Less electrical voltage and a lower clock can make your laptop much better!
One of the most striking features of a gaming laptop is its sound. When used to play games, many leave the environment with a look of “is it raining?”, due to their very narrow bladed fans at high rotation. This is the result of high performance chips in tight spaces and little room for airflow.
Another villain is the adjustment of the manufacturers themselves. In our tests, Intel showed a very aggressive behavior in the frequencies, seeking to push the increase in clocks to the limit in the search for maximum performance. This is good for delivering more performance, but on the other hand, it causes many gaming laptops to run near the temperature limit, in this case 100°C on most modern Intel Core processors. Below is a good example of what happens in several models:
The big problem here is that aggressive boosts are great for making your PC fast, especially opening and loading things, but they cause the chip to reach temperature and power limits quickly. This means that in a high load cycle for long periods of time, the processor will reach its maximum temperature and have to slow down, which can create situations like the impression below:
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The Intel Core i7-10875H has a base clock of 2.3 GHz, but has a boost of up to 5.1 GHz. Most of the testing with Rainbow Six Siege, the benchmark runs around 4.3GHz, but at this particular moment we see that the temperature spike has pretty much brought the CPU down to base frequency. This is a classic example of Thermal Throttling, when heating restrictions cause the component to reduce operating frequencies to return to acceptable temperature levels.
Did Intel go too far in its boost? Can you do better? Today we’re going to show that the answer is yes, especially for “sustained” performance, i.e. those high-performance scenarios for long periods of time, typical of those that need to render complex tasks or long gaming sessions.
For the tests we will use Avell’s model, the LIV A72. We already have a complete analysis of it in this link. Parameters include:
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– Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 6GB GDDR6
-Intel Core i7-10870H
– 15.6″ IPS 165Hz QuadHD (2560×1440) display
– 2x16GB DDR4 @2666MHz
– 512 GB M.2 SSD
– 355 x 236 x 19mm
To change the settings, we will use the ThrottleStop software, available for free download via this link. Always good to remember: Changing your processor’s operating parameters outside of factory specifications can lead to instabilities and is also not covered by warranty, so proceed with caution. In general, the procedures that we are going to do are not critical: in fact, we are going to reduce the power and the frequencies.
ThrottleStop download link
One of the procedures that we are going to perform is undervoltage, that is, when you reduce the operating voltage of the processor. To get more performance and higher frequencies, a chip needs higher voltages, but this impacts stability and heat. Here’s an important thing: different chips work in different ways, even though they’re theoretically the same processor model. We cover more of this topic in this other article here.
Intel works with safety thresholds, which includes placing a voltage with a margin to ensure the chip is capable of hitting performance. Virtually every chip has the potential to operate stably at a lower voltage, but each will behave differently. Then there’s no other way: just test yours to find out where the stable fit is. After a few rounds of testing, we managed to stabilize the 10875H with an offset of up to -102.5 mV. in the processing cores (CPU Core) and 102.5 mV in the cache memories (CPU cache).
The other adjustment was in the frequencies. The performances do not evolve in a linear way: this means that if the frequencies are reduced, the performances do not follow at the same rate. Here is an example of this in CineBench:
We see that the evolution curve worsens after 3 to 3.5 GHz. The reason for this is that the processor cannot even sustain all cores continuously at frequencies above 3.5 GHz. While it still manages to extract a bit more performance to give more headroom, the gains compound until we get to the point where performance drops off, case of the 4.5 GHz boost on all cores – the default setting was 4.3 GHz.
This may seem counter-intuitive, after all among enthusiasts we generally want to increase the operating frequency (overclock) to obtain more performance. However, due to this instability created by thermal throttling, lowering the frequencies (underclocking or downclocking) can, paradoxically, be better for performance over long periods of time!
With that in mind, we’ve reduced the aggressiveness of the boost. The maximum has been reduced from 5.1 GHz to 4.8 GHz, and the turbo on all cores has been reduced from 4.3 GHz to 4.2 GHz. You can check out each of the adjustments in the print below.
So what’s better? The factory setting or our editing? It’s time to see the graphics!
CineBench uses the Cinema4D graphics engine, an important 3D rendering tool. This test is extremely CPU intensive and likes a lot of cores and threads. It’s obvious that our setup has lower results in single-threaded scenarios, which is obvious given that we’ve reduced the boost frequencies, but on the other hand, all cores in action see the opposite. Lowering frequencies improves performance. Here we have the first clear evidence of strangulation system in its factory configuration.
The undervolt was ahead, but the margin of only 2% is far from relevant, and could be a margin of error. Interestingly, reducing frequency and voltage did not impact performance.
With 3DMark, we have two tied results, with irrelevant variations. In this case, victory again for our setting, after all it consumes and heats up less, as we will comment on shortly.
The games show us a surprising scenario. While Red Dead Redemption 2 is tied, Rainbow Six Siege and even Counter Strike showed performance gains above the 5% margin of error. This is unexpected given that, particularly CSGO, it’s a game that benefits from high frequencies, not large amounts of threads. While we expected a repeat of what happened in CineBench on a single thread, again our more moderate clock proved better for the final average than higher voltages and more aggressive boosts.
And finally, our last test checks consumption and heating. The decrease in CPU heat is visible, which contributed to the performance improvement in several of the tests, as it provided the most efficient sustained performance. But another factor also comes into play: GPU heating. With parts of the heat pipes and fans shared structures, reducing heat on the CPU results in more “cooling budget” for the graphics chip. You can see the structure of this Avell model in the video below:
In practice, in testing with Rainbow Six Siege, the RTX 3060 was running at an average of 1850 MHz in the factory setting, dropping to 1950 MHz after our underpower. Here, it is worth remembering that we have not modified any configuration of the GeForce chip. It automatically takes advantage of the greater headroom available for cooling thanks to GPU Boost 3.0.
I have to do?
Based on the results presented in the article, as well as a battery of tests playing around with other settings, it’s clear that undervoltage and underclocking can bring great benefits to a gaming laptop. based on Intel Core. Even though the performance was slightly degraded, we still recommend tweaking just for the reduction in heat and noise generation. But this is not the case, on the contrary! In several the performance was the same, in some surprisingly improved, and only a few had lower performance.
This shows how Intel’s aggressive boost strategy can have positive results even on ultra-thin devices or on more localized actions, such as loading an app. However, in more prolonged stressful situations, such as rendering applications or games, this strategy of using all the power and heating margins does more harm than good for the consumer.
Here it is also good to make a distinction between the results that we use throughout the article. So far, the Ryzen gaming laptop models we’ve tested are much better at heating, but the latest uses the 3000H series. AMD has dramatically increased operating frequencies on the 5000 series, and only in this generation has it “matched the game” with rival Intel. This new generation will have to be tested to see if the company will do better or end up falling into the same problem as “the blue side of the force”.