Overclocked Performance: Win Some, Lose Some

Like the M11x and ASUS' UL series of CULV laptops, the M11x R2 allows you to try overclocking the CPU via the BIOS. Whereas we could simply set the bus speed to 166MHz (from the default 133) with the other laptops we've tested, this is our first Arrandale ULV processor and it didn't quite make it to a 166 bus. At 166, the system would reboot twice and revert to 133. A 164MHz bus on the other hand would boot Windows most of the time, but various games and applications would crash. Eventually we settled on 160MHz and achieved full stability.

Note that the stock multiplier for the i7-640UM is 9x, but with Turbo Boost it can go as high as 17x. You can disable Turbo Boost in the BIOS, but even at a 166 bus speed you would then be stuck with a constant CPU clock of only 1500MHz. At 160MHz we still saw multipliers as high as 17x, but not as often as when we were on the stock 133MHz bus. What's more, in heavily threaded benchmarks the multipliers were much lower on average, with the system often running at the "minimum" 9x. (SpeedStep can still drop down to a 5x multiplier, but under load we always stayed above 9x.)

So, what does overclocking get you? In certain situations we got much better performance, but overall it wasn't worth the effort in our opinion. Here's a table of our results.

M11x R2 Overclocking Gains - Applications
160MHz Base Bus
Application Stock 160 Bus Percentage
3DMark03 15421 16096 104%
3DMark05 11015 12124 110%
3DMark06 6973 6990 100%
3DMark Vantage (Entry) 14441 14484 100%
PCMark05 4597  4822 105%
PCMark Vantage 5329 5339 100%
Peacekeeper 2916 3247 111%
Cinebench 1CPU 2940 3429 117%
Cinebench xCPU 5713 5241 92%
x264 Pass 1 29.72 29.23 98%
x264 Pass 2 7.68 7.23 94%

The workloads that are primarily single-threaded in nature showed the biggest improvements. 3DMark03/05 both increased, with Peacekeeper and the single-threaded Cinebench result showing the greatest benefit. Most of the remaining tests showed no benefit, and in the case of heavily threaded tasks the bus overclock actually reduced performance. So from a general application standpoint, we can't see a reason to bother with the overclock; let Intel's Turbo Boost do its thing and be happy. But then, this is a gaming laptop and games are sometimes more single-threaded in nature. Can any games benefit from overclocking?

M11x R2 Overclocking Gains - Gaming
160MHz Base Bus
Game Title Stock 160 Bus Percentage
Batman: Arkham Asylum (Very High) 63 62 98%
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (Medium) 31.6 32.1 102%
Crysis: Warhead (Mainstream) 32.5 36 111%
DiRT 2 (Medium) 34.8 36.1 104%
Empire: Total War (Medium) 51 51.4 101%
Far Cry 2 (Medium DX9) 38 40.7 107%
Left 4 Dead 2 (Very High) 43.2 43.4 100%
Mass Effect 2 (Max) 37.2 38.6 104%
STALKER: Call of Pripyat (Med. + Full Dyn.) 57.5 61.6 107%

In general, the answer is no, though we do see minor improvements of 4-7% in several titles. The biggest increase was Crysis: Warhead at 11%, but even there the difference will be difficult to notice without benchmarks.

Overall, overclocking turned out to be of little use, but we do have one final disclaimer. We're using the i7-640UM processor, which runs at 1.20GHz to a maximum Turbo speed of 2.27GHz. It's possible that the i5-520UM with its lower speed range of 1.07GHz to 1.87GHz might benefit more, but without testing we can't say for sure. We do know that on an ASUS Core i7-720QM notebook our results were similar—overclocking caused Turbo Modes to kick in less, resulting in generally lower performance—so while you can get some impressive overclocks out of i5/i7 desktop processors, in a notebook you're likely best off just going with the stock speed and Turbo Boost.

Application Performance: Arrandale ULV beats OCed CULV Battery Life Takes a Hit


View All Comments

  • blyndy - Friday, July 09, 2010 - link

    Why the F**K does Alienware, for all its awesome customisability, poke a stick in the eye with reflective displays!?

    I would own a m17x if it wasn't for the shit screen. Give me the option for an RGB display but NOT for a matte finish? They can keep it.
  • plewis00 - Friday, July 09, 2010 - link

    For everyone who complains about glossy displays there is someone who prefers them. I am one of those people. And if the majority disliked glossy displays the industry as a whole wouldn't use them.

    Matte displays attract dirt and fingerprints which are then harder to clean than glossy ones, that is a fact.

    I don't know why everyone complains so much about them - true, in this instance the low contrast nature of the M11x display is bad but being glossy is a matter of taste, and given the choice, I would take the glossy display over the matte one, obviously you and others differ here, but whereas low-contrast is bad for all users, the display coating is definitely an opinion matter.
  • LaughingTarget - Friday, July 09, 2010 - link

    Sounds to me the problem can be resolved by, you know, not touching the screen. Reply
  • plewis00 - Friday, July 09, 2010 - link

    Just because I don't touch my screen doesn't mean other people in the vacinity don't...

    Or if you are in a rush and grab the computer. Or if you sneeze on it. Any number of things can get dirt on the screen, but I'm sure you knew that and were just being facetious and annoying for no apparent reason...
  • quiksilvr - Friday, July 09, 2010 - link

    First off, I don't know what matte screens you're talking about but glossy screens attract dust and fingerprints like no other.

    If you are using the glossy screen for mainly home use and have it set up so there is no reflecting light, then I would say that glossy is the way to go.

    LaughingTarget was merely pointing out the holes in your logic. For on-the-go use and for viewing the screen more easily, matte is the way to go.

    Gloss is only there to compensate for the poor screen quality beneath that most manufacturers don't want to spend extra money on. I've seen matte displays with great contrast ratios AND given that the screen isn't a mirror, makes it usable in a well lit environments.

    And as for the whole cleaning thing, they are the same. Just use the LCD cleaner with the cloth and both get just as clean.
  • plewis00 - Friday, July 09, 2010 - link

    Well, I agree with most of what you say, however 'LaughingTarget' was being a tool. Whatever I do, some moron will come across to my computer screen or laptop in the day and point with the fleshy part of their finger having previously been stuffing their face with something greasy and unhealthy, so 'not touching' it just doesn't happen.

    I'm sure matte displays have their place, but there are times when glossy screens have a price premium and people do pay that premium for them (not me personally). And I have a Dell 2005FPW attached to one of my computers which is (as far as I know) a S-IPS panel with a great contrast ratio and matte finish, far outpacing most of the TN panels built 3-4 years later I seem to come across.

    Personally, I still prefer and will continue to use glossy screens where possible (one of which used to be the stunning RGBLED in the SXPS16). It doesn't matter what someone says, it is down to personal preference ultimately - I'm sure someone will spin me a load of rubbish about how I don't take graphics or image work seriously because I just said that but they would be wrong (and I hope that isn't you). What is universally agreed though is that high contrast and gamut is better.

    And yes, I do own an M11x and my complaint is not with the glossy LCD layer but with the hideously poor contrast and terrible vertical viewing angle.
  • LaughingTarget - Friday, July 09, 2010 - link

    Understand what tool means. Whom am I being a tool for, pray tell? Some secret international conglomerate of matte monitor manufacturers?

    At the end of the day, your piss poor behavior using your expensive piece of hardware is hardly a great reason to buy a lesser monitor. If you can't pop open the screen without grubbing the monitor and hang around people with a total lack of consideration, that doesn't somehow make the glossy mess any better. You shouldn't be buying the m11 if you regularly bring the unit to places where folks smudge Cheeto dust all over it. That's what $300 Netbooks were invented for.

    As for dust, close the thing when not in use. Problem solved.
  • plewis00 - Friday, July 09, 2010 - link

    Look it up on Urbandictionary if you don't get it.

    Yes, you are a tool for being undeniably facetious and smug with your response without adding anything to the conversation. You may not agree with my use of glossy screens as do others but slating it or making a pointless remark like 'don't touch it' doesn't add anything, just like your last comment.

    And I wasn't talking about my M11x, I was talking about any LCD (matte or glossy), I mean at work people come to show you things and poke the screen - I work in an office where it's 90% women, they don't listen when I say 'don't touch the screen, it damages it' even if I do work in IT.

    Dust appears on screens and keyboards even if you do close them after use, it's these annoying things called static electricity and gravity but being such a smartarse you must've already known that.
  • erple2 - Saturday, July 10, 2010 - link

    Honestly, the initial response of LaughingTarget I thought was pretty reasonable, even funny.

    Clearly, the solution <i>is</i> not to touch it. Whether you can fully control whether people other than yourself touch the screen is a side issue, but you can at least prevent your own fingerprints on the laptop.

    Regardless, glossy vs. matte is, I suppose, as much about personal taste. I personally think that glossy is exceptionally annoying (and inferior from a practicality standpoint), but that's my opinion. I also think my opinion is based on facts. Whether those facts are important to you is a different story.

    BTW, touching a screen is not a male/female thing. I work in an office where it's about 80% men, and they still touch screens, even after being told not to.
  • blyndy - Friday, July 09, 2010 - link

    The slight mirror layer over the whole display contents is what is unacceptable for me and others. They're obviously acceptable to some and that's fine, but for people who prioritise 'usable' over 'sleek' our options are negligible, hence the frustration.

    "Matte displays attract dirt and fingerprints which are then harder to clean than glossy ones, that is a fact."

    *turns off desktop lcd (matte)* ...I see a few smudges, but I have to shift my head from side to side to see them, and they're invisible when the screen is on, completely unobtrusive either way. I don't go poking the screen too much anyway, with that said it's simple to clean if ever I happen to rub my hands all over it. With a glossy screen though you HAVE to clean it if you don't want it to look dirty.

    Anyway my main gripe is that for all of Alienware customisation options they don't include a matte screen, on machines that are supposed to be uncompromising and for hardcore users.

    Especially when all they have to do is remove the clear plastic cover.

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