Intel just announced its latest X299 platform and accompanying series of high-end-desktop processors. Using the new Rampage VI Apex motherboard, the ROG Overclocking team broke a total of seven world records and captured 16 global first places on the Core i7-7740X, i7-7800X, i7-7820X and i9-7900X. They also hit the highest CPU frequency for a Intel Core i7 processor with 7.562GHz on all four cores and eight threads. Doing so required exotic cooling methods, including liquid nitrogen (LN2) and even liquid helium.
The Rampage gets an Apex
Early this year, at the Z270 launch with desktop Kaby Lake processors, we were pleased to introduce our first motherboard tightly focused on optimizing performance and innovating design for extreme overclocking. The Maximus IX Apex set numerous records and high scores in competitive benchmarks, so of course we had to do a version for Intel’s new high-end desktop platform.
The Rampage VI Apex follows the same theme as the original, with one DIMM per channel to improve memory signaling and PCB optimizations to help you get closer to the ragged edge of performance. Thanks to the X299 platform’s greater bandwidth, the Apex can now accept up to four DIMMs and four M.2 SSDs. You can learn more about the board in this article on ROG’s new X299 motherboard family.
The extreme challenge of liquid helium
Since their debut in 2016, CPUs based on the Kaby Lake architecture have been at the forefront of the extreme overclocking scene, responding to sub-zero temperatures like nothing else we’ve seen from Intel. Core frequencies scale in an almost linear fashion as things get colder, making the chips suitable candidates for the cryogenic intensity of liquid helium. With over a year of full-scale Kaby Lake production complete, Intel has a firm grip on the nuances of the architecture, allowing choice silicon to be set aside for a ride in the high-end X299 platform. Featuring a re-jigged layout to take advantage of the new platform’s larger socket, the latest Kaby Lake-X CPUs boast improved signal margins and power delivery compared to non-X alternatives, which leads to more headroom for overclocking. The promise of higher clocks was significant enough for the ROG overclocking team to receive an invitation to demonstrate liquid helium overclocking using our Rampage VI Apex motherboard and a spread of i7-7740X processors at the Performance Matters Helium night event, hosted by Intel and HWBOT.
The Apex’s streamlined layout and component choices are tailored for sub-zero LN2 temperatures. However, liquid helium still presents a huge challenge. Once cooling-pots are chilled below -220 Celsius, over half of the motherboard ends up being exposed to cryogenic temps. Devices close to the CPU socket take the hardest hit, and that gradually cascades to surrounding components, such as memory modules, USB ports, and even the platform controller hub (PCH). As a result, you’ve only got a few minutes to complete a benchmark before temperature-related instability sets in. When that happens, it’s out with the hairdryers to find the antagonists and resuscitate them with a blast of hot air. The limited uptime for each run lends itself to CPU core frequency validations and short benchmarks rather than longer affairs, and even then, you have to rely on teamwork to complete the task. A short lapse in concentration can lead to failure, piling humungous pressure on participants to retain focus. To top that off, a 100-liter tank of liquid helium also runs out quickly, lasting a mere 30 minutes.
These elements lead to fever-pitch anticipation among the team and onlookers, making something as trivial as overclocking utterly enthralling. There’s nothing else quite like it. Screaming down the pipe at -269°C, liquid helium fills the atmosphere with a dense white fog as it blasts into the pot, and it requires carefully controlled pressure to hit the target CPU temperatures. ROG overclocking team member Dancop, who currently leads the HWbot overclocking rankings, said during the event that “Helium changes the entire game because you reach clocks that you will never see on LN2, even on the best CPUs. Once you’ve tried it, there’s no going back.”
Past experience dealing with the savagery of liquid helium led us to keep three systems running at the event, ensuring at least one was ready while others recovered from their sessions. Performing in front of a live audience added to the tension, and the high humidity levels and 30°C ambient temperature of the outdoor venue increased the risk of condensation. Nevertheless, our team of seven overclockers managed to take down two World Records for SuperPi 1M and PiFast. But more importantly, they achieved a validated frequency of 7.562GHz on all four cores and eight threads of the Core i7-7740X, overtaking the 7.328GHz previously attained on the i7-7700K. Compared to the chip’s 4.3GHz stock frequency, that’s a 75.87% overclock!
Success in the fast, non-threaded benchmarks gave us the confidence to take a stab at Cinebench R15, a short, multi-threaded benchmark that presents a significant load to the CPU. After a few attempts, the team succeeded in taking a new global first place, obtaining a score of 1616 cb.
In total, the team broke two world records (WR) and two global first places (GFP), and it set the new highest CPU frequency for the Intel Core-i7 family, reaching 7.562GHz.
From left to right: elmor, TL, der8auer, Raja, Fredyama, Dancop and Shamino
World records with Kaby Lake-X on LN2
Using liquid nitrogen, overclockers Dancop, Nabe, Rauf, and Rsaninno were able to break five additional world records. The most impressive and prestigious landmark of the bunch is SuperPi 32M, which completed almost five seconds faster than the previous world record:
The additional overclocking headroom provided by the Core i7-7740X allowed Alex@ro, Dancop, der8auer and Rauf to improve nine global first place results within the quad-core category:
Armed with Rampage VI Apex motherboards and Strix GTX 1080 Ti graphics cards Rsannino tackled legacy benchmarks, investing copious time tweaking their systems to capture new global first place records for Aquamark and 3DMark05:
2 way SLI system
Impressive 6-core, 8-core and 10-core results with Skylake-X
Skylake-X is the real bread and butter for the X299 platform. Compared to Kaby Lake-X, it doubles the number of memory channels, adds PCIe lanes, increases cache sizes, and ramps up core counts. The ROG Overclocking team was also able to get its hands on the six-core Core i7-7800X, eight-core i7-7820X and 10-core i9-7900X. They pushed them to the limit, establishing five new global first place results:
||GFP - New Score
|HWBOT x265 1080P 6x
|HWBOT x265 1080P 8x
|HWBOT x265 4K 6x
|HWBOT x265 4K 8x
|3DMark Vantage P. 1x GPU
From left to right: Rsannino, Alex@ro, elmor, Xtreme_Addict, Shamino, Dancop, der8auer, Rauf, Gary, Raja