MSI Kombo Strike ‘Overclocking’ BIOS For Ryzen 5800X3D is Promising But Results May Vary
MSI has released a new and mysterious feature for folks running AMD’s Ryzen 7 5800X3D CPU. As you may recall, this CPU does not allow overclocking or voltage changes. As AMD’s first chip with on-die L3 cache, the company says it’s not designed to handle varying frequencies and voltages. However, MSI seems to have found a workaround. It’s called Kombo Strike and it’s only available for 500-series motherboards. It’s also only offered as a Beta BIOS, so only the brave should apply. However, before you dive in, so far it’s showing mixed results in different tests. In other words, your mileage may vary.
MSI’s description of what Kombo Strike does is pretty opaque. It just says “Improved CPU performance of Ryzen 7 5800X3D. You can access it in the BIOS and it has four settings: off, 1, 2, 3. There’s no explanation of what the difference is between the numbers. One can assume whatever level one does, level two and three are more of that. Still, that’s not much to go on.
A Redditor became a guinea pig tester for it recently though, and their results are impressive. A user named Mannekino posted a set of benchmarks, showing the results of their testing. They are running an MSI MEG B550 Unify. The BIOS is version 7D13v171 Beta. Their CPU cooling is a bit overkill though; two 360mm rads with a custom loop. The most interesting findings are that using Kombo Strike #3 they found radically lower temps and voltages. This isn’t supposed to be possible on this CPU, mind you. Regardless, they found that in a Cinebench stress test the average temp dropped a shocking 9C. It went from 81.3C with Kombo Strike disabled, to 72.3 with it enabled. Average watts also dropped by 14W total, going from 112.2W to 98.2W.
Despite using less power and running cooler, performance actually increased in some tests. It didn’t increase by much, but eh, it’s free performance. For example, in 3DMark’s Timespy CPU test, performance increased by almost four percent. However, in Red Dead Redemption 2 Kombo Strike had no impact whatsoever. As far as what Kombo Strike is doing, one theory is that’s it’s undervolting the CPU slightly. The Reddit post links to a user on the Overclock.net forums who says authoritatively it’s a “curve optimizer” of some sorts.
However, YouTube channel Gamers Nexus has also examined Kombo Strike. Their results are quite different from the ones posted to Reddit. They found it actually applied higher voltages, which allows for higher clocks. For example, the MSI baseline with Kombo Strike off consumed 98W. Enabling level #3 in the software boosted power consumption by 6W though. Enabling level #1 took that all the way up to 12W. They then went to see if clock speeds had increased, and sure enough, they had. They ran a Blender animation stress test and monitored the clock speeds of the chip. They found Kombo Strike #3 ran clock speeds 230MHz higher than with it disabled. Level #1 also ran higher too, around 100Mhz or so. Not too shabby for just clicking one toggle in the BIOS.
Despite these gains, they do come with a small thermal cost. In their testing, they found the MSI board ran at 77C in stock trim. That boosted up to 78.3C for Kombo Strike #3, which is not a huge change. However, level #1 took it all the way up to 82.4C, which is a significant difference. Voltage also jumped in level #1, going from 1.21V stock to 1.24 volts. In actual performance tests he found Kombo Strike offered between one to three percent uplift in content creation programs. For gaming, there was no significant uplift whatsoever. His conclusion was it does make a difference, but not one you’d really notice. And it’s not really worth it given the higher temps and increased voltage.
Obviously, the difference in experience between Gamers Nexus and the poster on reddit are complete opposites of each other. It could be down to the fact that this is beta software, running on different motherboards. For example, the Redditor is running a B550 UNIFY board with BIOS 7D13v171 Beta. We looked up the version for the X570 Godlike and found it to be 7C34v1I1 Beta. So different boards have different versions of the BIOS, but they should have the same version of Kombo Strike. Still, it’s beta software, but at this point it’s hard to understand why there’s such a difference. Regardless, it looks like something that would be fun to test if you have an MSI 500-series motherboard. You might want to wait until it comes out of beta though, just for stability’s sake. For more information on the 5800X3D, check our comparison of the chip as an upgrade option for X370 owners.
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