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Gastón Hillar

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Intel Turbo Boost Technology Monitor: A Windows Gadget to Understand Dynamic Frequencies

January 29, 2010

Intel Turbo Boost Technology Monitor is a simple sidebar gadget for Windows Vista and Windows 7. It lets developers and users check the microprocessor's application of Turbo Boost. It is a simple gadget that lets you answer the question: What is Intel Turbo Boost Doing?The idea of overclocking a microprocessor to higher frequencies when it is under a heavy workload isn't a new one. There is a whole industry providing sophisticated hardware capable of pushing each new microprocessor model to its overclocking limits. However, there is a great difference between dynamic overclocking at a microprocessor level and Intel Turbo Boost Technology. The latter works at a physical core level, by overclocking one or more physical cores, specifically the active cores.

In my previous post "Measuring Speedup is Challenging with Intel Turbo Boost Technology", I showed an example of the important changes in the multicore microprocessors' behavior introduced by this new technology. If you want to check the status of Turbo Boost in real-time in Windows, you can install the Intel Turbo Boost Technology Monitor and add the gadget to your desktop. Its installation is very easy; you just have to download TurboBoostSetup.exe, run the installer and add the gadget to your desktop.

When one of the active cores runs faster, taking advantage of the Turbo mode, a blue bar appears in the gadget and displays the current frequency for the active core(s). If the blue bar doesn't appear, it means that the Turbo mode isn't working, as in Figure 1. However, the frequency for some of the cores could be less than the nominal frequency shown in the gadget.

Figure 1: Intel Turbo Boost Technology Monitor without the blue bar. The Turbo mode isn't working.

When the Turbo mode is activated and one or more cores increase their frequency, the blue bar will appear in the gadget and it will display the new frequency, as in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Intel Turbo Boost Technology Monitor displaying the blue bar and the new frequency for the active cores, 2.13 GHz instead of the base frequency, 1.73 GHz.

Watching the gadget you will understand the way the Turbo mode increases and decreases the frequency as more cores get active or the conditions change. By default, the gadget animates the blue bar and will display the new frequencies, as Figure 3:

Figure 3: Intel Turbo Boost Technology Monitor displaying the blue bar and a new higher frequency for the active cores, 2.93 GHz instead of the base frequency, 1.73 GHz.

The gadget is really helpful to understand the behavior of this dynamic overclocking feature. The frequency displayed corresponds to the more active cores. Nonetheless, as more cores require processing power, the effect of the Turbo mode could be dissipated. Figure 4 displays the results of running an application that uses the processing power available in all the cores, monitored using All CPU Meter. As you can see, the Turbo mode disappears because all the cores are under heavy load at the same time.

Figure 4: All CPU Meter displaying the CPU usage for 8 logical cores and Intel Turbo Boost Technology Monitor showing that the active cores are running at the base frequency, 1.73 GHz.

The only drawback I found for this gadget is that it doesn't offer detailed information for each core. However, if you want to see what's happening on each core, you can check the Turbo effects on each individual core with the help of TMonitor, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: TMonitor displays a yellow bar indicating that the Turbo mode is activated in one of the cores.

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