Overclocking is a bit of a dying art these days. Both Intel and AMD have allowed their CPUs to boost within certain clock speed ranges without any user interference for years now. For a lot of people, that’s good enough.
Hardcore users still like to fiddle with clocks, however, often in the hope of squeezing a few additional percentage points of “free” performance from the system. This is less the case with AMD’s Ryzen family of CPUs, however, because these CPUs have never been particularly good at overclocking. The company is reportedly looking to change that with Zen 4.
In a recent Ask the Experts webinar flagged by Wccftech, an AMD manager said the company is looking to “make a big splash” in overclocking with its upcoming “Raphael” 7000 series CPUs. Although the webinar was about Samsung’s memory support for its Epyc Genoa server processors, a Q/A followed. It was in that discussion that Joseph Tao, Memory Enabling Manager at AMD, made the following remarks. “Our first DDR5 platform for gaming is our Raphael platform and one of the awesome things about Raphael is that we are really gonna try to make a big splash with overclocking and I’ll just kinda leave it there but speeds that you maybe thought couldn’t be possible, maybe possible with this overclocking spec.”
Our take? We’ll believe it when we see it. It’s been years since AMD has offered a CPU that could overclock well. While there have been some exceptions like the Threadripper 3990X, most AMD chips today are not great overclockers. Most recently, AMD blocked overclocking the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, presumably to prevent out-of-spec operation from damaging the chip.
AMD’s director of technical marketing, Robert Hallock, previously mentioned the company doesn’t like to lead a lot of clock speed headroom on the cutting room floor. The reason is obvious: it doesn’t have much to leave out in the first place. And second, why would it?
Times have changed in the CPU world. Years ago, manufacturers could count on a 25-50 percent increase in clock speed at the introduction of a new node, with further gains possible as yields improved. Legendary overclocking CPUs like the Duron 600 and Celeron 300A earned their reputations because Intel and AMD were selling chips well below their potential clock speed in order to supply parts at various price points and volumes. The Celeron 300A was regularly capable of 400Mhz or more (a 1.33x OC) while the Duron 600 could reliably hit 900MHz (a 1.5x boost). That’s the equivalent of a 4GHz Ryzen 7 overclocking to 6GHz.
Even if AMD does offer some overclocking headroom, the gains are likely to be modest. A 4.5GHz CPU with headroom enough to hit an all-core 5GHz is only picking up a 1.11x performance boost at best. That’s enough for AMD to generate some buzz, but we’re never going back to the days when consumers could buy a new chip and crank the clock up 30 percent. .
It has already been rumored that it’ll be offering Ryzen Accelerated Memory Profiles for its Zen 4 CPUs. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that overclocking will be a big part of Zen 4’s launch.