Intel’s Turbo Boost Max 3.0 and the i7-6950X

Delivering extra performance through better boosting…

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With the advent of Nvidia’s GPU Boost  3.0 and Intel’s Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 (TBMT) it’s clear that semiconductor companies are fully committed to enabling users to run chips right on the edge of their stability profile. Although not on the market yet AMD’s extended frequency range (XFR) technology is set to fill the same role as Nvidia and Intel’s real-time overclocking offerings.

In many ways this trend was inevitable. Overclockers have worked for years to extract the most performance possible from their chips. How did they do it? But taking advantage of the thermal headroom offered by exotic cooling solutions like 2-kilogram heatsinks, water cooling, and even liquid nitrogen. With extra thermal headroom, chips remained stable at voltages and clock speeds they wouldn’t have otherwise.

The implementation of real-time sensor networks on to modern chips enabled both more aggressive power management and more aggressive turbo boosting schemes. These real-time overclocking technologies take the data coming from these ever more precise silicon monitoring systems and use them to find the limits of your specific chip in the environment you created for it. Essentially this is an automated and hopefully user transparent way to exploit any potential performance headroom in your PC.

Even notoriously cautious OEMs like HP are getting in on the TBMT action.

Reviewing Turbo Boost Max Technology (TBMT)

In this article, we’ll be comparing the performance of Intel’s Core i7-6950X at stock to the same chip with an updated BIOS to support TBMT and the software driver for it installed. Check here for a more technical explanation of how TBMT of how the software component of TBMT works.

When TBMT was initially released alongside a lineup of Broadwell-E chips last year it required a motherboard BIOS update to enable support. For older X99 motherboards this is still not enabled but since the Broadwell-E launch, the majority of X99 motherboards (like the one used in this article) have shipped with TBMT enabled by default.

With TBMT enabled in the BIOS, it’s then just a simple matter of navigating to the motherboard’s support page and downloading the TBMT driver.

Intel TBMT app

With the TBMT driver installed you’ll be greeted by this window on boot. The option here are pretty straightforward and allow you to enable or disable TBMT as well as specific which apps have priority. The TBMT app’s default configuration is shown above.

Intel TBMT app profiles

The app also offers the ability to configure TBMT on a per application basis. For the purposes of this review, we ignored that feature.

Intel TBMT tray icon

When you close the app it confines itself to the system tray with a slightly gaudy “Turbo” icon.

Too Long; Didn’t Read

If you’re a subscriber you can now find our testing methodology, exact hardware configurations, a detailed justification of these benchmarks, and our raw testing data at the very end of the article. We’ve opted to place that information behind our paywall with the acknowledgment that few people actually read those parts of our reviews and with the goal of making these articles easier to read for people who aren’t interested in those aspects of our content.

Transparency Statement

For the sake of transparency, we want you to know that Intel, Gigabyte, and Corsair provided the CPU, motherboard, and memory we’ll be testing in this review. All the other components were purchased at retail and without the knowledge or consent of those companies. We took no outside input for this article.

Test Results

The goal here is for Intel’s TBMT to show a meaningful performance advantage over a stock i7-6950X system.

Intel TBMT Compairson


In our benchmarks its clear that TBMT does have a positive impact on performance. Although its impact on gaming workloads are basically within the margin of error. Clearly, singlethreaded workloads have something to gain, and multithreaded workloads as well. But in general, the impact of TBMT on the performance and value profile of the i7-6950X is modest.

TBMT Offers More Performance at no Cost

From a consumer perspective, TBMT offers a few percentage points of free performance at the cost of installing another driver. It’s a no-brainer for current Broadwell-E owners.

Note: The following is for professional and student level subscribers.

Disclosures: Charlie Demerjian and Stone Arch Networking Services, Inc. have no consulting relationships, investment relationships, or hold any investment positions with any of the companies mentioned in this report.

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.