Liquid helium lets Intel's Core i7-7740K hit record 7.5GHz speeds

Posted Jun 8, 2017 by James Walker
A team of boundary-pushing overclocking enthusiasts at PC gaming hardware company Gigabyte has broken records by using liquid helium to get Intel's new Core i7-7740K processor to run at 7.5GHz. It went on to set several benchmarking records.
The Core i7-7740K is one of several new enthusiast processors to be launched by Intel at Computex late last month. It's not the flagship model as Intel has now added 10, 12, 14, 18 and 18-core parts to its line-up under the new "Core i9" brand. The i7-7740K is the most powerful of the new quad-core chips though, set to become one of the processors of choice for new high-end PC gaming builds.
PC builder Gigabyte thought the i7-7740K could do better though. As Kitguru reports, famed company staff members "HiCookie" and "Sofos" went back to the Gigabyte overclocking lab after the event to put the processor through its paces. Mounting it on Gigabyte's own X299-SOC Champion motherboard and strapping a liquid helium cooler onto the top, they managed to push the consumer-grade CPU to 7.5GHz.
The record-breaking clock speed would have given the i7 crushing single-core performance. The team dialled the overclock back a little to 7.1GHz for benchmarking, pairing it with 3600MHz G.Skill Trident-Z memory and an Aorus GTX 1080Ti graphics card. In this configuration, the processor set new world records in benchmarking programs 3DMark03, 3DMark06 and Aquamark.
The system indicates the extreme overclocking potential of the i7-7740K and Gigabyte's X299-SOC motherboard. The company is pitching the board at enthusiasts looking for the ultimate overclocking potential. The record-breaking test demonstrates it should live up to its claims, although as with every overclock the exact capabilities differ between individual boards and processors.
While the performance milestone is notable, you won't be seeing a 7.5GHz processor in your own PC just yet. The immense amount of heat generated at the increased speed, coupled with the reduced processor lifespan and stability, makes such overclocks suitable only for enthusiast bragging and benchmark setting.
Gigabyte's liquid helium cooler kept the processor running at -250-degrees Celsius, a temperature necessary to dissipate the heat and keep the chip stable. Clock speed increases don’t scale proportionally with their heat output, which is why the 7.5GHz i7 runs so much hotter than Intel's 4GHz boxed units.
The test does have one practical outcome though: it indicates Intel's continued dominance of the extreme performance market. AMD's notably competitive return to form this year with Ryzen has provoked Intel into launching its Core i9 brand and revised enthusiast offering.
However, Ryzen's performance still drops away at the very top and early adopters have found its overclocking potential to be limited. Most chips are only stable at a few hundred MHz above stock whereas comparable Intel models offer more flexibility. While Gigabyte's test case is an extreme example, the 7.5GHz achievement puts us a step closer to 10GHz overclocks.