Making Lemonade: Overclocking Your Locked AMD Processor



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.

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    Top Comments
  • sohei
    it's about how to squeeze all performance from an locked cpu .
    this is a pro' article (head shot)
  • Other Comments
  • stray_gator
    What's the point of using a high-end mobo to overclock a mainstream/value cpu?
  • sohei
    it's about how to squeeze all performance from an locked cpu .
    this is a pro' article (head shot)
  • nzprogamer
    im a big amd fans, good stuff here, look forward to go back to amd
  • amdfangirl
    Good article! Too bad I killed my AMD CPU :P
  • brisingamen
    great article, should be more like it,
    and a few more gaming benches wouldnt hurt either guys!
    speaking of headshots yes unreal tournament is probably the most important game to exemplify the value of overclocking and added framerates due to "headshots" and shtuff.

    keep up the good work!
  • Onus
    stray_gatorWhat's the point of using a high-end mobo to overclock a mainstream/value cpu?

    Fair question; no one would likely do this IRL, but I think the point here was to see how high the locked CPU could go, so they used a premium mobo.
    Paul, now that we know what this specific CPU can do, would it be useful to now put it on a more typical mainstream mobo and see what one might get from the same chip under more typical conditions?
    The point would be to answer the following: if my budget just grew by $25, does it make more sense to buy a BE CPU or to get a more premium mobo?
  • haplo602
    stray_gatorWhat's the point of using a high-end mobo to overclock a mainstream/value cpu?

    because value mobos vary in stability much more than premium mobos. this article was just about the CPU limit, not the mobo limit.
  • Anonymous
    Tom's should do a shoot-out between an i7 920 and a 965BE that's had the multiplier taken down to 13x(2.6ghz), then both OCed to the max on the northbridge alone. I'm sure that would close the gap atleast somewhat, but I'm interested to see exactly how much. Maybe they could screw around with the HyperTransport multiplier as well, it might turn out that AMD has been shooting itself in the foot with the unlocked multiplier, when more performance would be had if they were forcing people to use the northbridge.
  • Shadow703793
    Good write up; but PLEASE do NOT recommend OCing via Windows. Most pro's here will tell you that same thing. BIOS > Windows for OCing.
  • Shadow703793
    Also how about putting this under WCing or DIce/LN2? :D
  • Ryun
    In the performance gains and the cpu tweaking page the graphs for world in conflict are switched.
  • dirtmountain
    Excellent article! Thank you for the work.
  • DarkMantle
    Very good article!. Ryun is right, those 2 graphs for World in Conflict are switched.
  • Upendra09
    I was planning on OCing but this article has made me afraid to OC, it seems there are a lot more factors involved in this than i thought.
  • saint19
    Really good article, in the pass I has a X2 6400+, and only can overclok with the 955 I have 600MHz more that the stock frecuency....
  • cybot_x1024
    nice article.
    Amd has really improved overclockability with the dragons.
  • Anonymous
    Who cares how high an AMD cpu hz will go when an i7 cpu with half the speed does more on every level.
  • bustapr
    wow great increases fom a triple core. 2.6 to 3.7 is great!
  • Anonymous
    Shreder: You are a perfect example of a brainwashed sheep. Core i7 has been shown to have a definite advantage in:

    Video Rendering(I don't care, maybe you do)
    Synthetic Benchmarks(yawn)
    Specific games that have been "optimized"(rigged) to perform better on an i7

    Other than that, the advantage ranges from neglible to non-existant. Unfortunately, there are people like you who swallow every bit of the fanboy articles with cherry-picked benchmarks...
  • Boxa786
    Like Shadow said, its obviously a really good cpu, for overcloking from amd,

    lets see how high it can go ;D