Gigabyte’s heavy-handed fix for Intel Core i9 CPU instability drops performance to Core i7 levels in some cases – but don’t panic yet

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Gigabyte is the latest motherboard maker to respond to the problems around Intel’s Core i9 processors crashing with PC games, but it seems like the company may have overreacted in its efforts to cure these stability issues.

The BIOS update Gigabyte has deployed tackles the specter of crashing by dropping certain power limits, the problem being that the performance of the affected 13th-gen and 14th-gen Core i9 CPUs is seriously hampered by the fix.

The motherboard vendor announced: “Gigabyte … released the latest beta BIOS with Intel Baseline feature on Z790, B760 series motherboards for enhanced stability, regarding the feedback from Intel that high power consumption settings may cause system instability with 13/14th generation CPUs.”

The mentioned new ‘Intel Baseline’ setting limits the power that can be supplied to boost the processor to a considerably lower amount than the default setting previously did, as implemented by Gigabyte on these motherboards.

As Wccftech, which spotted this development, points out, the Gigabyte Auto (default) setting applies a value of 4096W which effectively allows unlimited power – or we should say, as much as the CPU will call for (it won’t attempt to chug 4000W, obviously), so there’s no restriction – whereas Intel’s standard config is 253W. That’s 253W across the settings for both longer-term running in an extended session, and short duration boosts.

However, the new Gigabyte baseline profile drops the power limit to 188W for short duration, and 125W for longer sessions of CPU usage – or at least that’s what was discovered in testing conducted by Chinese tech site Uniko’s Hardware using a Core i9-13900KF processor.

That in turn considerably restricts the boost speed – less power equals slower clocks, quite simply – which makes things more stable, but drops performance. By how much though?

Uniko’s Hardware observed a Cinebench R23 score of 40,021 on the original Gigabyte Auto setting, which dropped to 28,811 with the new Intel baseline default. That’s a huge step down – not far off a 30% performance loss – with multi-threaded usage (single-threaded wasn’t affected by the change in power limits).

Effectively, the power-tamed Core i9-13900KF had been hamstrung down to Core i7 performance levels here – hardly ideal.

Uniko’s also tried out a few games with before and after comparisons in the same vein, and fortunately, the results weren’t quite so glaringly bad. Although Cyberpunk 2077 was around 10% slower (at multiple resolutions from 1080p to 4K), but drops in other games were more in the order of 3% to 8% (depending on resolution).

The overall frame rate loss was around the 5% mark on average for the games tested, so not too bad, though it may be a bit more for some titles as noted.

An sad PC Gamer sat at their desk looking unhappy

(Image credit: ShutterStock)

Analysis: A confusing picture that Intel needs to clear up fast

Obviously, this is just one limited set of a handful of tests with a single PC configuration, but if the observed power limits are correct as Uniko’s outlines them, it’s quite a drop down. So, Core i9 owners can indeed expect to lose a fair bit of performance in certain scenarios, make no bones about that.

The caveat, as noted by Uniko’s, is that the 13900KF being tested is a pre-release sample of some kind – so the site mulls over whether that may have some bearing on the power limits being set here. We’ll need someone else to weigh in with testing this new Gigabyte BIOS to be sure.

Assuming this result holds true, it does seem odd that Gigabyte has been so very cautious applying new power limits. Asus also recently made the same move by introducing a BIOS with a new Intel Baseline Profile, but that motherboard maker chose a higher 253W limit (as per Intel’s standard configuration).

Now, that 253W limit still ushered in a drop in performance (as fully expected), but Cinebench R23 multi-core was only 12.5% slower in this case with an Asus board. Still not great, but not nearly the drop Uniko’s noticed with the Gigabyte motherboard. Similarly, in recent advice, MSI told motherboard owners to run with a power limit of 253W (the Intel default).

It seems Gigabyte is taking a perhaps overly cautious approach for the time being, then, with this new BIOS – unless the behavior observed is something to do with Uniko’s using a sample Core i9 chip. We should also remember that this is a beta BIOS release from Gigabyte, so it could be changed by the time it’s released (or there could even be an error here – stranger things have happened).

Time will tell, but what further adds to the mystery here is that Gigabyte mentions the “feedback from Intel” that high power settings could cause instability. So, it seems that Team Blue is in contact with motherboard manufacturers – actively discussing the issue – and they are all releasing new BIOS updates, or alternatively advice on how to change settings.

Yet consumers who own these CPUs haven’t heard a peep from Intel regarding its ongoing investigation into this problem with PC games crashing on these high-end Raptor Lake and Raptor Lake Refresh processors.

The fact that different solutions are being applied and varied approaches taken by board makers doesn’t help either, and adds to the general confusion around this. Although it seems this must be a motherboard and settings related problem at this point, it’d be good to get some confirmation from Intel about exactly what’s gone awry here – and whether there are any other factors to consider. Gamers have paid a lot of money for these top-of-the-tree CPUs, after all, so let’s not leave them hanging.

Meantime, worrying reports of CPU degradation over time due to this instability issue persist, and that also needs to be addressed by Intel, frankly. Especially given that it might at least partially explain an ultra-cautious tackling of the problem such as the one Gigabyte appears to have plumped for.

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