When it came to overclocking, the Core i7-3960X and DX79SI were kind of a mixed bag. We saw quite a bit of performance improvements when overclocking this processor, but we felt that we had to pump way too much voltage into the processor to get it stable at 4.86GHz on water. Our biggest obstacle, we felt was the board itself and not the processor. We also noticed that in our stress test at 4.86GHz that the vCore was fluctuating quite a bit unlike it had been at stock which to us was an indication of not good enough power delivery to the CPU at higher vCores.
Intel's overclocking assistant built into the BIOS with the 1.25x gear ratio really made achieving 4.63GHz extremely easy and is a very nice assist for anyone looking for a good base to build off of when overclocking their processors. We're certainly interested to see this develop in the future with more overclocking assisted profiles and tools.
If you look at our overclocked Cinebench R11.5 score, you can see that once the Core i7-3960X is at 4.8GHz it is unbeatable by a mile. We also have a comparison of our AIDA64 scores at 4.86GHz as well just to show how big of an improvement a 47% OC can provide. We went from 9.68 to 14.06 with the 47% OC.
The Intel Extreme Tuning Utility for the DX79SI is definitely a welcome addition to Intel's boards and could make overclocking a much easier process for those that don't know where to look in the BIOS, but the truth is that most of the changes made in the ETU end up requiring a restart anyways and it really seems to lose a lot of its value if you have to restart anyways. Having something like EVGA's Eleet may be more beneficial to Intel if they can find a way to do clock speed bumps without actually requiring a restart. But then again, doing it in the BIOS after a restart is always our preferred method of overclocking and we don't really recommend doing it any other way.
Our biggest complaint, though was that because we had to feed the chip so much voltage in order to keep it stable the processor ended up hitting 91C under stress tests at 4.8GHz. We are quite sure that with a better VRM and overall better board design, we could probably hit 5.2 to 5.3 or even higher, especially if we go for a better cooling solution.
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