The liquid cooling system and automatic features of the Gigabyte GA-Z270X-Gaming 9 motherboard allow the new Intel processors to run 20% faster.
Until recently, an ordinary user could only dream of a significant increase in the clock frequency, this could only be done by enthusiasts when using liquid cooling. Intel kicked off the concept of massive overclocking with a Kaby Lake i7-7700K processor with a high base clock speed that promises to break the 5GHz limit with simple tools. We couldn’t help but try the new overclocking options on our 7700K test model and Gigabyte GA-Z270X-Gaming 9 motherboard with Intel Z270 Express chipset.
How To Overclock 7700k Processor To 5GHz?
One of the main characteristics of a processor’s performance is its clock speed. It is not explicitly embedded in silicon but is established by the manufacturer as a result of exhaustive tests. In fact, the frequency of the chip during operation is determined by the motherboard: a special microcircuit is installed on it – a clock pulse generator. At regular intervals (ticks), the clock generator sends pulses that somehow pass through all the main nodes of the computer (for example, through the PCIe or USB buses) and synchronize the operation of the components.
From the base clock frequency generated by the motherboard through a multiplier, the processor frequency is set, which can change and become much higher. Intel processors, in a sense, are able to overclock themselves they have a technology for automatically increasing the clock frequency under load as long as the thermal package and temperature allow. This technology is called Turbo Boost.
If the cooling cannot cope with the thermal load, the processor begins to skip cycles, preventing the temperature from rising, a mechanism called throttling or throttling.
Thus, there are two ways to increase the processor clock speed: either by changing the base clock frequency, or by changing the multiplier. But the multiplier in most processors is protected from increasing at a certain limit value, so there remains an alternative way – to increase the base frequency, and this often causes instability in the system.
On some processors with the prefix “K” in the name, the protection against overclocking is removed, so you can determine empirically at what maximum speed this processor will work stably. An increase in performance above the nominal one causes an increase in power consumption and heat dissipation, so a productive cooling system is needed for overclocking.
The fact is that to ensure stable operation at higher frequencies, it is necessary to increase the supply voltage inside the processor, as a result of which the heat transfer increases disproportionately.
The key to successful overclocking: top-end motherboard and cooling system
From the listed points, the conclusion follows: a cooling system, which is much more efficient than the cooler supplied with the processor and provides good heat dissipation in standard operation mode, is a prerequisite for overclocking.
Currently, such cooling systems are available on the market in sufficient quantities. An improved result, and, therefore, better results during overclocking is provided by a liquid cooling system, since a liquid has a higher heat capacity than air.
For our testing, we used a Corsair Hydro Series H115i water cooler assembly. The water block is attached to the motherboard, through the contact surface of the base, it removes heat from the processor cover and transfers it to water, which is fed through a hose towards the radiator. Two 140mm fans blow air through the fins to dissipate excess heat, while an integrated pump pushes the chilled water back to the water block.
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The Corsair Link tool allows you to adjust your water cooling system. The higher the CPU frequency, the faster the fans and pump run.
The advantage of a ready-made liquid cooling system is its installation in terms of ease of assembly and fastening, it is comparable to an air cooler. True, this requires an appropriate body. Our Be Quiet Silent Base 800 case showed rather unsatisfactory results. The chassis had a mount for a radiator, but we barely secured both 140mm fans to two of the four screws provided for each, so that the fans were blowing air from the inside out.
It looks pretty awkward, but nevertheless, for testing with an open case, the idea worked. For a closed case, the fans must draw in fresh air from the outside to the inside.
Our water cooling system is powered by a SATA connector and the fans are controlled from the fan’s CPU socket. In addition, the system connects to the motherboard using a USB cable that uses a management software called Corsair Link. To level the noise when working on a semi-passive power supply in our case, the Corsair RM850i - select the “Silent” profile in the fan control in Corsair Link.
If you assemble the water cooling system yourself, then provided you use the motherboard of our choice, you can also connect it to the circuit without unnecessary manipulations the GA-Z270X-Gaming 9 model comes from the factory with a hybrid radiator preinstalled on the power circuits combined with a water block.
In addition, it is also notable for the presence of a special controller that ensures equal distribution of the processor’s PCI-e lines between connected devices, has two high-speed LAN adapters Killer DoubleShot X3 Pro and wireless Killer Wireless-AC 1535, two M.2 and U. 2 for connecting high-speed SSD drives. In other words, it has everything a gamer or computer enthusiast could wish for.
The i7-7700K processor on the Gigabyte GA-Z270X-Gaming 9 board works in automatic overclocking mode by default (UEFI: “MIT | CPU Upgrade = Auto”). Our processor under full load (Prime95 test) with a clock speed increased to 4.5 GHz was stable at temperatures up to 60 ° C. These values are still in full compliance with Intel specifications and should not cause premature damage to the processor in our estimates.
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Setting Up Overclocking Via UEFI For I7-7700K
In order not to jeopardize the processor once again, we adhered to the automatically set parameters of the Gigabyte overclocking function (UEFI: “MIT | CPU Upgrade”). Here you will find the preset parameters of the operating frequencies of the components along with the internal supply voltage and much more. Overclocking itself requires just a couple of clicks in UEFI: in the same “CPU Upgrade” menu, select the desired overclocking level, for example, “i7-7700K CPU 4.8 GHz”.
Our system started up and worked perfectly fine. If the processor fails from the start, the next boot process fails and UEFI displays an error message and recommends checking the settings. In this case, try decreasing the frequency. This way, the processor should not be damaged, because in the event of overheating or overvoltage, it turns off.
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I7-7700K Processor Overclocking Test Results
The Gigabyte GA-Z270X-Gaming 9 motherboard with Corsair H115i stably passed Prime95 testing at the highest overclocking level via UEFI presets up to 5GHz under full load for several hours. Against the nominal standard clock speed of the i7-7700K at 4.2 GHz (with a standard cooling of 4.2 GHz for the i7-7700K, it would be a ceiling for a long time), the increase was 19%, which immediately affected performance: the Cinebench R15 benchmark, which measures pure computing power when rendering graphic objects, it worked faster by 18.3%. The performance gain for video encoding turned out to be slightly less: the conversion of “Big Buck Bunny” using the Handbrake tool from 4K to 720p (“iPad” profile) on an overclocked processor was about 10% faster.
During each overclocking test, we monitored the internal temperature of the processor using the SpeedFan tool. It changed at an amazing speed: from a value of up to 25 ° C without a load in less than a second, it could rise to its maximum, it cost a stress test, for example, Prime95, to fully load the processor. With the termination of the load, the temperature immediately dropped to the initial values. Temperature changes depended on the level of overclocking and the type of load: if at 4.5 GHz the temperature could be 80 ° C, then at 5.0 GHz it approached 90 ° C. At the same time, individual cores now and then briefly drop their speed to avoid overheating. To achieve higher frequencies, you need to resort to more daring methods, for example, to improve the heat dissipation in the processor itself.
All in all, we were surprised that the Kaby Lake Core i7 processor can be used with 20% increased clock speed without much effort or problems.
Even more power at your own risk
Fine-tuning UEFI manually allows you to change a variety of parameters, which are often poorly described. Experts are also not alien to the anticipation of discoveries and the thirst for experimentation. One way or another, each cooling system sooner or later reaches its limits, which are primarily determined by the ability of the processor case to remove heat.
> Scalping the processor means stripping the processor assembly. Between the crystal and the heat spreader, a metal protective cover that should evenly distribute heat for transfer to the base of the water block – Intel has laid thermal paste and with rather average characteristics. Dismantling involves separating the heatsink cover from the processor backing, removing any remaining adhesive, applying a layer of high-quality heat transfer compound (liquid metal), and gluing the cover back using silicone sealant. Depending on the CPU, the internal temperature may drop by several degrees.