Sandy Bridge Overclocking - A Window Closed, But a Door Opens
Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 10:52AM
Guy Techie

Remember back in the days of the original Pentium and K6 CPUs?  It's been a while, hasn't it?  There were many ways to overclock.  You could overclock the front side bus (FSB) and basically overclock the system as a whole (CPU, memory, PCI slots, etc), or you could play with the multiplier of the CPU and not mess with anything else that may be critical.

Starting with the slot-based CPUs (Pentium II and Athlon), multipliers on the CPU were locked, so we were left only with overclocking FSB to get the desired results.  Memory multipliers helped us overclock the FSB without pushing the memory out of spec, while the expansion bus were ran asyncronis from the FSB.  And that was how the way things were.

Then Intel introduced the Sandy Bridge "2nd Generation Core processor family".  With many things being highly integreated for the sake of cost and power consumption, it can become a double-edge sword.  Sure there are up sides to the integration, but there are also down sides.  Here, there is no longer a FSB to play with.  The clock is not on the motherboard, so you cannot really play with it any more.  It is now integrated on the CPU itself.  You can overclock it by a little, but it doesn't make much difference.  Everything is now based off this clock, so even a small change can throw something out of spec.

However, Intel did something unexpected.  For decades, their stance on overclocking was "hell no".  They have a few CPUs that had fully unlocked multipliers for enthusiasts to overclock, but they were always at the very high end CPUs that cost a grand or so.  Intel now brought unlocked versions of Sandy Bridge CPUs to the more affordable ones that cost $200 (Core i5 2500K) and $300 (Core i7 2600K).  The "K" is the only designation that clues you in that they are unlocked versions, and the best part is that they only cost a bit more than the locked (non-K) versions ($10 and $20 more respectively).

Oh what a great move on Intel's part, especially since these CPUs can reach up to 4.4GHz on the uber small stock cooler!

I'm still trying to justify buying a Sandy Bridge-based system since my current Core 2 Quad Q9550 at 2.8 GHz is still no slouch.  It used to be overclocked to 3.8 GHz, but over time, it started giving me stability issues, so I went back down to stock speeds.  Even so, I didn't miss the overclock at all, so all that CPU horsepower isn't as important as it used to be.  I haven't had anything that would stress the CPU enough to make it worth while like I used to.  It's all about the GPU now.

If you're looking to upgrade from dual-core CPU, this is a great time to do it!  With what I have now, I think I will see what the next "tick" or "tock" Intel has in store for us.

Article originally appeared on Rants from a tech addict. (
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