Updated: Locked Skylake CPUs may be overclockable soon

Intel's unlocked Pentium G3258 CPU—or the Anniversary Edition—has been a constant presence in our System Guides for over a year now. For under a hundred bucks, that two-core, two-thread processor can reach stratospheric clock speeds with a little tweaking. Intel didn't announce a successor to the G3258 when Skylake rolled around, and the dual-core wonder has had problems with some games. Budget builders may need a new hero, and Anandtech says that hero will be motherboard manufacturers. Supermicro, ASRock, and Asus seem to have found ways to enable base-clock overclocking on locked Skylake CPUs.

As Scott noted in our review of the Core i7-6700K, the base clock (BCLK) is no longer tethered to the chip's PCIe and DMI clocks. That means overclocking a CPU using the BCLK won't throw other parts of the system out of whack. Despite that change, Anandtech reports it's had no success achieving a significant overclock with a Core i5-6500—results that mirror my own attempts with a Core i3-6100.

Still, a pair of extreme overclockers hit 5GHz recently using BCLK overclocking with locked Skylake Core i3 processors and liquid nitrogen. Anandtech contacted Supermicro, which supplied the motherboard for extreme overclocker Dhenzjhen's 5GHz Core i3-6300 run. Apparently, the same BCLK-unlocking voodoo used in that experiment will make its way to Supermicro motherboards in the near future.

Shortly after that, ASRock contacted Anandtech and shared CPU-Z screenshots of a locked Core i5-6600 running at 4.5GHz on the company's Z170 Extreme7+ motherboard. Those results only required an experimental BIOS. ASRock said it's still putting that BIOS through internal validation, but it could be released to consumers as early as next week.

Asus also appears to have figured out the trick to an unlocked BCLK. An overclocker going by the name elmor took a Core i3-6300 to a dizzying 5.8GHz on an Asus Maximus VIII Gene. Asus didn't provide any more details of that achievement to Anandtech, though, so an Asus BIOS update that would enable BCLK tuning on the company's mobos seems like less of a sure thing.

Update 12/11/2015 12:11 PM: Julio Franco (not the former baseball player) from TechSpot emailed to let us know that the site got its hands on a beta BIOS for ASRock’s Z170 Gaming K6+. TechSpot took a Core i3-6100 to 4.7GHz with this experimental firmware. ASRock will reportedly release BIOS updates for all of its Z170-based motherboards to enable locked-CPU overclocking "very soon." 

derFunkenstein

Sega nerd and guitar lover

Comments closed
    • Bauxite
    • 4 years ago

    Funny you mention the G3258, because they already broke it on various motherboards with a forced microcode patch that was sneaked into windows update as “critical/security”. Pretty sure it is now baseline with win10 as well.

    I’ve noticed that pretty much every site that gets intel hardware for reviews never comments on this, though burned users in their forums certainly do.

      • ImSpartacus
      • 4 years ago

      Do you have a source for this? I have to assume that this would be accidental since it was a marketed feature.

        • Bauxite
        • 4 years ago

        Google it. When it boots linux but not windows, its pretty obvious what happened.

          • ImSpartacus
          • 4 years ago

          :/

          Cmon, you don’t make potentially inflammatory statements and then command others to find the source for your statements.

            • Xylker
            • 4 years ago

            I’m sorry, what Internet do you use?

      • f0d
      • 4 years ago

      1.) the microcode patch was only for windows 10

      2.) the microcode patch only affected non Z motherboards

      3.) the microcode patch has an easy workaround (renaming it basically)

      H81 chipsets were never meant to be able to overclock in the first place but either way thankfully its a pretty easy workaround for those that have windows 10

      review sites probably never commented on it because i dont think any of them attempted to OC a 3258 on a non Z motherboard

    • jihadjoe
    • 4 years ago

    Hooray!

    • insulin_junkie72
    • 4 years ago

    [quote<]not the former baseball player[/quote<] I suspect he's probably still playing somewhere. They'll have to pry the bat from his hands before putting him in the coffin when his time comes.

    • biffzinker
    • 4 years ago

    [quote<]Another interesting feature snuck into ASrock's Z170 ITX board (and possibly others, but it's less interesting there): PCIe Bifurcation. This allows you to use a passive riser cable to split a x16 slot into two independent x8 slots. Other ITX boards that are known to support it are ASrock's X99 ITX board (requires a special firmware, email ASrock for it) and Z87 ITX board (again, special firmware needed). The Z170 Gaming ITX has the option avaialable out-of-the-box. Why not just use an mATX board for dual-GPU? Because that's bigger than you need and wastes a lot of board space and thus case volume, and stuffing a dual-GPU powerhouse into a 12L chassis is proper Because I Can PC-building behaviour.[/quote<] [url=http://www.pcper.com/news/Processors/Overclocking-Locked-Intel-Skylake-CPUs-Possible-i3-6100-Benchmarked#comments<]PCPer Comments[/url<]

    • derFunkenstein
    • 4 years ago

    TechSpot contacted us to say that they have acquired one of these experimental firmware updates, and says it’s coming “very soon.” The original story has been updated to reflect this information.

      • chuckula
      • 4 years ago

      Thanks for the update!

      Those are some very impressive numbers for a low-end dual-core part!

      I’m already getting excited to see TR take this on and do a more thorough analysis.

      Props to the Techspot guys too.

        • ImSpartacus
        • 4 years ago

        Yeah, tr needs to review this feature as well!

        I wonder where they are going to find a 6100… :3

          • derFunkenstein
          • 4 years ago

          I think I know where we can find one.

          [url<]http://techreport.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=116885[/url<]

            • ImSpartacus
            • 4 years ago

            [url=http://i.imgur.com/yTrKBMR.gif<]I see what you did, thar![/url<]

    • the
    • 4 years ago

    Was the decoupled BLCK touted as a major feature for overclockers during the Sky Lake launch? Or is this news because mother board manufacturers are actually putting in advanced BLCK controls?

      • chuckula
      • 4 years ago

      It was brought up in the details but since the initial versions of the firmware didn’t expose the feature it never really went anywhere.

      One caveat (it’s not a big one) is that the integrated graphics get disabled when you do the BCLK overclock. That’s obviously not an issue for somebody using a regular GPU anyway, but the OEMs may have wanted to be more conservative at first. You’ll note that these mobos need a specific firmware update to turn this feature on.

        • divide_by_zero
        • 4 years ago

        Interesting that the integrated graphics get disabled when you tinker with the BCLK. Wasn’t aware of that. Though for those willing to proceed with this type of OC, I imagine that’s a feature more than it’s a bug.

      • Krogoth
      • 4 years ago

      It was a big deal among the die-hard overclocker crowd.

    • brucethemoose
    • 4 years ago

    Wow, this could really launch SuperMicro into the consumer/DIY motherboard space. “Locked” processor overclocking would give them a major advantage if it takes time for other vendors to copy it.

    • BobbinThreadbare
    • 4 years ago

    This feels more like the good old days of overclocking.

      • DrCR
      • 4 years ago

      Yeah, I’m now interested again. Overclock has always been, for me, about taking a cheap cpu to and beyond the performance level of far more expensive cpu options.

    • Jigar
    • 4 years ago

    Why is this happening now ? Does Intel knows something that we don’t about AMD’s upcoming CPU ? /wears a tinfoil hat

      • Peldor
      • 4 years ago

      They would have to know something even AMD doesn’t know yet.

        • Jigar
        • 4 years ago

        Remember Zen is taped out.

          • maxxcool
          • 4 years ago

          Not according to AMD officially… unless i missed the announcement somehow

            • Jigar
            • 4 years ago

            Here – [url<]http://www.techpowerup.com/217251/amd-zen-cpu-prototypes-tested-meet-all-expectations.html[/url<]

            • maxxcool
            • 4 years ago

            Sorry Jig, that’s not a real announcement.

            • Jigar
            • 4 years ago

            Agreed, my bad.

            • ImSpartacus
            • 4 years ago

            Cmon man, that’s a paragraph releasing a rumor.

      • chuckula
      • 4 years ago

      [quote<]Does Intel knows something that we don't about AMD's upcoming CPU ?[/quote<] If they do, then apparently it's that by merely letting some low-end chips be overclocked that Zen is taken care of. If Intel was rushing Skylake-E to market early with $200 price points for 8-core parts, then they might actually be worried.

        • Jigar
        • 4 years ago

        If AMD’s Zen CPUs are parallel in performance to Intel’s CPUs than this move makes sense. As AMD can only compete on pricing but with this move Intel has the lead.

        EDIT: All i am saying is why the generosity now, K series were created to charge us extra for OC capability. Why is Intel giving that away now after some many years. BTW, i am i5 4670K owner.

          • Phartindust
          • 4 years ago

          I’m not so sure that this is Intel’s doing. There wasn’t one word suggesting their blessing upon this bios work around.

          “Budget builders may need a new hero, and Anandtech says that hero will be motherboard manufacturers.”

          Motherboard OEM’s doing what Intel won’t. This should be interesting, pass the popcorn.

      • EndlessWaves
      • 4 years ago

      Maybe they’re going to offer GT3/GT4 parts at the same price, and want some incentive for people to buy the cheaper-to-manufacture GT2 parts.

      Well, I can dream.

      • maxxcool
      • 4 years ago

      Yup, that they will be the only gamers choice.

      • HisDivineOrder
      • 4 years ago

      It’s happening now because someone figured it out. It usually happens after a time when a chipset has been released. Intel craps a chicken and promptly engineers a “fix” to prevent it from happening.

      In the interim, non-Asus/Gigabyte motherboard manufacturers sell a load of motherboards on the promise of cheaper CPU’s being overclocked.

      In time, they must avoid all firmware updates or risk losing their miracle overclocks.

      Because Intel’s fix is to “ensure proper system stability by preventing going outside of tested parameters.”

      • Klimax
      • 4 years ago

      Evidence Intel is involved? Only mainboard vendors are mentioned…

      • travbrad
      • 4 years ago

      Even if Zen was somehow a threat to Intel, I don’t think allowing overclocking on more chips would be any sort of solution. The vast majority of users don’t overclock, or even know what that word means.

      • Krogoth
      • 4 years ago

      You could always overclock the BCLK.

      The problem was Intel threw the clock generator back onto the PCH with Sandy Bridge and chips that came after it which meant that if you overclock the BCLK. You also overclock everything tie to which included PCIe and PCI controller. PCIe and PCI devices really do not like going beyond spec.

      This changed with Skylake. Intel threw the clock generator back into CPU logic (Like it was with Bloomfield-era chips) instead of the PCH. PCI and PCIe speeds are no longer tied to BCLK. This made BCLK overclocking viable again.

    • UnfriendlyFire
    • 4 years ago

    Intel releasing a microcode and firmware update (mandatory for mobo manufacturers) in 3… 2… 1…

      • chuckula
      • 4 years ago

      Intel went out of its way to decouple the BCLK from the other non-core components with Skylake.

      If there was some grand conspiracy to prevent overclocking of these parts, don’t you think Intel just would have used the same setup they had used since Sandy Bridge instead of bending over backwards to make this possible only to try to paper it over with a magical firmware update?

        • brucethemoose
        • 4 years ago

        If Intel wanted you to overclock these parts, they’d just unlock the multiplier.

        No, Intel values their arbitrary market segmentation. I don’t know if they’ll do anything to fix this, but leaving their lower-end CPUs unlocked was a coincidence, not intentional.

          • ImSpartacus
          • 4 years ago

          So why did they decouple the clocks of the core and uncore in sky lake?

          It seems like an odd thing to do from a layman perspective.

            • UberGerbil
            • 4 years ago

            It’s possible it was just a side effect of other decisions. Propagating clock signals around a chip is difficult, and gets more difficult as the circuit size gets smaller (because everything gets effectively “farther away” in wire terms). It may have just been easier to have all the clocks run independently.

            • ImSpartacus
            • 4 years ago

            That sounds reasonable, but then why was sandy bridge (and friends) configured that way in the first place?

            Personally, I’m speculating that Intel didn’t do this to enable overclocking. They could’ve just unlocked the multipliers like the Pentium ae. Something else caused it, but I don’t have the background to speculate on that.

        • Bauxite
        • 4 years ago

        for precedent, see: G3258

    • ozzuneoj
    • 4 years ago

    It’s definitely cool to hear that there will be overclocking options for non-K CPUs but with the stock clocks being so high on most Skylakes without any additional headroom(over SandyBridge for example), it doesn’t offer quite as much of a boost as older CPUs did.

    The most interesting options will be the ones with the absolute lowest prices and stock clock speeds.

    … I’m having memories of my 1.47Ghz Athlon XP 1700+ that has run at over 2Ghz for almost 13 years. It cost me $50 and runs cool on a small heatsink with a 40% overclock. Not bad. 🙂

      • delsydsoftware
      • 4 years ago

      I had a 1.8ghz athlon 2200 which ran overclocked at 2.6ghz with a slight undervolt. It was rock solid, until my el-cheapo watercooler leaked at the cpu block and pumped a quart of water onto the motherboard. It does make a nice fridge magnet now, though:

      [url<]https://www.flickr.com/photos/delsydsoftware/5343639337/in/album-72157625669257025/[/url<]

    • Wirko
    • 4 years ago

    Until a certain company with a blue logo says no.

      • brucethemoose
      • 4 years ago

      You mean VIA?

        • Wirko
        • 4 years ago

        Wrong. It is [url=http://logopond.com/gallery/detail/51899<]Spear Nose Creature[/url<].

    • ImSpartacus
    • 4 years ago

    [quote<]Despite that change, Anandtech reports it's had no success achieving a significant overclock with a Core i5-6500—results that mirror my own attempts with a Core i3-6100[/quote<] I'd be interested to hear more about your efforts with that little 6100. Is there a tr review on it?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 4 years ago

      Nah, nothing official. I’d be happy to write a bit more up in the forums, though. I have at my disposal some of the same CPU benchmarks from the Skylake review which could provide context. When I moved my Skylake system to an mITX box, I had this almost-complete system (MSI Z170A Krait Gaming and a GTX 760) sitting in a Define R4 that just needed a CPU and some RAM. For $160 I got some RAM and the cheapest i3 I could find, which was during Black Friday weekend at Tiger Direct—$107 minus 25 for using Visa checkout.

        • DPete27
        • 4 years ago

        Awgh! I didn’t even think to look at tiger direct since they’re rarely the best price. Newegg was selling them for $125….That savings could’ve gotten me up to a z170 mobo that could have done this overclocking instead of the asrock h170m pro 4 I ended up with. Although..I vaguely remember seeing a bclk adjustment option in the bios on that board. I’ll cross my fingers.

        • ImSpartacus
        • 4 years ago

        I’d really like to see a 6100 review, especially if you can frame it around this new overclocking method. I hope you reconsider. It’s those kinds of innovative deep dives that really made tr stand out from the crowd.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 4 years ago

          Well, that’s up to the EIC and folks’ time to crank it out.

            • ImSpartacus
            • 4 years ago

            :/ At the very least, I appreciate your cander.

          • f0d
          • 4 years ago

          back in the days of celerons (and pre celeron) overclocking when reading computer websites all the exciting stuff was when people did the things that wasnt the norm with hardware, especially overclocking

          -changing the clock crystal in a 286 from 8mhz to 12 (my first OC)
          -bumping 486/33’s to 50mhz bus
          -bumping up the 66mhz base clock of a pentium to 75
          -333mhz mendocino celerons doing 550mhz and in a bp6 dual cpu mobo
          -athlon xp’s bumping the 333 bus to 400 and making a xp 2400 into a 3200
          -great overclocks out of 2.4ghz northwood p4’s
          -crazy 2.4ghz > 3.6ghz+ overclocks out of core2duos

          these things seem quite tame nowdays but back then it was a “wow” moment when you found out about them

          an overclockable i3 would be another wow moment for me, i would instantly buy one just cause i can

            • ImSpartacus
            • 4 years ago

            Yeah, the market has slowed down a bit as performance hits a surplus, but this is certainly a neat little nostalgic opportunity.

    • kuttan
    • 4 years ago

    Wow that would be amazing if its possible. Buy a Core i5 6400 and overclock all the way just like that of the Core i5 750 days.

      • dragosmp
      • 4 years ago

      my thoughts exactly

    • chuckula
    • 4 years ago

    Obviously the liquid nitrogen nonsense is just for show, but if you can get a Skylake i3 up to 4.2 – 4.5GHz or so, that’s a very potent processor at a reasonable price.

      • ImSpartacus
      • 4 years ago

      Yeah, those 3.7ghz 6100s were going for less than $110 around black Friday.

      If you could get them up to around 4ghz without murdering stability/thermals, you’d have the makings of a pretty slick little mid range gaming machine for those on a budget.

      I’m not sure if it makes as much sense to overclock the locked quads. I’d rather pay a little more to get a better binned chip with the side benefit of “legitimate” overclocking.

        • xeridea
        • 4 years ago

        An 8% OC after a lot of tinkering and a BIOS update isn’t going to make a mediocre CPU into some awesome gaming CPU. Games want more threads these days, and 2 just isn’t going to cut it unless you can get it to 5-6GHz, which isn’t going to happen. Maybe with DX12/Vulkan you would be ok, but DX11 takes your first core (and is still slow at this), part of a second, then you have like half a core for all the game logic, physics, ai, etc.

          • f0d
          • 4 years ago

          first of all an i3 isnt really a mediocre cpu – they are actually quite capable gaming cpus even before you oc
          [url<]http://www.techspot.com/review/972-intel-core-i3-vs-i5-vs-i7/page7.html[/url<] second, even though the i3 only has 2 cores it has hyperthreading which actually does help a lot when it comes to highly threaded games which is why an overclockable i3 is actually quite exciting compared to the overclockable pentium

            • ImSpartacus
            • 4 years ago

            Thanks for sharing that review. It’s hard to find articles about that sort of thing.

            You always hear that quad core cpus are effectively required for all modern gaming, it’s surprisingly tough to find evidence to back up blanket statements like that.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 4 years ago

            I was under the impression that the vast majority of games effectively used 2 cores. 1 for game logic, 1 for rendering. Some do get fancier like giving audio it’s own thread or managing to split up game logic, or doing physics. Those are the minority though.

            However, I’d never go less than 4 cores at this point. Even if games only really use 2, want at least one extra one for background stuff.

            • ImSpartacus
            • 4 years ago

            Yeah, I think many of us commenting on these threads probably have enough disposable income to not have to worry about this kind of decision.

            • vargis14
            • 4 years ago

            They should have enabled Hyperthreading on the AE Pentium in the 1st place and added about 20$ to the price…….It’s not like pentiums did not have HT when they were Intels top of the line CPU’s and since it was a Anniversary Edition it would have made perfect sense.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 4 years ago

            I’d like to see how they do at Project Cars.

            Also, how much cache does the i3 compared to the i7?

          • ImSpartacus
          • 4 years ago

          That’s a common sentiment, but I’ve seen limited evidence to show that there’s a significant performance bump when you introduce a many-threaded cpu to a gaming workload on a mid range 1080p machine.

          Do you know if any recent studies on the subject?

          I’ve only seen a couple. This one is thorough: [url<]http://www.pcper.com/reviews/Systems/Quad-Core-Gaming-Roundup-How-Much-CPU-Do-You-Really-Need[/url<] Note that in the above article, the 3.4 ghz 4130 generally does relatively well when paired with a ~$200 gpu at 1080p. I'm assuming a ~4 ghz skylake dual core would do even better despite being about the same price. Now it's always important to mention that if you want the best performance possible, then this kind of discussion is silly and unnecessary. However, if you have like $600-800 to spend, then you have to find innovative ways to save money while maintaining satisfactory performance. That's when this discussion matters.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 4 years ago

            Those graphs are really annoying to read, but I’m gathering that nearly any CPU listed will pump out 100 FPS if matched with a fast enough GPU. I see almost no correlation between cores and FPS when you account for the fact that the higher core CPUs usually have faster clock rates and/or more cache.

          • chuckula
          • 4 years ago

          [quote<]An 8% OC after a lot of tinkering and a BIOS update isn't going to make a mediocre CPU into some awesome gaming CPU. [/quote<] If you want the ultimate gaming CPU, get a 6700K. But that's not the point. Even Haswell i3s routinely turn in strong performance numbers in a wide range of games. An overclocked Skylake i3 is going to give a lot of performance for a lower price.

          • tipoo
          • 4 years ago

          Digital Foundry and some others looked into i3 gaming quite a bit, the two extra virtual threads make a massive difference over the Pentium line despite simular architectures elsewise. Having 4 threads allows it to boot games that require 4 first off, as to the game it just looks like a quad. And it’s fast enough to push 60fps most of the time on most games, if the GPU allows.

          The 4 threads also smooth out the valued frametimes a lot over a non-HT dual. DF also did a test with a Skylake i3 vs the venerated 2500K, the i3 stayed at higher framerates for longer.

          You’re right that an 8% overclock doens’t make or break it, but the CPU is a competent little champ to start with, especially on 2666MHz RAM. i3 and 750M, for about 400 dollars for a build, were constantly beating the XBO and PS4 in games on Digital Foundry.

            • UberGerbil
            • 4 years ago

            There are games that [i<]require[/i<] a quad and won't even start if they don't see four threads?

            • auxy
            • 4 years ago

            Yes, foolishly. (・へ・)

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 4 years ago

            Games do a lot of stupid stuff like this now. There was a Call of Duty game that wouldn’t run less there was 8 gigs of ram on the system. People found it usually used like 3 gigs of memory, and hacked it so it would start just fine.

            • tipoo
            • 4 years ago

            Yep, it’s dumb. So like, they won’t boot on the fastest dual cores (without HT), but will boot on a quad core Atom for instance. Hard coding things like that is just dumb for so many reasons.

            And imagine if someone wants to boot that game 10 years down the line, there’s a dual core that performs better than any quad of today for instance.

            Ubisoft gonna Ubi, what can I say.

            • nanoflower
            • 4 years ago

            Far Cry 4 is one that requires 4 threads to boot, but there are workarounds so you can get it to run on a Pentium G3258 but it won’t do it out of the box. No idea why they implemented such a check given that there are 4 threaded CPUs that have much worse performance than even a stock clocked G3258.

        • Hinton
        • 4 years ago

        300mhz won’t make a difference to whether its a slick little gaming machine or not.

          • ImSpartacus
          • 4 years ago

          I agree that ~0.3ghz isn’t going to make or break anything.

          However, I think it’s still a reasonable goal for a long term 24/7 oc.

          [list<] [*<]That's all it takes to make a $130 6100 perform better than a stock $180 6320. Intel is selling chips that are only 0.1-0.2Ghz faster and people are buying them. [/*<][*<]It also won't require an expensive cooler. If you're barely spending a hundred bucks on a cpu, then you damn well better not spend much on a cooler. Honestly, you might be able to use the stock cooler to save more money. [/*<][*<]Finally, it won't require a sketchy vcore for that dainty 14nm process. There's no way I would put more than 1.3v through a 14nm chip just to get a 4.5+ghz 24/7 oc. [/*<] [/list<] Ultimately, if you're getting this chip as an enthusiast overclocker, then none of that matters. You have spare coolers already sitting around that are probably pretty nice. You have alternate systems that probably perform a lot better, so you don't care if you kill your chip with aggressive voltage. You didn't get this chip because you need a budget gaming machine. But if you did get it for your only pc gaming machine on a shoe string budget, then a relatively tame overclock is probably best for you.

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