What Is Turbo Mode on the Intel Processor?What Is Turbo Mode on the Intel Processor?
Intel is the largest computer processor manufacturer in the world and is often a leader in developing CPUs that push PC performance levels and enable users to play or work on their computers faster. Some newer Intel CPUs include a Turbo Mode, which the company refers to as Turbo Boost. The actual workings of Turbo Boost can be a bit difficult to grasp at first; but it basically allows the processor to run faster than its stated clock speed to provide a temporary performance boost for applications in certain situations. Several variables exist that can limit performance gains achieved with Turbo Boost, but the technology does help you complete computing tasks significantly faster in some cases.
Turbo Boost Basics
Intel touts Turbo Boost technology as "On Demand Processor Performance." Concisely, Turbo Boost provides more processor performance when Windows requests it and when the CPU is operating below maximum power, current and temperature specification limits. In layman terms, Turbo Boost overclocks your CPU for brief periods when system load and temperature permit. If the processor is running relatively cool and its cores are not under heavy loads, Turbo Boost can increase processor performance substantially to help complete short tasks in Windows applications. For example, an Intel 820QM has a nominal clock speed of 1.73GHz. However, with Turbo Boost enabled, the processor's cores can reach peak speeds of up to 3.06GHz for short periods if the system is not using too many other resources and the CPU is not too hot.
Turbo Boost 1.0 and 2.0
When Intel released the original version of Turbo Boost in the summer of 2009, the technology enabled or disabled the performance boost based on power or voltage limit specifications set for the processor in the system BIOS. This approach was very effective but designed primarily for applications that did not make use of the CPU's multiple cores, such as iTunes, Windows Media Player or other audio applications. By contrast, Turbo Boost 2.0 enables or disables overclocking based on the overall thermal temperature of the processor. If the CPU is running at thermal levels beneath limits specified in the BIOS settings, Turbo Boost kicks in and raises voltage to the processor cores as well as clock speed to improve performance even more than the original version. Clock speed spreads (the difference between the base clock speed and that of the CPU when overclocked) for Turbo Boost 2.0-enabled processors are a little lower than those that use the original version of the technology. However, Turbo Boost 2.0 can sustain performance increases for the processor for much longer periods -- as long as the CPU is cool enough, the processor remains overclocked. This approach is much more efficient for Intel processors that use an integrated graphics engine inside the die of the CPU and for mobile/laptop processors.
Compatible Processors and Motherboards
Most modern Intel processors support Turbo Boost technology but not all. All current Intel i5, i7, Extreme Edition and some XEON series processors support Turbo Boost for both mobile and desktop computers. However, Intel i3 mobile and desktop processors, as well as legacy CPUs, do not use the technology. Most motherboards designed for i3, i5 and current model Extreme Edition or XEON processors are compatible with Turbo Boost technology. However, to ensure that the motherboard will make use of Turbo Boost overclocking, always look for the "Intel Turbo Boost" label or sticker on the motherboard box or manual. It is also important to note that Turbo Boost only works with modern versions of the Windows operating system and not with Macs or systems that use Linux or other Unix OS variations.
Enabling and Disabling Turbo Boost
By default, most manufacturers enable Turbo Boost in the system BIOS for compatible motherboards and systems. Consequently, you should not have to do anything special to take advantage of the overclocking and performance benefits the technology provides. If you want to disable Turbo Boost, though, you must do so manually by turning the feature off in the BIOS. If you purchase a compatible motherboard for a Turbo Boost-enabled processor, disabling the feature is relatively simple. To disable Turbo Boost, press "F1," "F2" or "Delete" upon startup to enter the system BIOS utility, then turn off the feature in the Advanced or Advanced Configuration menu. However, if you have a laptop or system made by a company such as Dell, HP, Gateway, Lenovo or other manufacturers that often limit BIOS menu options, you may not be able to disable Turbo Boost in the BIOS.
Potential Heat Issues
Quality in computer motherboards varies considerably. As a result, so does the efficiency of instructions and sensors used to monitor Turbo Boost performance, processor voltage or thermal levels. Because Turbo Boost boosts performance in Windows by raising the core voltage of the processor, the CPU gets hot -- really hot. Therefore, Turbo Boost should theoretically always disable itself before CPU temperatures approach too close to dangerous levels. However, this is not always the case. It is a fact that voltage and heat sensors work better on some motherboards than they do on others. This is especially true for laptops that have limited ventilation and cooling to begin with and are often used on surfaces that prevent adequate airflow. If Turbo Boost causes overheating problems for your system, disable the feature in the BIOS if possible. If you cannot disable Turbo Boost, always use your laptop or desktop computer in a well-ventilated room and give the power supply and processor fans as much exposure to open air as possible. This means not placing your desktop computer in a corner with poor air circulation or using your laptop on top of a bed, pillow, couch or other soft surface that blocks airflow into the bottom of the notebook.
Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 detects when processors are below power limits, accelerating active cores to improve application performance.
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* Max turbo frequency is the Maximum Clock Speed the processor is capable of operating at using Intel® Turbo Boost Technology
September 7, 2014