Man Vs. Machine: Four Automatic Overclocking Techs, Compared

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 Z68XP-UD5

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).

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • iam2thecrowe
    auto overclocking is not a good think IMO, its asking for trouble. How many RMA's do motherboard & CPU companies want when this doesnt work properly?
  • crisan_tiberiu
    I have a Asrock z68 Pro 3 MB, and after trying out auto overclocking the system only worked stable until 4,3 Ghz (core i7 2600k). I had to do manual settings to make my CPU stable @ 4,5 Ghz
  • apache_lives
    I don't like anything assuming anything.
  • iamtheking123
    Automatic overclock blows for 2 reasons.

    1) It either is super conservative and therefore useless for any enthusiast.
    2) It is insanely over-aggressive because it doesn't bother testing stability for more than a few minutes (if at all). So you end up with it thinking a 50% overclock is "stable" when it totally isn't.
  • moomooman
    When I tested the Gigabyte utility to overclock the only area I found problems in was the peak core voltage, I soon noticed the CPU idle temps were way too high.

    Turned out that with all other settings as chosen by the utility the peak core could be set to its lowest value in the BIOS and still be perfectly stable. So is it just ramping up the voltage to be on the safe side?
  • Isn't changing the default BCLK frequency supposed to be dangerous? Why do so many sites seem to promote changing it?
  • chesteracorgi
    ASRock's auto OC'ing on the P67 Extreme6 is excellent with my 2500K. I achieved a 4.8 GHz OC, a 4.6, 4.4, 4.2 & 4.0 with the auto settings. The voltage stayed under 1.36 on all of these OC settings.

    I have downclocked my system to base settings on both the CPU and GPU because the wear on the system with OC'ing. None of the games I play, nor any of the other apps need a OC to perform well, so why place additional stress on the components when it is merely for bragging rights?

    When I played with manual OC'ing I found, like this article, that there was only a marginal gain from auto settings. Plus ther is the additional risk of screwing the pooch entirely and bricking the CPU or mobo by overvolting.

    Unless you are a real pro and are not risk adverse, I'd recommend that you stick with auto OC'ing, and for this, ASRock has proven to be the best.

  • jamie_1318
    @Chesteracorgi, you don't need to be a pro to OC your CPU. They have guides on Overclocking every CPU around, very easily and effectively.

    I feel that Toms should have done some stability testing on their manual and automatic OCed Processors. They might have and just not posted their results. I am in the camp where I feel that if you can't take the hour or two to figure it all out you probably shouldn't be Overclocking. If we had a larger sample of Proccessors we have no idea how many would turn out badly.

    It looks like a good tool to start off your own OC because it's probably gonna be in the ballpark, but on it's own it leaves much to be desired.
  • hyteck9
    Question... Was the same CPU used in all tests? If so, it seems untrue to say that "CPU's" shouldn't have more than 'n' voltage when the Mobo's are presenting different internal loads, right? You stated that manually you can get 4.67 GHz at 1.35 V on board 'x'. If the CPU is consistnat in all tests, 1.35V should ba ample force to get 4.67 on ANY Motherboard with that CPU right?... but you couldn't. My point being different mobo's require more "push" there by making it harder for me to fault autoOC programs for cranking up voltage past "comfy" limits when, for all we know, they are taking into account higher internal loads. There is a variable missing someplace. Like 1.375v is risky on type "A" mobos but type "B" mobos can go to 1.4V. I don't know.. am I making any sense here? It just seems some piece of the puzzle is missing....
  • wingartz
    just wondering i7 series 900 apply the same rule?? less than 1.4v safe, more is a certain death??