Different workloads place different demands on a system’s CPU. Typically, processors can easily handle lightweight requests like running a word processor or browsing the web. But heavyweight tasks like gaming, editing video, or streaming content are more taxing.
Boost technologies address this difference and help Intel processors adapt to the job at hand. They do this by increasing the CPU’s frequency, or clock speed.
Before we discuss how boosting behaviors work, there are two specifications to understand.
Base frequency is the frequency at which the CPU runs when the system is idle or under light load. When running at its base frequency, the CPU draws less power and produces less heat. Operating at a lower frequency some of the time — as opposed to full speed all of the time — can also aid processor longevity4.
Max turbo frequency is the frequency a CPU targets when stressed by a demanding application like a game. It’s the maximum single-core frequency a CPU achieves without overclocking.
For example, the Intel® Core™ i9-11900K has a base frequency of 3.5 GHz, meaning it completes 3.5 billion cycles per second. But its max turbo frequency is much faster: 5.3 GHz. (Before overclocking.) If the system has sufficient power and thermal headroom — think a high-performance air or liquid CPU cooler — it can make this leap in frequency to better handle more intensive workloads.
In 11th Gen Intel® Core™ CPUs, several boost technologies work in concert, some affecting single cores and others, like the new Adaptive Boost Technology, affecting multiple cores. We’ll dive into each of them below, but here’s a quick reference table:
What Is Turbo Boost 2.0?
This graph shows the frequency boost provided by Turbo Boost 2.0 across all cores of an i5-11600K.
Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 is the boost technology you’re most likely to have heard about before, as it’s existed in many Intel Core i5, i7, and i9 CPUs released since 2011.
You can think of this as the baseline version of the boost behavior described earlier. It’s a power-efficient technology that lets your CPU run at a slower base frequency during light work, then boosts to a higher frequency for peak workloads.
Turbo Boost 2.0 boosts all cores. It’s also worth remembering that a CPU must be operating within power, current, and temperature limits before the speed increase takes effect.
What Is Turbo Boost 3.0?
This graph shows the boost provided by Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 for one or two “favored cores” in an i7-11700K.
Due to production differences, processor cores vary in maximum potential frequency. Intel® Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 identifies up to two of the fastest cores on your CPU, known as “favored cores.” Then it applies a frequency boost to those cores (or that core) and directs critical workloads to them.
Intel® Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 doesn’t replace Turbo Boost 2.0. It’s another technology that provides an extra boost to the favored core(s). This helps benefit performance in lightly-threaded applications.
Multi-threaded applications, by comparison, perform more work in parallel, scaling with more cores and features like hyper-threading. Other 11th Gen boost technologies provide all-core boosts that benefit highly parallelized programs.
Games and many common applications rely4 on high-frequency cores and benefit from Intel® Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0. It’s included in both 11th Gen Intel® Core™ i9 and i7 CPUs, such as the Intel® Core™ i7-11700, which features a max turbo frequency of up to 4.9 GHz.
As with other boost technologies, your CPU must be running below power, current, and temperature specifications for Intel® Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 to take effect.
What Is Thermal Velocity Boost?
This graph shows the effect of Thermal Velocity Boost on the first two cores of an i9-11900K.
Introduced in 2018, Intel® Thermal Velocity Boost (TVB) is a technology that unlocks extra CPU performance when thermal headroom and turbo power budget are available. It’s another building block in the stack of technologies that allow 11th Gen Intel® Core™ CPUs to reach higher Max Turbo Frequencies.
For 11th Gen Intel® Core™ desktop CPUs, TVB increases clock frequency by 100 MHz when the processor is below a temperature threshold of 70°C. For mobile CPUs, the limit is 65°C. A high-performance air or liquid cooler, such as a Cryo Cooler, will help your system stay below the threshold.
TVB is ideal for dealing with bursty workloads — programs that cause a sudden spike in CPU utilization. It gives your system a temporary performance boost in response, potentially eliminating the slowdown you’d normally notice.
Depending on the task at hand, TVB may increase the frequency of either a single core or all cores.
Single-Core TVB affects your CPU’s fastest core. It works as an additional boost on top of the performance jump that the favored core(s) receives from Intel® Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0.
All-Core TVB enhances every core, adding a frequency jump of up to 100 MHz on top of standard boost behavior.
What Is Adaptive Boost Technology?
This graph shows the lift provided to cores 3–8 of the i9-11900K by Adaptive Boost Technology.
New to 11th Gen Intel® Core™ CPUs, Intel® Adaptive Boost Technology opportunistically increases the all-core turbo frequency beyond previous Turbo Boost clock speeds. Active exclusively in Intel® Core™ i9-11900K and Intel® Core™ i9-11900KF CPUs, it affects cores 3–8.
The benefits of Adaptive Boost can be seen in multi-threaded programs that scale with multiple cores, a category that includes many modern games. It can also help in multitasking situations, like times when you’re gaming, streaming, and running Discord all at once.
Intel® Adaptive Boost Technology kicks in when the CPU is below the ICCMax limit (maximum current) and a temperature limit of 100°C. That means it can remain active even at temperatures above 70°C, the threshold for Thermal Velocity Boost.
The frequency gain of Adaptive Boost and its duration vary with different workloads, cooling solutions, and processor capabilities.
What Other Boost Technologies Affect My CPU?
The technologies detailed above are the main boosts that affect your CPU’s frequency. However, other technologies help optimize your CPU’s behavior in specific applications.
Intel® Deep Learning Boost is designed for complex AI workloads: it speeds up AI inference and learning from data sets. This helps with image classification, translation, speech recognition, and other tasks. For everyday users, it can expedite some AI-assisted tasks — for example, using a program that automatically sorts an album of images by subject and location.
Intel® Speed Shift Technology is a term you’re likely to encounter if you’re exploring UEFI options in BIOS while overclocking. Introduced in 2015, it gives your CPU finer control over its frequency, allowing a fast jump up to its maximum clock speed. This makes your system more responsive and efficient, so it’s recommended to leave Speed Shift enabled.
How Do You Use Turbo Boost?
To experience the performance gains enabled by technologies like Turbo Boost Max 3.0 and Adaptive Boost Technology, all you need is a compatible CPU. For most boost technologies, there’s no configuration required; the new Adaptive Boost, however, must be enabled in BIOS settings.
The flagship 11th Gen Intel® Core™ CPU, the Intel® Core™ i9-11900K, incorporates all of the boost technologies listed above. Thanks to Turbo Boost Max 3.0 and Thermal Velocity Boost, the CPU’s fastest core(s) can reach speeds up to 5.3 GHz, enhancing performance in lightly-threaded games. Multithreaded applications benefit from both TVB and Adaptive Boost, which enable an all-core turbo frequency up to 5.1 GHz.
Alternatively, the Intel® Core™ i7-11700K is a great option for users who don’t plan to buy an advanced cooling solution. It lacks Thermal Velocity Boost and Adaptive Boost, but features speeds up to 5.0 GHz, with Turbo Boost Max 3.0 adding to its maximum frequency.