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Guide: Overclocking AMD And Intel CPUs On A Budget

Getting Started, The Hardware

Continually-falling DDR3 prices are allowing the memory technology to displace DDR2 in mainstream-performance builds. And with the future of DDR2 desktop memory drawing short, we selected two DDR3 motherboards from MSI to support our chosen AMD and Intel processors.

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Picked for its best-in-class HT clock speed capability, MSI’s 790FX-GD70 should provide optimal results for our Socket AM3 overclocking tests. Choosing the standout motherboard from previous reviews allows us to set a high goal for owners of less-expensive motherboards to attempt using the same processor models.

Our budget limit for dual-core and quad-core processors was $125 and $250, respectively. AMD sent its Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition ($245 retail value) and Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition ($100 retail value) for today’s overclocking guide. Black Edition processors are special from other Athlons and Phenoms in their ability to manipulate the clock multiplier upward, allowing high overclocks to be achieved at or near the processor’s original 200 MHz HyperTransport reference clock.

We requested MSI’s top P45-chipset motherboard to maintain fairness between processor brands, and the firm responded with its P45 Diamond.

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A higher average price gets buyers fewer graphics card slots. MSI makes up for the value loss with added features, such as a PCIe audio card and a chipset water block with copper line adapter kit.

Nobody said we had to spend our entire budget on processors. Focusing on the value segment brought us to the $70 dual-core Pentium E5200 for its high CPU to  front side bus multiplier and good overclocking reputation, and the $160 Core 2 Quad Q8200 for its reasonable cost.

Intel doesn’t produce a 45 nm desktop quad-core with anything less than FSB-1333, and each model up gets us a slightly higher (0.5x) CPU multiplier at a noticeably higher price. Like AMD’s Black Edition, Intel also offers Extreme Edition processors with CPU multipliers that can be manipulated upwards, but Intel charges so much more for this feature that we couldn’t possibly consider any of these for use in a value-oriented overclocking guide.

  • tacoslave
    i like these "how to" articles but i still want to see the rest of the twkr article you promised us (quad crossfire 4890's) *sigh* a man can dream can't he?
    Reply
  • snakeeater_za
    Surely people on a budget (like me) would prefer their e5200 to last longer than a 'few months or hopefully a yr to 3?' i know i will upgrade prob in a year or so, so a yr would be fine, but a few months? Pfffft. my proc vid is 1.225 and for 3.33ghz i need a vcore of 1.385 in bios which at idle is 1.36ish. So although im nowhere near 4 at least i wont suffer from electromigration and have to fork out for a new cpu! Just my 2 cents
    Reply
  • snakeeater_za
    Thats obviousl 4ghz not vcore lol
    Reply
  • Crashman
    snakeeater_zaSurely people on a budget (like me) would prefer their e5200 to last longer than a 'few months or hopefully a yr to 3?' i know i will upgrade prob in a year or so, so a yr would be fine, but a few months? Pfffft. my proc vid is 1.225 and for 3.33ghz i need a vcore of 1.385 in bios which at idle is 1.36ish. So although im nowhere near 4 at least i wont suffer from electromigration and have to fork out for a new cpu! Just my 2 cents
    It's all a game of averages. Tom's Hardware hasn't accidently killed a processor by overclocking it in a while, though I'm sure a couple editors have intentionally done so to find the voltage limit. The problem is, once again, you can only look at averages.

    3 months continuous use at 1.45 volts caused an E8500 to lose its OC stability. It had to be clocked down to become stable again, and lost much of its voltage tolerance. It wasn't destroyed however.

    1.40 volts should be significantly safer than 1.45 volts, but until a few people report on how long their cores lasted at 1.40 volts its impossible to tell "how much safer", that is, how much longer it will last. All that's known is that it should last "significantly" longer, but whether that's 4 months (33% longer) or 30 months (10x longer) is the unanswerable question.
    Reply
  • astrodudepsu
    Good show mate.

    I would have liked to see combined charts as a conclusion but that's a minor criticism.

    I'm just wondering what the 'next-gen' E5200 (i.e. the intel people's OC'er) will turn out to be? Some flavor of i5 I assume, but who knows.
    Reply
  • how is it that im running my q8200 at 3.04ghz stable at 1.25v? weird
    Reply
  • JeanLuc
    Link
    "Intel’s value-priced Core 2 Quad Q8200 uses two of the same processor dice as the Pentium E5200....."

    I don't know why you choose the Q8200 it's a notoriously bad overclocking chip, if you wanted a budget Intel Quad core that had room for overclocking you should have bought the Q6700/Q6600.
    Reply
  • ”Motherboard MSI P45 Diamond LGA-1366, P45/ICH10R, BIOS 1.5 (10/10/2009)”

    MSI P45 Diamond is not LGA1366, but LGA775. LGA1366 is for Core i7 processors only, LGA1156 is for Core i5 and i7 (only dual channel DDR3-1333/1066). LGA775 is the old socket, for Celeron D, Celeron 4xx, Pentium Dual Core, Pentium 4, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad.
    Reply
  • da bahstid
    No games? Like...none at all? Does anybody even overclock for reasons other than games?

    Otherwise, pretty good article. Though perhaps a better choice for the Intel quad would have been a 9550...I thought they were under $250 by now. Same time, I guess the Q8200 does seem to be a more difficult overclocker...Intel may have intended this to be the case so as not to gut sales of their Q9000 series. And readers may as well know before jumping on a Q8200 thinking it'll overclock like an E5200.
    Reply
  • freak77power
    I agree. Q6700 will reach 3.6Ghz with no problems.
    Reply