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Gastón Hillar

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

New Intel Turbo Boost Technology

March 21, 2011

The second-generation Intel Core processor family, codenamed "Sandy Bridge," introduced many improvements and optimizations to the existing Intel Turbo Boost technology. Most processors based on the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture include Intel Turbo Boost Technology version 2.0. Intel released a new version of the Intel Turbo Boost Technology Monitor gadget. This new version allows you to check the status of Turbo Boost 2.0 in real-time in Windows 7.

Intel Turbo Boost Technology 1.0 was focused on improving performance of single-threaded applications on multicore Nehalem processors. In a previous post titled "Measuring Speedup is Challenging with Intel Turbo Boost Technology," I showed an example of the important changes in the multicore microprocessors' behavior that shipped with this technology. The Sandy Bridge microarchitecture brought a new version of this technology focused on improving performance for both single and multi-threaded applications. Thus, Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 is optimized to increase the duration of Turbo modes for more cores when necessary compared to its predecessor.

The Sandy Bridge microarchitecture includes an integrated die for processor and graphics. Turbo Boost 2.0 applies Turbo modes to both cores and graphics. Turbo Boost 2.0 runs many algorithms to match performance to workloads. At the same time, these real-time complex algorithms optimize power efficiency across cores and graphics. In fact, Turbo Boost 2.0 became so complex that its decisions become really unpredictable for mere mortals. If you run Windows 7, you can download and install the newest version of the Intel Turbo Boost Technology Monitor. Unluckily, this application doesn't support previous Windows versions. If you run Windows Vista, you won't be able to install the application. In addition, if your CPU doesn't support Intel Turbo Boost Technology, the application won't run. If you have the previous version of Intel Turbo Boost Technology Monitor, the installer uninstalls the existing application version and installs the new version.

I wrote an article about the previous version of Intel's Turbo Boost Technology Monitor more than a year ago. However, the new version adds many interesting features and makes it easier to understand what's going on with the CPU.

When Turbo Boost isn't active and the CPU consumes less than rated power, the application shows a green leaf icon and an Energy Saver label, as below:

When Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology makes the CPU cores operate at a frequency lower than the base frequency, a dark blue area appears. The application doesn't show a frequency value because Turbo Boost isn't working, as below:

When Intel Turbo Boost Technology makes one or more CPU cores operate at frequencies in the Turbo range, a light blue area appears on top of the dark blue area. The application displays a label with the Turbo frequency value and the Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 text when the CPU is activating the newest Turbo Boost version. In the following snapshot, an Intel Core i7 CPU with a base frequency of 2.70 GHz activates Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 to increase the frequency of one or more cores to 3.00 GHz:

When you run the application with a CPU that supports the first version of Intel Turbo Boost Technology, the application displays a label with the Turbo frequency and the Intel Turbo Boost Technology text without a version number. In the following snapshot, an Intel Core i7 CPU with a base frequency of 1.73 GHz activates Intel Turbo Boost Technology 1.0 to increase the frequency of one core to 2.93 GHz:

Intel Turbo Boost Technology Monitor shows the Turbo frequency for the most active cores. As happened with the previous version of this application, there is no detailed information for each core. If you want to know what happens on each individual core, you can use another application, such as TMonitor.

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