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Intel Performance Maximizer (IPM) Tested: One-Click Overclocking Comes to 9th-Gen CPUs

IPM vs. Precision Boost Overdrive and MCE, Test Setup

Intel Performance Maximizer vs. Precision Boost Overdrive

AMD's Precision Boost Overdrive is a boon to enthusiasts with its adaptive overclocking approach, and it's making its way from the Threadripper platform to all of AMD's Ryzen 3000 processors. The software allows the processor to communicate with the platform to modulate performance based on the motherboard's power delivery subsystem and thermal dissipation capabilities.

The processor monitors Package Power Tracking (PPT) and Thermal Design Current (TDC) variables, measuring available margin to the motherboard's maximum power output and current, respectively. Electrical Design Current (EDC) also indicates the maximum current possible from the VRMs during peak/transient conditions. A control loop feeds real-time telemetry data back to the processor, which then dynamically adjusts performance based on thermal and power conditions. AMD also exposes some of these monitoring features with its Ryzen Master overclocking software.

In contrast, Intel's Performance Maximizer is a one-click auto tuner that finds the maximum attainable all-core overclock and then applies fixed settings based upon many of the same variables, like the power delivery and cooling capabilities. Like AMD's implementation, you still get the benefit of boost clocks that outstrip the all-core frequency when the processor isn't fully loaded, but Intel's overclock will not improve based upon a change in conditions, like the installation of a better power supply or cooler that could unlock higher clocks. In that case, you'll have to run the application again.

Intel's tool also monitors the system to detect if it has BSODs within three minutes of booting up. If the system generates more than three blue screens, the tool will no longer apply the overclock and send a message that it has reverted due to instability. It also gives the option to re-run the utility to regain a stable overclock.

Intel Performance Maximizer vs. Multi-Core Enhancement (MCE)

Intel's motherboard partners have already infused their boards with predefined all-core boost profiles that go by many names, such as Multi-Core Enhancement (MCE) with ASUS motherboards and Enhanced Turbo with our MSI motherboard. These features are largely referred to as MCE, but the functionality remains the same: These settings essentially apply an all-core overclock to the processor that is defined by the maximum Turbo Boost bin supported by the processor. This setting modifies the CPU's clock rate and voltage to deliver higher performance, which is basically factory-sanctioned overclocking.

Motherboard vendors predetermine the voltage settings at the factory, meaning the settings do not take chip quality into account. Instead, the vendor bins a large number of CPUs in each respective SKU and sets the parameters based on the worst common denominator. As such, these settings typically use a much higher voltage than required for even chips of "normal" quality, which can reduce the chips' lifespan and result in a hotter and noisier system.

Again, MSI turns this on by default in its BIOS, similar to most of its competition. Performance, power consumption, and heat are all affected, naturally. We manually disable this feature for our stock CPU testing to best reflect Intel's specifications, but we're enabling it for some of this testing to compare its performance with the IPM tool. 

MEG Z390 Godlike

We're using MSI's MEG Z390 Godlike as our test platform. This pricey board retails for $600, but has the power delivery subsystem to support aggressive overclocking.

The MEG Z390 Godlike sits at the top of MSI's motherboard hierarchy on Intel's mainstream platform. It has a decked-out 18-phase power delivery subsystem that's designed to squeeze every drop of performance out of Intel's new processors. 

As mentioned, we left the memory settings at DDR4-2666 to reflect a normal users' one-click overclocking efforts. We disabled the Multi-Core Enhanced feature for all tests, except those explicitly listed.

Comparison Products

Test System & Configuration
HardwareIntel LGA 1151 (Z390)Intel Core i9-9900K, i7-9700KMSI MEG Z390 Godlike2x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2667 EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 FE 1TB Samsung PM863EVGA Supernova 1600 T2Windows 10 Pro (All Updates)Operating system and motherboard firmware fully patched for all vulnerabilities
CoolingCustom Loop, EKWB Supremacy EVO waterblock, Two 360mm radiators


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Paul Alcorn

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.