With the introduction of the new Intel Core i7 processor architecture, the company affectionately known as "Chipzilla" from Santa Clara has once again topped itself on the performance charts. Core i7 chips deliver significantly better performance per clock cycle, while at the same time being more power-efficient versus its predecessors. There's no doubt that it's a great chip, an insanely complex piece of circuitry which can churn through whatever you throw at it with relative ease. It is the chip you want in your system, assuming price is no barrier. However, in this economic environment, price is a major factor for most people out there, and lots of people out there are looking for a bargain, or at least, something to make the price tag more tolerable.
As with any new processor architecture introduction, early adopters bear the brunt of the cost on these new chips. If you were to set up a high-end Core i7 system today (Core i7 965, X58 motherboard, 6 GB DDR3-1600 memory), you're looking at a price tag of around $1,500 - $2,000, without any graphics cards or storage or extras. However, it is possible to get similar performance levels of a top-of-the-line Core i7 system without paying nearly as much, and that's through the time-honored tradition of overclocking.
Intel planted a gift in the Core i7 launch in the form of the Core i7 920. This is Intel's entry level Core i7 processor which runs at a stock speed of 2.66 GHz, not too far off from the high-end Core i7 965 model which runs at 3.2 GHz. While the high-end Core i7 965 sells for over $1,000, the Core i7 920 sells for a respectable $300, considering the performance that this chip is capable of with a little elbow grease. In terms of their basic hardware, they are the same chip underneath, but they simply run at different frequencies. While overclocking the Core i7 is a bit different compared to previous generation Core 2 processors, most of the same principles apply to these new systems.
So, we grabbed one of the new Core i7 920 processors off the retail shelf and decided to see how far we could clock it up. We want to give potential buyers an idea of what overclocking with the Core i7 is like, along with how much performance you'll gain, how to deal with heat, and how power consumption comes into play.
Core i7 920 Retail Box - Front
Core i7 920 Retail Box - Rear