SkatterBencher #31: Intel Core i7-12700K Overclocked to 5400 MHz

skatterbencher 31 12700k

We overclock the Intel Core i7-12700K processor up to 5400 MHz with the EK-Quantum MSI MPG Z690 Carbon EK X motherboard.

In today’s video, we overclock the Intel Core i7-12700K Alder Lake CPU up to 5.4 GHz with the EK-Quantum MSI MPG Z690 Carbon EK X motherboard.

The Z690 Carbon EK X is the 4th model in the Carbon EK X family following the Z490, Z590, and X570S. It uses the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon motherboard as the base and adds an EK-Quantum monoblock on top of it.

In addition to overclocking the Core i7-12700K, we’re also having a closer look at the history of MSI’s automatic overclocking tools as well as having a deep dive into how to figure out your CPU V/f curve.

Alright, there is lots to go through so let’s get started.

Intel Core i7-12700K: Introduction

The Intel Core i7-12700K is part of the 12th generation Intel Core processor lineup.

Intel Alder Lake has an all-new core design with performance hybrid architecture featuring Performance Cores and Efficient cores. It’s built on the Intel 7 process technology formerly known as 10nm Enhanced SuperFin (ESF). It’s a scalable SoC architecture which means Alder Lake will cover all client segments from 9W for ultra-thin notebooks to 125W for gaming and workstation desktops.

Well … 125W+.

The overclockable K-SKU processors again come in three flavors: Core i9, Core i7, and Core i5. Each of the three flavors has a -K and -KF variant. The only difference between the two variants is that the -KF comes without integrated graphics.

The Core i7-12700K processor has 8 P-cores and 4 E-cores with a total of 20 threads. The base frequency is 3.6 GHz for the P-cores and 2.7 GHz for the E-cores. The maximum single-core boost frequency is 4.9 GHz for the P-cores and 3.8 GHz for the E-cores. The maximum all-core boost frequency is 4.7 GHz for the P-cores and 3.6 GHz for the E-cores. The favored P-cores can boost 100 MHz higher to 5.0 GHz. The processor base power is 125W and the maximum turbo power is 190W.

A major change from previous architectures is that Alder Lake is seemingly moving away from the TDP concept and instead has two power-related specifications:

  • Processor Base Power, formerly the TDP and PL1
  • Maximum Turbo Power, formerly PL2

This is sort of in line with how the processor frequency has a base frequency and a maximum turbo frequency.

Another major difference between Alder Lake and any other Intel Core processor is that, at least for the K-SKU CPUs, PL1 is by default equal to PL2. That effectively means that Intel has enabled near-unlimited peak turbo by default!

In this video we will cover four different overclocking strategies:

  1. First, we increase the performance headroom by unlocking the Turbo Boost 2.0 limits and enabling XMP 3.0
  2. Second, we test out MSI’s Game Boost one-click overclocking button
  3. Thirdly, we use MSI’s Turbo Ratio Offset feature to further increase the performance
  4. Lastly, we do manual overclocking to get the most performance out of our system
12700k overclocking strategies

However, before we jump into overclocking let us quickly go over the hardware and benchmarks we use in this video.

Intel Core i7-12700K: Platform Overview

Along with the Intel Core i7-12700K processor and EK-Quantum MSI MPG Z690 Carbon EK X motherboard, in this guide, we will be using a pair of 16GB Hynix DDR5-6200 memory sticks, an RTX 2080TI graphics card, a 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD, WD_BLACK SN850 NVMe SSD, a Seasonic Prime 850W Platinum power supply, the ElmorLabs Easy Fan Controller, and EK-Quantum water cooling. All this is mounted on top of our favorite Open Benchtable. 

The cost of the components should be around $4,370.

  • Intel Core i7-12700K processor: $420
  • EK-Quantum P360 water cooling kit: $550
  • EK-Quantum MSI MPG Z690 Carbon EK X motherboard: $630
  • NVIDIA RTX 2080 TI graphics card: $1,500
  • AORUS RGB 16GB DDR4-4400 memory: $400
  • AORUS RGB 512 GB M.2-2280 NVME: $110
  • WD_BLACK SN850 NVMe M.2 SSD: $340
  • Seasonic Prime 850W Platinum power supply: $200
  • ElmorLabs Easy Fan Controller: $20
  • Open Benchtable: $200

We place the WD_BLACK SN850 NVMe M.2 SSD in the top M.2 drive which is cooled by the EK monoblock. We use it exclusively to measure the M.2 drive temperature during our stability testing.

I covered the ElmorLabs EFC in a separate article on this blog. Without going into too many details, I have attached an external temperature sensor from the water in the loop to the EFC. Then, I use the low/high setting to map the fan curve from 25 to 40 degrees water temperature. This is used for all overclocking strategies.

EK-Quantum MSI MPG Z690 Carbon EK X

In today’s video, we are pairing the Core i7-12700K with the EK-Quantum MSI MPG Z690 Carbon EK X motherboard. The Z690 Carbon EK X is the fourth product in the EK x MSI collaboration range, after the Z490, Z590, and recently launched X570S variants.

carbon ek x series

MSI has put a lot of effort into upgrading the feature list of the Z590 series motherboards to deliver more on Z690. I won’t go into too much detail, but upgrades include of course DDR5 support, improved VRM design, improved PCB materials, more M.2 slots, and so on.

Our main interest is of course the EK monoblock. While the monoblock solution may look similar to the designs of the previous generations Carbon EK X, there are some major differences.

First, in addition to cooling the CPU and VRM components, the Z690 Carbon EK X monoblock now also covers the top M.2 slot. According to EK’s website, the EK-M.2 Active Contact Cooling is designed to ensure your main drive will not throttle under any circumstance.

ek-m.2 active contact cooling

This is supported by MSI’s internal test data showing a significant improvement from 91 degrees Celsius to 31 degrees Celsius for the M.2 drive temperature.

z690 carbon ek x m.2 temperature

While I will include an M.2 drive test in my stress test scenario, I won’t do any specific testing of the M.2 cooling performance. I’ll leave that up to the professional M.2 reviewers to figure out.

Second, the cooling engine is updated to support the specific Alder Lake CPU characteristics.

Third, it’s the first monoblock on the market which is compatible with the EK-Matrix7 industry standard. This will be particularly good information for whoever is out there building custom loop systems, however, it has minimal impact on test bench systems like mine.

If you want to learn more … sorry, no, everything about the MSI Z690 motherboard lineup you can re-watch the 2-hour MSI Z690 launch live stream on the MSI Gaming channel

Intel Core i7-12700K: Benchmark Software

We use Windows 11 and the following benchmark applications to measure performance and ensure system stability.

12700k benchmarks

ATTO Disk Benchmark

It is the first time we use the ATTO Disk Benchmark in a SkatterBencher overclocking guide.

The reason we’re using ATTO is of course because the Z690 Carbon EK X monoblock features the EK-M.2 Active Contact Cooling for cooling the top M.2 drive. During our 30 minute Prime95 stability testing, we will periodically run an ATTO benchmark workload and record the peak M.2 drive temperature.

Our configuration for the ATTO Disk Benchmark is as follows:

  • I/O size: 512B to 64MB
  • File Size: 32GB
  • Direct I/O enabled
  • Queue Depth: 8

I’m not a storage expert so if you have an idea about a better M.2 storage test method, please do let me know in the comments.

Intel Core i7-12700K: Stock Performance

The first thing we must do before we start any overclocking is checking the system performance at default settings.

Please note that out of the box, the EK-Quantum MSI MPG Z690 Carbon EK X fully unleashes the Turbo Boost 2.0 power limits. So, to check the performance at default settings you must

  • Enter the BIOS in Advanced Mode
  • Enter the Overclocking settings menu
  • Enter the Advanced CPU Configuration submenu
    • Set Long Duration Power Limit(W) to 190
    • Set Long Duration Maintained(s) to 56
    • Set Short Duration Power Limit(W) to 190

Then save and exit the BIOS.

Here is the benchmark performance at stock:

  • SuperPI 4M: 35.527 seconds
  • Geekbench 5 (single): 1,896 points
  • Geekbench 5 (multi): 15,532 points
  • Cinebench R23 Single: 1,944 points
  • Cinebench R23 Multi: 22,897 points
  • CPU-Z V17.01.64 Single: 787.0 points
  • CPU-Z V17.01.64 Multi: 9,372.3 points
  • V-Ray 5: 15,539 vsamples
  • AI Benchmark: 3,939 points
  • 3DMark Night Raid: 76,376 points
  • CS:GO FPS Bench: 582.52 fps
  • Final Fantasy XV: 189.49 fps
12700k stock benchmark performance

Here are the 3DMark CPU Profile scores at stock

  • CPU Profile 1 Thread: 1,062
  • CPU Profile 2 Threads: 2,102
  • CPU Profile 4 Threads: 4,126
  • CPU Profile 8 Threads: 7,585
  • CPU Profile 16 Threads: 9,504
  • CPU Profile Max Threads: 10,124
12700k stock 3dmark cpu profile benchmark performance

When running Prime 95 Small FFTs with AVX enabled, the average CPU P-core clock is 4663 MHz and the average CPU E-core clock is 3591 MHz with 1.176 volts. The average CPU temperature is 71 degrees Celsius, the average VRM temperature is 46 degrees Celsius, the maximum M.2 temperature is 52 degrees Celsius. The average CPU package power is 190 watts.

12700k stock prime95 small ffts avx

When running Prime 95 Small FFTs with AVX disabled, the average CPU P-core clock is 4689 MHz and the average CPU E-core clock is 3591 MHz with 1.19 volts. The average CPU temperature is 72 degrees Celsius, the average VRM temperature is 46 degrees Celsius, the maximum M.2 temperature is 51 degrees Celsius. The average CPU package power is 188 watts.

12700k stock prime95 small ffts no avx

Now, let us try our first overclocking strategy.

However, before we get going, make sure to locate the Clear CMOS Jumper

Shorting the Clear CMOS Jumper will reset all your BIOS settings to default. This is useful in case your system does not boot up after overclocking or if you want to start your BIOS configuration from scratch. However, it does not delete any of the BIOS profiles previously saved. The Clear CMOS button is located at the bottom right of the motherboard.

OC Strategy #1: Unleashed Turbo + XMP 3.0

In our first overclocking strategy we simply take advantage of unleashing the Turbo Boost 2.0 power limits and Intel XMP 3.0.

Turbo Boost 2.0

Turbo Boost 2.0 is an Intel technology that’s been around since 2010 Sandy Bridge. The technology enables the processor cores to run faster than the base operating frequency if the processor is operating below rated power, temperature, and current specification limits. The ultimate advantage is opportunistic performance improvements in both multi-threaded and single-threaded workloads.

The turbo boost algorithm works according to a proprietary EWMA formula. This stands for Exponentially Weighted Moving Average. There are 3 parameters to consider: PL1, PL2, and Tau.

  • Power Limit 1, or PL1, is the threshold that the average power will not exceed. Historically, this has always been set equal to Intel’s advertised TDP. Very importantly, PL1 should not be set higher than the thermal solution cooling limits.
  • Power Limit 2, or PL2, is the maximum power the processor is allowed to use for a limited amount of time.
  • Tau is a weighing constant used in the algorithm to calculate the moving average power consumption. Tau, in seconds, is the time window for calculating the average power consumption. If the average power consumed is higher than PL1 the CPU will reduce the CPU frequency.

Obviously, Turbo Boost 2.0 technology is available on Alder Lake as it’s the main driver of performance over the base frequency.

A major difference between Alder Lake and any previous Intel Core processor is that, at least for the K-SKU CPUs, PL1 is by default equal to PL2. This is very different from before where PL1 would equal the TDP, and PL2 would range from 200 to 250W. This change effectively means that Intel has enabled near-unlimited peak turbo by default!

intel alder lake turbo boost 2.0 power pl1=pl2

For the 12700K, the maximum power limit is set at 190W.

The maximum performance is therefore entirely limited by the capabilities of your cooling solution. If your cooling solution is insufficient, then the processor will reduce the operating frequency at the maximum allowed temperature or TjMax. For Alder Lake CPUs that’s at 100 degrees Celsius.

On MSI motherboard’s there’s an easy CPU Cooler Tuning option that allows you to unleash the Turbo Boost power limits. Simply set the option to Water Cooler and enjoy the maximum performance. On first boot, the BIOS will pop up a menu to select the CPU cooler type. On the Z690 Carbon EK X, Water Cooler and its associated unlocked Turbo Boost power limits is selected.

msi z690 water cooling mode

Intel Extreme Memory Profile 3.0

Intel Extreme Memory Profile, or XMP, is an Intel technology that lets you automatically overclock the system memory to improve system performance. It is an extension to the standard JEDEC specification that allows a memory vendor to program different settings onto the memory stick.

Intel Extreme Memory Profile 3.0 is the new XMP standard for DDR5 memory. It is largely based on the XMP 2.0 standard for DDR4 but has additional functionality.

inel alder lake xmp 3.0

The XMP 3.0 standard is designed with six sections. One global section describes the generic data which is used across the profiles. The other five sections are designed for five profiles respectively.

  • Profile 1 is meant for the performance profile (this is the standard XMP as we know it)
  • Profile 2 is designed for the extreme settings (this could be a higher frequency at higher voltage)
  • Profile 3 is designed for the fastest settings (this could be tighter timings at higher voltage)
  • Profiles 4 and 5 are rewritable and meant for user custom settings

There’s a lot more to the new XMP 3.0 standard which is outside the scope of this overclocking guide. By the time this video goes out, I should already have a more detailed overview up on my channel.

Upon entering the BIOS

  • In Advanced Mode, click XMP Profile 1
  • Enter the Overclocking settings menu
  • Under CPU Cooler Tuning ensure the option Water Cooler (PL1: 4096W) is selected

Then save and exit the BIOS.

We re-ran the benchmarks and checked the performance increase compared to the default operation.

  • SuperPI 4M: +0.15%
  • Geekbench 5 (single): +1.85%
  • Geekbench 5 (multi): +5.31%
  • Cinebench R23 Single: +0.21%
  • Cinebench R23 Multi: +0.04%
  • CPU-Z V17.01.64 Single: +1.33%
  • CPU-Z V17.01.64 Multi: +0.76%
  • V-Ray 5: +1.29%
  • AI Benchmark: +4.47%
  • 3DMark Night Raid: +0.74%
  • CS:GO FPS Bench: +2.59%
  • Final Fantasy XV: +0.41%
12700k msi watercooling mode benchmark performance

Here are the 3DMark CPU Profile scores at stock

  • CPU Profile 1 Thread: +0.19%
  • CPU Profile 2 Threads: +0.38%
  • CPU Profile 4 Threads: +0.17%
  • CPU Profile 8 Threads: +0.51%
  • CPU Profile 16 Threads: +0.20%
  • CPU Profile Max Threads: +0.16%
12700k msi watercooling mode 3dmark cpu profile benchmark performance

As expected, we see the largest performance difference in multi-threaded applications which were previously constraint by the maximum power of 190W. We see up to 5.31% performance increase in Geekbench5 Multi. In single-threaded benchmark applications, the performance improvement is negligible.

When running Prime 95 Small FFTs with AVX enabled, the average CPU P-core clock is 4689 MHz and the average CPU E-core clock is 3591 MHz with 1.212 volts. The average CPU temperature is 80 degrees Celsius, the average VRM temperature is 49 degrees Celsius, the maximum M.2 temperature is 53 degrees Celsius. The average CPU package power is 219 watts.

12700k msi watercooling mode prime95 smallffts avx

When running Prime 95 Small FFTs with AVX disabled, the average CPU P-core clock is 4689 MHz and the average CPU E-core clock is 3591 MHz with 1.191 volts. The average CPU temperature is 72 degrees Celsius, the average VRM temperature is 46 degrees Celsius, the maximum M.2 temperature is 52 degrees Celsius. The average CPU package power is 188 watts.

12700k msi watercooling mode prime95 smallffts no avx

OC Strategy #2: Game Boost + XMP 3.0

In our second overclocking strategy we make use of the one-click overclocking feature called Game Boost. This unique MSI feature has been on motherboards for quite a while and offers an instant overclocking boost.

On the Z690 Carbon EK X, Game Boost offers an increase of +1 ratio over default turbo ratios for both P-core and E-cores. In addition, an AVX Negative Ratio of -3 is applied.

MSI Game Boost: A Brief and Incomplete History

MSI Game Boost is a feature of the MSI Z690 motherboards that isn’t prominently advertised but is worth exploring when overclocking. Simply put, as per MSI, Game Boost enables one-second overclocking, boosting performance so you can achieve more frames per second.

z170 msi game boost

The history of Game Boost can be traced back to mid-2007 when Intel launched the P35 Express chipset for LGA775 processors. The feature wasn’t called Game Boost then, but the function was the same: a one-step process to achieve better performance.

Browsing through the manual of the MSI P35 Neo2-FR motherboard we find on page 2-19 a feature called Hardware Overclock FSB Jumpers. By configuring these jumpers in different positions, you can change the front-side bus frequency between 200, 266, and 333 MHz. This in turn increases the CPU core frequency. This crude way of automatic overclocking leverages the different default FSB configurations for the available processors at the time.

About one year later, around June 2008, Intel launched the P45 Express chipset also for the LGA775 processors. MSI retained the OC Jumper as a way to increase the front-side bus frequency from 266 MHz to 400 MHz, though it was rebranded as RapidBoost.

It wasn’t until the launch of the Intel X58 chipset for LGA1366 processors that MSI changed from the old-fashioned jumpers to something slightly more user-friendly as switches. The Easy OC Switch, implemented on motherboards like the X58 Eclipse SLI, was still the one-step overclocking tool that allows users from any pedigree to increase the performance of their system by overclocking. Undoubtedly well-intended by MSI, but probably a thorn in the eye of Intel, MSI’s marketing slides point out that the Easy OC Switch can turn your US$300 Core i7-920 into a US$999 Core i7-965. Not all reviewers agreed with MSI.

Steven Walton from Techspot, nowadays at HardwareUnboxed, found the feature to be, quote, rather pointless.

Regardless, MSI continued its mission of providing novice users with a quick and easy way to overclock the CPU.

In September 2009, Intel launched the P55 chipset for LGA1156 processors. And this time MSI was all in on the easy overclocking game with MSI OC Genie.

MSI OC Genie is a hardware-based automatic overclocking tool that relies on an actual chip on the motherboard to overclock the CPU. In a press release, MSI said that they

By extending the same concept of product design, MSI utilizes its 20-year R&D experience to develop the new Easy OC Technology, OC Genie. Combining OC Genie’s press-button and dedicated overclocking processor, no complicated setup and professional overclocking skill are required to boost up to 45% performance in 1 second.

MSI

By just the press of the OC Genie button, the OC Genie Processor automatically detects the best overclocking settings of CPU, memory, and integrated graphics. Furthermore, OC Genie also adjusts the voltage settings to ensure stability.

Reading through motherboard reviews from the time, OC Genie seems to have been very well received. Guru3D extensively tested OC Genie with the MSI P55-GD80 motherboard and by the press of a button managed to increase the Core i7-870 CPU frequency by 800 MHz from 2.93 GHz to 3.74 GHz. They also indicate this was a 100% stable overclock.

MSI OC Genie eventually also carried over to some X58 motherboards like the MSI Big Bang X58 XPower as well as in BIOS form appeared as OC Genie Lite on certain AMD motherboards.

It got a little confusing at the time as some AMD motherboards like the MSI 890GXM-G65 featured both OC Genie Lite in the BIOS and an Easy OC Switch on the motherboard itself. Oh yea, that’s a forum post by the same Toppc who now works for MSI!

Moving forward, when Intel launched the P67 chipset for LGA1155 Sandy Bridge processors in 2011, MSI introduced OC Genie II technology. The 2nd generation of OC Genie was pretty similar to the first generation but better as MSI claims now even your girlfriend can get extra performance. Not entirely sure that line of thought would be possible these days.

Sandy Bridge fundamentally changed the way overclocking is done. Whereas before Sandy Bridge CPUs could be overclocked by increasing the base clock frequency, on Sandy Bridge overclocking was restricted exclusively to the K-SKU CPUs with unlocked CPU multipliers. Undeterred by this limitation, MSI claimed OC Genie II would increase the clock frequency of a Core i5-2500K by 900 MHz from 3.3 GHz to 4.2 GHz.

Many reviewers had a go at manual overclocking OC Genie II, including a young Linus Tech tips. With the press of a single button Young Linus managed to overclock his Core i7-2600K to 4.2 GHz.

In April 2012, Intel launched the successor of Sandy Bridge and P67 with Ivy Bridge and Z77. MSI’s leading mainstream overclocking board was the MPower which also featured OC Genie II. Young Linus again showed off the overclocking capabilities of the OC Genie II feature demonstrating a 30+ percent improvement in the 3DMark score. The OC Genie II feature was also present on a wide range of MSI X79 motherboards allowing media such as PC Perspective to achieve an overclock of 400 MHz on a Core i7-3820 with a base frequency of 3.6 GHz .

Then came Haswell and Z87 in June 2013. Here’s where MSI is starting to take the automatic overclocking tool in a fresh direction. There are several changes to how OC Genie works:

  1. First, we jump straight from OC Genie II to OC Genie 4
  2. Second, the function is now available both in the form of the traditional button as well as a “virtual” OC Genie in BIOS
  3. Third, an OC Genie Mode switch provides two “gears” which determine how aggressive OC Genie pursues the overclock

Based on AnandTech’s coverage of the MSI Z87 Xpower motherboard, Gear 1 would overclock the Core i7-4770K to 4GHz whereas Gear 2 would overclock that same CPU to 4.2 GHz.

The Haswell refresh and accompanying Z97 chipset wasn’t much of a change from the products launched one year earlier. MSI pretty much adopted the same OC Genie 4 feature set. Also, on the HEDT X99 platform, the implementation was the same. At least … on the first generation launched in 2014 together with the Haswell-E processors.

Then, in August 2015 something changed.

With the launch of the 6th generation Intel Core processor codenamed Skylake and their accompanying Z170 chipset,  the OC Genie was put back in its bottle and replaced by … the Game Boost Knob. Game Boost’s function is not too different from OC Genie in that it still aims to provide an easy way for novice users to overclock their CPU. The physical knob is present only on the high-end Z170 motherboards and mid-end to low-end motherboards have a “virtual” Game Boost button in the BIOS.

When researching the Game Boost knob, I came across an interesting story on the origins of this physical knob. The long story short is that AnandTech’s Ian Cutress claims he’s responsible for MSI’s decision to bring this knob to market. As his story goes, the knob originally featured on development versions of MSI’s Z170 motherboards and was used by the engineers to do specific things like loading OC profiles, safe booting, memory safe booting, applying specific settings. Ian alleges he convinced MSI to repurpose this knob or dial as a multi-step overclocking function.

The Z170 Game Boost knob is an 8-step dial that goes from 0 to … eleven. Each step has a predefined BCLK frequency, CPU ratio, and voltage which lifts the frequency of a Core i7-6700K from 4300 MHz at step 1 to 5000 MHz at step 11. Virtual BIOS of the Game Boost function offered no multi-step approach but a binary on/off where on would mean the CPU is overclocked. For the Core i7-6700K Game Boost on means running at 4.4GHz which is equal to Game Boost 2 on boards with the 8-step dial.

MSI adopted the Game Boost knob on the 2nd generation X99 motherboards which launched with the Broadwell-E processors in 2016. We even have a video up on our YouTube channel where we overclock a Broadwell-E Core i7-6950X processor using the MSI Game Boost dial on the MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon motherboard. By now, the virtual Game Boost knob in the BIOS offered the same features as the physical dial on the motherboard with 8-step multi-level overclocking from 0 to 11.

And from there the Game Boost feature sort of continued to live on. High-end motherboards with the 8-step dial up to eleven offers both a physical and virtual multi-step overclocking function, whereas boards without the knob offer only a binary on/off.

On the Z270 motherboards, you’ll find automatic Game Boost overclocking for 6th gen and 7th gen processors. On X299 motherboards which still feature the Game Boost dial, it is no longer bears the intrusive bright red color but is replaced by a black dial. But the 8-step overclocking to 11 persists. For example, on the X299 Xpower Gaming AC. On the Z390 motherboards, the bright red button returns like for example on the Z390 Godlike. The button still goes up to 11 and changes the CPU ratio as well as CPU voltage.

By this time AMD has Ryzen from the Bulldozer ashes and also gets their Game Boost feature. On the X370 Xpower Gaming Titanium, we find the same bright red button as on high-end Intel motherboards. And we find the same 8-step overclocking levels up to 11. We find the less intrusive black dial version on the MSI X470 Gaming M7 AC with more overclocking up to 11. We also find the black dial on the X570 Godlike launched in the summer of 2019.

In 2020, the Game Boost dial disappeared from the high-end MSI motherboards leaving us with exactly one Game Boost function in the BIOS: on and off. The button’s function is the same across the MSI product stack and offers the same automatic overclocking: exactly 1 turbo ratio higher than the default.

And that’s where we find ourselves right now.

Enabling Game Boost on the Z690 Carbon EK X lifts all Turbo Ratios by +1 for both P-cores and E-cores. In addition, it also sets an AVX Negative Ratio offset of -3. This results in a maximum boost frequency of 5.1 GHz.

Upon entering the BIOS

  • In Advanced Mode
    • Click the Game Boost button
    • Click XMP Profile 1

Then save and exit the BIOS.

We re-ran the benchmarks and checked the performance increase compared to the default operation.

  • SuperPI 4M: +1.30%
  • Geekbench 5 (single): +3.32%
  • Geekbench 5 (multi): +7.45%
  • Cinebench R23 Single: +1.44%
  • Cinebench R23 Multi: +2.27%
  • CPU-Z V17.01.64 Single: +3.30%
  • CPU-Z V17.01.64 Multi: +1.46%
  • V-Ray 5: +1.80%
  • AI Benchmark: +8.78%
  • 3DMark Night Raid: +1.89%
  • CS:GO FPS Bench: +3.42%
  • Final Fantasy XV: +1.68%
12700k msi game boost benchmark performance

Here are the 3DMark CPU Profile scores at stock

  • CPU Profile 1 Thread: +0.85%
  • CPU Profile 2 Threads: +0.81%
  • CPU Profile 4 Threads: +1.09%
  • CPU Profile 8 Threads: +2.45%
  • CPU Profile 16 Threads: +2.31%
  • CPU Profile Max Threads: +2.37%
12700k msi game boost 3dmark cpu profile benchmark performance

The performance increase after a +1 ratio bump is not spectacular, but we do see some solid gains in multi-threaded benchmarks in particular. The largest increase is +8.78% in AI Benchmark. Despite the use of an AVX Negative Ratio offset, we don’t see any major implications on the benchmark result, however, we do see a frequency reduction when using Prime 95 with AVX.

When running Prime 95 Small FFTs with AVX enabled, the average CPU P-core clock is 4615 MHz and the average CPU E-core clock is 3691 MHz with 1.200 volts. The average CPU temperature is 77 degrees Celsius, the average VRM temperature is 48 degrees Celsius, the maximum M.2 temperature is 52 degrees Celsius. The average CPU package power is 211 watts.

12700k msi game boost prime95 smallffts avx

When running Prime 95 Small FFTs with AVX disabled, the average CPU P-core clock is 4788 MHz and the average CPU E-core clock is 3691 MHz with 1.228 volts. The average CPU temperature is 77 degrees Celsius, the average VRM temperature is 47 degrees Celsius, the maximum M.2 temperature is 52 degrees Celsius. The average CPU package power is 205 watts.

12700k msi game boost prime95 smallffts no avx

OC Strategy #3: Turbo Ratio Offset

In our third overclocking strategy we will use MSI’s Turbo Ratio Offset feature. The Turbo Ratio Offset is a unique approach to overclocking that simply lifts the default Turbo Ratio configuration by a specific number of bins. This enables you to configure a dynamic overclock while still not having to dig too deep through the various BIOS options.

For our configuration, we choose a Turbo Ratio Offset of +3 for both P-core and E-core. That will push the P-core frequency to up to 5.3 GHz and the E-core frequency to up to 4.1 GHz.

In addition to the Turbo Ratio Offset, we will also use Adaptive Voltage mode which is best suited for a dynamic overclock. To determine which Voltage to configure I’ll also take a deep dive into the topic of the CPU V/f curve.

Adaptive Voltage Mode

On Alder Lake, the voltage for the CPU P-cores, E-cores, as well as Ring, are all driven by the VccIA input. That means you can only set a single voltage for all these parts of the CPU.

The voltage can be set in two ways: adaptive or override.

  • Override mode specifies a single static voltage across all ratios. It is mostly used for extreme overclocking purposes where stability at very high frequencies is the only consideration.
  • Adaptive Mode is the standard mode of operation. In Adaptive Mode, the V/f curve used is generated automatically by the CPU and covers the CPU ratios from the lowest supported ratio to the default maximum turbo ratio. In the case of the 12700K, that’s from 8x to 50x.

V/f curve stands for voltage-frequency curve. Lots of parts in your CPU have a V/f curve, including:

  • Every P-core
  • Each E-core group of 4 cores
  • The Ring
  • The integrated graphics

The V/f curve determines which voltage the CPU should set for a certain frequency. Since some cores are better than others, it’s possible to see different voltages for the same frequency across the cores of your CPU.

We’ll do a deep dive into the V/f curve topic in a couple of minutes.

First a couple more things about configuring an adaptive voltage in the BIOS.

The adaptive voltage set in the BIOS is mapped against what’s called the “OC ratio”. The “OC Ratio” is the highest ratio that’s configured for the CPU.

When you leave everything at default the OC ratio is the default maximum turbo ratio plus 1. In the case of the 12700K, that ratio is 50X which is the Turbo Boost Max 3.0 frequency. So, the default OC ratio is 50+1=51X.

When you manually overclock, the OC ratio is the highest ratio you configure across all the various settings and options.

There are specific rules that govern what adaptive voltage can be set.

A) the voltage set for a given ratio n must be higher than or equal to the voltage set for ratio n-1.

For our 12700K, the V/f curve is defined up to 50X, so the OC ratio is 51X. If the voltage for 50X is 1.35V then setting the adaptive voltage which is mapped against the 50X ratio to anything below 1.35V is pointless. Since 50X is specified to run at 1.35V, 50X will always run at 1.35V or higher. Usually, BIOSes will allow you to configure lower values. However, the CPU internal mechanisms will override your configuration if it doesn’t follow the rules.

B) the adaptive voltage configured for any ratio below the OC ratio will be ignored

Take the same example of the 12700K which is specified to run 46X at 1.18V. If you try to configure all cores to 46X, use adaptive voltage mode, and set 1.30V, the CPU will ignore this because it has its own factory-fused target voltage for all ratios up to 50X and will use this voltage. You can only change the voltage of the OC Ratio, which, as mentioned before, on the 12700K is 51X and up.

C) for ratios between the OC Ratio and the next highest factory-fused V/f point, the voltage is interpolated between the set adaptive voltage and the factory-fused voltage.

Returning to our example, our 12700K is specified to run 50X at 1.35V, and let’s say we manually configure the OC ratio to be 54X at 1.425V. Now the target voltage for ratios 51X, 52X, 53X, and 54X will be interpolated between the V/f point 50X at 1.35V and our OC Ratio 54X at 1.425V.

So, in conclusion.

The adaptive voltage set in BIOS is mapped against the “OC Ratio”. The OC Ratio is the highest ratio configured for the CPU across all settings including by core usage, per core ratio limit, and OCTVB. The voltage for ratios lower than the OC ratio are set either by its factory-fused V/f point or, if no there’s no V/f point, interpolated between the next and previous V/f point.

V/f Curve Deep Dive

In all my SkatterBencher overclocking guides, the final overclocking strategy is always a manual overclock. In that strategy, I show you the settings that worked for me and also explain the different overclocking features I use. But I don’t usually cover the process of figuring out the maximum stable overclock. So, in this video, I want to focus a little bit more on that process.

More specifically, I want to take a closer look at the V/f curve and explain how you can use the V/f curve to figure out what would be your starting point for voltage and frequency when overclocking.

V/f Curve Introduction

The voltage frequency curve defines the relationship between the CPU operating frequency and operating voltage. Every Intel CPU has a voltage-frequency curve that is determined by the factory.

alder lake voltage frequency curve example

Let’s go in the MSI BIOS and have a look.

When you enter the BIOS, go to the Overclocking Settings menu. Here you will find a long list of settings that allow you to manually configure your CPU. You can see that the P-core ratio is currently set at Auto and Auto is 3600 MHz.

12700k msi z690 bios default

When scrolling down to the voltage section, you will find an item called CPU Core Voltage. Next to the item name, we can see a voltage indicator and of course the setting. The voltage indicator says 1.164V. If you look at the top of your screen, you can find the same value there as well.

12700k msi z690 bios default voltage

This voltage indicates the current voltage for the CPU cores. We can use this indicator to figure out what is the factory-fused V/f curve of this 12700K.

For example, we can manually set the CPU P-core ratio to 49X, reboot, and check the voltage again.As you can see the voltage increased and is now 1.304v.

12700k msi z690 bios 49X P-core voltage

If we do this for every CPU ratio, we will figure out what is the V/f curve of this CPU. Well, sort of. As per usual it’s not as simple as it may seem. To understand why we first need to study the Alder Lake CPU design more closely.

In this short theory lesson, we will cover 4 topics

  1. VccIA voltage rail
  2. VID requests
  3. VCC Sense vs Socket Sense
  4. Intel V/f Curve vs Motherboard auto-rules

VccIA Voltage Rail

The first thing we need to look at is the Alder Lake Voltage Topology.

If we only consider the Alder Lake CPU and disregard the Z690 chipset, there are a total of 7 different voltage inputs for the Alder Lake platform. The voltage we are concerned with is called the VccIA. IA stands for Intel Architecture and is the collective term for all Intel CPU cores. Therefore, logically, the VccIA powers both the P-cores and E-cores. It also powers the Ring. As this is a single voltage rail, all parts powered by this rail will run at the same voltage.

12700k voltage topology

The voltage for the VccIA rail can be configured in two main ways: override mode and adaptive mode.

  • Override mode specifies a single static voltage across all ratios. It is mostly used for extreme overclocking purposes where stability at very high frequencies is the only consideration.
  • Adaptive Mode is the standard mode of operation. In Adaptive Mode, the V/f curve used is generated automatically by the CPU and covers the CPU ratios from the lowest supported ratio to the default maximum turbo ratio. In the case of the 12700K, that’s from 8x to 50x.

For this segment, we will ignore override mode and only work with Adaptive Mode.

As I mentioned before, the V/f curve stands for the voltage-frequency curve and describes the relationship between the operating frequency and operating voltage. Lots of parts inside your CPU have a V/f curve, including:

  • Every P-core
  • Each E-core cluster of 4 cores
  • The Ring
  • The integrated graphics

We can ignore the integrated graphics for now as this is powered by another voltage rail called VccGT. For the 12700K, there are a total of 10 relevant V/f curves for our VccIA voltage rail: 1 for each of the 8 P-cores, 1 for the E-core cluster of 4 cores, and 1 for the Ring.

So, in summary: there are a total of 10 V/f curves that affect the voltage setting for our single VccIA voltage rail which powers all P-cores, all E-core clusters, and the ring.

So how does the CPU decide which voltage to set? That’s pretty straight-forward: the VccIA voltage is the highest among all requested voltages. For example:

  • P-core requests 1.3V for 4.9GHz
  • E-core requests 1.2V for 3.9GHz
  • Ring requests 1.1V for 3.8 GHz
  • VccIA voltage = MAX(1.3, 1.2, 1.1) = 1.3V

Or,

  • P-core requests 0.9V for 3.4GHz
  • E-core requests 1.2V for 3.9GHz
  • Ring requests 1.1V for 3.8 GHz
  • VccIA voltage = MAX(0.9, 1.2, 1.1) = 1.2V

Or,

  • P-core requests 0.9V for 3.4GHz
  • E-core requests 1.0V for 3.3GHz
  • Ring requests 1.1V for 3.8 GHz
  • VccIA voltage = MAX(0.9, 1.0, 1.1) = 1.1V

As you can see this can lead to some interesting situations where overclocking the E-cores or Ring can lead to overvolting the P-cores for a certain frequency. This was in fact a very real challenge with Rocket Lake!

alder lake vccia voltage check

Returning to the BIOS, we can now understand what the voltage indicator next to CPU Core Voltage really means. This is the current VccIA voltage which is determined as the highest voltage as requested by the active CPU P-cores, E-core cluster, and Ring.

The keyword in that last sentence is ‘active’. To make a long story short: an Intel CPU has power-saving features that allow certain parts of the CPU to shut down when not in use. On Alder Lake, each P-core and E-core cluster has a power gate which allows for enabling or disabling of the cores depending on the current system load.

alder lake power saving power gate

From observation, the MSI BIOS loads 1 P-core and no E-cores. This will be important for later when we try to figure out the E-core V/f curve.

For now, let’s just focus on this voltage indicator and remember this is the VccIA voltage rail that powers the P-core, E-core cluster, and Ring.

VID Requests

The next topic we must study more closely is how voltage is set in Adaptive Voltage mode. We already know that each CPU has a variety of V/f curves and each of these curves affects the VccIA voltage rail. But that’s not the whole story of how the voltage is configured.

Generally speaking, there are three steps to how your system sets the CPU voltage in Adaptive Mode.

In step 1, the motherboard’s BIOS tells the processor the current loadline characteristics via AC DC loadline values.

The AC DC loadline characteristics are a way for the motherboard to inform the CPU about its specific VRM design. This is highly important in situations where the CPU goes from idle to load and there’s a voltage droop. Voltage droop is the difference in voltage between idle and load. If the VRM has better components and design, we expect less voltage droop. If the components and design are worse, we can expect a greater voltage droop. Using the AC DC loadline configuration, the motherboard BIOS can inform the CPU about the quality of the VRM design. With this information, the CPU can then determine whether it should request the voltage according to its V/f curve or make any adjustments.

alder lake vid request ac dc loadline

In step 2, the CPU will issue a voltage request to the motherboard voltage controller using a VID. This VID is based on a variety of parameters including:

  • The factory-fused voltage-frequency curve
  • Any manually set voltage offset or V/f point offset
  • The AC DC loadline configuration
  • Voltage reductions triggered by the Thermal Velocity Boost technology
  • Voltage increases triggered by the AVX voltage Guardband

For those who like equations, the requested VID can be expressed as follows:

Requested VID = Base VID + Offset + (AC loadline x Current) + AVX Guardband – TVB voltage optimization

The CPU will also read back the VID to check if it matches the requested VID.

Readback VID = Requested VID – (DC loadline X Current)

If the readback VID is lower than the base VID, then the CPU will dynamically increase the requested VID.

In summary, the V/f curve provides the CPU with a baseline VID. However, the CPU takes into account a multitude of additional parameters to determine which VID will be requested to the voltage controller. This will be important when we’re trying to determine the base VID voltage-frequency curve.

alder lake request vid equation

In step 3, the VRM controller will output the voltage. The VRM loadline determines the final effective voltage. A weaker loadline will worsen the Vdroop, while a stronger loadline will lessen the Vdroop. The Vdroop is the voltage decrease going from idle to load. In addition, the VRM loadline will also impact any undershoot or overshoot. Undershoot and overshoot are temporary voltage spikes when transitioning from idle to load and load to idle.

alder lake vdroop undershoot overshoot loadline

So to sum things up: many factors determine the actual voltage of your CPU cores even when you run everything at default. The factors include the factory-fused V/f curve, the VRM design and components, AVX Guardband, and Thermal Velocity Boost voltage optimizations. We can demonstrate how each of these settings impacts the voltage.

I set up the BIOS with the following settings:

  • All P-cores at 49X
  • Disable the E-cores
  • Set the Ring ratio to 8X

This ensures that the VccIA voltage will be determined by the P-core voltage request. Then I

  • Set CPU Core Voltage Mode to Adaptive + Offset Mode
  • Then I make sure the following base settings are configured
    • Voltage Offset: 0mV
    • CPU Lite Load Control: Mode 12 (this is the ACDC loadline configuration)
    • TVB Voltage Optimizations: Disabled
    • AVX Guardband Scale: 128
    • CPU Loadline Calibration Control: Mode 4
alder lake voltage parameter testing

We see the following:

  • Our baseline settings give us a voltage of 1.446V for a CPU P-core ratio of 49X.
  • When we add a +50mV adaptive voltage offset, we see that the voltage increases to 1.504.
  • When we change the AC DC loadline settings from mode 12 to mode 1, the voltage decreases to 1.3V
  • When we change the AVX Guardband scale factor to 0, nothing changes. That’s because the BIOS doesn’t run AVX instructions so the Guardband isn’t active
  • When we enable the Thermal Velocity Boost voltage optimizations, the voltage decreases to 1.348V.
  • When we change the CPU VRM loadline from Mode 4 to Mode 8, the voltage decreases slightly to 1.434V

For science I also checked the “worst case” and “base case” scenarios. And here are the results.

So, depending on the configuration of the BIOS settings, for 4.9GHz we get a voltage between 1.208V and 1.688V. Not only does this serve as a great example of why it’s difficult to compare CPU voltages with other people’s systems, but it is also valuable information for when we eventually get to figure out this CPU’s voltage-frequency curve.

VCC Sense vs Socket Sense

Viewers who are paying attention may have noticed I select Socket Sense as CPU Core Voltage Monitor. While it doesn’t have a significant impact on what we’re trying to achieve, I want to spend a couple of minutes explaining the difference between VCC Sense and Socket Sense. Please note I’m not an expert on this matter, so go check out other sources like Buildzoid for more details.

The long story short is that the difference between VCC Sense and Socket Sense is where the voltage is measured. The VCC Sense measures the voltage directly on the CPU die whereas the Socket Sense measures the voltage on the motherboard. The key difference is that that the VCC Sense factors into account the resistance of the CPU socket and CPU substrate whereas Socket Sense does not.

buildzoid how loadline actually works

Generally speaking, VCC Sense is the more accurate measure if you want to know the actual CPU core voltage. The difference measured between VCC Sense and Socket Sense will be larger the higher the load on the CPU. For our purpose, which is to figure out the CPU V/f curve from the BIOS, we won’t see much difference as the actual CPU load in the BIOS is around 5 to 6 amps.

I just wanted to highlight this particular setting. If you’re going through your testing, just make sure to choose either one and stick with your choice throughout the testing. For real-world testing and overclocking I would suggest sticking with VCC Sense.

Intel V/f Curve & Motherboard Auto-Rules

The last topic I wanted to cover in this segment is the impact of motherboard auto-rules on our measurement.

Auto-rules are designed to make the motherboard more user-friendly and help the user in case they’re unfamiliar with the platform. In most cases, the auto-rules consist of pre-programmed settings which activate or change when the user changes certain settings. Examples include:

  • When enabling XMP, the motherboard may adjust sub-timings and memory controller voltages to ensure stability
  • When manual CPU overclocking, the motherboard may change the CPU VRM loadline settings
  • Motherboards may unlock Turbo Boost parameters out of the box to provide the user with higher performance

While some of these auto-rules are very helpful and improve the overclocking user experience, they are not always perfectly tuned. In a lot of cases, you’ll find that auto-rules for overclocking tend to focus on ensuring the system boots and appears stable rather than runs at healthy voltages.

For example, I’ve seen motherboards adopt CPU voltage auto-rules for ratios above the default maximum turbo ratio. If you’re going through the process of finding the voltage frequency curve, you may think the CPU has factory-fused settings for those ratios even if they don’t. So, it’s important to keep an eye out for these auto-rules

Okay, let’s move from theory to practice and try to figure out our V/F curves.

V/f Curve: P-core

First up is the P-core V/f curve. We configure the BIOS with the following settings:

  • P-core ratio: All Core
  • E-core: disabled
  • Ring ratio: 8X
  • CPU Core Voltage Mode: Adaptive Mode
  • CPU Lite Load Control: Advanced
    • CPU AC Loadline: 1
    • CPU DC Loadline: 1
  • CPU Loadline Calibration Control: Mode 8
  • TVB Voltage Optimizations: Disabled

Then we adjust the P-Core Ratio item, save the settings, reboot back into the BIOS, and check the CPU Core Voltage readout. We cycle through the P-core ratios from 20X to 54X. Then we put the values into an Excel file and plot our first V/f curve.

alder lake 12700K p-core v/f curve

I would love to say this is our P-core voltage-frequency curve but there’s a caveat. As I mentioned before, every P-core has its own voltage-frequency curve. So technically I should follow this process for each P-core separately. Then I would find the real voltage-frequency curve for each of the P-cores in this CPU.

But that’s a lot of work … so maybe next time.

V/f Curve: E-core

Next up is the E-core V/f curve. We configure the BIOS with the following settings:

  • P-core ratio: 8X
  • E-core ratio: All Core
  • Ring ratio: 8X
  • CPU Core Voltage Mode: Adaptive Mode
  • CPU Lite Load Control: Advanced
    • CPU AC Loadline: 1
    • CPU DC Loadline: 1
  • CPU Loadline Calibration Control: Mode 8
  • TVB Voltage Optimizations: Disabled

Then we adjust the E-Core Ratio item, save the settings, reboot back into the BIOS, check the CPU Core Voltage readout … and this doesn’t quite work.

As I mentioned before, it looks like the MSI BIOS is only loading one P-core and not loading any of the E-cores. So we can’t read out the voltage like this. However, we can do it in the operating system using HWiNFO. We just check the Vcore field in the motherboard section.

We cycle through the E-core ratios from 20X to 41X. Then we put the values into an Excel file and plot our second V/f curve.

alder lake 12700K e-core v/f curve

Since the 12700K only has 1 cluster of 4 E-cores, this is our E-core V/f curve. The same sidenote we made with the P-cores can be made when using the 12900K which has 2 E-core clusters and thus 2 independent voltage frequency curves.

V/f Curve: Ring

Last up is the Ring V/f curve. We configure the BIOS with the following settings:

  • P-core ratio: All Core
  • E-core: disabled
  • Ring ratio: All Core
  • CPU Core Voltage Mode: Adaptive Mode
  • CPU Lite Load Control: Advanced
    • CPU AC Loadline: 1
    • CPU DC Loadline: 1
  • CPU Loadline Calibration Control: Mode 8
  • TVB Voltage Optimizations: Disabled

Unfortunately, we cannot isolate the Ring ratio from the CPU core ratio as it appears the Ring Ratio is always equal to or lower than the CPU ratio. However, luckily the Ring requires a higher voltage than the P-core for the same frequency. So we can set the P-core Ratio equal to the Ring Ratio, then read out the voltage in the BIOS in the same way we did it for the P-cores.

We cycle through the Ring ratios from 20X to 49X. Then we put the values into an Excel file and plot our final V/f curve.

alder lake 12700K ring v/f curve

V/f Curve Analysis

To end this deep dive in the Alder Lake CPU V/f Curve, let’s have a quick look at the V/f curves. There’s a couple of things I want to highlight.

alder lake 12700K v/f curve

First, for all V/f curves, you can see that there’s a factory fused curve up to the maximum default turbo ratio. For the P-cores that up to 50X, for the E-cores that up to 38X, and for the Ring that’s up to 46X. Higher ratios, by default, revert to the voltage of the highest pre-defined curve.

Second, you’ll notice that at a given frequency the voltage required for the different parts varies greatly. For example, for 3.8 GHz the P-cores require 0.956V, the E-cores require 1.206V, and the Ring requires 1.090V. Since all these parts are powered by the same VccIA voltage rail if we were to set 3.8 GHz for everything the voltage would be 1.206V. So, we’d end up overvolting the P-cores and Ring significantly.

Third, you’ll notice that the maximum factory-fused voltage for the P-core and Ring is the same: 1.36V. For the P-core this is at 50X and for the Ring, this is at 46X. I don’t know if this is by design – I didn’t see anything in the documentation that would suggest so – so I don’t quite know how to elaborate on this.

Four, when we program an adaptive voltage in the BIOS it will map against the OC ratio. The OC ratio is the highest configured ratio in our system. Well, sort of. Here’s where Intel’s technical documentation diverges from the implementation by motherboard vendors.

According to Intel’s documentation, it’s technically possible to program an adaptive voltage and associated OC ratio for both Core and Ring. So, we could program the OC ratio for the cores to 55X and adaptive voltage to 1.45V, and the OC ratio for the Ring to 50X, and adaptive voltage of 1.4V.

The V/f curves of the cores and ring will then independently interpolate between 55X and 50X for core and 50X and 46X for the Ring.

Furthermore, Intel’s specification also allows for a Per Core adaptive voltage configuration. So we could program an adaptive voltage for a specific P-core or specific E-core which would map against the OC ratio. So that 55X could map to a different voltage for every core in our CPU.

And then every core would independently interpolate between 55X and 50X to figure out which voltage to set.

Now, I don’t know if we could also program the OC ratio for each core independently. I think so, but I need to look into that deeper. But if we could, that means we’d be able to define a unique voltage-frequency curve with its own maximum voltage and maximum ratio for every P-core, every E-core cluster, and Ring. For the 12700K … 10 unique voltage frequency curves.

BUT.

In practical terms, it doesn’t matter. Here’s where our V/f curve story comes full circle as at the end of the day we know there’s only one VccIA voltage rail that determines the voltage for P-core, E-core, and Ring. The actual voltage will be the worst-case scenario of all V/f curves. And in most, if not all real-world overclocking scenarios, that worst-case is the voltage required for our highest P-core ratio.

Hence why on most motherboards, despite it is possible to configure an independent adaptive voltage for every P-core, every E-core cluster, and ring, there’s only one option to set the adaptive voltage. And the OC ratio is programmed as our highest P-core ratio.

So, let’s return to our V/f curves.

Let’s say we configure in the BIOS a manual overclock with a maximum P-core ratio of 55X, a maximum E-core ratio of 41X, leaving the Ring at default, and set the adaptive voltage to 1.45V. Then we can assume that for every P-core, E-core cluster, and Ring the adaptive voltage of 1.45V is mapped against the OC ratio of 55X.

In the real world, while the P-cores can be overclocked to 5.5GHz or even higher, the maximum E-core frequency is typically limited to 4.1 or 4.2 GHz, and the Ring is limited by the minimum P-core and E-core frequency.

So, in conclusion, then setting the adaptive voltage you can focus on the right voltage for your target P-core maximum frequency and leave the rest for the CPU to figure out.

Returning to our overclocking strategy, we set the adaptive voltage to 1.375V which is slightly higher than the maximum voltage of the V/f curve. Then we increase the CPU core frequencies with the Turbo Ratio Offset to as high as possible.

Upon entering the BIOS

  • In Advanced Mode, click XMP Profile 1
  • Then enter the Overclocking settings menu
  • Set P-core Ratio Apply Mode to Turbo ratio Offset
    • Set P-Core Turbo Ratio Offset Value to +3
  • Set E-core Ratio Apply Mode to Turbo ratio Offset
    • Set E-Core Turbo Ratio Offset Value to +3
  • Set CPU Core Voltage Mode to Adaptive Mode
  • Set CPU Core Voltage to 1.375

Then save and exit the BIOS.

We re-ran the benchmarks and checked the performance increase compared to the default operation.

  • SuperPI 4M: +5.62%
  • Geekbench 5 (single): +5.91%
  • Geekbench 5 (multi): +12.38%
  • Cinebench R23 Single: +5.30%
  • Cinebench R23 Multi: +6.59%
  • CPU-Z V17.01.64 Single: +7.31%
  • CPU-Z V17.01.64 Multi: +7.11%
  • V-Ray 5: +9.57%
  • AI Benchmark: +13.07%
  • 3DMark Night Raid: +4.69%
  • CS:GO FPS Bench: +3.92%
  • Final Fantasy XV: +2.41%
12700k turbo ratio offset overclock benchmark performance

Here are the 3DMark CPU Profile scores at stock

  • CPU Profile 1 Thread: +6.21%
  • CPU Profile 2 Threads: +6.47%
  • CPU Profile 4 Threads: +6.25%
  • CPU Profile 8 Threads: +6.87%
  • CPU Profile 16 Threads: +6.65%
  • CPU Profile Max Threads: +7.07%
12700k turbo ratio offset overclock 3dmark cpu profile benchmark performance

With the use of Turbo Ratio Offsets, we finally see a significant improvement in the benchmark performance. We see the highest improvement in multi-threaded benchmarks with up to +13% in AI Benchmark. But also our single-threaded workloads score significantly higher with up to 7.31% improvement in CPU-Z single.

When running Prime 95 Small FFTs with AVX enabled, the average CPU P-core clock is 4880 MHz and the average CPU E-core clock is 3890 MHz with 1.312 volts. The average CPU temperature is 100 degrees Celsius, the average VRM temperature is 54 degrees Celsius, the maximum M.2 temperature is 54 degrees Celsius. The average CPU package power is 283 watts.

12700k turbo ratio offset overclock prime 95 small ffts avx

When running Prime 95 Small FFTs with AVX disabled, the average CPU P-core clock is 4988 MHz and the average CPU E-core clock is 3891 MHz with 1.357 volts. The average CPU temperature is 93 degrees Celsius, the average VRM temperature is 51 degrees Celsius, the maximum M.2 temperature is 52 degrees Celsius. The average CPU package power is 262 watts.

12700k turbo ratio offset overclock prime 95 small ffts no avx

OC Strategy #4: Manual Overclock

In our fourth overclocking strategy we will pursue a manual overclock.

Building on what we learned from playing with the Turbo Ratio Offset, we tried to achieve higher frequencies. But, we quickly ran into specific options limiting our overclock.

First, while 7 of our 8 P-cores can run stably at 5.5 GHz, there’s one core that can’t quite do it. With the Turbo Ratio options, we can set the frequency for a certain quantity of active P-cores but we cannot pick which those cores are. So, when the weaker core is active and pushed to 5.5 GHz the system would crash.

Intel does offer a feature called Per Core Ratio Limit which allows us to restrict each P-core to a maximum ratio. In our case, we could use this function to limit the weakest core to 5.4 GHz while other cores can go up to 5.5 GHz. Unfortunately, this option was not yet available in the beta BIOS I tested.

So, we’re stuck at 5.4 GHz for a single-threaded boost but that’s still 100 MHz higher than our previous strategy.

Second, we can further increase the all-P-core frequency to 5.1 GHz but then we’re hitting the TjMax, or maximum temperature, of 100 degrees Celsius when stability testing. The root cause of the high temperature is the high CPU voltage which is interpolated between the adaptive voltage of 1.425V at 54X and the intel factory-fused voltage of 1.36V at 50X. Unfortunately, by Intel design, there are no V/f point configuration options to lower the voltage at specifically the 50X point. So we are not able to lower the all-P-core voltage and possibly reduce the temperature.

Third, the E-core frequency is already maxed with a Turbo Boost Ratio Offset of +3 so we didn’t make any further overclocking improvements.

12700k manual overclocking challenges

In the end, we settle for our manual overclock at 5.4 GHz for up to 3 active P-cores, 5.3 GHz for up to 6 active P-cores, and 5.1 GHz for up to 8 active P-cores.

Upon entering the BIOS

  • In Advanced Mode, click XMP Profile 1
  • Then enter the Overclocking settings menu
  • Set P-core Ratio Apply Mode to Turbo Ratio
    • Set Numbers of P-Core of Group 1 to 3
    • Set Target P-Core Turbo Ratio Group 1 to 54
    • Set Numbers of P-Core of Group 2 to 6
    • Set Target P-Core Turbo Ratio Group 2 to 53
    • Set Numbers of P-Core of Group 3 to 8
    • Set Target P-Core Turbo ratio Group 3 to 51
  • Set E-core Ratio Apply Mode to Turbo ratio Offset
    • Set E-Core Turbo Ratio Offset Value to +3
  • Set CPU Core Voltage Mode to Adaptive Mode
  • Set CPU Core Voltage to 1.425

Then save and exit the BIOS.

We re-ran the benchmarks and checked the performance increase compared to the default operation.

  • SuperPI 4M: +8.92%
  • Geekbench 5 (single): +9.86%
  • Geekbench 5 (multi): +13.36%
  • Cinebench R23 Single: +7.05%
  • Cinebench R23 Multi: +8.24%
  • CPU-Z V17.01.64 Single: +7.67%
  • CPU-Z V17.01.64 Multi: +9.12%
  • V-Ray 5: +11.13%
  • AI Benchmark: +14.09%
  • 3DMark Night Raid: +5.91%
  • CS:GO FPS Bench: +4.26%
  • Final Fantasy XV: +2.83%
12700k manual overclocking benchmark performance

Here are the 3DMark CPU Profile scores at stock

  • CPU Profile 1 Thread: +7.63%
  • CPU Profile 2 Threads: +6.66%
  • CPU Profile 4 Threads: +8.07%
  • CPU Profile 8 Threads: +8.36%
  • CPU Profile 16 Threads: +8.41%
  • CPU Profile Max Threads: +8.24%
12700k manual overclocking 3mdkar cpu profile benchmark performance

After pursuing our final manual overclock, we achieve the best performance in all our benchmark applications. The highest performance gain is in AI Benchmark where we increase by 14.09%

When running Prime 95 Small FFTs with AVX enabled, the average CPU P-core clock is 4871 MHz and the average CPU E-core clock is 3890 MHz with 1.308 volts. The average CPU temperature is 100 degrees Celsius, the average VRM temperature is 54 degrees Celsius, the maximum M.2 temperature is 55 degrees Celsius. The average CPU package power is 286 watts.

12700k manual overclocking prime 95 small ffts avx

When running Prime 95 Small FFTs with AVX disabled, the average CPU P-core clock is 5082 MHz and the average CPU E-core clock is 3890 MHz with 1.386 volts. The average CPU temperature is 99 degrees Celsius, the average VRM temperature is 53 degrees Celsius, the maximum M.2 temperature is 54 degrees Celsius. The average CPU package power is 282 watts.

12700k manual overclocking prime 95 small ffts no avx

Intel Core i7-12700K: Conclusion

Alright, let us wrap this up.

When I put together this system, I had a couple of objectives. First, I wanted to check the overclocking experience with a Core i7 Alder Lake CPU. Second, of course, I also wanted to check the cooling performance of the Z690 Carbon EK X. Thirdly, I wanted to take this opportunity to take a deep dive into the V/f curve topic.

Overclocking the Core i7-12700K is not very different from overclocking the Core i9-12900K. This CPU was not as good as the others I tested, but I still achieved 5.5 GHz with all but one core. That’s 200 MHz more than the Core i7-11700K and Core i7-10700K I tested in the past. This provides additional evidence of Alder Lake’s great overclocking headroom.

The Z690 Carbon EK X provided cooling in all the right places. Both the VRM and M.2 temperatures never exceeded 60 degrees Celsius even when I pushed the system to its maximum. People who are committed to custom loop liquid cooling and are looking to ensure thermal stability for their main M.2 drive will find a good use for the Z690 Carbon EK X.

I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the V/f curve topic in-depth for this video. When you dig deep in the Intel technology you realize there’s so much more going on than what we usually limit ourselves to. I am intrigued by some unanswered questions and look forward to utilizing the knowledge gained from the V/f curve deep dive in future overclocks.

Anyway, that’s all for today!

As per usual if you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop them in the comment section below. 

‘Till the next time!

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