In this portion of the review, we will get down to the real business of this launch; overclocking and performance. The CPU which I have been testing is hand-picked, and supposedly represents the top tier of the overclocking spectrum. That said, if we see any number of retail CPUs reaching this level, I think enthusiasts will be impressed. The performance potential for one of these CPUs even at 4.5GHz seems like a nice increase over Bloomfield or Lynnfield…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I started out by trying Asus’ “Auto Tune” utility, which is part of the TurboV EVO utility. The “Quick” setting rebooted the machine a number of times, and in about 20 minutes, called it’s work a success with the settings below.
Power draw at the wall – 212W idle, 380W running LinX — room temp 16.2C
I was a little disappointed that it didn’t touch the memory speed or timings. It also seemed like for this modest boost in CPU speed, the CPU voltage could have been lower.
Moving on, I decided to try the “Extreme” setting, which Asus claimed would be almost as good as manually finding your own. I’m honestly not sure why they have two settings, as Extreme was just as quick as the “Quick” setting. Within about 20 minutes, it reported success with the following settings:
Power draw at the wall – 212W idle, 405W running LinX – room temp 17.5C
Again, while this result looked great from a pure clockspeed point of view, the memory wasn’t touched. I’m running some of the best memory in the world, and the auto-tune program didn’t want to budge it even 1MHz over the JEDEC spec.
Oh well, auto OCing has never been my thing anyway (I wonder why). So I went to the BIOS and played with things for a few hours, and came up with this.
Power draw at the wall – 290W idle, 525W running LinX – room temp 17.4C
This was more like what I had been hoping for, and even exceeded my expectations a bit. The CPU speed was very impressive with such modest voltage, and the heat being generated was easily handled by my Megahalems air cooler in a cool room. What was most interesting to me about overclocking this system was the nearly vertical wall just above this speed. The system would boot into Windows about 50MHz faster, but it was not even close to stable. Attempting to boot at anything beyond 5.15GHz would always hang on the Windows splash screen. With Bloomfield, we’re very accustomed to a slope of stability. Where if a CPU could run LinX at a given speed, it would be able to run wPrime 1024M slightly faster, and SuperPI1M a few hundred MHz faster. But for this thing to be totally stable right up to a totally hard limit was kind of strange, and I’m very curious to continue exploring this new platform to try and uncover more tricks to keep pushing it harder.
I did spend some time with my water cooling hooked up and with the radiator hanging out the window picking up some of the cool winter air. However, the extra cooling made very little impact. The limits and voltages were all about the same for the CPU, but very slightly improved IMC performance. This will be great for budget OCers who won’t go beyond air cooling anyhow, but for the more hardcore crowd this is going to raise a lot of eyebrows.
I was also very impressed with how little I got away with tweaking in the BIOS. After finding my somewhat stable settings (above), I started eliminating manual adjustments in the BIOS one by one, to figure out how well Asus’s auto settings worked. To my surprise, the only settings I had to manually configure for my test configuration are listed below:
That’s it, pretty simple setup for a really nice overclock if you ask me.
On the next page, we put the Core i7 2600K to the test in a number of benchmark suites.