Friday, September 4, 2015

Is overclocking Skylake easier than overclocking Haswell?

Skylake

Ok not THAT Skylake.

This one.

6700k 1

Skylake is Intel’s latest mainstream platform. Intel initially released the unlocked K series CPUs to the market and that means they were targeting the enthusiast crowd from the very beginning. But what is the point if it doesn’t overclock well?

It has been more than a month since the release and I believe we have a good idea about the overall overclockability of the CPU. Most CPUs are capable of hitting 4.6GHz which is better than Haswell. Does this mean the 14nm process shrink worked? Or is something else making them overclock more consistently higher than Haswell?

I believe the biggest difference is the removal of the Fully Integrated Voltage Regulator or FIVR as it is often called. FIVR in Haswell made overclocking difficult in two ways.

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4790K on the left (FIVR is the small dots you see to the left side of the die) and 6700K on the right.

Firstly, it is additional circuitry. This means there will be additional heat that is generated inside the CPU, although it is not inside the die. This made Haswell CPUs to run super hot when overclocked. (Yes, the biggest culprit is the thickness of the thermal paste that was applied in between the die and the heat spreader and that is a well documented issue. Skylake suffers from the same thing.)

Secondly, it is another component that can cause instability and thus fail the whole system. Before FIVR, you only had to play with the Vcore (unless you are playing with the RAM). With the FIVR, you had to tune the Input Voltage too. So you had to play with two voltages and each of them had somewhat of an influence on the other one. And the quality of the FIVR circuitry would also affect the stability, not the voltages.

So with Skylake you don’t have the dreaded FIVR and every enthusiast should be relieved.

Not just every enthusiast: every motherboard maker who makes high-end motherboards. With the FIVR, the quality of the VRM on the motherboard didn’t play a significant part overclocking. But with Skylake, their importance is pronounced. In a way this is bad for the consumers because if you want to overclock your CPU as high as possible, you will need a good motherboard. And good motherboards don’t come cheap.

But hey, enthusiasts seem to have deep pockets.

That said, would I upgrade to Skylake? Sadly my pockets are empty these days.

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