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Alder Lake Non-K Overclocking Motherboards Are Rare, Expensive and DDR5 Only

Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Formula
(Image credit: Asus)

Thanks to a community forum post from HWBot, we have a full list of the known Alder Lake motherboards that support overclocking on Intel's locked CPUs (known as non-K overclocking). Despite Intel doing its best to block this "feature" from being supported, there are still several motherboards from Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI that allow you to overclock Intel's locked chips. 

Unfortunately, the list of motherboards supporting non-K overclocking is very small, with nearly all being premium boards. That makes the idea of building a budget-friendly overclocking capable rig with a locked Alder Lake CPU basically impossible. In addition, none of the motherboards support DDR4 memory, meaning that you'll have to pony up for price-gouged DDR5 memory if you want to overclock a non-K processor. Unfortunately, these additional costs mean that most users could just step up to an unlocked chip for the same (or less) amount of cash. 

Asus has the largest selection of boards that support the feature, with the Asus Maximus Z690 Formula, Extreme, Hero, and Apex, as well as the Strix B660 G and F Gaming Wifi models.

MSI has four boards supporting non-k overclocking: the MSI Z690I Unify, Z690 Unify X, and Z690 Ace. Gigabyte has one, the Aorus Tachyon, and the same goes for ASRock with the Z690 Aqua OC.

HWBot also has a full list of currently known BIOS versions that will work with non-K overclocking on each motherboard. This information could be very important in the future if Intel prevents non-K overclocking for good with another update, which is basically assured. The only exception to the above is the Z690 Ace and some Unify boards, which are not listed on the HWBot forum post just yet.

How Non-K Overclocking Works

According to a new video by overclocking expert Buildzoid, the only reason these specific motherboards can provide overclocking functionality on locked Intel chips is thanks to an external clock generator. This clock generator is installed as a separate component on the motherboard and controls the base clock (BCLK) of all the primary components -- including the CPU.

However, not all motherboards have external clock generators since Alder Lake CPUs already have a very capable BCLK clock generator built into the chips. The only caveat with the built-in clock gen is that you cannot go higher than 103 MHz without introducing instability on other busses, meaning the CPU can only be overclocked ~3% using this method. This is why an external clock generator is needed to bypass Intel's regulated internal clock generator.

Technically, each motherboard vendor could add an external clock generator to every single motherboard they produce to get this capability. In fact, Buildzoid notes that some of Gigabyte's cheaper Z690 motherboards already have the installation points to equip an external clock generator.

However, external clock generators add additional cost to the motherboard, which is probably why we haven't seen these chips equipped on budget-friendly motherboards. It is a shame since the only plausible reason you'd BCLK overclock is to save some money, and confining it to high-end motherboards that only support DDR5 memory effectively quashes any reason to pursue non-K CPU overclocking. 

Which Motherboards Support Non-K Alder Lake CPU BCLK Overclocking

  • Asus Maximus Z690 Formula, Extreme, Hero, Apex, Strix B660 G and F Gaming Wifi
  • MSI Z690I Unify, Z690 Unify X, and Z690 Ace
  • Gigabyte Aorus Tachyon
  • ASRock Z690 Aqua OC.
Aaron Klotz
Aaron Klotz

Aaron Klotz is a freelance writer for Tom’s Hardware US, covering news topics related to computer hardware such as CPUs, and graphics cards.

  • VforV
    There goes the dream of intel fanbois doing 12400f 5Ghz cheap builds. Such sadness...
    Reply
  • TerryLaze
    Take a breath, relax a little...
    It has been just 3 months since AL launched and barely one month that the non-k CPUs launched, nobody expected this to become cheap in a week or two.

    It took ryzen 5xxx more than 3 months just to reach (barely) the advertised boost clocks.
    Reply
  • artk2219
    VforV said:
    I love it when people that I ignore still try to say something to me.

    image uploader
    I could not give a flying F about what all in my ignore list have to say. There is at least one reason (most likely more) why they are there, I told them the day that I blocked them. I'm not gonna repeat.

    It's funny nonetheless. :ROFLMAO:

    I don't know what beef you two had, don't really care either, its a little irrelevant to the topic at hand. That being said, I'm curious if we'll ever see any non expensive boards with an external clock generator on them, I havent even though about an external clock in like 20 years, thats kind of a throw back. I still don't see why Intel locks their chips down as I doubt it really effects their bottom line or RMA quantities. I mean every desktop Ryzen comes unlocked and AMD still makes sales on the higher clocked units because most people just dont want to try their hand at overclocking or take the risk.
    Reply
  • TechLurker
    I'm not surprised this is limited to Premium, halo boards. It makes sense for mobo makers to mostly limit such bonus extras to their high-end options. They lose nothing if the end user ends up with a dud un-OC'able Non-K, or if Intel hard-shuts it down via a BIOS update, leaving end users with limited upgrade options. As well, they can blame the user for damage should OC'ing the generator also damage other components relying on that external clock gen.
    Reply
  • LolaGT
    Relax v, they never quoted you, you obviously have a much higher opinion of yourself than everyone else.

    Also, Terry is correct, it is way too soon to lament this and I'd be shocked if at least a couple MB manufacturers don't try to exploit this little trick for the short pockets buyers.
    Reply
  • VforV
    artk2219 said:
    I don't know what beef you two had, don't really care either, its a little irrelevant to the topic at hand. That being said, I'm curious if we'll ever see any non expensive boards with an external clock generator on them, I havent even though about an external clock in like 20 years, thats kind of a throw back. I still don't see why Intel locks their chips down as I doubt it really effects their bottom line or RMA quantities. I mean every desktop Ryzen comes unlocked and AMD still makes sales on the higher clocked units because most people just dont want to try their hand at overclocking or take the risk.
    Because they're intel, it's how they think, more for them, less for you...
    LolaGT said:
    Relax v, they never quoted you, you obviously have a much higher opinion of yourself than everyone else.

    Also, Terry is correct, it is way too soon to lament this and I'd be shocked if at least a couple MB manufacturers don't try to exploit this little trick for the short pockets buyers.
    I wasn't lamenting, I was making fun of intel, like their fanbois made fun of AMD a million times. Noting more, yet I see some are upset about a simple joke. Funny.

    Also for my opinion about myself, is that I can say both good things and bad things about someone, something or a company (like intel, that has great price / perf for the lower SKUs of AL vs Zen3, yet they still are a worse company in lots of ways - see both a positive and a negative, same for nvidia). Yet intel and nvidia fanbois are always in worship mode, never their beloved company is wrong.

    That's the difference, I'm not a blind brainwashed fanboi, I see the good and the bad and admit it, even for AMD. Just because I prefer them, does not mean I like everything they do... I don't.
    I don't like their too high prices on some products, their neglect of lower tier SKUs for CPUs, their low volume of supply for GPUs, the RX 6500 XT, etc.

    Those on my ignore list are ALL like that, you cannot reason with them at all. That's the difference between me and them.

    It's hard these days to have a backbone, a spine, to admit both right and wrong, to have a critical thinking, even about something you like. Most are either worshiping one or another company, or are plain shills, whichever the case.
    Reply
  • digitalgriffin
    artk2219 said:
    I don't know what beef you two had, don't really care either, its a little irrelevant to the topic at hand. That being said, I'm curious if we'll ever see any non expensive boards with an external clock generator on them, I havent even though about an external clock in like 20 years, thats kind of a throw back. I still don't see why Intel locks their chips down as I doubt it really effects their bottom line or RMA quantities. I mean every desktop Ryzen comes unlocked and AMD still makes sales on the higher clocked units because most people just dont want to try their hand at overclocking or take the risk.

    The forum has very specific rules about other forum members being attacked in negative ways. But Terry is anything but unbiased. He's about as unbiased as Moore of Moore's law is. (Which is to sarcastically say "Totally Biased.") Hence his post are designed to always put AMD in a bad light without balance.

    But I will admit, despite me being an AMD fan, Intel is winning this round on terms of performance and value. Some would peg me as an AMD fanboi. But I pick value. And right now, Intel has value.
    Reply
  • VforV
    digitalgriffin said:
    And right now, Intel has value.
    Sure, but not for AM4 owners. Which are a lot of, myself included. So I actually don't care about intel's value much. My value was AMD, going from Ryzen 2600 to 3600 to 5600X on the same motherboard and with a possibility of upgrading to 5800X3D, if I want.

    If I would make a new PC maybe I would chose AL now, but even then the better option would be to not make one anyway, I would just wait for Zen4 and Raptor Lake to decide and even so I still incline more towards AMD, because intel has to prove more good will to be trusted again.
    They still do s^^t like still limiting OC on all motherboards except Z ones and we still don't know if the socket support will last more than 2 generations, which for both these things AMD is better and gives me more.

    I'm glad for competition because it pushes AMD to do even better with Zen4, but I'm not convinced yet by intel, not even close.
    Reply
  • digitalgriffin
    VforV said:
    Sure, but not for AM4 owners. Which are a lot of, myself included. So I actually don't care about intel's value much. My value was AMD, going from Ryzen 2600 to 3600 to 5600X on the same motherboard and with a possibility of upgrading to 5800X3D, if I want.

    If I would make a new PC maybe I would chose AL now, but even then the better option would be to not make one anyway, I would just wait for Zen4 and Raptor Lake to decide and even so I still incline more towards AMD, because intel has to prove more good will to be trusted again.
    They still do s^^t like still limiting OC on all motherboards except Z ones and we still don't know if the socket support will last more than 2 generations, which for both these things AMD is better and gives me more.

    I'm glad for competition because it pushes AMD to do even better with Zen4, but I'm not convinced yet by intel, not even close.

    That all depends on your use and application and the rest of your system config. But the resizable memory bar (SMB) and higher PCIe gen is limited to 500 series boards. If you need high throughput, it's kind of a moot point unless you are upgrading from something like a 2400g/3400g to a 5700g
    Reply
  • VforV
    digitalgriffin said:
    That all depends on your use and application and the rest of your system config. But the resizable memory bar (SMB) and higher PCIe gen is limited to 500 series boards. If you need high throughput, it's kind of a moot point unless you are upgrading from something like a 2400g/3400g to a 5700g
    PCIe 4.0 yes, I don't have, but I don't need it. By the time I'll actually need it I'll upgrade again.

    But SAM, I have it on my B450M (see the signature) with the latest BIOS updates and it's working as well as on 500 series MBs.
    Reply