Across the internet, from online forums such as Reddit to various other tech media outlets, there's a lot of furor around reports of Intel's top-end 14th and 13th Gen K series of processors running into stability issues. As Intel's flagship chips, these parts come aggressively clocked in order to maximize performance through various implementations of boost and turbo, leaving them running close to their limits out of the box. But with high-end motherboards further goosing these chips to wring even more performance out of them, it would seem that the Intel desktop ecosystem has finally reached a tipping point where all of these efforts to boost performance have pushed these flagship chips to unstable conditions. To that end, Intel has released new gudiance to its consumer motherboard partners, strongly encouraging them to actually implment Intel's stock power settings, and to use those baseline settings as their out-of-the-box default.

While the underlying conditions are nothing new – we've published stories time and time again about motherboard features such as multi-core enhancement (MCE) and raised power consumption limits that seek to maximize how hard and how long systems are able to turbo boost – the issue has finally come to a head in the last couple of months thanks to accumulating reports of system instability with Intel's 13900K and 14900K processors. These instability problems are eventually solved by either tamping down on these motherboard performance-boosting features – bringing the chips back down to something closer to Intel's official operating parameters – or downclocking the chips entirely.

Intel first began publicly investigating the matter on the 27th of February, when Intel's Communications Manager, Thomas Hannaford, posted a thread on Intel's Community Product Support Forms titled "Regarding Reports of 13th/14th Gen Unlocked Desktop Users Experiencing Stability Issues". In this thread, Thomas Hannaford said, "Intel is aware of reports regarding Intel Core 13th and 14th Gen unlocked desktop processors experiencing issues with certain workloads. We're engaged with our partners and are conducting analysis of the reported issues. If you are experiencing these issues, please reach out to Intel Customer Support for further assistance in the interim."

Since that post went up, additional reports have been circulating about instability issues across various online forums and message boards. The underlying culprit has been theorized to be motherboards implementing an array of strategies to improve chip performance, including aggressive multi-core enhancement settings, "unlimited" PL2 turbo, and reduced load line calibration settings. At no point do any of these settings overclock a CPU and push it to a higher clockspeed than it's validated for, but these settings do everything possible to keep a chip at the highest clockspeed possible at all times – and in the process seem to have gone a step too far.

From "Why Intel Processors Draw More Power Than Expected: TDP and Turbo Explained"

We wrote a piece initially covering multi-core enhancement in 2012, detailing how motherboard manufacturers try to stay competitive with each other and leverage any headroom within the silicon to output the highest performance levels. And more recently, we've talked about how desktop systems with Intel chips are now regularly exceeding their rated TDPs – sometimes by extreme amounts – as motherboard vendors continue to push them to run as hard as possible for the best performance.

But things have changed since 2012. At the time, this wasn't so much of an issue, as overclocking was actually very favorable to increasing the performance of processors. But in 2024 with chips such as the Intel Core i9-14900K, we have CPUs shipping with a maximum turbo clock speed of 6.0 GHz and a peak power consumption of over 400 Watts, figures that were only a pipe dream a decade ago.

Jumping to the present time, over the weekend Intel released a statement about the matter to its partners, outlining their investigation so far and their suggestions/requests to their partners. That statement was quickly leaked to the press, with and others breaking the news. Since then, we've been able to confirm through official sources that this is a real and accurate statement from Intel.

This statement reads as follows:

Intel® has observed that this issue may be related to out of specification operating conditions resulting in sustained high voltage and frequency during periods of elevated heat.

Analysis of affected processors shows some parts experience shifts in minimum operating voltages which may be related to operation outside of Intel® specified operating conditions.

While the root cause has not yet been identified, Intel® has observed the majority of reports of this issue are from users with unlocked/overclock capable motherboards.

Intel® has observed 600/700 Series chipset boards often set BIOS defaults to disable thermal and power delivery safeguards designed to limit processor exposure to sustained periods of high voltage and frequency, for example:

– Disabling Current Excursion Protection (CEP)
– Enabling the IccMax Unlimited bit
– Disabling Thermal Velocity Boost (TVB) and/or Enhanced Thermal Velocity Boost (eTVB)
– Additional settings which may increase the risk of system instability:
– Disabling C-states
– Using Windows Ultimate Performance mode
– Increasing PL1 and PL2 beyond Intel® recommended limits

Intel® requests system and motherboard manufacturers to provide end users with a default BIOS profile that matches Intel® recommended settings.

Intel® strongly recommends customer's default BIOS settings should ensure operation within Intel's recommended settings.

In addition, Intel® strongly recommends motherboard manufacturers to implement warnings for end users alerting them to any unlocked or overclocking feature usage.

Intel® is continuing to actively investigate this issue to determine the root cause and will provide additional updates as relevant information becomes available.

Intel® will be publishing a public statement regarding issue status and Intel® recommended BIOS setting recommendations targeted for May 2024.

One subtle undertone in this statement is that everything seems to revolve around motherboards, specifically their default settings. Looking to clarify matters, Intel has told me today that they aren't blaming motherboard vendors in the above statement to partners and OEMs. However, having had experience with multiple Z790 motherboards with Intel's Core i9-14900K, we know each vendor has a different idea of what the word 'default' means – and that none of them involve strictly sticking to Intel's own suggested values. These profiles within the firmware unlock power constraints to a very high level and go above and beyond what Intel recommends. One example is ICCMAX, which Intel recommends at 400A or below, whereas multiple Z790 motherboards will greatly exceed this value out of the box.

Impressing buyers and outperforming the competitors has become integral to every motherboard manufacturer's strategy, thanks to the highly competitive and commoditized nature of the motherboard market. As a result, the user experience is sometimes relegated to a low-priority goal. And while this focus on performance and overclocking features plays well in reviews and to overclockers and tinkerers looking to push their CPU to its very limit, as we are now seeing, it seems to have come at the cost of out-of-the-box stability, with overly-aggressive settings leading to systems being unstable even at default settings.

Especially concerning here is what all of this means for a CPU's VCore voltage, which is another aspect of system performance that motherboard vendors have complete control over. With the need to quickly modulate the VCore voltage to keep up with the load on the processor – to keep it high enough for stability, but not allow it to spike so high as to risk damage – it's a careful balancing act for motherboard vendors even when they're not trying to squeeze out every last bit of performance from a CPU. And when they are trying to squeeze out every last bit, then VCore is something to minimize in order to improve how long and hard a CPU can turbo, pushing a chip further towards potential instability.

Pivoting to some real-world data highlighting these potential issues, when we reviewed the Intel Core i9-14900K, Intel's flagship Raptor Lake Refresh (RPL-R) processor, we tested with the default settings on both of our Z790 motherboards. From the above data, we can see the MSI MEG Z790 Ace Max was drawing up to 415 W when using Linx to place a very heavy workload on the chip. We also ran the same chip and workload on ASRock's Z790 Taichi Carrara to provide additional data points, where we found that it's power consumption maxed out at 375 W, around 10% lower than the MSI board.

In both cases, this is much higher than Intel's official PL2 limit for the Intel Core i9-14900K, which says that the chip should top out at 253 W for moderate periods of load. But, as we've seen time and time again, the official TDP ratings from Intel do not mean much to high-end motherboards, which almost universally default to higher settings. Motherboard vendors want to be competitive, and as such, higher default power settings allow vendors to claim that they deliver better performance than their rivals.

As further evidence of this, check out some of our recent motherboard reviews. I have assembled a small list of links to those reviews, where we've seen excessive CPU voltage or power consumption (or more often, both) when using the default settings on each motherboard, in each of the below reviews we see much higher power levels than Intel's official TDP values, which over the last several years we've come to expect. Still, some can be too high, especially with an already close-to-the-limit Core i9-14900K.

We have been communicating with Intel for most of the day to get official answers to what's happening. To that end, we have received an official statement from Intel, which reads as follows:

The recently publicized communications between Intel and its motherboard partners regarding motherboard settings and Intel Core 13th & 14th Gen K-SKU processors is intended to provide guidance on Intel recommended default settings. We are continuing to investigate with our partners the recent user reports of instability in certain workloads on these processors.

This BIOS default settings guidance is meant to improve stability for currently installed processors while Intel continues investigating root cause, not ascribe blame to Intel's partners:

Intel Raptor Lake (13th)/Raptor Lake Refresh (14th) Gen K Series SKU
Official Recommendations
(In BIOS/Software Settings)
Current Excursion Protection (CEP) Enable
Enhanced Thermal Velocity Boost (eTVB) Enable
Thermal Velocity Boost (TVB) Enable
TVB Voltage Optimizations Enable
ICCMAX Unlimited Bit Disable
TjMAX Offset 0
C-states Enable
ICCMAX Varies, Never >400A*
ICCMAX_App Varies*
Power Limits (PL's) Varies*

* Please see the 13th Generation Intel® Core™ and Intel® Core™ 14th Generation Processors datasheet for more information

Intel continues to work with its partners to develop appropriate mitigations going forward.

Intel's official statement to us, which is likely their standpoint for the general public, highlights a list of recommended BIOS and software settings, such as those found in Intel's Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU). There's no mention of specific motherboard vendors or models, but the above settings should alleviate crashing and instability issues by preventing motherboards from pushing CPUs too hard.

It remains to be seen just how motherboard vendors will opt to address the issue, as all of the motherboard vendors we contacted today didn't have anything official to say about the matter. With that said, however, a few motherboard vendors have recently released a wave of new BIOSes, adding a new profile called "Intel Baseline" or similar. In all cases, these new BIOSes seem to do exactly what it says on the label, configuring the system to run at Intel's actual, suggested stock settings, and thus ensuring the stability of system in exchange for reduced performance.

With that said, these new Intel baseline settings are still not being used as the default settings for high-end motherboards. So the out-of-the-box user experience is still for MCE and other features to be enabled, pushing these processors to their performance limit. Users who actually want baseline performance – and the guaranteed stability it comes with – will still need to go into the BIOS and explicitly select this profile.

Ultimately, given the spec-defying state of high-end motherboards over the last decade, this is a badly-needed improvement. But still, as Intel has yet to wrap up their root cause investigation and issue formal guidance to consumers, we're not quite to the end of this saga just yet. There are still some developments to come, as we expect to hear more in May.



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  • Hresna - Sunday, May 5, 2024 - link

    “Useless” is maybe a bit strong - mainly because the benchmarks on the site at least all have an internal consistency amongst themselves (which I’m sure factors heavily in their decision to uphold it), but I agree that it seems a bit antiquated and limiting today.

    They’ve never claimed papal infallibility, so they could change their mind at some point. In the DDR4 era, it seems 3200Mhz CL16 or 18 would have been the logical choice. Maybe a bit hard to say right now for DDR5, which again probably factors into things.

    But given they seem to run this site on a shoestring, I’m kindof just glad they are still in business and there’s other things I’d rather see… like less ad-laden slow-rendering pages and clickbaity-style multi-page delivery. Heck, even in trying to write this comment I had to start over because the safari tab crashed and reloaded the page.
  • haplo602 - Tuesday, April 30, 2024 - link

    What would interest me more is a guide to how we can determine the proper default values and how/where to set them ? F.e. does not specify much information on the CPU page. So HOW can I validate that the MOBO maker actually implemented the baseline profile correctly ? Reply
  • Silver5urfer - Tuesday, April 30, 2024 - link

    Intel is just throwing their unstable 13th and 14th gen silicon under the rug of OEM BIOS options.

    Historically speaking as AT already noted Intel PL1 and PL2 and the TAU were there ever since Core series Architecture went mainstay, like since Sandybridge onwards from what I can recall. And Intel Power Limit was never stock and none of them failed like these.

    Now looking at Buildzoid videos and other forum talk (OCN, Notebooktalk), Intel pushed these processors to extreme for their marketing team so that they can upsell these despite higher heat density and power consumption which is far higher than Intel 11th gen Rocketlake 14nm backport. 13th gen is impossible to cool on an AIO, whereas 11th can barely manage, 10th can do it. And 13th / 14th gen are extremely hot on even an AIO, the reasons are - Intel 6GHz marketing, their new Ring OC pushed beyond 5GHz (10th gen can OC past 5GHz but they had infamous WHEA issues, only way to fix was either get lucky by silicon lottery top bin of SP rating or you degrade the cache) and XMP.

    Now the 13th / 14th gen processors binning is atrocious, for this reason many processors cannot finish Cinebench R15-R23. Due to the silicon instability out of the box, generally speaking most of the silicon is given higher voltage to cope up with the mean distribution of avg voltage across the CPU arch, and still that is not enough. Until now Intel Core processors never had such instability issues OOTB. Stock or MCE, they never exhibited this extreme instability, and matter of fact Intel CEP, Current Excursion Protection is a flag that first came from 12th gen onwards and Intel is now recommending this, but once you enable this you lose massive performance on 13th and 14th gen processors, Intel's HW engineers knew the silicon was pushed to max and they gave this failsafe.

    Now if you watch Buildzoid videos, most of the Intel Baseline are pushing extreme LLC thus causing higher idle VCore 1.7 (Datasheet since 10th gen shows this very high VCore but IRL 13th and 14th baseline pushes to that high voltage) pumped into the processor to maintain it's stability of 5.7-6Ghz clock rate, if Intel removes those higher speeds there will be a lawsuit so they only have this option to run away and let mobo OEMs take heat, matter of fact is 13th and 14th gen processors are flawed by a significant margin. Stock Cinebench fails, higher voltage and CPU degradation, poor SP rating bins and very bad KS release which has worst variances of binning and high heat.

    Add bendgate, poor XMP OC stability, P/E core latency IRL (watch techyescity videos that show lower latency than P core only 10th gen), CPU boost clock stability is proportional to higher voltage and poor binning. Unstable CPUs. BSOD lockups, CPU degradation. 1.7v on 10nm SuperFin and same 1.7v on 14nm++ (10th gen will degrade at this higher voltage)

    Intel dropped the ball big time. All those higher scores are now dead if you enable the Intel baseline across mobos.
  • GeoffreyA - Tuesday, April 30, 2024 - link

    If I'm not mistaken, the last there was a problem similar to this was in the early Northwood steppings. Reply
  • Kangal - Sunday, May 5, 2024 - link

    It depends.
    Sure the benchmarks might drop, but are they going to drop by 2% (margin of error), or by 5% (notable amount), or by a 10% (substantial degree).

    I remember AMD tried to pull a similar thing back with the RX-480 cards, because all the reviewers were using high-end motherboards, so it scored favourably for launch day and early benchmarks. When regular people got them, it had a lot of faults/crashes, because they were using regular motherboards and systems, so the cards couldn't cope. The ironic part is that AMD did eventually concede the loss to Nvidia and it's GTX-1060 only for years later their software and drivers caught up, and time proved the AMD card was actually superior. Same thing with the GTX-680 vs HD7570, GTX-780 vs R9-290, GTX-1070 versus Vega-56, or the RTX-2070-Super versus the RX-5700xt, or the basically most of the 2020 cards RTX 3060, 3060Ti, 3070, 3080Ti versus RX 6700XT, 6800, 6800XT, 6900.

    These Corporations try to balance price, marketing, benchmarks, and support. Which is why we get these weird happenings.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, April 30, 2024 - link

    Are these recommended settings essentially stock performance, or maximum safe longterm OC levels? At one level the former is what Intel would ideally like their board makers to use, but unless they've shaved away all the safety margin in the last few years the latter is what many enthusiasts want for their daily driver systems. Ideally Intel would provide guidance on how far we can push their systems in relative safety without having to worry about them dying a few months down the line.

    The extreme OC record chasers have different desires, but they're also doing stuff they know will frequently kill their stuff anyway and will fiddle with everything regardless of any warnings they need to click past.
  • mode_13h - Tuesday, April 30, 2024 - link

    BTW, that PL1/PL2/Tau graph is simplistic to the point of being misleading. Tau isn't an absolute number of seconds, but rather a characteristic width of the EWMA (Exponentially-Weighted Moving Average) kernel that's used to compute average power. When the filtered power level exceeds PL1, then the maximum input power drops from PL2 to PL1.

    According to this algorithm, if your PL1 is 125 W and your CPU is only using like 150 W, it'll boost for much longer than if it's riding the PL2 limit of 253 W.
  • Exotica - Tuesday, April 30, 2024 - link

    Intel 10nm is out of gas and it’s time for a new node and new process ASAP. Raptor lake pushed Intel 10nm to the absolute limit that is the long and short of it.

    Hopefully the nodes in the intel EUV era are much more power efficient and the resulting chips (whether from Intel or TSMC) run much more power efficiently, thus leaving more thermal headroom for overlocking. We shall see how arrow lake and the future EUV lakes behave.
  • PeachNCream - Tuesday, April 30, 2024 - link

    The entire situation is comedy gold. The dwindling number of PC enthusiasts are the ones adversely impacted since they're the only ones still willing to effectively waste their future financial well-being on DIY desktop PCs and they're also the ones most likely to unwisely force their computers to do more in the mindless and vacant-headed chase for a couple percent more performance. Meanwhile there are billions of us (literally) that will never, ever be impacted because we just buy a laptop and accomplish useful tasks with it until we need to buy another laptop in 5 to 7 years. Have fun with your exploding, power hog, space heaters nerds! Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Tuesday, April 30, 2024 - link

    The growth of "enthusiast' class hardware outstripped other sectors for years now. Dont worry, we know you're jealous as you watch people actually enjoy their PCs, but surely your Mac does everything you need it to do, right :) Reply

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