What is Turbo Boost in Processor – Mechanism, Pros, Cons

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What is Turbo Boost in processor? The Intel Core processors, namely the i5 and i7 models, come with its proprietary Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 and Turbo Boost Max technology 3.0.

Turbo Boost is a unique technology that boosts up the speed of the processor and helps the graphics card or GPUs to perform at its optimal level, even with peak loads.

The unique mechanism allows the cores present in the processors to perform at a faster rate compared to its actual operating frequency. This technology is used especially when the processor is performing at:

  • Low capacity
  • Low power and
  • Lower limits of its temperature specifications.

However, there are two basic things that will determine whether or not the processor will actually use this technology. These are:

  • The operating environment and
  • The specific workload experienced by the processor.

These two factors will also determine the total amount of time spent by the processor in that specific state.

The good thing about these two types of Turbo Boost technologies in the latest Intel Core processors is that you will not require to install any specific software or drivers to use them.

All you need to use this useful feature is a system that comes with this technology built in it.

As of now, there are only select models in which you will get the Intel Turbo Boost Technology. Therefore, to make sure that the computer you buy has one, you should refer to the specifications or consult with the manufacturer of the system.

The performance of this technology will depend largely on three fundamental factors namely:

  • The software
  • The hardware and
  • The configuration of the system.

Ideally, every processor in laptop or desktop computers typically has its own standard clock speed.

The speed of this CPU clock determines, albeit partially, the speed at which the processor performs or executes a specific task.

Especially in the laptop computers, the clock speed will be lowered by the CPU periodically. This is done to save power.

It is during these times when the CPU may also activate the Turbo Boost mode, if the processor in it has it, intermittently to ramp up the processing speed.

Just like the Turbo Core technology of AMD, the Intel Turbo Boost technology can scale up the speed of the CPU dramatically and dynamically.

However, the performance will rely heavily on the thermal specifications and its limits available. Check out Intel Atom, Celeron and Pentium Processors.

It is proved that the Turbo Boost capacity may worth almost an additional GHz of power for the CPU. This indicates its usefulness.

What is Turbo Boost in Processor?

What is Turbo Boost in Processor

Sometimes there may be a few demanding jobs and specialized programs running concurrently, that may reduce the speed and performance of the computer.

Turbo Boost is that feature in the processor of a computer that will automatically raise the speed and operating frequency of the processor as well as the system on the whole.

Hence, the performance level of the computer will also be raised by a significant margin.

However, this Turbo Boost technology may not be available in all types of computers.

At present, you will get only a few types of processors that have Turbo Boost technology enabled in it. These are:

All these processors were introduced into the market on or after 2008 and are more specifically based on specific architectures such as Sandy Bridge, Nehalem, and other microarchitectures.

The Turbo Boost feature in a processor will be enabled, but that does not mean it will be used or stay activated at all times.

This is activated or accelerated only when the operating systems need more speed and send a request for an increase in the frequency to the processor to achieve its highest performance state by activating the Turbo Boost technology.

This highest state of processor performance is well defined and overseen by the ACPI or The Advanced Configuration and Power Interface and all processor manufacturers must abide by its specification.

This is actually an open standard which means that it will be supported by almost every key operating system.

To run this program there is no need to install any extra drivers or special software.

The built-in features, advanced technology, and the specially engineered design concept will activate Turbo Boost, which is also known as ‘dynamic overclocking,’ automatically and instantaneously, once the operating system sends a request for it to the processor.

When the workload on the processor is more and needs it to perform at a higher level, the CPU clock is increased in an attempt to increase the operating frequency as a consequence.

This is done in regular increments and sporadically to meet the demand, as and when required.

The extent to which the speed of the clock of the processor will be increased will, ideally, depend on several different factors. The major factors include:

  • The power of the processor being used
  • The current flowing through it
  • The number of cores the processor has and are used at the point of time when the request for Turbo Boost was made
  • The maximum frequency of all those cores that are active during sending the request and
  • The thermal performance of the processor itself.

The frequency of the processor or the operating system is not increased instantly and all at once to its maximum limit. In fact, it is increased in increments.

There are two different increment rates of the frequency of the processor and its performance depending on the type of processor used and its microstructure. These are:

  • 133 MHz for the Nehalem processors and
  • For the Sandy Bridge, Haswell, Ivy Bridge, and Skylake processors it is limited to 100 MHz only.
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On the other hand, when the thermal or electrical limits are reached or exceeded, it is automatically decreased by the operating system in decrements at the same rate to 133 MHz for the Nehalem processors and 100 MHZ for all the other types of processors.

This decrement happens till the time the operating system starts to perform according to its design specification and limits once again.

As said earlier, there are two types of Turbo Boost technology available now. There are a few significant differences between the two in design and other aspects mentioned as under:

  • The Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 technology was introduced by Intel in 2011 and was built on the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture, and, on the other hand,
  • The Turbo boost Max technology 3.0 was launched in 2016 and designed on the Broadwell-E microarchitecture.

Another noteworthy feature of the Turbo Boost 2.0 technology is that it comes with different time windows.

These time gaps allow the processors to boost up to even a much higher level of performance and frequency for a couple of seconds.

This is due to the fact that the time windows have diverse levels of power restrictions.

The good attribute of these time windows is that the time limits can be configured in the software, provided the motherboard has an unlocked processor.

However, if the manufacturer of the motherboard intentionally designs it in such a way that you are compelled to use values that are much higher than the default for performance in these specific Intel Core processors that comes with built-in and enabled Turbo Boost technology, then you cannot do anything about it.

This is because it makes the TDP, or Thermal Design Power, invalid.

As for the Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0, or TBMT 3.0, it aims at the fastest cores of the processor to enhance the frequency of operation and the level of performance.

There are only a few specific brands and types of processors that support this technology, which is the latest in the circuit. These processors are:

  • Intel Core X Series or HEDT processors
  • 10th Generation Intel Core processor that comes with 10th Generation Desktop Core i7 and Core i9 versions
  • The latest versions of Windows 10 and
  • A few Linux kernels.

The special ability of Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 lies somewhere else. You may know that no two processors are the same.

They may have the same look, specifications, and even perform and smell the same (!), but there will be a slight difference between the two processors.

This is due to the manufacturing process of the CPU. This minute difference causes a slight difference in the strengths of the cores in the CPUs.

It is here where the Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 comes in.

This technology harnesses these little differences and, at the same time, provides the CPU with some additional boost in its operating frequency and performance level.

However, this is not available in all types of Intel CPUs.

Currently, it is only the top-class and high-performing Intel Core processors, such as the Intel Core i7 and Core i9 Extreme Edition processors, that come with this latest technology in them.

The frequency boost of the Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 is up to 200 MHz higher as compared to the standard Turbo Boost frequency.

However, this does not mean that TMBT has replaced the regular Turbo Boost technology. In fact, depending on the type of the Intel CPU, it actually compliments many of these.

Lifespan 

Like all other computer components, the Turbo Boost feature, too, does not have a definite lifespan.

This overclocking technology, that is essentially inbuilt in the processors, can last for a long, long time, provided you take a few specific things into consideration.

First, you must make sure that the temperature of the CPU is within the thermal limits for better thermal controlling.

Since the processor may overclock one or four cores and may be more in the latest versions of them, proper control of temperature is paramount.

However, this overclocking happens to only a few cores that the processor is using currently.

Ideally, most of the processors use only 1 to 3 cores at a time while the rest of the others, if there are any, will sit idle till some instructions or threads are available to them to execute.

This is a deliberate process designed by the manufacturers to ensure that the other cores in the processor runs at a much faster rate when in use.

Overall, this will keep the performance of the processor at a higher level while keeping it well within the specifically designed thermal limits of the processors.

In turn, it will prevent the life of the processor from being reduced, if not enhanced.

However, if you Turbo Boost the entire CPU, it will not last for a long time.

This is not only due to the different time widows but also due to the possibility of a significant rise in the internal temperature of the CPU.

It is for this reason you will need to have a robust and effective cooling system to ensure that the temperature of the processor is within the specified limits and in check.

Practically, you should not worry about the lifespan of the Turbo Boost technology, and, in fact, your processor on the whole.

This is because the CPU will not always use up all available resources and consume more power than usual. Therefore, it is needless to say that it will not produce more heat than it actually should normally.

Thanks to the design and features of the modern CPUs, they all look for the best available option and scope for improvement making the best use of the components within it that are sitting idle.

This is especially facilitated by the unique design of the new CPUs that have 4 to 8 cores and can work on 2 to 4 threads or sets of instructions at a time.

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Half of these are almost always sitting idle and therefore, provides a huge opportunity to boost the cores that are active which in turn enhances the operating frequency and performance of the operating system.

Most importantly, the overclockable CPU or processors that come with Turbo Boost technology built and enabled in it are customizable. This means that you can change the time limits according to your needs.

This, under normal circumstances, will not affect the lifespan of the processor.

This is because the Turbo Boost technology is designed in such a way that it will always operate staying well within the frequency and power limits as set by the makers, even if you change the time limits.

Therefore, the Turbo Boost technology is absolutely safe to use because it is designed with a lot of sensors in it that will prevent it from crossing the power and thermal limits and keep it safe and long-lasting.

The Mechanism of Turbo Boost in Processor

The primary objective of the Intel Turbo Boost technology is to oversee the usage of power and the level of performance by the processors.

The purpose of it is also to ensure that the processor functions well within its TDP or Thermal Design Power.

The TDP of a processor denotes the maximum amount of power used by the processor and determines whether or not it is supposed to use that much amount.

If the Turbo Boost technology finds that the processor is performing well within its set thermal limits, it may activate the Turbo Boost feature, if needed.

This is a dynamic feature that helps the Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, and Xeon processors only, though it is a common feature in almost all types of processors that are manufactured after 2008.

This technology has no specific speed to work on or the level to which a processor with this feature may reach up to.

However, the system works on the basis of Maximum Turbo Frequency, of MTF, that denotes the maximum speed the processor can achieve.

For example, the Intel Core i5-9600K comes with a PBF or Processor Base Frequency that may range up to 3.70 GHz, and the MTF can be up to 4.60 GHz.

This means that the Turbo Boost technology increases the speed and processing power by 0.9 GHz.

However, the technology does not propel the speed of the processor from 3.70 GHz to 4.60 GHz at one go. In fact, it does it in very small increments of time and speed.

The Turbo Boost technology increases the base clock speed but never guarantees that it will reach the maximum.

This is because it will largely depend on the workload of the processor, which, ideally, will not be high or remain the same all the time.

Though the operation of the Turbo Boost technology is more or less unpredictable, it is still a very useful feature to boost up the processing power, speed and increase the level of performance of the processor.

The unpredictability of this Turbo Boost technology in processors is due to the fact that each and every processor is different and has its own strengths and weaknesses.

However, in spite of this drawback, (if you really want to call it, that is), the Turbo Boost technology will induce a lot of processing power in the following tasks:

The difference in performance can be easily noticed when the Turbo Boost technology responds to the request for higher speed by the processor most intelligently.

It will work in distinct and most crucial areas such as:

  • Providing more horsepower to the processors while executing complex tasks
  • Monitor the power usage by the processor while executing these tasks
  • Check and regulate the temperature and
  • Control and influence the activities performed by each core of the processors.

However, for this technology work there are a few specific requirements. It will, at least, need a dual core or quad-core i7 and i5 processor.

It will also need some support from the operating system because it will only work in response to the request made by the OS for higher speed.

It is also required because it is the operating system that will do other crucial jobs that include:

  • Allocating different tasks to different cores of the processors,
  • Overseeing the temperature limits,
  • Controlling the core activities, and
  • Estimating the power consumption by the software.

Ideally, the Intel Turbo Boost technology will work well with Windows, Linux, OS X, BSD Unix, and Solaris OS as well as any other operating system that is compatible with this latest technology and also supports multi-core processing.

The Pros

1. No more compromises

In the olden days, the choice between a dual-core and quad-core processor was actually making a compromise.

This is because some programs like games supported dual-core processors while others like 3D rendering favored a quad-core processor.

Users had to make the choice based on their needs as both cannot function in a single processor.

This was not an easy task because dual-core processors of that time typically had faster clock speeds as compared to the quad-core processors.

This is because more cores in the quad-core processors meant an increase in heat generation and power consumption.

With the introduction of Turbo Boost technology, this compromise was done away with.

2. Overclocking technique

The overclocking technique of the Turbo Boost technology helped in controlling the hardware components of the computer much more quickly than the original speed set by the manufacturers.

This technique identifies the need for extra power and speed by the processor and activates the Turbo Boost feature only then.

3. Consistency

With the dynamic overclocking technique of Turbo Boost technology, the speed of the CPU is altered consistently depending on the load on the processor.

It supports the current operating milieu to take the processing power and speed to the next higher level.

4. Scalability

This technology ensures maximum scalability of the processor in terms of speed and performance of the requesting applications and processes.

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It does not work always and therefore, is more scalable. It will determine the available cores, the current workload, temperature, and power consumption of the processor to start working.

This will help in keeping both the current and required power usage to the lowest level.

5. Algorithms

The Turbo Boost feature comes with some of the best algorithms built in the core of the processor which is used to increase the speed of the CPU temporarily and automatically for a short period, that often ranges from a few seconds to a couple of minutes, and accelerated only when required.

The increased speed of the software will allow you to run different programs at a time smoothly and most effectively.

6. Control

This technology does not require you to control it manually.

This is built in and enabled and therefore, can start and perform a task automatically by observing the current condition of the computer, the need for higher speed and by calculating how fast the processor can exactly perform at that given instant.

7. Protection

When the speed is controlled, the Turbo Boost technology also facilitates regulating the power supply to the processor as well as other internal components of the computer.

This protects the system on the whole and prevents it from being damaged due to excessive heat generation and power consumption unnecessarily.

The Cons

8. Warranties

Almost every computer manufacturer sets the base clock rate on the processors. This is done to ensure a high level of endurance and consistency in quality.

With Turbo Boost or overclocking these processors there is a risk of compromising and nullifying the guarantee for quality from the point of view of the chip and computer manufacturers. In case you want a replacement or return, it can be a serious issue.

9. Lifespan

There is also the risk of reducing the lifespan of the hardware components of your computer such as the CPU, RAM or motherboard due to excessive overclocking.

This is because, with every overclocking a small amount of additional voltage will be sent to these components that may damage the hardware and even your motherboard.

10. Heat generation

Overclocking a processor will generate more heat that may damage the processor due to more electricity pushed into it.

You will need to control this heat and use an effective and robust cooling system for that purpose.

This means that it will negate the cost savings associated with overclocking.

There is also the risk of the computer crashing and the motherboard being damaged completely if you do not choose the right cooling system for your computer.

FAQ:

How do I Turbo Boost my CPU?

You need not worry about this because your processor will have this Turbo Boost technology built in it and enabled. This means that it will start working automatically as and when required.

However, there may be some BIOS that will allow switching this feature on or off. As a matter fact, you will be using it often and not even realize it. That is exactly how it is designed to work.

Does Turbo Boost damage your processor?

No, it will not. This is because Turbo Boost technology will perform within the set limits of the CPU. However, you should run it at the stock speed and not leave it enabled after overclocking.

This is not advised because the processor will then tend to overclock itself beyond the set frequency that is already overclocked. This is likely to cause a system crash.

Does Turbo Boost make a difference?

Yes, it does, and often in a big way. It increases the speed of the processors and also regulates the temperature and power consumption.

This not only enhances the performance of your system but also results in cost and time savings. You will be able to perform complex tasks that needs running sophisticated software.

How do I know if Turbo Boost is working?

It will work every time it is required. Do not worry. However, it may not work if it is disabled. You must check the Power Options to see whether or not it is working. You may also check the BIOS because it can be switched off there as well.

You can check it through Intel’s free Windows-only software and if you are an Ubuntu Linux user, you can use the ProcMeter3 utility to check it. For the Mac OS X users, using Activity Monitor is recommended.

Is Turbo Boost enabled by default?

Yes, it is enabled by default. You can make this out when you notice an increase in speed of processing. Since Turbo Boost is a default feature of the processor, if it has it then it will work, every time it needs to.

Does Turbo Boost help gaming?

Yes, it will help a lot. Since overclocking is the job of the Turbo Boost technology, it will increase the speed of processing which is essentially required to play any game, if it uses the CPU exclusively, because most games do not use it much and instead rely exclusively on the GPU.

However, since the load is not the same on the processor, there may not be constant need for Turbo Boost.

Wrapping it up

The Turbo Boost technology, though not available in all types of CPUs, is an important feature that helps users in performing complex task using complex software by overclocking. Check the specifications when you buy a computer to know whether it has one.

About Dominic Cooper

Dominic CooperDominic Cooper, a TTU graduate is a computer hardware expert. His only passion is to find out the nitty gritty of all computers. He loves to cook when he is not busy with writing, computer testing and research. He is not very fond of social media. Follow Him at Linkedin