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Intel Sandy Bridge Overclocking Guide E-mail
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Written by Servando Silva   
Wednesday, 20 April 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
Intel Sandy Bridge Overclocking Guide
Why Should I Overclock?
Overclocking Applications and Utilities
Processor Stability Testing
Understanding OC Variables
UEFI and Testing Methodology
Overclocking Frequency vs. Voltage
Overclock vs. Power Consumption
Overclock vs. Temperatures
Final Thoughts

Intel Sandy Bridge Overclocking Guide

Editor's Note: Before starting, you should know that any kind of overclocking normally invalidates your product's warranty. While many products come pre-overclocked, brands usually don't expect you to get extra performance for free. In this case, 2 components will be overclocked: CPU and motherboard. If you're a beginner, read the whole guide before starting, or (better) print it to have it around while your PC is being tested. Benchmark Reviews won't be responsible for any damaged component caused by overclocking.

I know, the first paragraph makes it look like a very dangerous action, but don't be scared, it isn't. In fact, I can tell you that every CPU tested in this article is completely alive and running 100% stable at the moment of publishing this article, even I tested with "dangerous" voltage levels. If you're a beginner or you haven't overclocked any LGA1155 (or similar) platform before, you need to understand the basic concepts of the commonly-used variables and the process of overclocking: raise frequency, test stability, confirm and raise frequency again until you can't complete this sequence anymore.

In our Intel Sandy Bridge Overclocking Analysis, we're not covering performance change obtained by raising your CPU/RAM speed. That has been covered a lot in every CPU Review we've done in the past. It's your duty to read them and find out if overclocking is worth it to you depending on your daily applications/uses by reading our past articles. But if you want a quick review, all I can say is that there's a sweet point where overclocking won't take lots of extra potency (watts) to increase MHz. If you're looking for a basic (but decent) frequency, you should overclock without applying extra voltage and find your sweet point. We're doing some extra analysis regarding CPU voltage, temperatures and power consumption, but again, performance difference won't be shown in this article.


Before starting I need to say we would have written this guide a couple of months ago when Sandy Bridge was launched along with the H67 and P67 platforms. However, Sandy Bridge platforms suffered a 2-3 months delay thanks to a small error in the P67 chipset design. Users with B2 revision motherboards might find troubles with S-ATA 2 ports in long term use. While this was supposed to happen after 2-3 years and only to about 5% of the products shipped, Intel quickly took action on this and aborted all shipments asking manufacturers not to provide their motherboards to the distributors and resellers. Intel acted quickly enough to stop Sandy Bridge distribution besides some re-sellers, reviewers, media sites and a small portion of people who ran of to the store and bought their Sandy Bridge platform. Within the end of March and beginning of April, many brands announced they would start shipping Sandy Bridge Motherboards again, and here we are now.

The Rules have changed

Intel launched a pair of "special" processors for the LGA 1156 platform; the Core i5 655K and the Core i7 875K. Those processors were supposed to bring better overclocks without any limits. However, many of us already expected this to be part of a new methodology, in which Intel would end shipping those processors and limit all non-K processors to their stock frequencies. This happened with Sandy Bridge. The thing is that you can't overclock any non-K processor way beyond its default frequency anymore. Non-unlocked processors are stuck to Base Clock (BCLK) overclocking, which happens to be so poor with this new platform that it won't give you more than 100-200 extra MHz before reaching the limit.

Intel also got platforms separated as the P67 platforms represents a mid-high segment and the H67 platform represents a segment where the user wants to take advantage of the integrated graphics unit in their CPU. H67 platforms can't overclock with non-unlocked processors, but even worst, they won't let you OC your unlocked processor either. So again you're stuck to BCLK (if any) overclocking, but in exchange, they'll let you overclock your iGPU to some decent levels.

While there are speculations about the Z68 platform, we're still stuck at the middle of the arena mainly between the H67 and P67 platforms. Let me put it straight: if you want to overclock, you need a K processor with the P67 platform. Any other combination will result in very poor overclocking capabilities. Finally, let me add that while X58 and P55 platforms overclocked to a 200+ BCLK easily, Sandy Bridge won't give you more than 3-7 extra MHz. YES. That means the limit on Sandy Bridge motherboards lies between 103-107MHz, which is just nuts.



# RE: Intel Sandy Bridge Overclocking GuideJackNaylorPE 2011-04-21 12:37
Would have liked to see a comparison of setting the Turbo / Voltage to a fixed number versus using the Max turbo frequency / voltage offset method.
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# RE: RE: Intel Sandy Bridge Overclocking GuideServando Silva 2011-04-21 13:53
Hi Jack. Please check our forum as I've just explained why I didn't test that way. It would need another article just for that, or at least, a new set of tests.
Take care.
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# RE: Intel Sandy Bridge Overclocking GuideRobert17 2011-04-21 13:24
Nicely done. But you did make it seem like the "good old days" of mounting a PVC tank with a fish-tank pump feeding from an ice chest full of frigid water may be a thing of the past.

Not to get too far away from your core article regarding Sandy Bridge, but do you have any insight as to whether or not AMD will maintain OC potential in their new lineup?
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# RE: RE: Intel Sandy Bridge Overclocking GuideServando Silva 2011-04-21 13:57
Yeah. I've been overclocking for the last 10 years and I know many others who have been doing it for 15 years or so.
You know that phrase: "Like the old days". I'm not saying I don't like this new way of overclocking. Actually, I like not to pass several hours to find such a nasty or complex configuration for my PC, and doing it the the old way. New OC tools and features help a lot when what you just need is to bump your PC speed and get back to work, but sometimes it was funny to test and read a lot for that.
Also, sub-zero overclocking is quite fun, but with Sandy Bridge they somehow killed it.

Regarding the new AMD processors, I still have no information about them, so I'm anxious to test one.
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# RE: RE: RE: Intel Sandy Bridge Overclocking GuideDavid Ramsey 2011-04-21 14:30
The new way of overclocking-- raising the maximum multiplier use by Turbo Boost-- has one huge advantage over the old ways of increasing BCLK or the base multiplier: to wit, the processor can still downclock to low speeds when you don't need the performance. My 4.1gHz 980x always runs at 4.1gHz. A 4+gHz Sandy Bridge can idle at the same speed it does non-overclocked, saving a lot of power (and generating less heat).
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: Intel Sandy Bridge Overclocking GuideRobert17 2011-04-21 15:51
I'm not complaining. Maybe just pining a bit. I set up a simple OC on my MB, seldom vary it due to the stability, change to game, pretty much ignoring the power consumption. My bad. What limited understanding I have of UEFI seems to indicate that rebooting to change configs may become simpler.

And certainly the advantages of having a MB/CPU combo that is "self-monitoring" power, thrust, pitch and yaw outweigh the "good old days". And yes, I mostly like automatic transmissions over three-on-the-tree these days as well.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: Intel Sandy Bridge Overclocking GuideServando Silva 2011-04-22 11:45
Completely true! As I've said. I'm not really complaining. I like the new way as it benefits final users. It's just they took away that "chilli spice" when overclocking. Also, they limited it to Unlocked processors and certain platforms.
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# RE: RE: RE: Intel Sandy Bridge Overclocking GuideOlle P 2011-04-22 10:30
"... sub-zero overclocking is quite fun, but with Sandy Bridge they somehow killed it."

You can say that again! I read somewhere that Sandy Bridge reach its peak performance at about 20C. If you cool it more than that it won't reach quite as high speeds.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: Intel Sandy Bridge Overclocking GuideServando Silva 2011-04-22 11:48
Do you want me to say it louder? Yeah!
I've heard some processors do worst when going below 10-20C degrees. Again, it's good because now many users will be able to play and overclock without going extreme, but it won't be as interesting for extreme users.
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# RE: Intel Sandy Bridge Overclocking GuideJackNaylorPE 2011-04-24 15:35
One other thing I'd love to see addressed ... POITA ain't I :) ..... the 2600k I assume is running hotter cause of the HT..... Prior to reading the article, I cam to the same conclusion that 4.4 Ghz was the sweet spot for the 2600k for 24/7/365. Since this was a B'day build for Son No. 3, w/ Spring break and all I haven't been able to get near the thing in a week.....I used the Asus BIOS Profile feature to store OC Profiles from 4.0 to 4.8 GHz w/ these temps on the SIlver Arrow cooler:

Max Core Temps under (Idle - P95 load)

GHz..... 3.8 ... 4.00 ...... 4.2 ........ 4.4 ........ 4.6 ....... 4.80
Core 1 (51) (31 - 52) (29 - 54) (29 - 56) (31 - 62) (29 - 69)
Core 2 (53) (30 - 54) (30 - 56) (30 - 60) (31 - 66) (28 - 75)
Core 3 (53) (23 - 55) (22 - 57) (22 - 60) (31 - 68) (28 - 79)
Core 4 (51) (29 - 52) (28 - 55) (29 - 57) )31 - 65) (28 - 72)

Hope that formats well

What I am thinking now is making a "gaming profile" w/ HT turned off since I can prolly drop 7 - 10C at 4.8 Ghz ..... will give it a # when kid gets back in school but wondering if anyone's tried yet on SB.
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