be exported to a file or even a USB stick allowing you to share your settings with other enthusiasts around the world. All of the necessary controls are in place including the new Base Clock Ratio setting which affords greater control over base clock overclocking on the X79 chipset.
Other than the ram ratio and voltage adjustments, the three main settings for overclocking are: CPU Ratio, CPU Core Ratio and CPU Base Clock. As with skt1156 Sandybridge processors, the CPU ratio yields the biggest bulk of the overclocking as this multiplies the bus speed so for example 40x CPU ratio x 100 bus speed would result in a clockspeed of 4000MHz. The bus speed is in essence the Baseclock and thus this can be fine tuned to extract the maximum amount from the CPU. Couple the base clock with the CPU core ratios of 1.00, 1.33 and 1.67MHz and you can (hopefully) extract the absolute maximum. MSI recommend a maximum +/-10% overclock on the base clock at each ratio so it will be interesting to see exactly how this affects our overclock.Unfortunately we didn’t have much (any)success with any of the ratios as any change in the base clock resulted in windows failing to load.
The same can be said of the OC buttons on the motherboard itself. While Intel claim that baseclock overclocking has returned, I could not get any joy out of increasing the baseclock whatsoever with any adjustment resulting in either huge stability issues or non-boot scenarios. Whether this is a fault of the BIOS itself, user error or the chipset remains to be seen but I’ll be sure to report back on this as we test more motherboards in the near future.
As previously stated, overclocking on the X79 platform is a little different from previous generations in that the CPU base clock is determined by DMI Clock x Base Clock Ratio. Some motherboard manufacturers will inevitably create a clock generator that will do this calculation for you thus making the process a little easier (as with our test bench motherboard, the MSI X79A GD65(8D). Memory overclocking has been expanded with the addition of another ratio, theoretically allowing the X79 platform to overclock memory to DDR3 2400 at a ram ratio of x9. Unfortunately our memory could not clock upto the next divider though, despite slackening timings.
The Control Center is essentially a cut down version of the Click-BIOS essentially having all of the settings you would require to overclock your CPU. The question has to be asked why bother with this along with Click BIOS when one or the other would be perfectly adequate.
Here we see the CPU in its stock format with Turbo Boost II enabled and thus a resulting speed weighs in at 3.6GHz. This clockspeed can theoretically rise up to 3.9GHz on this processor on individual cores when placed under stress or drop to 1200MHz when idle with the CPU features enabled. When overclocking, especially when attempting to find a stable overclock it is best to disable such settings though as this can affect stability at the highest point. Therefore we did just that and set about achieving our highest STABLE overclock.
Initially we simply could not get the CPU to overclock at all. I feared that the multiplier was locked as despite setting the core multiplier anything higher than 33 failed to latch and despite altering a variety of settings in the UEFI BIOS, nothing would allow us to break the 33X barrier. Ultimately a BIOS update was required and while this BIOS was also a little buggy, it did allow us to adjust the multiplier AND get it to stick. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the baseclock which refused to go anything above 100MHz.
Voltage was another hurdle to traverse as being a totally new processor, I was not sure how far I could push things. Couple this with the astronomical price point of £900 and fear of destroying the chip before the NDA had passed perhaps made me err on the side of caution. I initially settled for a maximum 1.4v Vcore to achieve the maximum overclock but due to the Vdroop (despite the load line calibration level set to maximum) I nudged a little passed this mark to ensure the 1.4v was attained for the duration of the stress testing.
After many hours, lots of head scratching and numerous experimental settings, I eventually hit a brick wall at 4.8GHZ. While this is a fantastic achievement, especially considering all 6 cores (along with hyperthreading) were enabled, failing to reach the ‘golden’ 5GHz mark was frustrating. It is never easy overclocking on a new platform, especially when there is so little concrete information available so getting this far was a victory and testament to the ease of use of the MSI BIOS. This overclock was rock solid stable however nudging the CPU ratio one notch higher to x49 resulted in stability issues, often being unable to boot. With other motherboard issues plaguing my attempts to push the envelope further, 4.8GHz was the figure I settled for on this occasion but I have no doubts at all with a more mature BIOS, higher results can and will be attained. As with all overclocking, each result is dependent on the components used so while we achieved this result, there are no guarantees this will be the case with an identical setup.
Let’s see how this overclock affects system performance...