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Overclocking update

As we already talked about reaching 682MHz with the standard GlobalWin heatsink, we knew that it wasn't good enough for a 550E Coppermine, we decided to reach for something more serious.
3DFXcool provided us with an ALPHA heatsink and some MPU 3.7 thermal grease. So we decided to re-try our tests. Unfortunately we didn't get the chance to re-do them on our previous setup, so we used the Asus P3B-F motherboard running with 128Mb PC133 Mushkin Module provided by Mushkin. Our first target was of course 133MHz FSB. Our first try was a success. The system booted without a single problem. We left it on for the night running 3 instant MP3 playbacks in the background. In the morning everything was stable, so it turned out that 733MHz was not a big problem to reach. Our second target was the 140MHz FSB. Our first try was again a success, the system booted without any problems. We again left it with three MP3 playbacks for the night. In the morning everything was again stable. I have to say that 770MHz from a 550MHz CPU is indeed impressive. We tried the 150MHz FSB just after that, unfortunately none of our ram modules could take it.

The ALPHA is indeed a very interesting and noisy setup for cooling the FC-PGA Coppermine CPU. We then decided to re-try our tests again but this time with a retail FC-PGA Heatsink. The results werenít impressive. How does 46c - 48c sounds like running at 733MHz 1.65v? Not good compared to the ALPHA, which ran at 39C.

We then got an idea on improving that, we removed the thermal pad from the retail heatsink and replaced it with the thermal grease (MPU 3.7) provided by 3DFXcool. Amazingly the temperature went down. Running 733MHz 1.65v at 41C. This can be another cooling solution, and maybe an even more interesting one than the ALPHA. First of all, the ALPHA heatsink comes with a 60mm fan that is very noisy compared to the very quiet 30mm fan that comes with the retail boxed heatsink. And another reason is that the alpha generally covers at least 1 ram slot of your motherboard because of its gigantic size. So why spend 30$ for a new heatsink when you can spend 3$ for thermal grease and use the original heat sink? And at the same time save the headaches of the noise the alpha makes.

Conclusion

Intel has done a great job on the Coppermine; itís basically a KATMAI with a one-chip solution using the new .18 micron process. Comparing the two available retail FC-PGA formats to the KATMAI core running at the same speeds the prices are slightly lower. I donít see why someone would choose the KATMAI in any way.

The FC-PGA versions are called "low budget" production. This means nothing more than, to produce them, the cost is smaller than the cartridged versions. While many people will think that this may be a performance hit, itís not. FC-PGA versions are probably the best product that money can buy today. You donít have to pay several hundreds to achieve the performance of the 700MHz Coppermine. You can simply overclock the 550e (133FSB) and it will practically outperform the available Coppermine 700 without any doubts.

Athlon versus FC-PGA Coppermine? Athlons are another very powerful CPU. But they will cost much more initially. First of all you will have to buy a new motherboard (Slot A) to run it. Thatís an expensive upgrade. Slot A motherboards are more expensive than a normal Slot1 boards and there are none currently available that could satisfy a power-user. Many other factors come to mind here too. Donít forget the Athlonís need of very high quality memory and power supplies and suddenly you may find yourself purchasing several components to use that new Athlon. As of this moment each CPU has a quality lacking somewhere. The FC-PGAís main weakness will be solved when more motherboards offering increased overclocking capabilities begin to enter the market. This is already starting to change and hopefully we could also see something better from the folks at AMD soon.
Special thanks: Azzo computers for the coppermine supply, 3DFXcool for the Alpha heatsink, Mushkin for the PC133 memory supply and our very own Victor Oshiro.

Oleg Mitskaniouk
00/02/02





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