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Conclusion

How To: Get A 4 GHz Dual-Core For $120
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Many processors suitable for overclocking present disadvantages: they’re either too expensive (think of Intel’s Extreme series) or they don’t deliver sufficient performance (Pentium Dual Core family). However, we found an overclocker that provides a great mix of performance and cost: the Core 2 Duo E7200, which is available for less than $120. It delivers mainstream performance at stock speeds, but provides better computing power than the fastest dual cores available.

Overclocking Is Easy

Overclocking this processor is easy, as most motherboards support running such a CPU at faster bus speeds. Operating the Core 2 Duo E7200 at FSB1333 rather than FSB1066 results in core clock speed of 3.16 GHz instead of 2.53 GHz. Switching to FSB1600 results in a 3.8 GHz core clock speed, an increase of about 50 percent. We found this extremely easy to achieve on an MSI P45 Diamond high-end motherboard. We increased the processor voltage in the motherboard BIOS to 1.4 V, switched the chipset to a slightly higher voltage, and achieved a perfectly stable system that outperforms all other Core 2 Duos—even those with 6 MB L2 cache.

E7200 Performance & Power

The overclocked Core 2 Duo E7200 at 3.8 GHz performs way better than the E8500 at stock speed. The only applications in which the overclocking of the E7200 was less effective were some games and WinZip, which is very sensitive regarding L2 cache capacity and memory performance. For all other benchmarks the E7200 at 3.8 GHz provided amazing performance. Using a high-performance Cooler Master 850 W power supply, peak power increased 40 percent and idle power increased roughly 10 percent. Using a model with less output (roughly 400 W to 500 W), however, would decrease power requirements by several watts. It’s wise to purchase an efficient processor cooler, as the stock device isn’t able to keep up with heat dissipation at 3.8 GHz; we used a Zalman CNPS-9700 LED.

Outlook

Overclocking to 3.8 GHz isn’t the maximum for the Core 2 Duo E7200—we’ve read forum posts from users running this processor at 4 GHz. In some cases, especially if you don’t alter the processor voltage, you may be limited to 3.5 or 3.6 GHz. We believe this processor offers the best overclocking bang for the buck. More E7000 models will likely follow, which means there will be processors that support higher multipliers, so you’ll be able to overclock with a smaller bus speed increase.

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  • 10 Hide
    vitreoushumor , November 17, 2008 1:13 PM
    You're using an $80 ($62 at newegg) heatsink to cool your $120 processor so it performs marginally better than a stock clocked $190 processor. Is that really worth $8, especially if most E8500 retail processors can hit 3.8GHz on the stock cooler?

Other Comments
  • 1 Hide
    johnbilicki , November 17, 2008 9:29 AM
    Cache is your friend! In example on my moderately modified version of AWStats (web statics programmed in Perl) my socket 754 2.0 GHz 1MB single channel CPU chewed a 120MB access log in 15 seconds flat. My socket 939 2.2GHz 512KB cache CPU took a full minute. Keep in mind the socket 939 processor had a 200Mhz advantage over my socket 754 as well as dual-channel memory support. Both of those benefits had little if any positive effect on the final outcome.

    I'd recommend getting the cheapest next increment in cache which would be the E8200. It has 6MB cache instead of 3MB and is $160 which isn't a drastic increase.

    Of course more cache doesn't always increase performance. Everything tends to be subjective just like the individual processors.

    It would be nice to see an article stressing what types of programs benefit the most from cache. For some people that extra $40 is money well spent while others would see no benefit from spending the extra money.
  • 5 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 17, 2008 9:44 AM
    I guess a 40% increase in power consumption isn't too bad for a 50% increase in clock speeds, although at some point it would be more economical to go with the E8400 or E8500(especially if you live overseas where power costs are almost triple of that in the states).

    Thanks for the write-up.
  • 1 Hide
    jamesl , November 17, 2008 10:21 AM
    "Of course more cache doesn't always increase performance. Everything tends to be subjective just like the individual processors."

    http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/core2duo-e7200_4.html#sect0
  • -7 Hide
    vider , November 17, 2008 10:21 AM
    N'of I know what go bût for ou next rît, thanks tom's :) 
  • 6 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 17, 2008 10:39 AM
    http://www.anandtech.com/casecoolingpsus/showdoc.aspx?i=3458

    I wish you provided data of a overclocked E8500 to 3.8GHz as well in your power consumption charts.

    In current market prices, the E7200 is about $70 cheaper than the E8500. So you pay roughly 60% more initially to step up to a E8500.

    If we are to assume that you will get at least 2.5 years of use out of the chip and that there is 25 watt power consumption difference between a E8500 @ 3.8GHz and a E7200 @ 3.8 GHz(on average), then if an individual would keep his PC on 24/7 would actually pay an additional $70 in power charges in the 2.5 year span. At this point it would be better go with the E8500 as the extra cache would provide better performance and there is no difference in the overall price of the system over the average lifespan.

    I hope to see full power consumption data in future articles.

  • 0 Hide
    Homeboy2 , November 17, 2008 11:50 AM
    I only paid 150 for my e8500
  • 0 Hide
    johnbilicki , November 17, 2008 11:53 AM
    Thanks jamesl, that's a nice comparison across the board. At about 10% performance I'd spend the extra money...not everyone would granted.
  • 0 Hide
    Pei-chen , November 17, 2008 12:06 PM
    Did the voltage changed when OCed to 3.4GHz. I know you said no put the power consumption doesn't make sense. 15w more for a 283MHz increase in speed and half the cache of E8500?
  • 2 Hide
    Pei-chen , November 17, 2008 12:13 PM
    Did the voltage changed when overclocked to 3.4GHz? I know you said no but the power consumption increase doesn't make sense at both idle and loaded. 10w more at the same clock and half the cache at idle and 15w more with a 233Mhz clock increase and half the cache. It is as if E7200 are inherently less efficient.
  • -5 Hide
    Alien_959 , November 17, 2008 12:18 PM
    Clock speed is enough to compensate for the 3 Mb cache missing, and I think that 3 Mb is quite sufficient for gaming and general task. 3.8 Ghz CPU for 120$, faster that most E8xxx, that’s excellent.Clock speed is enough to compensate for the 3 Mb cache missing, and I think that 3 Mb is quite sufficient for gaming and general task. 3.8 Ghz CPU for 120$, faster that most E8xxx, that’s excellClock speed is enough to compensate for the 3 Mb cache missing, and I think that 3 Mb is quite sufficient for gaming and general task. 3.8 Ghz CPU for 120$, faster that most E8xxx, that’s excellent.
  • 7 Hide
    hairycat101 , November 17, 2008 12:20 PM
    I would have been intersted in seeing both the E7200 and the E8XXX clocked at exactly the same speed to for these tests too. That would have shown how much cache is or isn't important for the individual tests performed. This kind of leaves us guessing...
  • 3 Hide
    trinix , November 17, 2008 12:29 PM
    @john you are comparing 2 different designs from AMD (who uses another system and has other benefits from cache than intel)and based on that you say everyone should get more cache.

    Cache is important, don't get me wrong, but there are some problems with the 8200. The 8200 is harder to overclock to begin with, it's already at 1333 for example.

    It really depends on what you need it for and if the money would be wasted or not. The apps described are mostly games and zip. Important for a lot of people, but what difference would it be of use to get a better cpu lesser gpu or the other way around. I think this will help people on budget get a good cpu and gpu.

    Cache is still very important for the Core2 design. Now let's see if it's as important for the i7.
  • 2 Hide
    trinix , November 17, 2008 12:37 PM
    you can compare the results based on fps too. Crysis needs about 300 mhz more to compensate for the loss of cache.

    UT3 is very slightly ahead at 300 mhz advantage

    World in Conflict needs more then 300 mhz to compensate for the 3mb loss.

    If you follow the link a bit higher, you will find a page describing it will be about 5% overall increase in performance, with games up to 10% increase.

    So if you have the money, the premium price for cache is worth it. But if you are on a budget, don't worry about the small loss.
  • 6 Hide
    clownbaby , November 17, 2008 12:39 PM
    so, the title should probably be "How To: Get a 3.8ghz Dual Core for $120". Are the titles written before the articles here?
  • 0 Hide
    BSMonitor , November 17, 2008 12:42 PM
    Speaking of more E7#00 to come. Newegg already has a 10.5 multiplier version.. E7400 at 2.8GHz for only $145. Bumping FSB just to 1333 already gives you 3.5 GHz!!
  • 1 Hide
    slomo4sho , November 17, 2008 12:45 PM
    Pei-chenDid the voltage changed when overclocked to 3.4GHz? I know you said no but the power consumption increase doesn't make sense at both idle and loaded. 10w more at the same clock and half the cache at idle and 15w more with a 233Mhz clock increase and half the cache. It is as if E7200 are inherently less efficient.



    Quote:

    An increase in processor operating frequency not only increases system performance, but also increases the processor power dissipation. The relationship between frequency and power is generalized in the following equation: P = CFV^2 (where P = power, C = capacitance, V = voltage, F = frequency). From this equation, it is evident that power increases linearly with frequency and with the square of voltage.


    I hope this answers your question!
  • 10 Hide
    vitreoushumor , November 17, 2008 1:13 PM
    You're using an $80 ($62 at newegg) heatsink to cool your $120 processor so it performs marginally better than a stock clocked $190 processor. Is that really worth $8, especially if most E8500 retail processors can hit 3.8GHz on the stock cooler?

  • 5 Hide
    hairycat101 , November 17, 2008 1:41 PM
    vitreoushumorYou're using an $80 ($62 at newegg) heatsink to cool your $120 processor so it performs marginally better than a stock clocked $190 processor. Is that really worth $8, especially if most E8500 retail processors can hit 3.8GHz on the stock cooler?


    VERY GOOD POINT. I had a PD805 super overclocked and thought I was cool for while before I did the math and realized I could have had a better CPU/cooler combo for cheaper if I had not had to spend so much extra $$$ on the darn cooler.
  • 1 Hide
    x11nt4 , November 17, 2008 1:49 PM
    E8500 is $188.99 with free shipping at newegg. This has been their price for at least a week. Not $210+. I don't know what websites you people writing these articles look at, but I always check newegg first for all prices. I'll pay the extra $60 for double the cache.
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