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Can the Intel Core i7 2600k @ 5.1ghz slay its 980x Goliath?

Rating: 9.5.

The world’s fastest desktop processor is the 6 core, 12 thread, Intel Core i7 980 Extreme Edition which comes purring out of its box at 3.33GHz. Costing more than £800 from UK stores, it’s a monster in terms of raw processing power. Upon opening the latest shipment of second generation Intel Core processors, KitGuru was fascinated to know just how far the £250 model would clock and, once clocked, how would it fair against the world’s fastest chip? Sirens were sounded, blast-proof lab doors shut and another 75p dropped in the electric meter.

In the world of technology, carefully prepared plans don’t always travel the path we want. The Intel launch today is one such plan that ended up throwing a spanner in the works for us. We had set aside extra time for careful, in-depth overclocking analysis of Intels new ‘K’ processors and, just after Christmas, we were told the launch had been pulled forward by a couple of days. When you see the speed at which KitGuru labs builds, tunes, tests and disassembles rigs while overclocking – you’d understand that , in our terms, a couple of days makes a huge difference.

If you haven’t already read our review of the 2500k and 2600k, then we advise you to check it out first. It is stuck to the front page.

The overclocking in this particular article was achieved with the Intel DP57BG ‘Burrage’ motherboard and the latest bios BGP6710J.86A.1780. Due to severe time constraints we are focusing solely on the i7-2600k today. We used the Noctua NH D14 for this extreme air overclocking. We would like to thank Noctua for supplying all our coolers for these reviews, we have so many NH D14’s in our labs right now we can outfit all our systems.

Its not a hard choice, really.

Achieving 4.8ghz was easy enough as the processor only required 1.47 volts, but pushing past this required quite a lot of tweaking. Our final clock of 5.1ghz was stable with the settings below.

System validation is available over here.

Here are the settings we used to get to the relevant clock speeds during our limited testing. Depending on the motherboard and processor revision you may need to be make some changes for complete system stability. We did manage to get the system posting at 5.2ghz, but it wasn’t 100% stable.

Processor Overrides 4.6ghz 4.8ghz 5.1ghz
Host Clock Frequency 100 100 100
Processor Voltage override (v) Auto 1.47v 1.6v
CPU PLL Auto 1.85 v 2.00v
Processor System agent Auto Auto 1.25v
Processor I/O Auto Auto 1.25v
Processor V Droop control Auto Low Low
TDC Current Limit override auto auto 200
Internal PLL voltage override Disable Enable Enable
Maximum non turbo ratio 34 34 34
Processor Idle state High performance High performance High performance
Turbo Boost Technology Enabled Enabled Enabled
Burst Mode Enabled Enabled Enabled
Burst mode power limit 98 998 998
Sustained mode time 1 1 1
Voltage offset 0 40 100
Ratio limit core 1-4 34 48 51

Pushing past 4.8ghz requires a lot of voltage. Is 1.6v safe long term? probably not, so 4.8ghz might be the best bet, for long term use anyway.

So how much of a difference did this make to performance results? Let’s find out…

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