Is overclocking worth it?

By Broeci · 7 replies
Nov 3, 2011
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  1. hey people,

    I want to buy a new PC, but I'm not sure what processor I should take. My first option was a i7 2600, but now I'm thinking of a 2600k. But is overclocking worth it? Or should I just stick to a 2600? And if I take the 2600k and start overclocking, are there any risks I should be aware of?

    Best regards,

  2. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    The fact that you are asking if "overclocking is worth it" probably answers your question.

    Whether or not you OC is probably dependant upon what workload you undertake, how much you like tinkering, and if you are working under some very tight time constraints - the latter is more applicable to content creation and media applications.

    Personally, from the price difference of the two models, I would go with the 2600K. Pricing difference is minimal, and resale -if you plan to upgrade in the future- will be higher. So even if you do not plan on overclocking, the 2600K makes a degree of economic sense.

    For most users I would think that Sandy Bridge's turbo option (think of it as automatic overclocking) will suffice. If, however, you want a little free performance- virtually every 2600K will attain a higher 24/7 frequency for little or no extra power draw/heat output- or you want to explore the CPUs performance parameters then light or moderate overclocking will cause no harm so long as you observe some basic procedure. Even motherboard based overclocking ( hardware and/or software) will offer a substantial performance boost (application dependant) with stability and a minimum of user input.

    An overview of what Sandy Bridge overlocking can achieve >>here<< and >>here<<

    Be aware that overclocking the CPU impacts the RAM (memory) speed as the two are linked via memory dividers ( CPU: RAM ratio's). For overclocking purposes -even the one-click (software) or one-button (hardware) variety- you would need to have DDR3-1600 modules at the least (with DDR3-1866 for high overclocks which I would not recommend if using the boxed Intel cooler).

    If it sounds as though I'm fence-sitting, that's because I am. I have overclocked virtually every component I've ever owned that was capable of being overclocked...but then, I really like exploring the capabilities of a system I put together - both from a performance aspect, and judging long term stability.
    I presently run two systems, an older Core 2 Quad and a X58 based system. The former runs at either a stock (undervolted) or with a mild overclock (25%) using only stock voltage. The X58 runs at either stock* (again, undervolted), mild OC¹, medium OC² or heavy OC³. Virtually every motherboard these days allows for multiple BIOS/UEFI profiles to be saved as used as appropriate- so you can run the profile that best fits the application(s) you plan on using. Using these different profiles over the same applications then gives you an accurate "hands on" guide to any worthwhile gains you may experience- as opposed to online reviews which may use benchmarks (especially synthetic test suites) which may be of only academic interest.

    * Stock for average mixed workload- browsing, email, media viewing
    ¹ Mild OC - Benchmarking for scaling performance in new applications or major revisions to current applications
    ² and ³ Med./Heavy OC for intensive applications ( media encoding, achiving (compression), gaming etc.)
    Stupido likes this.
  3. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,730   +379

    Good info as usual DBZ other than the part about memory.
    With the Sandy Bridge generation of processors memory is not of the same importance when it comes to overclocking. I can't get more than 3MHz increase on FSB without problems on my i7 2600K system. With the unlocked multiplier the cpu frequency multiplier becomes the main parameter that you adjust for overclocking instead of the older method of overclocking by increasing the front side bus(CPU frequency = multiplier x FSB clock, e.g. 46 x 100MHz = 4.6GHz which is what I am using for my settings).

    Since you no longer alter the Front Side Bus clock which the PCI, Memory and other clocks are calculated from you don't have to worry about other parts of the system keeping up. With the Intel retail heatsink you should easily be able to run the i7 2600K at 4GHz. If pushing above that though, and if you plan on using heavy applications/games which keep the CPU loaded all the time I'd definitely recommend grabbing an aftermarket cooler instead.
  4. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    I assume by "3MHz increase on FSB" you mean 103MHz baseclock (BCLK) or 3MHz over the standard 100MHz data bus.

    Baseclock OC'ing seems largely dependant upon vendor and an enthusiasts UEFI/BIOS. I've had P67 boards refuse to be stable at 101MHz without some attention. On the other hand, the M4E/M4E-Z's I've played with can usually manage 107-110MHz with a little coaxing- not that they would go any higher. I've had instances on boards where the auto-OC has increased BCLK to ~103-105 as well as increasing the multi which can produce some stability problems with DDR3-1333.

    Having said that, I probably stated the requirement for DDR3-1600 poorly. What I was trying to convey was that opting for default bandwidth modules (say 1066 or 1333) leaves performance on the table as it were -somewhat pointless if you're overclocking for performance...and as most 1.5-1.65v RAM won't reach the next speed bin (i.e. you wont clock DDR3-1333 to 1600, or 1600 to 1866) and performance binned timings (i.e. CAS7) are extortionate in price, you're going to be better off with a mainstream (read cheap) DDR3-1600 @ CAS8 or 9 to get the best bang for the buck and some insurance if you're relying on auto-oc measures.

    These are at stock 3.4G (overclock is much the same in general):

  5. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,730   +379

    If what you are saying in essence is that better ram will give you better performance, with or without an OC then I agree. All I was trying to say is that unlike the olden days, you don't need performance ram for a CPU overclock as you aren't increasing FSB speeds that then overclock the ram as well. Obviously if you approach a CPU speed that results in the CPU being able to execute faster than it can retrieve instructions from memory then your OC is going to be somewhat wasted. Or maybe I'm being a bit dumb and still missing your point :S

    I mean I didn't pick Corsair Vengeance 16GB (4x4GB) DDR3 1866MHz without reason :)
  6. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    I agree with everything you're saying...I also think we may be at cross purposes to a degree

    My original point was that the OP is better off with using DDR3-1600 as opposed to the default ( v cheap) DDR3-1066/1333 if they were planning on OC'ing. The OP didn't seems overly savvy on OC'ing, so therefore I assumed that their first foray would be one of the "auto-OC" software apps that seem de rigueur for motherboards these days- they are after all prominently displayed (box art, software suite/apps etc)...and since the OP
    1. hadn't listed their build components, and
    2. some of the "auto-OC" apps (or onboard instant OC buttons) can OC by a combination of multi and bclk, and
    3. bearing in mind that the lower the speed bin of RAM the less inclined it will be to tolerate any overclocking (i.e. via base clock) - some DDR3-1333, for instance, won't tolerate a 2% OC unless it's running at max voltage spec (if at all) -which if using an automatic OC app usually means running VCCIO at it's Intel specified max rating (1.1v or worse if using some budget kit).

    As I said earlier, I probably didn't express the reasoning behind RAM preference in my original post too well - but it was more of an aside to the main question of whether they should opt for the 2600K over the 2600. I didn't want to bombard the OP with a lot of peripheral info and bog them down on the minutae of overclocking- just give them a general guideline and possibly save them some stress further down the track
  7. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,730   +379

    Good point, and yes I agree on the cross purposes comment. The Asus auto OC software that came with my P8P67 Pro board boosted the base clock to 103MHz. It deemed that it was stable at this speed but I found that it wasn't, particularly during gaming. So in this case higher speed, better performance ram can help. But in my experience of the Intel P67 chipset and i7 2600K I haven't really benefited from base clock OCing at all. Not even sure why they bothered working it into the OC software. I can only assume its for support of base clock overclocking on older and perhaps future chipset and processors.
  8. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    The baseclock OC on Sandy is pretty much a complete waste of time performance wise- more likely to cause instability in the I/O controllers than anything else. I think it's included in the software/hardware just because it can be...and since one motherboard manufacturer would include it...they all have to. Also note how some manufacturers began filching on the 100MHz standard clock in order to gain a little advantage in reviews:
    Legit Reviews Gigabyte @ 100.3MHz - and other instance here

    Sandy Bridge-E and Ivy Bridge* are both supposed to revert back to a CPU clock generator decoupled from I/O and PCI-E ( and integrated graphics in IB's case) as was the case with Nehalem (Bloomfield/Gulftown/Gainestown/Lynnfield etc). Haswell (Lynx Point chipset) -the "tock" to Ivy Bridge's "tick" - is supposed to take this a stage further, allowing independant ratio's to be set for CPU clock, DMI interconnect, PCI-E, PCI and RAM.

    * I suspect that this is a large part of the extensive UEFI update that would be required for P67/Z68 boards to work with Ivy Bridge CPU's.

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