Overclocking expert and YouTuber der8auer published a fascinating video this weekend in which he demonstrated BCLK overclocking (opens in new tab) on some of Intel's latest Alder Lake non-K processors. The newfound ability of these processors, popular known as 'Locked' CPUs, can provide performance boosts of up to 33% after just five minutes of BIOS tweaking. Furthermore, a humble overclocked Intel Core i5-12400 can leave many higher-end chips like the Core i9-12900K in the dust in some games.
To begin his video presentation showcasing his discovery, der8auer, a.k.a Roman Hartung, shows off some very attractive overclocking stats for the Intel Core i5-12400, giving us a taste of the clock speeds and performance uplift we might expect.
Naturally, this needs some explanation, as Intel's 'K' series processors are usually the only products that allow for adjustments in overclocking attempts for base clock (BCLK). For the last few generations, non-K chips have been restricted to memory overclocking only. However, this is not the case in these CPUs/motherboards tested in the embedded video.
With the introduction of Alder Lake, Intel introduced many more granular CPU overclocking controls and features. For example, it has opened up options to overclock the E-and P-cores separately, with adjustable parameters covering various voltages, ring/cache frequency, graphics, memory, and BCLK overclocking. In addition, a new 'synthetic BCLK' facilitates adjustments on motherboards that don't have an external clock generator. As well as these features being present in new motherboard BIOS UIs, you should be able to access them in the updated Intel XTU software v7.5 or greater.
Getting back to the video action, der8auer talks viewers through the adjustments necessary to overclock processors like the Intel Core i5-12400/F and i5-12600 on the Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Apex motherboard. Tweaks across several entries in the Extreme Tweaker pages in the BIOS were needed to make sure the system boots and was stable (please refer to the video). Der8auer also lets interested watchers know which parameters to adjust to test the comfortable clock and voltage limits of the processor that you bought – in other words, to try your luck in the silicon lottery. Of course, the most important thing here is that a setting in the Extreme Tweaker > Tweaker's Paradise options allows you to select a drop-down menu to toggle Unlock BCLK OC to 'Enabled.'
The sample of the Core i5-12400 featured in the video allowed for BCLK overclocking with bus speed set to 131 MHz, with the voltage set to 1.370V, managing to run all cores at 5,240 MHz – and this is not a readout error.
In early testing of various non-K processors, it seems to be the case that lower echelon parts such as the Core i5-12400/F will have the best OC potential, as long as the silicon lottery is fair to you. Therefore, der8auer decided to run several synthetic productivity tests and gaming benchmarks with this processor. He apologized for more significant variances in testing platforms than usual. However, these results are still worthy of attention, with the uplifts observed in the standard over OC systems clear to see. Also, as per our headline and introduction, in some popular games, the relatively humble Core i5-12400 could beat the likes of the stock clocked Core i7-12700K or Core i9-12900K.
Overall, it is pretty ironic how good these non-K Alder Lake processors are at overclocking. With the extra voltage required and resulting 5 GHz+ clocks, the heat wasn't even an issue, in general, but this will depend on your cooling solution. However, these were outstanding results for "five minutes of work" tweaking the processors.
To conclude his video, dr8auer postulated on the possibility of enabling 'Unlock BCLK OC' on other motherboards from Asus and other brands. He had only two successes, with the above-mentioned Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Apex and the Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero. He noted two failures; the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I Gaming Wi-Fi and the Asus TUF Gaming B660M-Plus D4. De8auer wondered whether an external clock generator on the motherboard might be one particular requirement separating the Asus Unlock BCLK OC feature availability.
However, Intel said an external clock generator would not be necessary for ADL-S overclocking last October. It introduced a new 'synthetic BCLK' feature that allows BCLK adjustments on motherboards that don't have such hardware.
It will be fascinating to see how Intel ADL-S non-K overclocking develops with other motherboard makers and BIOS updates arriving. Fingers crossed, Intel and its partners will make the feature more accessible rather than try and sweep it under the carpet.