Overclocking Intel's Core i9-7900X CPU Up to 5.8 GHz

Conclusion

Core i9-7900X is a 140W CPU. But we already knew from our launch coverage that overclocking pushes it way beyond that thermal design power. In fact, the most remarkable result from today's testing was how quickly the CPU got hot when we overclocked it.

Although delidding isn't necessary if you use the Core i9-7900X at its default settings, replacing Intel's thermal compound does become an important step if you increase the supply voltage by even a little bit. And if you're looking to squeeze more performance from this 10-core behemoth, direct-die cooling can help decrease its temperature by more than 20°C. The Direct Die Frame is available now; just be sure it's compatible with your cooler.

As you work with your own Skylake-X-based processor, keep an eye on its critical parameters. These processors have a maddening tendency to throttle clock rates without much warning. Bad BIOS settings can severely limit performance, so take the time to adjust the Vccin and Load Line Calibration options carefully. As for Vcore, adjust it sparingly since small increases can seriously affect operating temperatures and power consumption.

Also, know when to stop. Avoid pushing for a 2%-higher overclock when it costs you 20% more power consumption. That's critically important if you want to maintain high performance without compromising stability.

The world of extreme overclocking is subject to a completely different set of rules. There, a few megahertz separate record-holders from everyone else, so it's important to start with the right equipment, and follow up with a delicate touch for finessing knobs and dials in the correct order. Conductonaut thermal paste, which performs very well in ambient environments, fails catastrophically once temperatures are lowered to -60°C. Moreover, although direct-die cooling worked brilliantly with our water-cooler, it wasn't particularly convincing when we broke out the liquid nitrogen.

As for our MSI X299 Xpower Gaming AC and Core i9-7900X combination, it continues running well in the Tom's Hardware FR lab, fast, stable, and cool. This goes to show that overclocking, performed carefully, won't damage your components. Take things slowly, test thoroughly, and don't be greedy.

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  • gasaraki
    Why didn't you just use the EVGA Dark?
  • vasras
    Another excellent article, with temp, power and voltage scaling at various cooling/contact methods. Thank you.
  • Reynod
    I bet crashman is spewing he didn't get this gig ... :) Well done ... nice work PresencePC!!
  • AgentLozen
    Very interesting article. I liked your explanations of the expert bios settings on the first page. I usually just ignore the stuff in the bios I don't understand.

    While I enjoyed reading all of this, it's not something that would help me personally. I leave my CPU underclocked to >1Ghz so I can feel like I'm back in the 90's again.
  • 10tacle
    Besides the obvious awesome overclock detail story and results, I like the fact articles remind us of Intel's failure to use the highest quality manufacturing/assembly principles on their top tier CPUs. Especially their x-Series chipsets. There is no excuse for a near-$1,000 chip to have such poor thermal management quality from the factory. I mean how stupid is that.

    One of Intel's strongest advantages over AMD for many years now has been their overclocking ability to push them beyond comparable AMD chips. But not only that, to allow future overclocking headroom for keeping the platform longer when newer and faster replacement generation chipsets are introduced. Poor thermals remove those advantages and not many people want to risk messing up their four-figure chip by de-lidding mods.

    I hope Intel takes articles like these in notice and will step it up for their next generation of high end i7 and i9 models.
  • g-unit1111
    138134 said:
    Why didn't you just use the EVGA Dark?


    I'm guessing because the RAM limit is only 64GB? Where every other X299 board the limit is 128GB. That would make a huge difference in getting the higher speeds.
  • Giroro
    I don't know much about extreme overclocking, tell me more about this "cooling pot".
    It is there to hold the liquid nitrogen and separate it from the die? Is there a reason you don't submerge the entire die in liquid nitrogen instead and lose the thermal compound entirely?

    It looks like it has a significant copper plate on it. If you are already going through such extreme lengths, then why not use silver and make the plate as thin as possible?

    Also, it's pretty interesting that cleaning the processor did not help with the delid, considering that people delidding older i5/i7s say the thickness of that glue is the primary reason that a delid is effective.
  • AgentLozen
    Giroro said:
    it's pretty interesting that cleaning the processor did not help with the delid


    I thought the same thing. I was expecting the processor to benefit from the cleaning.
  • Giroro
    202972 said:
    Besides the obvious awesome overclock detail story and results, I like the fact articles remind us of Intel's failure to use the highest quality manufacturing/assembly principles on their top tier CPUs. Especially their x-Series chipsets. There is no excuse for a near-$1,000 chip to have such poor thermal management quality from the factory. I mean how stupid is that. One of Intel's strongest advantages over AMD for many years now has been their overclocking ability to push them beyond comparable AMD chips. But not only that, to allow future overclocking headroom for keeping the platform longer when newer and faster replacement generation chipsets are introduced. Poor thermals remove those advantages and not many people want to risk messing up their four-figure chip by de-lidding mods. I hope Intel takes articles like these in notice and will step it up for their next generation of high end i7 and i9 models.


    The cynic in me makes me think that the primary reason Intel switched to thermal paste is for planned-obsolescence and to prevent people from using old platforms for a long time. I'm pretty sure Intel wants to sell you a new processor as often as possible.
    Cheaper manufacturing, reduced ability to overclock, Thermal paste that will probably dry out and slow down the CPU within a few years (which will make new models look faster by comparison) ... All these things are positives to a marketing executive.
    Hopefully AMD becomes even more competitive, because workmanship isn't going to improve until Intel can correlate their drop in quality with a loss of profit.
  • cryoburner
    202972 said:
    Poor thermals remove those advantages and not many people want to risk messing up their four-figure chip by de-lidding mods.

    Isn't that the point? If someone messes up their CPU, they have to buy a new one. And delidding voids the warranty, helping Intel more easily recognize and avoid paying for the replacement of chips that have failed as a result of high overclocks. And of course, if people are deterred from overclocking their CPU, they may have more reason to upgrade to a faster one a few years down the line. Intel doesn't want people "keeping the platform longer", and they know that those looking for the highest overclocks will currently go with them either way. Considering it can cost around $5 or so extra to solder a CPU, and most people won't be overclocking, they undoubtedly don't see much point in spending the money to do so.

    AMD is willing to, since they currently can't achieve quite the same level of clock rates on their CPUs at the high-end, and know they need to do other things to make their chips more competitive with the market leader, like adding extra cores and using solder.
  • ah
    What is the use of achieving high OC frequencies if you cannot use it because it's too hot?
  • Ninjawithagun
    A complete waste of time IMHO. All of that just to overclock 600-800Mhz higher than with a normal overclock using a simple AiO or regular custom watercooled system.
  • dalauder
    Why are people complaining about this being pointless? We're talking about delidding a $1000 chip. The whole premise is ridiculous nerdy fun. If that's not what you're into, you're on the wrong article.
  • JonDol
    I wish this MB had 10 Gb LAN...
  • Co BIY
    Can solder be done on a DIY basis ?