Gigabyte Releases BIOS Fix For Intel CPU Stability Issues But Is There A Performance Hit?

intel core i9 unlocked

Intel's been under some fire recently for issues affecting its top-end Core i9 processors from both the 13th- and 14th-generation Core families. Some of these chips, even when set to "BIOS defaults", will crash or otherwise fail in certain tests, most commonly Cinebench 2024 and especially, games using Unreal Engine. The release of Tekken 8 really brought the issue to the forefront, as gamers started to struggle with stability on these high-end CPUs; one report noted as many as ten returns per day in Korea.

According to Buildzoid of the YouTube channel "Actually Hardcore Overclocking," the issue ultimately seems to stem from the fact that Intel does not strictly mandate power limit settings to motherboard manufacturers. As a result, likely to try and achieve the highest performance, many vendors set these limits to their maximum possible values, leaving the CPUs practically unlimited in terms of power draw. This removes one of the barriers placed on the boost algorithm, which gleefully ramps clocks to levels that the CPU's voltage tables were never programmed for while under that kind of load. This causes a crash due to insufficient voltage.

gigabyte z790 bios update
Gigabyte's notes for the latest BIOS on the Z790 AORUS Tachyon.

There are a few ways to fix this—the quickest is just raising the voltage or lowering max junction temperature (Tjmax) to 90°—but the most straightforward is to simply apply Intel's Recommended power limit settings for your CPU. For the majority of affected Core i9 and Core i7 processors, this should immediately solve the problem. It's actually kind of a pain the butt to do manually, though; there are several different settings you'll need to apply. That's why companies like ASUS and now Gigabyte are releasing new motherboard BIOS updates that add an "Intel Baseline" feature to automatically pull back the CPU's power limits to what Intel recommends.

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New menu in Gigabyte's UEFI firmware showing the new "Intel BaseLine" setting.

This appears to be different from the "Intel Fail Safe" setting that we talked about recently. Early guidance to resolve the problem recommended toggling the SVID Behavior on ASUS motherboards to this "Fail Safe" setting, and while it certainly does resolve the problem, it does so by adding a significant amount of voltage to the chip, raising the CPU voltage to over 1.6 volts. This isn't good for the temperature of the CPU, and it probably isn't good for the long-term well-being of the processor, either.

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Cinebench testing with different power limits by Uniko's Hardware.

Instead, you can use this 'Intel Baseline' turbo limit profile to restrict the processor's boost algorithm to the maximum power for the CPU; this is generally 253 watts for "K" processors and 320 watts for "KS" CPUs. However, dropping power limits to make the CPU throttle when it hits them obviously involves causing clock rate throttling, which means reduced performance. How much? Well, if Taiwanese tech site Uniko's Hardware is correct, it could be as much as 29% on some chips, at least in heavily multi-threaded workloads like Cinebench.

It's worth noting that Uniko's Hardware tested using a Core i9-13900KF "QS" processor. This is a qualification sample, which means it has final silicon, but is not exactly equivalent to a retail processor. In his case, the "Intel Baseline" profile sets the power limit to 188 Watts instead of the expected 253 watts. When setting that value manually, their score is only 10% lower compared to running the chip at "Auto", which leaves it fully unlimited. This is roughly in line with prior testing from HardwareLuxx, who found that using Intel's recommended settings gives between a 0 and 11% drop in performance.

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Cyberpunk 2077 benchmarks by Uniko's Hardware. Click to enlarge.

You can head over to Uniko's Hardware to read the full article; Google Translate does a pretty fair job with it. They tested a lot more than just Cinebench, including Red Dead Redemption 2, Cyberpunk 2077, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Some of the performance drops in games are pretty severe at 1080p, but significantly less in 4K. Keep in mind that his QS CPU gets a lower power limit than a retail Core i9 would for most of his testing, though.