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Intel locked vs. unlocked processor

While shopping for a new Intel processor, you may have noticed some advertised as “locked” while others purport to be “unlocked.” But what’s the difference between an Intel Locked vs. Unlocked processor? Read on to learn more.

Unlocked processors, denoted with a k at the end of the model number like the Skylake Core i7-6700k and Haswell-E Core i7-5820k, are made with an unlocked clock multiplier. This means when paired with the proper chipset like the Z-170 and in the hands of a knowledgeable techie, unlocked processors can be Overclocked for faster than factory core speeds. Locked processors cannot be Overclocked.

So does this mean for the non-overclocker that these unlocked processors should just be avoided? Not entirely. In order to increase buyer interest in these unlocked “k” processors, Intel has made their fastest processor by stock core speed – the i7-6700k – an unlocked processor with the Skylake generation as they did with Broadwell and Haswell that came before. So if the highest processing speed possible is what you need for your specific application, an unlocked CPU may be just what you’ve been searching for, even if you never intend to Overclock at all.

Overclocking vs. Turbo

You may have noticed that all current Intel i5 and i7 processors list two clock speeds in their specs – “3.3 GHz, up to 3.9 GHz,” for example. This is the Turbo feature included with these processors, and while similar in concept to Overclocking, is not the same thing as we refer to it here. Turbo mode is a sort of temporary overclock the processor does to itself automatically when in need of a little extra juice. The turbo process itself is totally seamless and something you wouldn’t even realize is happening within the depths of your PC. It’s not a feature that’s unique only to unlocked “k” processors.

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Josh Covington

Josh has been with Velocity Micro since 2007 in various Marketing, PR, and Sales related roles. As the Director of Sales & Marketing, he is responsible for all Direct and Retail sales as well as Marketing activities. He enjoys Seinfeld reruns, the Atlanta Braves, and Beatles songs written by John, Paul, or George. Sorry, Ringo.

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