Intel Core i7-6950X: Overclocking, Power & Temperatures
Base Clock Frequency, Turbo Boost & Overclocking
The Core i7-6950X is Intel’s LGA 2011-v3-based flagship for enthusiasts. While its base clock rate is a paltry 3GHz, Turbo Boost takes it up to 3.5GHz in lightly threaded workloads. Consider the low floor necessary, since the -6950X wields 10 cores that pump out a lot of heat under full utilization.
In the gallery below, you're able to see how Intel's Turbo Boost adjusts the individual frequencies based on load changes.
Next, let’s take a look at the stress test clock rates for the three configurations we tested.
Core Voltage Necessary For A Stable Overclock
The maximum stable overclock of 4.3GHz is achieved with 1.38V. This is exactly what we saw from the Core i7-6900K. Predictably, the situation looks a bit better at 4.0GHz.
At this point, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that each 100MHz is paid for dearly with a voltage increase. And once more, we hit a wall at 4.3GHz.
Resulting Power Consumption
Our numbers look good so long as the Core i7-6950X isn’t overclocked, but used according to Intel's stock specs. A maximum of 120W is quite reasonable, especially since games might not even push the CPU all the way there. However, our stress tests aren't as flattering.
At 4.3GHz using a 1.38V setting, and despite a great water-cooling solution, we're looking at a sky-high 240W result. Playing with AVX-optimized apps while keeping the processor from dropping its clock rate can get us all the way to 270W.
Temperatures During Continuous Operation
At 240W, only the best cooling solutions can handle the Core i7-6950X. Because the area that needs to be cooled is small, the cores quickly get up to 90 degrees Celsius while the water is only at 34 degrees. The package doesn't do any better, which means that overclocking Intel's Core i7-6950X to this extent is a fool’s errand. We don't recommend going over 4.0 or 4.1GHz, depending on the quality of your sample. Anything higher turns the CPU into a space heater.
We’ve thoroughly tested all four CPUs, and our conclusion lines up pretty well with what we found after benchmarking Intel's mainstream Broadwell processors last year: due to their architecture, they are reasonably efficient at stock settings. As soon as you start overclocking, power consumption goes through the roof and the small package gets extremely hot. In turn, it becomes hard to cool effectively. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s not much room for overclocking.
All told, the Core i7-6950X is no gamer’s CPU. Then again, it wasn't meant to be. The $1700+ price tag indicates its target market: professionals who need lots of cores and high clock rates, but only on a 1S platform. We imagine the Core i7-6950X could be fantastic in the right environment. But most enthusiasts are probably going to end up looking elsewhere.