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Yes, you can overclock cheap Intel Skylake chips

Gordon Mah Ung | Dec. 14, 2015
Budget builders rejoice! Tech site Techspot confirms you can now overclock cheap Skylake chips with a BIOS update.

Credit: Gordon Mah Ung

Budget PC builders are in for a treat: It’s been officially confirmed that you can now heavily overclock Intel’s cheap Skylake chips with a BIOS update.

Tech site TechSpot confirmed it through hands-on tests—the team overclocked a Skylake Core i3-6100 from its default clockspeed of 3.7GHz to 4.7GHz, after motherboard maker Asrock provided them with a beta BIOS that required switching off the integrated graphics.

Why this matters: Up until now, Intel’s last few generation of chips have limited overclocking to pricier “K”-series CPUs. With an apparent work-around discovered, higher clock speeds and essentially “free performance” may become far more attainable for those who can’t afford a K chip.

Overclocking” is the term for running a CPU’s clockspeed above its rating from the factory. This may sound dangerous—and it can be if done improperly—but many CPUs are artificially limited to lower speeds by Intel at the factory to help meet prices. 

Here’s a car analogy: It’s like if Ford sold a top-end Mustang that could hit 150 miles-per-hour, but then took the same car and set its computer to limit the top speed to 120mph. In this case, Intel’s cheapest “K” Skylake chip is the $242 Core i5-6600K with a factory clock speed of 3.5GHz. The same chip has an equivalent Core i5-6500 for $192 at 3.2GHz. If you could take that cheaper CPU and overclock it to the same speed, why buy the pricier part? 

An architecture change within the sixth-generation chip that has separated the chips’ “BCLK” (“base clock”) from other components appears to be the culprit behind the newly-enabled overclocking. The base clock is one of the internal clocks that regulates the overall megahertz of the chip. With Haswell, or Ivy Bridge, for example, the base clock was hooked up to other sections of the CPU that would cause instability when the base clock was increased even in small amounts. That’s no longer the case, and after months of speculation over whether or not base block overclocking could work, it has been now confirmed.

Locked Skylake CPUs can be overclocked, unlike Broadwell and Haswell chips. Credit: Gordon Mah Ung

Maybe only dual-cores?

Something to note: TechSpot’s overclocking confirmation was only achieved with the dual-core Core i3 chip. Anandtech’s attempt at performing a base clock overclock of a quad-core Core i5-6500 hit a wall well before TechSpot’s dual-core would. But it isn’t known whether that’s the result of the motherboard used or of board vendors still tweaking their BIOSes to enable the overclocking. 


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