Optimizing Your Phenom II Overclock For Efficiency

Chasing Down The Perfect Clock Speed For AMD's Phenom II X4

Overclocking is and has been the number one tool for enthusiasts to increase system performance without incurring additional cost. Ever since motherboard manufacturers (and even the processor vendors themselves) started taking this market segment seriously, there have been features and products that allow all types of users--be they beginners or hardcore folks--to overclock their processors comfortably.

But how far should you go? Efficiency has become almost equally important to performance, and it is no secret that power consumption skyrockets at highly overclocked speeds when you start turning up voltage in the name of stability.

Phenom Versus Core 2

Difficult times began for AMD when Intel launched the Core 2 processor family in 2006. The Core 2 Duo was far superior to the Athlon 64 X2, and the Phenom quad-core CPU, which was launched in late 2007, could not beat the four-core, Core 2 Quad despite its theoretically superior architecture based on a monolithic design. We spent some time on a core-by-core analysis of all popular AMD models and found that the Phenom's Stars architecture was indeed an important step forward, though by no means a leap. AMD added Phenom X3 triple-core processors in early 2008, which helped the firm to stay competitive in the mainstream through price cuts. The portfolio was good, and AMD made sure that all products kept providing a nice bang for the buck, but Intel simply happened to be better in performance and efficiency.

AMD’s Phenom II Comeback

The Phenom II is AMD’s current top-of-the-line product, which finally moved AMD into a competitive position, thanks to the modern 45 nm DSL SOI manufacturing process. Idle power came way down and clock speeds could be increased up to a level that puts the Phenom II almost head-to-head with Intel’s Core 2 Quad processors. Unfortunately, Intel had already moved on to its next-generation, the Core i7, and has maintained the performance and efficiency crown since. Still, Phenom II typically offers similar performance at comparable price points, and the Socket AM2+ or AM3 platforms (DDR2 or DDR3) are usually more affordable than Intel’s 4-series chipset flotilla.

Which Is The Perfect Clock Speed for Phenom?

We used the current flagchip Phenom II X4 940 and ran it at various clock speeds, both underclocked and overclocked, to determine the clock speed at which the architecture delivers the best ratio between performance and power consumption.