Product: AMD Overdrive
System Req: AMD Series 7 motherboard, WinXP/Vista
Price: Free download (on November 19th)
AFTER WE bought 1.17 kilo of bananas and GigaByte's MA790GX-DQ6 motherboard, the time came for some serious testing. This board has shown quite a lot of improvement over 580X chipset, and we're quite happy with it.
But where the 790X and 790FX (we'll explain the difference between the two in separate article) will really shine is with AMD Overclock, a brilliant little utility that was developed by Canucks over at Markham. AMD Overclock is, finally, an answer to Nvidia's Ntune and Intel's Desktop Control Centre - but it offers more features than any of these two apps.
We had two versions on our hands, 2.0.7 and 2.0.9. We tested them in 32-bit Windows XP and 64-bit Vista. In Vista, we had a lot of problems to get the application running, since it required an “Administrator” account for running. It didn't help that the “theo” account belongs to Administrator group, we had to boot into Windows as administrator. After that, 2.0.9 worked like a charm. Then again, on Windows XP we had no problems at all.
Our test setup consisted of the following:
AMD Athlon 64 5000+ Black Edition, 1.6-3.54 GHz (clock range)
Zalman CNPS9500AM2 Edition
2x 1024MB Corsair Dominator PC2-10000C5D
Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DQ6 motherboard
250GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 16MB
Samsung DVD-RW SATA burner
Zotac 8800GTX AMP! Edition
Zotac 8800GT AMP! Edition
ATI Radeon HD 2900XT 512MB GDDR3
Club3D Radeon HD 2900XT 512MB GDDR3
HIS 2600XT IceQ Edition
Sapphire Atlantis HD 2600X2 Dual
We tried all of these graphics cards in order to see the level of compatibility between AMD Overdrive and GPUs on the market.
AMD Overdrive - main screen (System Information)
Main screen is a combination of CPU-Z style information (for basic) and System Info (detailed)
For starters, first screen that you'll see gives you an option to walk around System Information, Status Monitor, Performance Control, Preference. Every of the top “tabs” has a “sub-tab” beneath. In case of System Information, you can choose between Basic and Detailed overview. Basic overview gives you details what your CPU is, clocks of particular components, details about installed memory, while Detailed overview will list every component in the system. Basic overview reminds us most on CPU-Z, while Detailed part is a dead ringer of Microsoft's System Info Viewer (most of readers will remember this one as default application for opening .nfo files).
Basic screen shows quite a lot of information...not!
The status monitor is separated into System Status and Voltage/Temperature. System Status proved to be quite a disapointment, since it is more than obvious that this is clearly geared for quad-core Phenoms and Radeon HD 3800 series cards. We have tried putting every possible Radeon card we had in store, but not a single HD 2x00 would result in showing GPU and memory clocks. However, since there is still time before the release, we hope that GPU complatibility will increase. We're not expecting support for Nvidia boards, but for ATI boards that are on the market right now - you bet.
Voltage/Temperature shows exactly that - maximum amount of voltage measurments, ideal place to see how is your PSU enduring your adventures with overclocking, and just how CPU cooler is able to cope with all the heat manufactured by the CPU.
Sell your soul to the overclocking devil
Performance Control is perhaps the most interesting part of this application. It enables seamless overclocking in Windows environment. That data can be saved, or you can just re-launch the app and get the amount of performance when you want it. As always, AMD Legal will remind you that everything you're doing here will void your warranty. But believing in that is the same as believing in Santa Claus. Truth to be told, that grandpa actually exists, and actually came couple of times in Croatia (long way from Joulupukki in Finland).
Actually, Performance Control is divided into Clock/Voltage, easiest way to overclock your Athlon/Sempron/Phenom (we'll show it further down), change HT clocks, PCIe clocks, and voltages. Second tab is memory, third and fourth are benchmarks and stability tests, while the last part of the story is Auto Clock.
Using the overclocking tool could not be easier. Observe clock going from 1.6GHz (lowest we could get) to 3.5+ GHz
Overclocking is as easy as 1-2-3. First you accept that legal thingie, then you start moving sliders and see when the system will freeze. We managed to get our sample to 18x200, or massive 3618 MHz. Sadly, it froze, but it worked perfectly stable at 3.54 GHz. Now, bear in mind that we haven't used anything but Artic Ceramique thermal paste and 18 month-old CNPS9500AM2, which we received at Nvidia's nForce Summer Camp.
With water, we're sure you could get even more, but whoever said that you cannot overclock Black Edition - should seriously reconsider his knowledge status. Our CPU retails for 110 EUR in Croatia (22% VAT), so for this amount of money, you have some serious value. We were actually quite surprised by overclockability of this particular retail product. What was more shocking was the fact that this CPU worked, overclocked by almost 1GHz (2.6GHz stock, 3.54GHz stable OC) on default voltage - 5000+ did not react at all to our increases of voltage, either through this utility nor through Gigabyte's BIOS.
Too bad AMD was not savvy enough not to develop a cheap dual AM2 motherboard. It would be a kick ass product for two 3.5GHz Athlon 64s for those users that require serious amounts of memory bandwidth.
Memory tweaking at its finest.
The amount of memory tweaking you can do here is really surprising. The only real requirement is to own an AM2+ processor, so that your CPU does not burn out (Overdrive will not allow raising the DIMM voltage due to the fact that it cannot split juice for the memory controller during work). But for Phenoms, this should be a dream place.
System score: 8950... but what does these numbers mean? Gosh, sometimes I really hate indexes
Every tweaking utility cannot be considered a serious one unless it features a benchmark. In case of AMD's Overdrive, it comes with both benchmark and stability tests, all under Performance Control group.
Auto Clock gives you nice and easy ride to OC'ed system...
Last, but not least, is the Auto Clock feature. If you do not want to figure what are real limits of your parts, you can turn Auto Clock on, and let it run until your system freezes - then, after reboot, Overdrive will set your computer to work at most stable clock settings.
The 790X and 790FX are not officialy out, neither are Phenoms. But this time around, the software side is more than well prepared for the release of new products.
There are still some tweaks to be solved with the application itself, increasing the compatibility of graphics cards, graphs for quad CPUs - but AMD made massive step ahead. Will it be enough to capture hearts of enthusiasts? It is still too early to tell. If AMD can get B2 and B3 Phenoms out, and Black Edition Phenoms replacing Phenom FX line-up (with a selected model or two), seeing a quad-core running at well over 3GHz would give Yorkfield a run for its money.
We were really happy with this application, but until those quirks are solved, we can't give a grade. If those problems are solved by launch date, this application deserves nine pints of lager out of 10. Finally we have some competition on the market, at least on the software side. µ
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