Official Overclocking: Intel’s Performance Maximizer reviewed

PC enthusiasts have been overclocking their hardware since before I owned a PC. At the risk of sounding like an old person, I had to move jumpers around on my Shuttle HOT-555A to get that Socket 7’s motherboard to run its front-side bus at 83 MHz instead of 66. That took my Pentium MMX 166 MHz up to 207 MHz. The prevailing thought among enthusiasts seemed to be “why not overclock? It’s free performance.” The process was a little intimidating to me at first, and many average PC users either didn’t know about it or were afraid to mess with the default settings.

Fast forward a few years and motherboards started to make things easier. Abit’s KT7 was the first motherboard I can think of that had a jumper-free overclocking experience. You could press a hotkey at boot time and mess around with voltages and bus timings right on your PC monitor. While those interfaces have improved over the years, tweakers still get their hands dirty in the firmware interface to tune their gear to the bleeding edge of stability. Who among us didn’t buy a Northwood Pentium 4C 2.4 GHz or a Barton Athlon XP 2500+ and crank that sucker up? Whoa. I just felt a wave of nostalgia.

What’s the next step in overclocking, though? These days you can control those same manual switches and knobs in Windows-based tools, but the methods are still the same. Are we destined to live lives of endless toil, tweaking voltages and multipliers? Should we carry on perfecting our AVX offsets and obsessing over stability with Prime 95?

Many motherboards these days have some degree of automatic overclocking, but those features tend to be somewhat coarse and overly conservative. Motherboard one-click overclocking tools often have higher-than-necessary voltages and lower-than-optimal boost clocks to accommodate the largest portion of hardware without doing a lot of strenuous testing. What if you could run a utility that would automatically run tests, tweak speeds and voltages, and come up with the perfect overclock? If I were to climb up on Santa’s knee when I first started tinkering with PC hardware, that might be what I’d ask of him.

Intel Claus recently dropped a gift down the chimney of all the good owners of the company’s unlocked 9th-generation CPUs: Performance Maximizer. This utility brings official overclocking to the masses with a single click, or so the pitch goes. There’s quite a bit more to it than that, but we’ll get to that. First off, we’ll ruin the fun of some gerbils early on: sorry, non-9th-gen owners, this isn’t for you. To use Performance Maximizer, you need to have not only one of the six CPU models on the list below, but also a Z390 motherboard running Windows 10 version 1809 or later.

Processor Model # Cores # Threads Integrated GPU Base Max Turbo
Core i5-9600K 6 6 Yes 3.7 GHz 4.6 GHz
Core i5-9600KF 6 6 No 3.7 GHz 4.6 GHz
Core i7-9700K 8 8 Yes 3.6 GHz 4.9 GHz
Core i7-9700KF 8 8 No 3.6 GHz 4.9 GHz
Core i9-9900K 8 16 Yes 3.6 GHz 5 GHz
Core i9-9900KF 8  16 No 3.6 GHz 5 GHz

Recently, I was in the market for a new gaming PC. While I think Ryzen is great (cue the “My other PC has a Ryzen 5 2400G” bumper sticker), I elected to go for raw gaming power over a robust multi-tasking system. Despite AMD’s progress on the single-threaded performance front, Intel still wins those battles more often than not. So for that reason, I selected a Core i5-9600K. It’s rather fortuitous that Performance Maximizer dropped a few days later. I had just dialed in what I thought was the perfect overclock, but I figured I’d take Intel’s tool for a spin.

There are two versions of Performance Maximizer, so be sure to get the right one. One is for Core i9 processors and the other is for any supported CPU without Hyper-Threading. Regardless of whether you download the version for the Core i9-9900K or the one for non-HyperThreaded CPUs, the installer will weigh in at a whopping 1.5 GB. If that sounds like a lot of space for an auto-overclock tool, just wait until you run it.

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Ben Funk

Sega nerd and guitar lover

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Sven Sorensen
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Sven Sorensen

Hi there
Say, am I missing something here?
I only see what to me seems like an intro to a review, not the review itself??

BorgOvermind
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BorgOvermind

This article’s intro reminds me of good old times: – OC’ed Pentium 1 – OC’ed 800Mhz Duron to 848 (just a little but it mattered some at the time) – OC’ed Athlon X2 to +50% it’s initial frequency as a demo and constantly in-use at 2400MHz on a DFI LanParty. – And then…the epic Abit IP35 PRO with Q6600 constantly running at +50% it’s original frequency and with thermoelectric cooling at exactly double it’s original frequency, just as proof-of-concept. The Abit IP35Pro system and the Duron one are still in use where I donated them. Too bad Abit is gone… Read more »

Aether
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Aether

Great write up, and I loved the self shout-out!

JalaleenRumi
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JalaleenRumi

[s<]The guy looks like Saddam Hussein with an Afro. Extremely sorry for this inappropriate comment. Just couldn't hold it in much longer.[/s<] I'm sorry. I didn't mean any disrespect to anybody. 🙁

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

Uh…

edit: “the guy” is Bob Ross, and The Joy of Painting is amazing.

Waco
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Waco

I think anyone who recognizes Bob Ross has been officially labeled “old” per this post.

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

No, I don’t think so. [i<]The Joy of Painting[/i<] is a recreation drug user's dream, and it's been on Netflix for a while.

Waco
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Waco

Look at all these happy little trees… 🙂

highlandr
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highlandr

It is on YouTube as well, if you don’t have a netflix sub.

jihadjoe
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jihadjoe

I believe Twitch streamed his show for a few days straight.

G8torbyte
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G8torbyte

True, been a fan of his for many years. In addition to the painting skills his voice/demeanor is so relaxing I’ve tuned into his show to relax, take a nap and calm down my overly active chilren many times. “There are no mistakes only happy accidents” Thanks Bob for all the shows.

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

True story: I volunteer with a group of high school-aged musicians and each year we have a Christmas party where everyone scours the house to make the goofiest prank white elephant gift they can come up with. Three years ago, a student brought this. I loved it so much that I had to bring it home and proudly display it on a bookshelf.

[url<]https://imgur.com/a/4xvGChH[/url<]

Usacomp2k3
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Usacomp2k3

Bookshelves are for books, silly Ben.

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

It’s on top of the bookshelf unit. 😀

The shelves have movies and games. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Usacomp2k3
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Usacomp2k3
Wonders
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Wonders

Don’t beat yourself up. Your comment (and subsequent apologies) cracked me up and made soda come out my nose… ow.
In other words, you made somebody’s day brighter. Bob Ross would have approved.

JalaleenRumi
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JalaleenRumi

Ah. Thank you. At least someone got a laugh out of it.

Krogoth
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Krogoth

[Bob Ross]There is no such thing as misposts. Just more wonderful meme magic at work. 😉 [/Bob Ross]

Krogoth
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Krogoth

Tried the maximizer and it found that my 9700K’s optimal overclocking speed was around 5.0Ghz which I’ve already set it to with some minor manual overclocking. The only annoying thing was reverting the UEFI back to default settings and back to my small number of tweaks. It seems like that my CPU is thermally limited which isn’t that surprising but I doubt it’ll climb much higher than 5Ghz without throw a ton of volts which is typical of Intel’s 14nm+ silicon. The tool doesn’t seem to be worthwhile if you have a 9700K and 9900K on hand unless you want… Read more »

Usacomp2k3
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Usacomp2k3

The voltage curve could be useful from a lifespan side. No need to run a full bore all the time.

synthtel2
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synthtel2

Looking through PTPP stuff, I don’t see anything limiting it to Performance Maximizer. Am I blind, or would this cover some 1.5V insanity? If the latter, one-time replacement limits it a bit, but that’s still pretty bold.

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

That’s my reading, too. Unless Intel wants you to send in your drive with PM installed, there’s probably no way for them to tell what caused it.

anotherengineer
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anotherengineer

Does the program bypass all the firmware and OS security updates? 😉

Shobai
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Shobai

The second of your rendering graphs is using a place holder “title” .

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

Oof, fixed. Should have been Time in Seconds.

WaltC
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WaltC

Intel once again shows just how thoroughly the company simply “doesn’t get it” at all when it comes to overclocking…! Too funny! Just hilarious! ….;) There’s just nothing else to say about this. Surpasses my wildest imaginings about Intel’s stodginess! Oh, brother…All doubt as to why AMD has caught Big Blue “napping like it’s 1921” are hereby erased! *snicker* My, goodness! It’s like “Overclocking with Edsel Tech!”…!

Redocbew
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Redocbew

Isn’t IBM supposed to be “big blue”?

Klimax
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Klimax

What’s the purported problem?

NTMBK
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NTMBK

They made it easier to extract performance from your CPU, while still leaving all the manual knobs and dials in place so you can do it manually if you prefer. I really don’t see the downside here.

Froz
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Froz

Not only that. It appears they actually made it better than what most users could do manually. Somehow I doubt I could do better than Ben and he admits to have manually achieved only half of what this tool does – and it is stable. That’s completely different to what has been achieved so far (to my knowledge anyway).

On some level it was actually expected, because if you think about it, overclocking seems to be a perfect case for automation, as it involves tons of testing and slowly tweaking parameters.

Srsly_Bro
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Srsly_Bro

Are you 13?

Aether
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Aether

I’m honestly more confused than annoyed by this. Is this genuine AMD fanboyism, or is this supposed to be tongue-in-cheek faux AMD fanboyism, or is this just going for a straight-up insane rant vibe?

mikepers
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mikepers

Are you drunk?

DPete27
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DPete27

My biggest concern is why it needs a 16GB partition!?!? 14GB of log files is insane.

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ludi

Great work! A writeup like this may appear deceptively short but it takes a lot of effort on the backend.

Mr Bill
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Mr Bill

To be clear, it never gave you a summary of the frequencies and voltages that gave the optimal boost for the system? I’m guessing there is a (possibly encrypted) file somewhere. If I were offering CPU insurance on the settings. I would want to be sure the user did not mess with them.

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

No indication officially what it did, and since the UEFI shows no change, it’s hard to tell.

The UEFI partition has a folder with around 2GB of files in it, most of it named things like “DS08-LC-63700024.obj”

There’s one human-readable file, called IPM.log. All that has is what displayed on the screen while testing was going on. There’s another relatively small file (28 kB) called IPM.dat but it’s not readable in Notepad++ or similar.

The driver is called ipmiprv.dll and it lives in C:\Windows\System32\wbem – presumably it reads the configuration from somewhere, but I can’t find it.

synthtel2
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synthtel2

How about HWInfo or similar? Seeing any voltages on this would add a lot to it.

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

Ack, I can’t believe I left HWMonitor’s readings out! When MSI’s boost was in place, the BIOS read 1.25 and HWMonitor reported around 1.265 – 1.275 at all times. When Performance Monitor is going (like it is now) HWMonitor shows pretty normal (sub-1.0) voltages at idle and that same 1.265 to 1.275 under Prime 95’s load. I see slightly less while CPU-Z is running its stress tests, capping out at 1.25 but generally hovering around 1.23-1.24 So there’s a curve here, which I really like. edit: these are all VID #x figures, of which there are 6, since the processor… Read more »

Mr Bill
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Mr Bill

That is really interesting. So, instead of a fixed voltage and frequency in the bios, it ramps them up and down as needed? Very cool.

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

Yep. Cores downclock all the way to 800 MHz at idle and voltage drops to 0.6-ish, according to HWMonitor.

Krogoth
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Krogoth

It just goes to the maximum “safe voltage” of ~1.4Vcore when stress testing after a couple of rounds until it starts failing (not enough volts or thermal throttling) which is where it finds the “optimal overclocking speed”. The test can be short or long depending on how much overclocking ceiling your CPU has. 9700K and 9900K SKUs have little since they are already running close to their ceiling at maximum turbo speed.

Mr Bill
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Mr Bill

[quote<]So there's a curve here, which I really like.[/quote<] This right here seems like a tremendous advantage for your system in that its not running on the ragged edge when idling or barely stressed. This might extend the lifetime of an overclocked CPU.

willmore
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willmore

Jumpers!!! You got to tune with jumpers??? Okay, I got to tune a clone PC-XT (8088) by turning a potentiometer which controlled a variable oscillator that fed the processor clock. It didn’t have any kind of lock ring or anything. You better nobody touches it when you’re doing anything important!

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

Somebody get this man his Social Security check!

mikepers
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mikepers

Now I want to go and take a look at the XT clone sitting in the attic…curious if it has either jumpers or a potentiometer to tinker with.

(though that thing is about 35 years old so not sure it will still function…)

bhtooefr
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bhtooefr

XT clones were a mixed bag – some had a place for a jumper to enable a Turbo mode, some had the trimmer cap for slight tweaks of the 14.31818 MHz master clock.

Aether
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Aether

Wow, I did not realize that this was ever a thing!

bhtooefr
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bhtooefr

That was actually a trimmer capacitor, and it did only very slight adjustment of the clock speed (to adjust color on CGA composite video), FWIW.

Krogoth
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Krogoth

The requirements are most likely trying to make it “idiot-proof” as possible. Most casual overclockers are not likely to deal with messing around bootable flash or optical media. I think the 16GiB partition size requirement is probably used for swap space for system memory. Most Z390 users have at least 8-16GiB of memory in their setup and it provides an adequate stress test on the memory controller. Z390 requirement makes sense since there’s a decent number of Z370 boards that have power delivery issues when you attempt overclock a Coffee Lake/Coffee Lake R chip. Z390 is really just a Z370… Read more »

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

While those things may be true, I think we’re all within our rights to disagree with those decisions.

Srsly_Bro
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Srsly_Bro

“idiot-proof”

Who else would buy a product full of bugs and exploits? Seems it’s made for an audience that doesn’t exist in the Intel camp.

Waco
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Waco

…why would an overclocking tool use swap space? That makes no sense at all.

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

I missed that in my first glance at his comment, but I can kill that notion right now. Here’s what’s in the partition (formatted FAT32)

[url<]https://imgur.com/a/PJZOtst[/url<] I can't find anything in the registry that might load settings, but I don't know what I'm looking for.

Waco
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Waco

I imagine it’s a few GB of tools and profiles, then lots of extra space for logging when actually running? Perhaps Intel is using the collective dataset from your machine to help the profiling step…does the software agreement say anything about uploading things to Intel?

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

The warning on this page does not scroll at all. This is as close as it gets to a EULA.

[url< comment image[/url<] Nothing here about phoning home, and Windows Firewall doesn't even list the app, so it hasn't tried to yet.

Hmm. Missed opportunity unless they store a lot more internally than expected.

Krogoth
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Krogoth

Part of the stability test to see if data going through memory controller, PCIe controller and PCH don’t throw-up errors?

Redocbew
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Redocbew

The only way having swap space involved makes any sense at all is if the tool requires that much data all at once. I can’t think of any good reason why it should.

Waco
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Waco

They use repeating patterns for that, and that’s not swapping. Swapping is not something this tool does.

If it needed to do storage testing there’d be an SSD requirement or a warning about write cycles.

chuckula
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chuckula

I wish Bob Ross was here to add some [s<]T[/s<]itanium white to the review photo.

Mr Bill
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Mr Bill

Highlighting and backlighting are so helpful. Now that Bob and Itanium have clocked out; we will have to rely on LED’s.

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

After taking these photos, I swapped out the LED-less fans for some CM MF120s, and then turned all the RGB to plain white. It really illuminates the case, and I like it an awful lot.

Dogs haven’t complained that it keeps them up at night, either.

Srsly_Bro
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Srsly_Bro

Not true. Now that I know you have white LED fans, I will have many rest less nights.

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

You are my dawg, but I meant the dogs that sleep in my office. 😆

Usacomp2k3
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Usacomp2k3

Thanks for writing this Ben. Nice walkthrough of the featureset both theoretical and practical. Purportedly, that’s what us Gerbils like.

derFunkenstein
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derFunkenstein

Thank you! 🙂

Mr Bill
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Mr Bill

This Gerbil approves.

JustAnEngineer
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JustAnEngineer

“We gerbils”.

Usacomp2k3
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Usacomp2k3

Doh!

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