There are many advantages to overclocking a device, and the same applies to the Raspberry Pi. You get a faster CPU that can perform more operations per second, meaning the device’s performance is increased dramatically. However, those new to overclocking are often overwhelmed and intimidated by the increased power and cooling requirements for overclocked CPUs.
The obvious motivation for overclocking a Raspberry Pi is that it offers an easy means of wringing more computational power from a CPU at no additional cost. Similarly, you may wish to overclock the Raspberry Pi as a means to experiment by pushing the limits of such a small device. Overclocking does increase the chip temperature, so proceed with caution, but it is possible to get more out of Raspberry Pi than what comes out of the box!
Is it safe to overclock the Raspberry Pi?
Overclocking the Raspberry Pi is easy and gives you that extra bit of performance you need to get the most out of your Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi is arguably the best Single Board Computer, but did you know you can overclock it to squeeze out even more performance?
The Raspberry Pi 400 available from the Raspberry Pi Store was designed to be used without any active cooling. This has been achieved with careful PCB design and a vast heat-sink. Not only does this allow the Pi 400 to run at 1.8GHz out the box but it also allows it to be easily overclocked to ensure maximum performance: its base ARM Cortex-A72 processor can actually be overclocked to up to 2.147GHz.
Getting the most out of Raspberry Pi
For the latest overclocking capabilities on the Raspberry Pi, always update it to the latest version. This will give you the latest performance and reliability optimisations offered, which will improve your ability to reach higher clock speeds to get the most out of the Raspberry Pi.
In a Raspberry Pi, there are two major subsystems where overclocking brings significant performance gains without resorting to extreme cooling: the CPU core and the graphics processing unit (GPU).
For the Pi 4, the nominal GPU clock frequency is 500 MHz, and the maximum nominal CPU core frequency is 1.5 GHz. The new Pi 400, however, is specified for a nominal core frequency of 1.8 GHz due to better cooling built into the keyboard enclosure containing the Raspberry Pi itself. Any Raspberry Pi will automatically throttle the CPU clock if the chip temperature increases to 80 degrees Celsius, thus protecting the chip against damage by ambitious overclocking.
With adequate air cooling and efficient heat sinks, the CPU core frequency can be safely increased to above 2.1 GHz. The GPU clock frequency can similarly be increased from 500 MHz to 700 MHz. Altogether, a significant performance gain is obtained without ill effects on the CPU chip, as long as you are careful with the cooling.
Overclocking your Raspberry Pi is a rather straightforward way to get extra performance from your CPU, but you should understand the risks and limits of overclocking, especially on such a small computer. However, it’s definitely worth doing when done in a controlled manner and can help you maximise the potential of such a small, revolutionary device!