How Does Intel® Turbo Boost Technology Work?
CPUs don’t always need to run at their maximum frequency. Some programs are more dependent on memory to run smoothly, while others are CPU-intensive. Intel® Turbo Boost Technology is an energy-efficient solution to this imbalance: it lets the CPU run at its base clock speed when handling light workloads, then jump to a higher clock speed for heavy workloads.
Running at a lower clock rate (the number of cycles executed by the processor every second) allows the processor to use less power, which can reduce heat and positively impact battery life in laptops. But when more speed is needed, Intel® Turbo Boost Technology dynamically increases the clock rate to compensate. This is sometimes called “algorithmic overclocking”.
Intel® Turbo Boost Technology can potentially increase CPU speeds up to the Max Turbo Frequency while staying within safe temperature and power limits. This can increase performance in both single-threaded and multithreaded applications (programs that utilize several processor cores).
If you’re wondering how to enable Turbo Boost, don’t worry — it’s enabled by default. You don’t need to download or configure anything.
What Is Max Turbo Frequency?
When handling light workloads, the CPU runs at the base frequency listed in its specifications. (Or lower, when the energy-saving Intel SpeedStep® technology scales CPU speeds.) When handling hardware threads marked for high performance, Intel® Turbo Boost Technology increases the clock speed up to the Max Turbo Frequency.
For example, the Intel® Core™ i9-9900K processor has a base frequency of 3.60 GHz, and a Max Turbo frequency of 5.00 GHz. Note that depending on its situation, a given CPU may not always reach its Max Turbo Frequency. The dynamic increase in speed changes depending on the workload and the thermal headroom available.
When comparing CPU clock speeds, the Max Turbo Frequency is typically the key number to keep in mind. It reflects the processor’s peak performance before overclocking.3 Along with core count and premium features, it’s one of the key considerations when CPU shopping.
What’s the Difference Between Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 and 3.0?
Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.04 follows the behavior described above, and is available on most Intel® Core™ processors newer than 2nd Gen (Intel® Core™ i5, i7, i9 processors, and Intel® Xeon® processors).
Intel® Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 is an enhanced version of 2.0 that boosts the speed of a CPU’s fastest cores individually, while also directing critical workloads to those boosted cores. It can increase single-threaded performance up to 15%.5 6 7
Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 3.0 is available in Intel® Core™ X-series processors, including:
- Intel® Core™ i7-69xx/68xx processors
- Intel® Core™ i9-7900X/i9-7920X/i9-7940X/i9-7960X/i9-7980XE/i7-7820X/i7-9800X processors
- Intel® Core™ i9-9820X/i9-99x0XE/i9-99x0X processors
- Intel® Xeon® processor E5-1600 v4 product family (single-socket)
How Do I Use Intel® Turbo Boost Technology?
Intel® Turbo Boost Technology works automatically to give your CPU more speed when needed. There’s no need for users to install or configure it, as it’s enabled by default on all operating systems.
Though you can also disable Intel® Turbo Boost Technology from the BIOS, it’s not recommended to do so unless you’re troubleshooting specific issues or trying to collect consistent performance measurements. You’ll see more efficient performance and higher peak clock speeds with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology enabled.
If you’re interested in getting more out of your CPU, read our guide to overclocking and other CPU optimization resources.