Do Manufacturers Guarantee Turbo Frequencies?

The question: ‘do manufacturers guarantee turbo frequencies?’ seems like it has an obvious answer to a lot of people. I performed a poll on my private twitter, and the voting results (700+) were astonishing.

31% of people said yes, 69% of people said no.

The correct answer is No, Turbo is never guaranteed.

To clarify, we need to define guarantee:

"A formal assurance that certain conditions will be fulfilled - if pertaining to a product, then that product will be repaired or replaced if not the specified quality."

This means that under a guarantee, the manufacturer would be prepared to repair or replace the product if it did not meet that guarantee. By that definition, Turbo is in no way under the guarantee from the manufacturer and does not fall under warranty.

Both AMD and Intel guarantee four things with their hardware: core counts, base frequency, peak power consumption at that base frequency (in essence, the TDP, even though strictly speaking TDP isn’t a measure of power consumption, but it is approximate), and the length of time those other items are guaranteed to work (usually three years in most locales). If you buy a 6 core CPU and only four cores work, you can get it replaced. If that six core CPU does not hit the base frequency under standard operations (standard is defined be Intel and AMD here, usually with a stock cooler, new paste, a clean chassis with active airflow of a minimum rate, and a given ambient temperature), then you can get it replaced.

Turbo, in this instance, is aspirational. We typically talk about things like ‘a 4.4 GHz Turbo frequency’, when technically we should be stating ‘up to 4.4 GHz Turbo frequency’. The ‘up to’ part is just as important as the rest, and the press (me included) is guilty of not mentioning the fact more often. Both Intel and AMD state that their processors under normal conditions should hit the turbo frequency, and both companies actively promote frequency enhancing tools such as aggressive power modes or better turbo profiles, but in no way is any of this actually guaranteed.

Yes, it does kind of suck (that’s the technical term). Both companies market their turbo frequencies loudly, proudly, and sometimes erroneously. Saying something is the ‘first X GHz’ processor only really means something if you can actually get into a position where that frequency is guaranteed. Unscrupulous retailers even put the turbo frequency as the highlight in their marketing material. Trying to explain to the casual user that this turbo frequency, this value that’s plastered everywhere, isn’t actually covered by the warranty, isn’t a good way to encourage them to get a processor.

A Short Detour on Mobile CPUs AMD’s Turbo Issue (Abridged)
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  • Dragonstongue - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    ty so much for the pro article and summing in question

    not always do I come here and "want" to continue reading over...I keep to myself.

    thankfully this was not such an article

  • Iger - Thursday, September 19, 2019 - link

    This mirrors my thoughts and feelings exactly.
  • mikato - Monday, September 23, 2019 - link

    I completely agree. I had seen some of this with Hardware Unboxed, Gamers Nexus, Der8auer, Reddit. This was a great summary with solid explanation behind it, a more helpful way to learn about the whole issue.

    Now for the next issue - Hey, Ian is a doctor now, thinks he's better than all of us. Discuss... :)
    (yes I knew he had a doctorate already)
  • azfacea - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    death to intel LUL
  • Phynaz - Wednesday, September 18, 2019 - link

    Drugs are bad for you, seek treatment.
  • Smell This - Wednesday, September 18, 2019 - link

    It sure is interesting that the **Chipzillah Propaganda Machine** has entered high gear/over-drive over the last several weeks after reports that the "Intel Apollo Lake CPUs May Die Sooner Than Expected" ...

    Funny that, huh?
  • eastcoast_pete - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    Thanks Ian, helpful article with good explanations!
    Question: The "binning by expected lifespan" caught my eye. Could you do another nice backgrounder on how overclocking affects lifespan? I believe many out there believe that there is such a thing as a free lunch. So, how fast does a CPU (or GPU) degrade if it gets pushed (overclocked and overvolted) to the still-usable limit. Maybe Ryan can chime in on the GPU aspect, especially the many "factory overclocked" cards. Thanks!
  • Ian Cutress - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    I've been speaking to people about this to see if we can get a better understanding about manufacturing as it relates to expected product lifetimes and such. Overclocking would obviously be an extension to that. If something happens and we get some info, I'll write it up.
  • igavus - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    Aside from overclocking, it'd be interesting to know if the expected lifetime is optimized with warranty times and if what we're seeing is a step forward on the planned obsolescence path.

    It's sort of more important now than ever, because with 8 core being the new norm soon - we'll probably see even longer refresh cycles as workloads catch up to saturate the extra performance available. And limiting product lifetime would help curb those longer than profitable refresh cycles.
  • FunBunny2 - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    "if what we're seeing is a step forward on the planned obsolescence path."

    you really, really should get this 57 Plymouth, cause your 56 Dodge has teeny tail fins.

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