Which Automatic Overclocking Technology Should You Use?
Marketing for the latest automatic overclocking technologies and techniques reads like the face of a new cold medicine: “Safe, Easy, and Effective.” But did today’s test prove these claims? Like any drug, we suggest you read the proverbial back of the box before you start chugging the Kool-Aid.
ASRock Z68 Extreme7 Gen3
ASRock had the best automatic overclock with our processors, achieving 4.6 GHz as if it was designed to push our sample, which came from Intel, as far as it'd go. That's actually a distinct possibility, depending on where ASRock got its own test samples. The problem with pre-defined overclocking profiles, though, is that they’re almost never optimized for any randomly-selected CPU because each CPU overclocks differently. While we’re pleased with how ASRock treats our specific processor, we can’t make any promises about how well these profiles will work with yours.
We also really like the fact that ASRock's Z68 Extreme7 Gen3 uses a 1.36 V maximum CPU core voltage, giving this Intel Core i7-2600K what our experience says is a safe, easy, and effective performance boost. That's everything we were looking for from this exercise.
Asus P8Z68 Deluxe
Asus' OC Tuner appears generations ahead of ASRock’s pre-defined profiles in that alternating frequency increases and stress tests determine what the company's algorithms consider to be the best overclock for nearly any randomly-selected CPU. Asus even takes the guesswork out of selecting an overclock by giving users a single setting to activate its overclocking engine.
Unfortunately, the 4.43 GHz overclock on which it settles is nearly 200 MHz below what we achieved on our own, causing us to question its effectiveness. And at 1.45 V for the CPU core, it’s even at least 50 mV beyond what we’d consider safe. Simplicity doesn’t excuse the risk to your processor and a lower effective clock rate in this case.
The P8Z68 Deluxe is the absolute best manual-overclocking motherboard, a fact that really compels us to set aside Asus’ automated overclocking technology altogether and go for what we know we can hit with this platform.
Gigabyte actually requires its users to load Windows before Smart QuickBoost can be used. This might not be a bad idea, since the Windows application should help quell the fears of users who are unwilling to take on a BIOS challenge. Tiered multiplier ratios based on the number of CPU cores in use is probably the smartest part of Gigabyte’s application, as this method works with Intel’s power-saving technology to make the Z68XP-UD5 the most efficient overclocker we’ve tested, in spite of its slightly-aggressive 1.39 V peak core voltage.
MSI OC Genie did some things splendidly and others halfheartedly. For example, its Easy Button activation requires neither BIOS tinkering nor a Windows application. Also topping our list of favorites is its ability to actually read and use our memory’s DDR3-2200 profile without manual intervention. The Z68A-GD80 further pleased us by using a modest integrated GPU overclock to boost the capability of Intel's Quick Sync video technology. And yet, the CPU overclock was a little weak at 4.2 GHz.
MSI’s low CPU overclock came at a fairly conservative 1.34 V CPU core, potentially making this the safest automatic-overclock in our round-up. However, that nice, low voltage wasn’t enough to overcome horrific power consumption at CPU idle. Power-savings features can be re-enabled with a bit of tinkering in the BIOS, but that negates the whole point of this experiment, along with MSI's position as the champion of easy overclocking.
As we expected, none of today’s motherboards are able to match our own overclocking efforts, though ASRock comes eerily close. We’d have to test a large number of randomly-chosen CPU samples before we could turn that observation into a recommendation based on predefined profiles. And even though we didn’t like MSI’s low automatic CPU overclock and high idle wattage (at default settings), its improved GPU and DRAM performance add to exceptional ease of use, making OC Genie our recommendation to the folks who'd like to overclock their machines but just haven't worked up the nerve (or perhaps don't have the time).