The Phenom II X3 710 certainly provides impressive bang for $100. However, having a locked CPU multiplier and voltage ID definitely costs some overclocking flexibility compared to Black Edition processors. But when combined with an overclocking-friendly motherboard, such as the MSI 790FX-GD70, the X3 710 was still able to reach about the same core speed as other air-cooled Phenom II’s we’ve tested.
As always, when it comes to overclocking, your mileage may vary. This is especially true when it comes to locked multipliers and raising the reference clock. If you plan on overclocking a locked Phenom II on a strict budget, do a little research and find an affordable motherboard that can apply an offset to CPU VID and can reach a high reference clock. Better yet, whether you’re looking to overclock on an inexpensive motherboard or push a CPU to its limits on a true enthusiast board like this one, invest an extra $20 and go for the more flexible Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition.
AMD OverDrive has been quite useful in the past for overclocking Black Edition processors, but it proved less-than-ideal for this configuration. While none of the problems encountered were sizable, I wouldn’t even consider trying to do any serious overclocking in AMD OverDrive with this motherboard and a locked processor. That said, the utility could still be used to monitor voltages and temperatures, or even to aid in BIOS overclocking by testing small changes to the reference clock on the fly.
While not totally without incident, MSI’s OC Dial simply worked better than AMD OverDrive for overclocking our locked Phenom II. Along with the Auto Overclock option to Find Max FSB, this was a welcome time-saving feature that deserves ample use for quick reference clock changes. The biggest consideration would be whether it could be easily accessed within a case, since systems with bottom-mounted power supplies or multiple graphics cards could hinder OC Dial accessibility.
In the end, when it comes to overclocking a locked processor, there’s just no avoiding or replacing the trusty ol’ BIOS. With fairly straightforward navigation and a wealth of voltage and multiplier adjustments, this is where most of the magic with the 790FX-GD70 really happened. Whether or not you choose to take advantage of a hardware feature such as OC Dial or a software tool such as AMD OverDrive, your efforts to overclock a locked Phenom II will undoubtedly still both begin and end within the BIOS.