Articles: CPU

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We have been far from enthusiastic about the summer release of Haswell-based CPUs for the LGA1150 platform. The new CPUs are not much faster than their predecessors. They need less power in idle mode but more power at high loads. Overall, these are not the kind of improvements that may entice one into upgrading. The improved integrated graphics core should also be mentioned, yet it doesn’t make any difference. The previous generation of CPUs had enough 2D capabilities whereas the new generation, even though faster, still cannot serve as a good substitution for a discrete graphics card in heavy 3D games. Taking an enthusiast’s point of view, we can find even more reasons to be disappointed with the LGA1150 Haswell-based CPUs.

Overclocking is a simple, easy and safe way to increase performance because a computer’s potential is usually much higher than specified. The specifications are not always shaped by technical restrictions. There may be other factors like the manufacturer’s desire to fit within a certain TDP, keep a competitive price or extend a product range for a broader user audience. After all, there is always a safety margin since the manufacturer cannot check out the physical capabilities of each and every CPU die. So the end-user, who is not restricted by any manufacturing limitations, can find out the true potential of his computer’s components and enjoy higher performance by applying necessary settings. We guess that overclocking is only not needed when the computer is used for text editing, email and web browsing, i.e. when high performance is not really called for.

Overclocking became somewhat problematic with the LGA1155 Ivy Bridge processors. Their 22nm die was smaller than the 32nm die of the Sandy Bridge series, so it was harder to cool them properly, especially as there was low-quality thermal interface between the CPU’s die and cover. The Haswell design has one more problem: the integrated voltage regulator adds to the CPU’s own power dissipation. The small die, the inefficient thermal interface and the increased heat dissipation are the key factors that impede successful overclocking of Haswell-based CPUs. And these are not all the negative factors, actually.

We’ve always advocated energy efficient overclocking methods. The best way is to overclock without increasing any voltage because high voltage has the biggest negative effect on the CPU’s power consumption and heat dissipation. But if you increase your CPU voltage anyway, it is better to do that in the offset mode. In this case, an offset value is added to the default voltage, so the CPU’s power-saving technologies remain up and running. It turns out, however, that the Haswell’s integrated regulator increases voltage further automatically as soon as you change the latter yourself. This automatic and unnecessary increase in voltage makes overclocking impossible due to overheat.

As a matter of fact, it is not just the Haswell design but the LGA1150 platform at large which is to blame. We test mainboards in two modes: at their default settings and in overclocked mode. The overclocking tests help estimate the performance benefits of overclocking while the first mode helps compare mainboards at their default settings. After all, many users don’t fine-tune their computers at all, limiting themselves to loading the so-called optimized BIOS settings. Oddly enough, we haven’t yet seen an LGA1150 mainboard that wouldn’t require adjusting its default settings. In the past, we occasionally encountered mainboards that set the CPU frequency too high by default, but now nearly every mainboard calls for some manual adjustment of its default settings to make the components work as specified.

Considering the latest trends, which make desktop platforms less attractive with each new generation, we would be glad to give up such CPUs altogether, yet there is no alternative. AMD’s CPUs come at low prices but are awful in terms of performance and power consumption. CPUs of other microarchitectures have not reached desktop PCs yet. That’s why we have prepared this article to clarify the process of setting up a new LGA1150 computer for working in default and overclocked mode. We had wanted to focus on overclocking only but eventually found out that many LGA1150 mainboards could not ensure standard operating parameters at their default settings, so we will also tell you how to readjust BIOS options for efficient work in normal mode even if you don’t plan to do any overclocking.

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