Intel lCore i7 overclocking is like shooting fish in a barrel – is it worth it?
True to form, when Intel launches a new CPU series it’s the least powerful CPU that makes the most overclocking sense – this is a pattern we have seen repeatedly. This happens because processor chips are cut from the same wafer and then “binnned” – sorted by speed grade for sale. As we all know, since the most expensive CPUs have the smallest market share and all the CPUs are really the same under the skin, the low speed models have about the same speed potential as the fastest in the line, less something like 5-10%.
A quick look around at the earliest reviews validate this pattern. Although the most expensive of the line’s MSRPs is an INSANE $1000, the 920’s MSRP is a more “reasonable” $284. Add to this cost a new motherboard and DDR3 RAM and you hit $600 pretty fast.
Also true to form, overclocking the 920 is ridiculously easy – crank up the FSB, watch temps and you get darn close to 4 GHz for something approaching a 50% overclock. If you don’t want to upgrade the stock Intel heatsink, you may have to settle for something around 3.5 GHz, a “measly” 30% overclock. All this with maybe ten minutes effort. Compared to what some of us fossils used to do, such as polishing a Celeron IHS or cooling CPUs front and back, the sweat value of overclocking is getting close to infinity.
For those of you that are into some really cycle-intensive apps, maybe. If you’re into getting the latest – go for it. If you’re sitting there with some gear that’s 2 or 3 generations behind doing the “normal” stuff, sit on your wallet and wait to upgrade when prices look more reasonable and an upgrade is dictated by performance needs. I figure six months from now costs will look a lot better – just watch out for Intel pulling the 920 out of the line.
What follows are the summary conclusions in the following reviews – if you have some time to wade through the usual benchmark extravaganza, click through and enjoy:
“We feel that given the superior standard performance coupled with excellent overclocking results we experienced with the Intel Core i7-920 [my emphasis] it is an excellent value at Intel’s MSRP of $284.00. As with any product that is both highly anticipated and new to the market the initial pricing by the first distributors to receive their shipments tends to be a little higher than the MSRP the first few weeks strictly due to supply and demand. … This processor although not as speedy as the Core i7-965 or 940 still brings quite a bit to the table. To the average consumer the price of the Core i7-920 will be quite satisfactory given the performance gains they can expect in return.”
“The Intel Core i7 920 should overclock pretty good as it is basically the same CPU as the 965 [my emphasis] locked to a 20 multiplier with a 133MHz Base Clock frequency. Using the ASUS P6T Deluxe board we upped the voltage from 1.208V to 1.344V and the PLL Voltage from 1.80v-1.96v. Due to the CPU being locked, the multiplier was kept at 20 but the Base Clock Frequency was upped to 200MHz by the time the overclocking was finished. 4GHz on air with the 920 is very respectable.”
“Pushing the Core i7 920 up to 4GHz was fantastically easy to get stable. However, when we tried to take things beyond 4GHz, it was like we had hit a stability brick wall….In a nutshell, the Core i7 920 is an overclocking monster and it delivers industry leading video encoding, image compressing, thread munching behemoth and a great value CPU. However, it sits in an expensive new platform that sniffles at games [my emphasis], still. Most of us will want to wait this launch out and see what happens as DDR3 kits drop in price and new X58 boards are launched.”