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Phenom II X2 550 BE or Phenom II X3 720 BE

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June 17, 2009 5:29:42 AM

I'm about to spend about $250 or so dollars on a new motherboard, cpu, and cooler combination. +/- $15 would be within budget. I am interested in the 550 and 720 because of their solid price to performance ratios and a little intrigued by their potential abilities to unlock cores. With the 720 going for $139 on Newegg and the 550 going for $103 the processor price is reasonably close. It does seem however that the 550's have a much higher chance of unlocking the other cores over the chances of the 720 unlocking the fourth. Which one would you roll the dice on? The 720 would require either a BIOSTAR TFORCE TA790GX 128M or ASRock AOD790GX/128M to be able to unlock the 4th core. The 550 on the other hand could use a GIGABYTE GA-MA790X-UD4P which based on the reviews seems to be a superior board in comparison between the other two. I guess I should be taking these reviews with a grain of salt. Either way this will be a first time partial build and I am interested in ease of use with the components I buy. The 550 has a higher potential for win if 2 cores unlock but the 720 is rock solid as is. Both overclock exceptionally well. 720 combo price with the Biostar is $229 while a 550 with the Gigabyte is $213. Of course there are cheaper boards but I was crossfire capability even if it is the watered down version.

I am upgrading from a Pentium D840 with a 955 express chipset. I have a Radeon 4830 that is ball and chained to my well aged processor. I play ETW, run ballistic coefficients with shooting software and browse the web. Let me know which one has the best potential for my needs.

More about : phenom 550 phenom 720

June 17, 2009 6:08:36 AM

Another thing you all may think about; what about getting a ECS A780GM-A Ultra AM2+ board for $75 with a $15 MIR instead of a board with 8x/8x crossfire capability? The 955 express chipset I have doesnt even have PCI-E 2.0 support and I get a little over a score of 7000 on 3dmark06. My Radeon 4830 overclocks by 25% completely stable and haven't pushed it further because I see no gains in 3dmark06 when overclocking at all. Maybe the 840D and 955E mobo are an unbelievable bottleneck and simply ajavascript:%20validform(this);n AM3 ready mobo with a SB750 and PCI-E 2.0 compliance coupled with either of the aforementioned processors would bump my synthetics and real world results significantly. What do you guys think, and does anyone have any similar experience? I could always get a new setup altogether in a year and a half once I graduate with a degree and hopefully snag a better paying job.
June 17, 2009 6:16:36 AM

personally, I would go with the 720. the reason being is that IF the core unlock fails, at least you have three cores.

in the words of clint eastwood;

"you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk? "

*note* this does not imply you are a punk.
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June 17, 2009 8:00:40 AM

Hi, :hello: 

I read several times that the Phenom II X2 550 is running on all 4 cores. Not sure if the GA-MA790XT-UD4P will unlock the cores, it's only $15 more the GA-MA790XT-UD4P

GIGABYTE GA-MA790XT-UD4P AM3 DDR3 AMD 790X ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail Price $124.99 after mir
Support AM3 Socket Phenom II DDR3 CPU Only
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Quote:
We managed to activate both blocked cores on our Phenom II X2 550 sample and turn it into a fully-functional quad-core CPU without any effort. By the way, it immediately overclocked to 3.8GHz.
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/phenom-ath...


THE PHENOM II X2 550 Black Edition chip is much more than a simple "low-end" Phenom II. First tests show that not only is it a joy to overclock, but if you hook it up to the right mainboard, you can activate all four cores on the processor.

Yes, that's right. The cheapest Phenom II around can have all four cores activated... for free. Using AMD's OverDrive we were able to switch on all four cores through the ACC. Unexpected to say the least.
http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1184444/phenom...
June 17, 2009 12:11:10 PM

i would stay away from ECS boards, not that good IMO
June 17, 2009 4:15:34 PM

Hmm, I really appreciate your input guys thanks a lot. From what I have read the 550 has very high odds that the other 2 cores are unlockable and stable. As for the mobo I'd prefer to stay with DDR2 as I already have 4GB of OCZ even though it only runs 800 mhz. Either way I want to stay with a lower end AM3 cpu. As far as the 790X board from Gigabyte, I believe any board with a 750 series southbridge can unlock the cores. Even boards that cannot unlock the 720's 4th.
June 23, 2009 2:22:26 AM

TallgeeseCNC said:
Hmm, I really appreciate your input guys thanks a lot. From what I have read the 550 has very high odds that the other 2 cores are unlockable and stable. As for the mobo I'd prefer to stay with DDR2 as I already have 4GB of OCZ even though it only runs 800 mhz. Either way I want to stay with a lower end AM3 cpu. As far as the 790X board from Gigabyte, I believe any board with a 750 series southbridge can unlock the cores. Even boards that cannot unlock the 720's 4th.


I am purchasing a 550 tonight with the hopes of unlocking all 4 cores. Still debating what memory brand to get though....

Even if my unlock fails...the 550 can be overclocked big time and MOST applications out there will not benefit from the extra cores. Several that I use should (Photoshop)..but I'll take that risk.


I'll post on how it turns out once I get it all up and running (probably this weekend depending on how fast Newegg ships)
June 23, 2009 8:34:43 PM

Awesome I appreciate it. From what I have read the vast majority of people with boards capable of ACC have successfully and stably unlocked the 2 other cores. This is such a huge deal it is very tough to pass up even though this would blow a good amount of my extra cash. With the 720 BE priced at $120 on Newegg now instead of $135 I am tempted to go that route too. I would just rather have a Gigabyte board with the unlocked 550 than a Biostar with the unlocked 720.
June 24, 2009 5:50:47 AM

Get the 720. I got the 550, and was not able to unlock the cores. I am 100% sure I have the right south bridge, and I even downloaded the Beta Bios which I am also 100% supports Unlocking, and no unlock. So I got a 550 with 2 fully disabled cores, and now have to send it back and pay a $15 restocking fee.
June 24, 2009 6:18:49 AM

So you got what you paid for. I don't know, consider unlockable cores a bonus, not part of the product. Like getting a CPU that OCs particularly well.
June 24, 2009 7:29:23 AM

I have always loved the idea of a triple core, and have always enjoy the price performance of the 720. To say I need a quad core would be lying... my Pentium D840 does a respectable job for its age, but that's just because I'm oblivious to the speed new hardware can provide. I am confident I would see huge speed and performance increases with the 720 or 550 but with a now $17 difference I really like the guarantee of at least 3 very solid and overclocker friendly CPU. I only wish the 720 came in a good combo deal with a very solid DDR2 board.
June 25, 2009 3:37:04 AM

TallgeeseCNC said:
I have always loved the idea of a triple core, and have always enjoy the price performance of the 720. To say I need a quad core would be lying... my Pentium D840 does a respectable job for its age, but that's just because I'm oblivious to the speed new hardware can provide. I am confident I would see huge speed and performance increases with the 720 or 550 but with a now $17 difference I really like the guarantee of at least 3 very solid and overclocker friendly CPU. I only wish the 720 came in a good combo deal with a very solid DDR2 board.

I got My 720 & an Asus DDR3 790GX board for 194.99?

So hey, mobo for 75 bucks. Then ddr3 isn't too expensive either :D 

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
June 25, 2009 6:00:09 AM

Okay Alpha I did notice that combo but I do already have 4GB of OCZ DDR2 800 ram and am not too keen on replacing it unless I would see substantial increases without spending over $65 on the new modules. For example, in combination with a x3 720 for $120:

If I use my DDR2 modules then I will go with the Gigabyte GA-MA790X-UD4P for $109.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I can then afford to buy the XIGMATEK HDT-SD964 for $23.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

On the other hand if I go with this combo, http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... for $195. The problem lies in the fact that I then need to buy DDR3 ram. I am looking at these modules with that combo:

G-Skill 4GB DDR3 1333 $65
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

OCZ Reaper HPC 4GB DDR3 1333 $64
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Mushkin modules are just seemingly a tad too pricey. I know they are superb but the G-Skills have better specs on paper and seem to perform accordingly given the right mobo. DDR3 1600 speeds hike prices even further and the modules within $10-15 of the 1333 speeds seem to have spacey timings. From what I understand slightly slower memory speeds with very tight timings trump faster memory speeds with lazy timings.

But for comparisons sake here is a reasonable 1600 module OCZ Reaper HPC 4GB:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Also is a 6-6-6-20 timing better than a 7-7-7-18 at 1333mhz? I don't seem to completely understand the overall performance affects in the minor differences. Either way I would not really be able to afford the XIGMATEK HDT-SD964 unless I waited another week or two to save up. All in all is it worth the extra money to go ahead and snag an AM3 board? And will the DDR3 1333 modules perform well or better in comparison to my DDR2 800 modules? I'd like to save the money if possible. Either way it's a huge upgrade from my Pentium D840.
June 25, 2009 11:06:42 AM

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

These are the modules I went with. Simply because I read good reviews about them overclocking well.

They were only 70.99 when I ordered them. If you're not in any hurries I can let you know how my system performs when it's finally done. Ram & mobo come tomorrow. Everything else literally came today. I got screwed pretty much.

I bought the cpu/mobo combo, the ram, a 4890 and a 640gb caviar black...then a corsair tx650 to power all the case fans & crap I bought :D  Although now I wish I had bought the 750. Oh well. I'll just buy one when I build my wife's tower and swap them. Muaha.

On a serious not though I can let you know how ddr3 fares :D 

And for teh cas...divide the latency by the ram speed... i.e. 6/1333

The lower the better. I think.
June 25, 2009 12:52:41 PM

I have gigabyte ma790gp-ud4h motherboard, had an asrock a790gxh before and it was pretty nice but not as good as gigabyte, which also costs more. I have had bot phenom II x3 720 and x2 550. I got lucky and my 720 unlocks core and i can do 4 cores at 3.4 ghz, but not "stable", it will crash in varying amounts of time running prime95, which maxes out all cores to %100 and heats it up big time. I can, however, play gta iv or crysis or do many other demanding things for hours without any problem. the x2 550 i got won't unlock at all, won't even post w/ acc enabled, i have to clear cmos to get a screen. I'll do more reading to see if there's something i haven't tried that might make it work tho.
June 25, 2009 1:00:28 PM

I have gigabyte ma790gp-ud4h motherboard, had an asrock a790gxh before and it was pretty nice but not as good as gigabyte, which also costs more. I have had bot phenom II x3 720 and x2 550. I got lucky and my 720 unlocks core and i can do 4 cores at 3.4 ghz, but not "stable", it will crash in varying amounts of time running prime95, which maxes out all cores to %100 and heats it up big time. I can, however, play gta iv or crysis or do many other demanding things for hours without any problem. the x2 550 i got won't unlock at all, won't even post w/ acc enabled, i have to clear cmos to get a screen. I'll do more reading to see if there's something i haven't tried that might make it work tho. The phenom x3 720 worked just fine w/ 3 cores, just use 4 cause i can.
June 27, 2009 6:09:29 AM

Okay I currently have a Pentium D 840 running at 3.2GHz coupled with a 955 Express motherboard from Dell and DDR2 memory running at 667Mhz. The modules I have are actually capable of running at 800MHz:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I am going to buy a Phenom II x3 720 BE processor and am looking at the following combos:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

720 BE + BIOSTAR TFORCE TA790GX 128M = $194 which is AM2+ using DDR2 or...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

720 BE + ASUS M4A78T-E AM3 AMD 790GX = $195 which obviously uses DDR3 which I currently have no modules of.

Either way I go I will see a huge upgrade when combined with my MSI 4830 running on an old school PCIe 1.0 x16 pathway with 667MHz memory speeds. Is the performance really worth bumping up to $65ish DDR3 modules or do you agree with my uncertain opinion that my OCZ DDR2 800MHz modules are plenty bang for the buck and aren't even completely appreciated yet? I am a little leary of the Biostar board as I use a RAID 0 configuration for storage and hav.e read that this board can be troublesome when setting up SATA RAID configs. Do you guys sense user incompetence or a real issue? This would be my first "build" so to speak and it's not even a complete one at that so I prefer the path of least resistance. I feel that my OCZ memory is still too useful to just ditch but like I said I have no experience with Biostar but feel confident in ASUS. Chime in with some experiences and opinions!
June 27, 2009 6:21:22 AM

Both are fairly reliable brands, but honestly, I don't think DDR3 would be that much of a boost for you.
June 27, 2009 8:00:28 PM

TallgeeseCNC said:
I'm about to spend about $250 or so dollars on a new motherboard, cpu, and cooler combination. +/- $15 would be within budget. I am interested in the 550 and 720 because of their solid price to performance ratios and a little intrigued by their potential abilities to unlock cores. With the 720 going for $139 on Newegg and the 550 going for $103 the processor price is reasonably close. It does seem however that the 550's have a much higher chance of unlocking the other cores over the chances of the 720 unlocking the fourth. Which one would you roll the dice on? The 720 would require either a BIOSTAR TFORCE TA790GX 128M or ASRock AOD790GX/128M to be able to unlock the 4th core. The 550 on the other hand could use a GIGABYTE GA-MA790X-UD4P which based on the reviews seems to be a superior board in comparison between the other two. I guess I should be taking these reviews with a grain of salt. Either way this will be a first time partial build and I am interested in ease of use with the components I buy. The 550 has a higher potential for win if 2 cores unlock but the 720 is rock solid as is. Both overclock exceptionally well. 720 combo price with the Biostar is $229 while a 550 with the Gigabyte is $213. Of course there are cheaper boards but I was crossfire capability even if it is the watered down version.

I am upgrading from a Pentium D840 with a 955 express chipset. I have a Radeon 4830 that is ball and chained to my well aged processor. I play ETW, run ballistic coefficients with shooting software and browse the web. Let me know which one has the best potential for my needs.


The 550 is a great choice, it does have a very high chance of unlocking cores successfully. There is another motherboard I'm sure will work with unlocking cores, GIGABYTE GA-MA770T-UD3P. Its cheaper than the UD4P and should work just as well. You might need a bios update. And remember to select the hybrid option in the ACC if you want to unlock cores.
June 30, 2009 1:49:50 AM

Just bought a new system this Saturday. I paired the Phenom 550 with Gigabyte GA-MA790XT. First thing I did was update the bios and proceeded to unlock the 2 cores with ACC. I ran Prime95 stabled for 7 hrs this morning and now am running it with an OC of x17.5 multiplier. Even if I can't OC it, its still a steal to have a 45nm quad core CPU for this price.
June 30, 2009 5:35:35 AM

I just bought both of these CPUs, which I'll be pairing with both the Gigabyte MA790X-UD4P and Biostar TFORCE TA790GX 128M (both AM2+, not AM3). I also chose two different pairs of 2x2GB G-Skill RAM for each - the F2-8500CL5D-4GBPK (DDR2-1066) and F2-8800CL5D-4GBPI (DDR2-1100, 1.8v-1.9v). I already have a ZEROTherm BTF80 cooler, and ordered a new ZEROTherm ZN120, so I should be good to go as far as keeping these suckers cooled as I test.

It's going to be a pain in the arse, but I'll find out which one is the kick-ass combo as I test each and every option to see how each one OC's and/or unlocks on each motherboard. From what I've read, the Biostar board has had success unlocking cores, and the Gigabyte board OC's like a beast... Once they arrive and I get a day or two to tinker around, I'll post results. But I'm already drooling with anticipation.

Oh! I'll be sure to test different BIOS versions as well. Already have several downloaded :) 
June 30, 2009 2:53:11 PM

RazberyBandit said:
I just bought both of these CPUs, which I'll be pairing with both the Gigabyte MA790X-UD4P and Biostar TFORCE TA790GX 128M (both AM2+, not AM3). I also chose two different pairs of 2x2GB G-Skill RAM for each - the F2-8500CL5D-4GBPK (DDR2-1066) and F2-8800CL5D-4GBPI (DDR2-1100, 1.8v-1.9v). I already have a ZEROTherm BTF80 cooler, and ordered a new ZEROTherm ZN120, so I should be good to go as far as keeping these suckers cooled as I test.

It's going to be a pain in the arse, but I'll find out which one is the kick-ass combo as I test each and every option to see how each one OC's and/or unlocks on each motherboard. From what I've read, the Biostar board has had success unlocking cores, and the Gigabyte board OC's like a beast... Once they arrive and I get a day or two to tinker around, I'll post results. But I'm already drooling with anticipation.

Oh! I'll be sure to test different BIOS versions as well. Already have several downloaded :) 


I willalso be drooling - for your results.
June 30, 2009 3:04:32 PM

Awesome Razbery I appreciate it. Those are the exact two boards I am comparing atm and I am trying to decide to go with a 720 or 550 again because of the surge of reviews of newegg of successfully unlocked cores. The biostar board does seem to unlock well but I use a RAID 0 setup with 2 160GB hd's and would like to keep it that way, and I have read many a bad review on the biostar's ability to setup RAID easily. I am very new to this do it yourself computer building and feel much better about the gigabyte board, but the biostar board may really not be bad at all. It's just hard to argue with the $194 price tag and free shipping for the biostar and 720 BE.

I am considering that combo, a 550 with the gigabyte, or a 720 with the gigabyte. Let me know which one seems to be easier to handle!!!
June 30, 2009 6:48:05 PM

Most of my parts are arriving tomorrow, with the exception of the DDR2-1100 G-Skill RAM and sound card. However, I have to work tomorrow night, so I'll have no time to tinker until Thursday, my day off. It's back to work Friday through Monday, so I'm sorry to say that truly in-depth tinkering will be delayed...

For me, the choice between the two CPUs for either board was based on my usage, which is primarily gaming and internet-related. A quick look at the parts I have can help explain that in a primarily stock setup with a little overclocking. Core unlocks are truly a bonus, so I'm not entering that into the equation just yet.

My intention has been to stick the 720 on the Gigabyte board along with the DDR2-1100 RAM. This while using an HD4890 on an ASUS VH242H 1920x1080 monitor. This system would become my new gaming rig. Meanwhile, I planned to stick the 550 on the Biostar board using the 1066 RAM and my trusty eVGA 8800GT 512 on either an old Hanns-G HG216D 1680x1050 monitor or Samsung Syncmaster 943SWX 18.5" 1360x768 monitor. I was going to give this system to my kid brother so he could have a decent little gaming rig, which he's been begging for lately. He's still using an old Athlon XP 2000+ system with a 9800XT AGP card. I told him he's got a PS3 and HDTV for games, but he's recently fallen in love with online shooters... LOL

Anyway... The above configurations were all based on whether the two CPUs will run at similar speeds. Let's say that frequency is roughly 3.2-3.4GHz, and without any core unlocks. It simply made sense to have the extra core in my main rig because several of the games I play will make use of it. However, if either one of these CPUs is able to unlock cores while installed on either one of these boards, still OC to a similar frequency range as above and remain stable, that will affect which one ends up where.

All that said, I think my original intentions, which in no way takes into account the possibility of core unlocks, are well-founded and make sense for my usage. Only the possibility of successful core unlocks will change my current configuration plans.
July 1, 2009 5:27:55 AM

Yeah you make a good point, the PII X3 720 is a very strong value and worse case scenario you end up with a processor with it's 3 functional cores that overclock to 3.4 Ghz. Not bad at all, and this combos with the Biostar board are very appealing.

Let me ask you this...is the Biostar board a solid motherboard or is it a little on the cheap side? $194 for a 720 and a 790 series board with watered down crossfire (which is perfectly suitable for 4850s/GTS 250s in CF) is tough to beat. The Gigabyte 790X is $109 which is a reasonable price but without that combo with the 720 BE that puts the tag for the two at $228. $34 is a big difference when in the budget market and thats a solid 92mm heatsink/cooler and premium thermal compound. I just feel like unless the Gigabyte board is simply that much better, my money will go much further with the Biostar option.

Let me know what your experiences are with both boards if you don't mind, as I am very eager to know!
July 1, 2009 5:45:00 AM

Uh... you can't have GTX 250s in crossfire...
July 1, 2009 6:26:06 AM

Wow. Double fail.
July 1, 2009 8:50:47 PM

I am looking at the same considerations re cpu 550 or 720 - but I will go DDR3 - since the future (future proofing?) is all DDR3. (and my current sys is junk)

I will not go Biostar. I will go Gigabyte with 790X chipset (790XT-UD4P). My main reason is about Power Handling.

I believe Gigabyte has stronger PWM Mosfets. If you are planning oclox, you use more power, make more heat. A weak mosfet is threatened. A stronger mosfet is simply safer. The Giga has a heatpipe also to help w cooling this section - and all the copper helps too.

Biostar has some fans however - but if you want to oclock with less worry, go Giga. But you can't get a Biostar "X" c'set - so you are actually buying a GX w onboard vid = useless with your 4830 (which I also plan on).

I don't have specs at hand; but look it up - you will probably see more info on the Giga site about PWM Mosfet. Also I think Giga is the only one offering the X chipset - almost same as the FX with some minor differences in bios, and of course the PCI-e2 slots (x8x8="X") vs (x16x16="FX"). The FX offers a few minor niceties; but is aimed at hardcore gamer/oclox/multiple xFires. But the X mimics it. And that 2nd vidcard is future anyway, and x8 will be adequate. (not much diff, unless u r hardcore freak)

Get the Giga board and the 720 = play it safe - the unlock may not work - you mostly only hear about the ones that do work; others don't. Also a bios upgrade could lose the unlock capability. If you think you will use the 3-core; do it! Protect your investment.

re your DDR2 - no problem with that idea - in future, you can simply upgrade the mobo to a DDR3 mobo plus DDR3ram, and switch the cpu = done - but there is not much diff for now. In my case, I do not have DDR2. So if I buy ram, it only makes sense to go DDR3. Your alternative is to sell old ram, buy DDR3 - again you can do that anytime. But it's a future expense if you want it that way - but that's your secondary decision - the cpu is primary - get the triple.

OR - cheap the mobo w Biostar and upgrade it later to a Giga. (avoid ecs aka pcchips)

You have lots of options - and that's good. :) 

Hope this helps.

(in Canada, the outlined sys is selling off the shelves - good thing I am in no rush - it can only get better).
July 1, 2009 8:57:49 PM

Just like to say:

Very good thread this.
July 2, 2009 5:31:52 AM

Yeah my apologies for the "$194 for a 720 and a 790 series board with watered down crossfire (which is perfectly suitable for 4850s/GTS 250s in CF) is tough to beat." My point was to identify that the 4850 and GTS 250 are on par and run well at those bandwidths I just forgot to stick with the whole crossfire deal. I just took pleasure in knowing the guy to was out to razz me got his...LOL.

So anyways superb feedback I am really enjoying this information ping pong we have going on here. I really look forward to Razbery's data, but I am just really appreciating the fact they I have so many great budget options that are very capable for their prices nowadays. I think we can all toast to that.
July 2, 2009 3:41:05 PM

So assuming that you can't unlock cores on either chip, and run relatively stock, which would be better for a budget gaming rig (FPS like Call of Duty 4, 5 & 6)?
July 3, 2009 1:54:18 AM

Basically, to my understanding, with more than one core, you have one core to run windoze, or your preferred o/s, and then the other core(s) to run game.

Some games are single thread, and some are two; I don't think it goes further than that yet. But if my info is correct, then with a dual threaded game, you would do better with 3 cores, or 4, same idea. With 4 you could theoretically assign the 4th core to do something else background.

The argument for a dual core, is that this difference would be fairly minor - which makes sense, cos for years, we were doing everything on 1 core. So a dual core is already better than that. Also newer processors have better throughput than older ones; so maybe they can handle the load like that.

But this is all just talk really. I comes down to the real world experience that you have at your pc. That's the bottom line - if that works for you, the benches mean nothing.

When I consider that my current rig is hand me down junk, a dual core would be a world of difference. Then I think for a fistful of dollars more I could get a triple core. But then I start thinking well maybe a fat vidcard too. Next thing I add up the planned total. Then I get real and think well smaller vid, and add a second xfire later if I really need it, and can afford it in the future.

Bottom line, whatever I buy will be a rocket compared to what I have - plus I will have future upgrade options.

And I really don't care if your pc is faster or benches better. I am not buying to run benches, that's for sure. I am buying a general rig with some game potential. It will be AMD simply cos I don't support antitrust. That's me. I just am - an AMD fan.

But one thing I want included is an element of futureproof - so a year or so later, I can add a quad, a fat vidcard, more wam, a new mobo, whatever - parts options, not the whole sys, just the option to improve any parts. So I think it is fairly important to go with AM3 parts as much as possible - esp since I do not have a pile of ddr2 already. The future is all AM3 - for a year for sure, and then beyond that, I will drive the same rig for years until it won't do what I want. 5 yrs? maybe with an upgrade or two.

One other thing is PSU - I want 650 watts, cos that's not a lot of money, and I only need about 500, so a little bit of extra for future possibilities. Also, 650 would keep this basic rig running comfortably in load situations. This same thinking almost invites a 700 or 750; but most of us are already used to running on barely underpowered supplies already methinks. I am compromising reasonably - or so I tell myself.

But I have no plan to xfire 4870 or 4890 - I am looking at 4830, cos it is almost a 4850 and it has a 256-bit bus bandwidth, and uses less power$, and will xfire with another 4830 if desired.
July 3, 2009 2:12:00 AM

Mocs123 said:
So assuming that you can't unlock cores on either chip, and run relatively stock, which would be better for a budget gaming rig (FPS like Call of Duty 4, 5 & 6)?


If you want to run stock, you could choose the 710 Triplecore which has a locked multiplier; but you could also oclox the bus speed from 200 to 210 or 220 for a little extra crisp response; and little else would change re bolts or cooling etc. - and that would save a few dollars.

The unlock multiplier just makes for easy oclox - but you can adjust the socalled fsb in bios anyway on the locked multiplier Ph II 710. That would be a good choice if you plan on no oclox. I would choose the Black Edition just so I could play - but I am not a serious ocloxer anyway. I would run at slightly boosted level full time; and I would tend to include the fsb boost also.

If budget is main concern - get the dualcore. It's very tempting with the 6 meg L3. Also the Athlon II's are out now; and they are stock clocked at 3.1 ghz, have zero L3 cache; but they DO HAVE extra L2 cache. Check test reports on those too; they are not slouches. They are specifically a redesign of the PhII and are not disabling anything. They are lower TDP watts also.
July 4, 2009 9:37:05 AM

I sure can empathize with your confusion on the mobo and cpu front I have been trying to figure it out myself. As for as the DDR2 v DDR3 is concerned I came down on the side of upgrading to the DDR3 now even if it is about the same speed since the price of high quality DDR2 against DDR3 of similar speed is only a few extra dollars and you will have saved yourself the cost of a new mobo in the future. Mobo $ > DDR3 $ at least for me that's how I feel about it. Though considering my luck with mobo's (went through 4 in a year all msi) I would hit the giga board the quality was down a few years ago but I had a 939 giga board last me for 3 solid years the only thing that started bugging me was that it had one of those tiny little fans like on that biostar board you were looking at. It was the loudest fan in my entire setup! at one point I was so frustrated with it i took out my trusty screwdriver and removed it! (The peace and quiet was SOO worth it!) I had to replace that board though for new am2 board that just died on me. I'm looking at getting ASUS M4A78T-E AM3 AMD 790GX or GIGABYTE GA-MA790FXT-UD5P. I'm really hoping there is a special on the giga board to take the edge off when I finally have to take the plunge with one or the other! :sol: 
July 4, 2009 4:05:55 PM

I used to want a 790GX until I realized I was also planning a discrete vidcard (4830) as well; then I discovered the 790X mobo which is almost an FX at low price, has lots of bios tweaks, good PWM/mosfets and low cost due to - no onboard vid cost. It seems a pretty pure board.
But if you don't play big games, the onboard vid (3200 or 3300) is fairly potent; and in that case the 790GX is best ticket - plus it has PCIe2 slot so you can always future upgrade with the discrete vidcard. Oclox are good on either board. And both are fullsize ATX.

I am surprised that Giga is the only one offering the 790X chipset - as far as I know. It's selling like hotcakes.
July 14, 2009 4:09:11 AM

sighQ2 said:
I am surprised that Giga is the only one offering the 790X chipset - as far as I know. It's selling like hotcakes.


They aren't. MSI has had a 790X board on the market for more than a year and a half: K9A2-CF-F (V2 is the most recent version)
The problem with that board is it has the old SB600 south-bridge, which doesn't offer nearly the same features, nor the proper level of control of newer CPUs, as the new SB750. I know, I have one (the original version), and I've actually got a full review of it up on Newegg.
Biostar has recently released a 790X motherboard, and DFI did as well. Gigabyte isn't the only player using the 790X northbridge, but it is among a small handful.
Also, consider this regarding the 790GX option - if your discrete graphics card ever dies, you've got back-up. It's a comfort many people will say is worth the ~$20 increase in board cost...



So anyway...

My parts came and I've managed to tinker with them a bit, but not completely, as of yet...

Unfortunately, neither board seems to want to unlock the severed core(s) of either CPU, no matter which BIOS versions I've tried on them. (Mind you, I haven't got an old F2 or F3 BIOS for the Gigabyte MA790X-UD4P, as they're no longer available from Gigabyte.) I only tested each using the "AUTO" and "+/- 2%" options within ACC. Fortunately, I have been able to stably over-clock each CPU up to 3.8GHz (on air - ZEROTherm ZEN-120 on the X3 720, ZEROTherm BTF-80 on the X2 550) while keeping voltages in the 1.4v - 1.45v range, below their 1.5v "Max" rating. CPU sensor temps stayed below 45C during Prime95 runs, which is quite good. Core temps never exceeded 28C - again, quite good. I find those speeds and temps quite respectable, so I'm pleased. Sure, it would have been a thrill to get a Quad for a Dual or Triple price, but that didn't happen. I got what I paid for, and I'm quite happy with them so far.

That said...

My need to experiment has not been quenched! I've yet to manually go through the full ACC setting list on either board in every BIOS version, which is sometimes what it takes in an attempt to get the severed core(s) to unlock. The "AUTO" setting won't always do it, especially if AMD has indeed rewritten the code that permitted it in the first place. (Gigabyte has previously stated that such a code rewrite was forthcoming from AMD, and apparently it's in-place on their boards.) If only I could get my hands on a pre-patch Gigabyte BIOS...
September 29, 2009 8:28:58 PM

Anyone have any luck unlocking cores using an ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO MB? It appears to have the proper facilities in the BIOS however my first attempt failed.
December 21, 2009 10:05:47 PM

Hi, i know this thread is older, but because i just bought a Phenom X2 550BE because of the core unlocking potential, i just wanted to chip in my 2 cents.

I have it running on an Asrock 770DE+ board (it is AM2+) and i am wondering what actually happens if you can NOT unlock it? I mean do you not get to POST, or do problems start late?

I ask this because if i set ACC to auto in the bios, i get all 4 cores, but i have to down the multiplier to 12x (2.400Mhz) to even get into Windows (else i get a BSOD during the loading screen). Then i got it started, but after a short time of running Windows (and doing a Benchmark with AMD Overdrive, which worked fine) i got a BSOD again. I decided to revert to factory defaults, because right now i need a stable system, but time permitting i will try to experiment again.

So my question is this, considering i can boot, does that mean i unlocked them successfully and i just have to try and tweak my settings, or do you think the BSOD are because the cores are in fact too damaged to unlock fully?

By the way, i know it is all about overclocking, but the CPU also is fantastic for underclocking/volting. I am running it stable on 1.1V and 2.800Mhz (as dual core of course). That can save a lot of money if you run it all the time and don't really need 3+ Ghz... I am sure if i move the multiplier down more i can undervolt it even more. And with the new 57xx series of Radeon cards, it is really a power saver alternative (and for gaming you just overclock it again, as the Asrock Bios allows you to quick save 3 different setups).

Cheers,
Emm
Anonymous
December 30, 2009 9:23:22 PM

Emm....

Yes generally speaking if you reduce clock speed you can lower volts as well (to a certain point) and still run stable. Increasing clocks generally means, after a certain point, you will need to up voltages to maintain stability.

With regard to unlocking CPU cores you need to understand why they are generally locked in the first place..... It’s because the cores were defective to some degree and thus meant the cpu could not be sold as a quad core, assuming of course that it was originally a quad core die, and the 550 was.

So AMD take the dies with the defective cores, disable them, rebrand the product and sell it as a dual or triple core to get some extra income. As these rebranded products fly off the shelves, and manufacturing yields improve, demand will eventually outstrip supply meaning AMD end up disabling perfectly good cores to meet demand for products like the 550.

For some of us that's great news as we can use ACC to enable the good cores and get a bargain. However, others, like you, will not get so lucky. You seem to be in a middle group that has had some luck but it's not perfect. You almost certainly have a core or core pair that is defective to some degree. Those that have the worst of it will find that the PC will not POST after enabling locked cores, meaning they are probably completely defective.

To clarify, there is no middle ground with regards to unlocking a core, either you have managed to unlock it or you haven’t. If the MB reports 4 cores then you have unlocked it / them, they just aren’t stable under current settings, hence the BSOD. The good news is that you may be able to get the new cores stable with some work!

You need to think of your current situation as an unstable overclock. You need to up your voltages until the system is stable. To do this, make sure you disable all power saving features for the time being, use cpuz to monitor voltage, coretemp for the obvious and prime95 for stability testing.

I don't think it's worth going over 1.45v without a VERY good cooler as these chips tend to give pretty good overclocks at stock voltage using ACC and locked cores disabled. I have an x3 720 @ 3.65 with stock voltage!!!!! The fourth core unlocks but I need 1.45vc with 1.25vdd to get 3.5 with it enabled and temps are @ 60 degrees under prime.

Not familiar with your motherboard but if you can't get stable with all cores unlocked try using ACC in manual mode and disabling one of the locked cores and leaving just one enabled, it may be one will run stable with a bit of extra juice (or even just a stock) and one won't..... Good luck anyway, let me know how you get on!

JCM
December 30, 2009 10:44:48 PM

Many thanks for this in depth answer JCM1. I pretty knew all the whys and hows (i have been overclocking/underclocking for quite a while), so cooling and all that are not new to me. However i never tried the ACC feature before and i was unsure if the BSODs were because of unlockable cores, meaning if it was because i got them unlocked, yet had the wrong settings for 4 cores.

So essentially it just means i have to try and tweak it to see what runs stable. Funnily enough a day after i posted first, i managed to get all 4 cores running at the 3.100Mhz with all set to auto. No other changes. Then on a reboot i got a BSOD...

The thing is i bought the Phenom because of it's free multiplier (and hence the underclocking/undervolting potential). I am not angry if i will never get the 4 cores to work, because the CPU is still fantastic. Underclocked to 1.1V and 2800Mhz it runs much faster than my Athlon X2 BE-2400 for the same power consumption (although i could underclock even more that seems to be the minimum settings as at 1.0V and 2400Mhz the consumption is exactly the same). Combined with an ATI 5750 (bios flashed to underclock/undervolt as well) it saves even more on the power consumption. And IF i want to game with that one (i actually have another system with a Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition + HD5870 ATI card) i can easily overclock again (or just set to default clocks - i had it prime stable with core voltage at 3500Mhz, so i guess more is easily possible). Cooling is not a problem. I have yet to find a setting to get it to more than 40 degrees, although i have not yet really gamed on it.

I mainly use that slower system as my media/internet PC, but when having friends over it was also a server for LAN gaming. Now it can actually join into the fun.

Getting the additional cores would just be icing on the cake, but it would only help a little with the media stuff as i am aware that for gaming more cores are really not needed yet. The only problem would be if i got the additional cores stable but at a higher voltage then it would be of not much use to me at all...

I will experiment with triple core solutions and see if i can get them stable at less voltage... maybe there is a compromise out there still.

Cheers,
Emm
January 9, 2010 3:25:37 AM

Seems like you are content with this system...
Some people get disappointed that they can't unlock...
although I understand them too...
January 20, 2010 6:05:56 PM

I wouldn't pick a processor based on the idea that you're going to unlock the extra cores. If you get them unlocked, that's a nice bonus - but if you really want a quad core, i say pick up a quad core instead.

I have the Gigabyte board you mentioned, along with an early x3-720. I can unlock the 4th core, but it won't run stable even at stock clock with 1.4v and ACC adding an additional 10% on top of that to the particular core. Undoubtedly that's why it was sold as a 3-core ;) 

I don't have the fastest overclocks out there, but it was easy to get to 3600 with 2200 HT/Northbridge. I bumped the CPU to 1.425, left the memory, NB and HT voltages stock, and set the multi to 18. My particular chip will do 3800, but it needs 1.475 volts (which is more than I want to use in a day-to-day overclock). In fiddling, I've had the baseclock to 234MHz, and as long as I keep the CPU to around 3600 and keep my DRAM below 840MHz, I've had no problems. I've also had the voltage as low as 1.175 at 2800, if running cool and quiet is your thing.

It's a fun chip to mess around with.

Also, just as an interesting aside, my g/f has a 720 I bought at the same time, running on an AM3 board. She can hit 3.6GHz on 1.325 with the AM3/DDR3 setup.
January 22, 2010 6:50:53 PM

^ You're right, don't buy expecting the cores to unlock...
I bought mine not worrying abouth the core not unlocking and I wasn't expecting the cores to unlock...I was only seeing it as a bonus possibility...
And I got lucky and the cores unlocked and I got it to overclock to 4Ghz max...
I can get it as far as 3.9 stable...3.8 stable easy! I run it at 3.6Ghz 24/7
And i'm really happy, I got A quad for only $100!
!