Articles: CPU

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The introduction of new manufacturing processor for CPU production usually leads to increase in the processor frequency potential. Core i7-980X is the first CPU manufactured solely with 32 nm process. Therefore, we are particularly interested in finding out how overclockable it is.

The only currently available Gulftown CPU model belongs to the Extreme Edition series. It means that Intel doesn’t lock its clock multiplier giving the user the opportunity to overclock this processor easily. We took advantage of this opportunity during out overclocking experiments. To dissipate the generated heat we utilized Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme air cooler.

First of all, we tried to find out what the maximum overclocking would be for our Core i7-980X without increasing its core voltage above the default 1.2 V. As we have just revealed in our recent article, this type of overclocking is the most effective in terms of energy-efficiency and doesn’t cause any dramatic increase in power consumption or heat dissipation.

Our practical tests showed that if we don’t tweak the CPU Vcore, the system loses stability at only 3.6 GHz frequency.

Unfortunately, this frequency is extremely close to the nominal that is why it will hardly make enthusiasts happy. Therefore, the second part of our experiments was performed with the CPU core voltage increased to 1.35 V. Especially, since we all know from Clarkdale’s example that processors manufactured with 32 nm process should respond very nicely to their core voltage increase.

Due to higher Vcore we could get our CPU to run stably at a much higher clock rate of 4.13 GHz.

Frankly speaking, this is not what we have expected to see during our Core i7-980X overclocking experiments. It turns out that although this processor was made using the most advanced production process, it doesn’t overclock any better than a one-year-old 45 nm processor. In other words, if you overclock without involving any special cooling techniques or equipment, then the frequency potential of the new Gulftown processor will be about the same as that of Bloomfield CPUs that can go as high as 4.0-4.2 GHz.

By the way, I would like to point out two things, whichw e noticed during Core i7-980X overclocking. First, Gulftown remains relatively cool even when its frequency increase is accompanied by the corresponding Vcore increase. 60 degrees under maximum load is very low temperature, especially compared with the temperatures of Core i7 Bloomfield processors overclocked by raising their core voltage. Second, you need to carefully select your voltage settings if you want to succeed in Gulftown overclocking, because by raising it too high you can damage its overclocking potential. For example, our processor sample worked at 4.13 GHz when its Vcore was increased by 0.15 V above the nominal, but as soon as we pushed it 0.2 V higher, the CPU failed to pass stability tests even at 4.0 GHz frequency.

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