A couple of days after Intel officially announced its 11th Generation Core Rocket Lake, the press received an email about a new feature coming to the platform that wasn’t in our original briefing. The goal of this feature is to provide more performance to users that have good processors, and Intel is calling it Adaptive Boost Technology.

Adaptive Boost Technology is now the fifth frequency metric Intel uses on its high-end enthusiast grade processors, and another element in Intel’s ever complex ‘Turbo’ family of features. Here’s the list, in case we forget one:

Intel Frequency Levels
Base Frequency - The frequency at which the processor is guaranteed to run under warranty conditions with a power consumption no higher than the TDP rating of the processor.
Turbo Boost 2.0 TB2 When in a turbo mode, this is the defined frequency the cores will run at. TB2 varies with how many cores are being used.
Turbo Boost Max 3.0 TBM3
'Favored Core'
When in a turbo mode, for the best cores on the processor (usually one or two), these will get extra frequency when they are the only cores in use.
Thermally Velocity Boost TVB When in a turbo mode, if the peak thermal temperature detected on the processor is below a given value (70ºC on desktops), then the whole processor will get a frequency boost of +100 MHz. This follows the TB2 frequency tables depending on core loading.
Adaptive Boost Technology ABT
'floating turbo'
When in a turbo mode, if 3 or more cores are active, the processor will attempt to provide the best frequency within the power budget, regardless of the TB2 frequency table. The limit of this frequency is given by TB2 in 2-core mode. ABT overrides TVB when 3 or more cores are active.
*Turbo mode is limited by the turbo power level (PL2) and timing (Tau) of the system. Intel offers recommended guidelines for this, but those guidelines can be overridden (and are routinely ignored) by motherboard manufacturers. Most gaming motherboards will implement an effective ‘infinite’ turbo mode. In this mode, the peak power observed will be the PL2 value. It is worth noting that the 70ºC requirement for TVB is also often ignored, and TVB will be applied whatever the temperature.

Intel provided a slide trying to describe the new ABT, however the diagram is a bit of a mess and doesn’t explain it that well. Here’s the handy AnandTech version.

First up is the Core i7-11700K that AnandTech has already reviewed. This processor has TB2, TBM3, but not TVB or ABT.

The official specifications show that when one to four cores are loaded, when in turbo mode, it will boost to 4.9 GHz. If it is under two cores, the OS will shift the threads onto the favored cores and Turbo Boost Max 3.0 will kick in for 5.0 GHz. More than four core loading will be distributed as above.

On the Core i9-11900, the non-overclocking version, we also get Thermal Velocity Boost which adds another +100 MHz onto every core max turbo, but only if the processor is below 70ºC.

We can see here that the first two cores get both TBM3 (favored core) as well as TVB, which makes those two cores give a bigger jump. In this case, if all eight cores are loaded, the turbo is 4.6 GHz, unless the CPU is under 70ºC, then we get an all-core turbo of 4.7 GHz.

Now move up to the Core i9-11900K or Core i9-11900KF, which are the only two processors with the new floating turbo / Adaptive Boost Technology. Everything beyond two cores changes and TVB no longer applies.

Here we see what looks like a 5.1 GHz all-core turbo, from three cores to eight cores loaded. This is +300 MHz above TVB when all eight cores are loaded. But the reason why I’m calling this a floating turbo is because it is opportunistic.

What this means is that, if all 8 cores are loaded, TB2 means that it will run at 4.7 GHz. If there is power budget and thermal budget, it will attempt 4.8 GHz. If there is more power budget and thermal budget available, it will go to 4.9 GHz, then 5.0 GHz, then 5.1 GHz. The frequency will float as long as it has enough of those budgets to play with, and it will increase/decrease as necessary. This is important as different instructions cause different amounts of power draw and such.

If this sounds familiar, you are not wrong. AMD does the same thing, and they call it Precision Boost 2, and it was introduced in April 2018 with Zen+.

AMD applies its floating turbo to all of its processors – Intel is currently limiting floating turbo to only the Core i9-K and Core i9-KF in Core 11th Gen Rocket Lake. 

One of the things that we noticed with AMD however is that this floating turbo does increase power draw, especially with AVX/AVX2 workloads. Intel is likely going to see similar increases in power draw. What might be a small saving grace here is that Intel’s frequency jumps are still limited to full 100 MHz steps, whereas AMD can do it on the 25 MHz boundary. This means that Intel has to manage larger steps, and will likely only cross that boundary if it knows it can be maintained for a fixed amount of time. It will be interesting to see if Intel gives the user the ability to change those entry/exit points for Adaptive Boost Technology.

The other difference is that for now, ABT on Intel is disabled by default. Users will have to enable it in their BIOSes to take advantage. On that scale, I suspect most won't, simply because most do not enter the BIOS. Enthusiasts might, however they might also decide to overclock, which makes ABT moot. The other alternative is that motherboard vendors will enable it by default anyway, simply because Intel says it is within specfication.

The Final Word

It’s a bit odd that Intel decided to talk about this feature two days after the official Rocket Lake announcement, to the point that BIOSes enabling ABT are only being distributed now (this doesn’t affect our Core i7-11700K review). This indicates that perhaps the feature wasn’t ready in time for the announcement, or even, ready to go and Intel was still debating whether to actually make it a feature? Then again, all of the Z590 motherboards that we’ve seen seem overbuilt for this generation of processors – Z590 starts at $175, which used to be a mid-market price, so something like ABT should be ready to go. It does make me wonder if ABT is applicable for B560 motherboards, or if it will be a Z590 only feature. Intel has stated that ABT is within warranty and not considered overclocking.

There will be some users who are already familiar with Multi-Core Enhancement / Multi-Core Turbo. This is a feature from some motherboard vendors have, and often enable at default, which lets a processor reach an all-core turbo equal to the single core turbo. That is somewhat similar to ABT, but that was more of a fixed frequency, whereas ABT is a floating turbo design. That being said, some motherboard vendors might still have Multi-Core Enhancement as part of their design anyway, bypassing ABT.

Overall, it’s a performance plus. It makes sense for the users that can also manage the thermals. AMD's implementation allowed it to get additional performance when it moved to TSMC’s 7nm. I have a feeling that Intel will have to shift to a new manufacturing node to get the best out of ABT, and we might see the feature on the more mainstream CPUs.

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  • meacupla - Friday, March 19, 2021 - link

    Get this... it's 14nm
  • philehidiot - Saturday, March 20, 2021 - link

    Excuse you, that's 14nm+++++++++++++++++++++++++, I'll haven you know.

    Don't confuse that with ancient 14nm. That didn't have ANY pluses.
  • Beaver M. - Monday, March 22, 2021 - link

    Yeah, it would be very weird if they could squeeze these kind of performance numbers out of ancient 14nm.
    But compared to TSMC or Samsung, Intels 14nm was always more like 12 or 11nm.
  • rocky12345 - Saturday, March 20, 2021 - link

    Well I guess they had to figure out some way to make the i9 11900K & KF perform some what better than the 11th gen i7 K & KF CPU's when you factor in that they are pretty much the same exact CPU as the 11th gen i9's other than Intel binning the i9's like crazy so they can hit those short bursts of extra MHz over the i7 K's & KF's counter parts.

    So basically Intel is trying to limit the i7's as much as possible so the i9's look much better thaan they actually are over the i7's. So what's to stop the actual end user from just overclocking the i7 K & KF to match the i9's or better than them. I'm sure Intel will find some more ways to try and limit the i7's so they over clock worse than they could have without Intel putting in some extra roads blocks.
  • Qasar - Saturday, March 20, 2021 - link

    that is assuming these 11000 series cpus even over clock at all passed what they would normally run with out doing anything. its probably a safe bet, intel has, and is doing everything it can to get 11th gen to be even remotely competitive with zen 3, let alone showing any improvement over 10th gen.
  • Spunjji - Monday, March 22, 2021 - link

    "So what's to stop the actual end user from just overclocking the i7 K & KF to match the i9's or better than them."

    Indications so far are that the i7 bins are really not very good. That makes sense - these aren't going to be around for long, so there won't be much time to fill out the more popular i7 bin with chips they could have sold as a more profitable i9.
  • Oxford Guy - Sunday, March 21, 2021 - link

    This whole thing about not entering BIOS... I'd like to see data on it.

    I can't even imagine building a PC and not entering the BIOS during that process. Then, there are BIOS updates which are often very important.

    Buy an OEM machine (Dell, HP, Lenovo) — yes... I can see not entering BIOS, I suppose. But, 'enthusiast' is a pretty wide category.

    At least Intel isn't voiding warranties for using this floating turbo. I suppose demanding such a low temperature is part of why.
  • Everett F Sargent - Sunday, March 21, 2021 - link

    I bought three of those OEM HP PC's over the past three years. All at about the $500 price point (i5-8400, 3700X and 3400G). Compared to any OC'able MB it is like a desert is to an ocean. Almost no reason to mess with the BIOS (as there is little in the way of end user adjustable settings) except for a must have critical BIOS update.
  • GeoffreyA - Monday, March 22, 2021 - link

    OEM are almost always like that, so little one can alter.
  • Spunjji - Monday, March 22, 2021 - link

    It's hard to speak anything other than anecdotally about this, but even among my friends who self-build, I'm in a distinct minority by being willing to dive into the BIOS to do anything more complex than changing a boot device, setting the system clock, or activating the XMP settings.

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