For the last couple of months, enthusiasts ‘on a budget’ were buying Intel processors based on latest ‘Skylake’ architecture and overclocked them to obtain extra performance. What made overclocking especially attractive was the possibility to overclock cheaper, ‘non-K’ processors using the old method of raising the base-clock (BCLK).
Given that the company faced ‘Skylake crashes in Prime95’ affair, Intel decided to push microcode updates which would not just prevent Skylake-based CPUs from crashing but to prevent all non-K CPUs from overclocking as well. This update should not surprise anyone, as lack of any meaningful competition in the performance space meant the company was free to limit the overclocking capabilities. In order to overclock an Intel processor, you have to buy a more expensive, Z-branded chipset and K-branded processors.
In a statement given to CPU World, unnamed Intel spokesman said the following:
“Intel regularly issues updates for our processors which our partners voluntarily incorporate into their BIOS. The latest update provided to partners includes, among other things, code that aligns with the position that we do not recommend overclocking processors that have not been designed to do so. Additionally, Intel does not warranty the operation of the processor beyond its specifications.”
There is a way around it, though. Said microcode update is pushed through a BIOS update from the motherboard vendor. For example, ASRock was the first manufacturer we are aware of – that released a BIOS update containing the ‘no overclocking unless it’s K’. Do note that this update is different from the one that was released to prevent Skylake processors from crashing in demanding workloads. By the end of February, we expect that all motherboard vendors abide by Intel’s ruling. But – if you don’t update your BIOS, overclocking the BCLK feature – stays for as long as you have the motherboard.
Going forward, you have two options if you want to overclock your system;
- Buy an Intel Z-branded motherboard and K-branded processor (such as Z170 chipset and Core i7 6700K processsor)
- Buy any motherboard and special unlocked processors from AMD (for example, K-branded APUs or FX 8370 processor with Wraith Cooler)
One thing is certain, though – there is no such thing as free lunch.