Intel QX9650 - A Holiday Gift to Overclockers


Author: Dominick V. Strippoli

Our test rig for this session will consist of the following hardware:

Intel Extreme Quad Core QX9650 Week: L73 Package Date: 11/6/07
Gigabyte X38-DQ6T with F4A Bios
Koolance Exos2 WC (space saving water setup) w/ Apogee GT Waterblock
Corsair Dominator Cas7 1800mhz (2X1GB)
2 X Sapphire HD 2900XT's
Silverstone Olympia OP1000

"Let me begin by stating normally you will find a consumer review of a new Intel Processor showing performance measurements using a stock clock for clock comparison, as well as overclocking results based on stock voltage and no tweaking. Here at Next Level Hardware I want all of my readers to get used to the fact that we are not a regular hardware review domain. We always take our equipment to the absolute extreme to give the consumer the complete range of potential on the hardware. For this QX9650 review we are using a strict regiment of Overclocking right out of the box using a midrange Koolance Exos2 Water Cooling setup. We are not reviewing this CPU to display the daily use benefit in a Microsoft Office Productivity rig, or to use ITunes. Consider this review more of an overclocking adventure. :) " - Dominick

 As a pre-requisite we had to update to the F4A bios on our Gigabyte DQ6-X38 motherboard for 45nm support. What we also did was made sure to reset all settings in the bios to factory defaults (except for memory voltage). This way Iwe can see what the DQ6 auto detects on the quad core. The strange thing is that our test bench motherboard automatically configures the QX to 8 X 400 (3.2 GHz and a 1600mhz system bus). I think for some strange reason this DQ6 bios thinks the QX9650 a native 1600 mhz bus processor.

Here is a core temperature and CPUZ shot upon first boot up. The rig booted up great, and I am shocked by idle temps at stock maximum Intel recommended voltage. 1.3625 vcore and all four cores barely deviate from one another, not to mention idle temp is 29*C. You
can also see the stock bios autoconfigured frequency of 3.20 GHz and 1600 mhz FSB.

First Stop: Stock Voltage 3.70 GHz quad priming:


Next Stop: Stock Voltage 3.82 GHz quad priming:

Here comes the bride. We were able to achieve a 35% overclock on this processor without touching voltage at all. This later proved to be an 11 hour Orthos/Prime stable setting. That folks is just astounding. You have 4 cores running less than 55* C under load each core, and simply setting a few keys in the bios to attain a 35% overclock on this processor.
Stock Voltage, 4.05 GHz:

Not only were we able to achieve a 24/7 overclock on this CPU for daily usage with stock voltage. But bumping up voltage to 1.65 vcore on this processor will allow you to achieve a staggering 57% overclock and easily break into the 9 second barrier using SuperPi 1m as a benchmark. **Please do not attempt to push high voltage into your processor as it can be detrimental to longevity especially without ample cooling. Maximum recommended voltage is listed at 1.3625 for this processor.** Now, lets just forget about that voltage warning for a minute here:

4.70 GHz on Water Cooling


My favorite portion of our little overclocking adventure here is figuring out maximum 24/7 prime stability on the QX9650. For newbies and overclocking beginners those terms mean the theoretical maximum frequency that your processor can run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days out of the year. To test out stability you can use a multicore stress tool such as Prime95 or Orthos while monitoring your temperatures closely using a tool such as Core Temp. For my testing I always use PrimeMulticore. Assuming that all retail QX9650's are binned very close to identical you should be able to achieve an overclock of 4.20 GHz 24/7 using water cooling. Based on our results, I am assuming 4.0 to 4.2 GHz 24/7 is also do-able on air cooling. Again, stability is only decided if the processor is relatively safe with maximum voltage. We are pushing 1.50 max vcore into this QX, and using my judgement I feel this would be ok for a daily usage setup.

4.20 GHz Fully Stable 24 hours a day.


 To continue on with incredible results. My test bench was fully gaming + 3d benchmarking stable at a mind blowing 4.51 GHz. This gave me the ability to obtain monstrous Futuremark ORB scores.

I apologize to keep jumping around with different results in all different areas, but this processor just has so many new treats to be unveiled. Something else incredible with this QX9650 is the ability to run at such a low nominal vcore. I was able to boot Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit @ .99 vcore bios selected. Even more incredible is that the PC is fully stable 24/7 at stock frequency of 3.00 GHz @ 1.01 vcore. Almost a full 30% less than stock maximum allowed vcore from Intel: 1.3625. The longer I played around with this little CPU, the more tricks and treats came out. As you can see in the Core Temp shot, temperatures drop a full 10*C below stock vcore temps. Why am I giving you (the consumer) low voltage results like this? Simple reason: Lets say you are buying this processor for a video editing/encoding, digital photography, or business productivity PC and you plan on keeping this processor at stock specifications: 3.00 GHz for a long healthy life. By giving you these results I am providing you with the ability to underclock your voltage by 30%, lowering operating temperature substantially under idle/load not to mention increasing the lifespan of your CPU tremendously.

And last but not least I know everyone wants to know the maximum frequency capability of our sample on water cooling. We were able to achieve an incredible 4.79 GHz using 1.65 vcore on watercooling. A full 60% overclock from a mild and timid 3.00 GHz processor.

In conclusion, if you know of any overclockers this holiday season: The QX9650 will be the ultimate gift. With a hefty price tag of $1100, many consumers may hold off on this purchase until the mainstream "Q" non extreme processors are available in January. But, we know that the new Intel Halfnium 45nm process based on the Penryn/Yorkfield line is going to overclock like crazy. Here at Next Level Hardware we were able to take a standard retail boxed Yorkfield processor up to 4.00 GHz with full stability on stock voltage, up to 4.20 GHz with full stabilty bumping up vcore a few notches. Finally, we could play Crysis and run 3Dmark benchmarks at 4.51 GHz and to top it all off we were able to obtain a maximum verified clockspeed of 4.79 GHz. At the present time the QX9650 is the ultimate in high end hardware so take out those checkbooks and start writing!

Email the Author: Dominick Strippoli