CORE Or Boost? AMD's And Intel's Turbo Features Dissected


We can only recommend that AMD and Intel continue implementing and developing their Turbo-oriented features. Both do their job in increasing performance. Since the two approaches are different, though, we found that their outcomes in real life are different, as well.

Let’s start with Intel. The six-core, 3.2 GHz Core i7-980X speeds up a single core by 266 MHz if a single-threaded application wants maximum performance, and it can accelerate all six cores by 133 MHz if thermal headroom allows. This is the main difference compared to AMD’s solution, because Intel's Gulftown design can accelerate single-threaded apps, as well as high-end applications. From a multi-core processing standpoint, Turbo Boost makes more sense than Turbo CORE, since all types of workload benefit when compared to nominal clock speed.

AMD’s Turbo CORE only knows one acceleration mode. It increases clock speed for three cores by up to 400 MHz in the case of the Phenom II X6 1090T 3.2 GHz six-core. This means that all applications that utilize no more than three cores experience immediate acceleration. In this case, we found that AMD's performance improvement is higher, as a 400 MHz upgrade is much more noticeable than Intel’s 133/266 MHz speed bump. The downside is nonexistent acceleration if four to six cores are being taxed.

Neither solution is a clear winner. Intel is better for extremely performance-hungry, multi-threaded environments, while AMD's approach provides more benefits for less-threaded environments. The best Turbo technology would be a more granular one, and a perfect Turbo mode would accelerate a single core by even more than AMD’s 400 MHz, two cores by around 400 MHz, three and four cores by less, and all cores by as much as the remaining thermal envelope allows.