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Experiment: Does Intel’s Turbo Boost Trump Overclocking?

Setting Up The Comparison

Processors

As mentioned, we used retail Core i5-750 and Core i7-860 processors in this experiment—probably the two most likely candidates for the enthusiast treatment. The i5 is a sub-$200 component shown to reliably hit 4 GHz or more, while the i7-860 is a sub-$300 alternative that adds Hyper-Threading support, a 2.8 GHz base clock rate, and one extra bin of Turbo Boost with a single-thread active.

Why no Core i7-920? That’s also a completely viable option, especially if you tend toward high-end gaming and need the extra PCI Express 2.0 connectivity afforded by Intel’s X58 chipset. But for roughly the same price as our Core i7-860, the -920 adds a third memory channel, loses 133 MHz of base clock frequency, and isn’t as aggressive with its Turbo Boost binning. Additionally, buying the LGA 1366-based chip means investing in a pricier X58-based motherboard, too. Lynnfield and P55 are probably more representative of what value-oriented enthusiasts are going to want from a new build.

Motherboard

Our choice of motherboard might leave some folks scratching their heads, but there’s sound reasoning behind going with Intel’s DP55KG.

First of all, the technical reasons: our go-to for this one was Asus’ Maximus III Formula. But after updating the board to the latest BIOS posted on the company’s site, it no longer ran stably with our retail CPU and Corsair Dominator memory kit. Hoping this was just a fluke, we swapped over to Gigabyte’s P55A-UD6, which ran wonderfully with Turbo Boost turned on, but got all choppy when Turbo Boost was manually disabled. Benchmarks would run fine, but actually launching apps and navigating through Windows felt as if our powerful machine was a decade-old Pentium II.

So, hoping for an easy remedy, we swapped over to Intel’s DP55KG, which performed well in Thomas’ most recent P55 motherboard roundup. If any board was going to work properly, we surmised, it’d be Intel’s own enthusiast-oriented offering. And sure enough, the Kingsburg board did the trick, and we were back on track.

The rest of our choices were designed to minimize bottlenecks. ATI’s Radeon HD 5850 is what we’d consider to be the best enthusiast buy right now, and a second-gen Intel 160GB SSD alleviates pressure on storage. Two 2GB modules of Corsair’s DDR3-1600 Dominator GT DDR3-2200 8-8-8 memory allowed us to run at DDR3-1600 frequencies without any stability issues.

Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • phantomtrooper
    No one needs a Core i7 for gaming. I'm still using a e8400 with a gtx275 and I run everything fine at 1080p, even Crysis.
    Reply
  • apache_lives
    i play GTAIV online alot - your e8400 gets left in the dust there sorry PhantomTrooper, and theres no adverse effects having spare cores for future use with newer games etc
    Reply
  • dtemple
    I second that, PhantomTrooper. I'm on a slightly lower end spec PC than you're using (Athlon 7750 with Radeon HD4830) and with it hooked up to my 1366x768 TV through VGA, everything I play maxes without lag. Mind you, I don't play any titles that are extremely demanding, but I'm playing 2008 and 2009 titles maxed out, on a $60 CPU and an $80 video card.
    Reply
  • curnel_D
    Great article. On another note, the useless Mass Effect 2 ad blaring it's stupid music in my ears at every new page is really starting to piss me off.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    Yeah, you guys are going to get a kick out of the upcoming Clarksdale story. It's amazing how badly a Core 2 Duo E8500 gets killed by a Phenom II X4 or Core 2 Quad in some of these more optimized titles.

    Curnel--sorry about the ad. I also find it pretty annoying to play automatically every time I open a page for proofing. I'll ask about it.
    Reply
  • jj463rd
    Nice article.I agree about the annoying video ads that Curnel_D mentioned earlier.
    Reply
  • HansVonOhain
    Curnel_DGreat article. On another note, the useless Mass Effect 2 ad blaring it's stupid music in my ears at every new page is really starting to piss me off.
    Thanks Chris for your courtesy.
    Reply
  • descendency
    Curnel_DGreat article. On another note, the useless Mass Effect 2 ad blaring it's stupid music in my ears at every new page is really starting to piss me off.I know it's not a viable solution for all, but I never have my sound on... so I didn't even notice the advert (other than seeing it.)
    Reply
  • gilbertfh
    I have been building computers for myself family and friends for years and I remember some of the different ways utilized to speed up your computer (including the turbo button on your computer). This method seems like a viable way to speed up computers of those of us that don't really want to overclock.

    On a side note: Woot!!! I just saw the Mass Effect 2 ad has been removed. It did have the option to mute it but it was removed fast enough I didn't have a chance to check to ensure it saved to all pages. Thanks Tom's.
    Reply
  • gilbertfh
    Nope I was wrong I guess it was random and just didn't come up for a while and the mute does not save :(.
    Reply