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Review: The Need for Speed: 3GHz and counting

by Tarinder Sandhu on 17 August 2002, 00:00

Tags: Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)

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Although considered something of a fringe group by the major companies, those who practice the art of over clocking their PCs can yield valuable information into how certain products perform, and are expected to perform in the short-term future.

The desire to get something effectively for free has always been the lure to those who like to push their systems to the limit. This is especially true in the CPU market where processors are differentiated by speed grades. Obviously the fastest processors incur a substantial price premium over mid and lower speed graded processors.

Intel have been playing the speed grading game for some time now. At the time of writing, a 2.0 GHz Northwood retail processor cost around £150, a 2.26GHz Northwood B cost around £210, and the daddy of the Northwood clan, the 2.53GHz Northwood B, comes in at a whopping £550.

With such price disparity between processors, you can perhaps appreciate the desire to 'overclock' your processor to the next speed grade and beyond. The headroom of any processor is dependant on a number of factors, however.

Firstly, let's assume that either AMD or Intel receive surprisingly good yields from a batch of processors. This usually happens when a move to a smaller manufacturing process has been perfected. Now, you cannot simply mark every processor as a flagship model, the price premium ensures that the demand isn't quite there. In these cases, the decent yields often have to be marked down to lower speed grades to fulfill market demand. It stands to reason that Intel will probably sell more 2.26GHz processors than 2.53GHz CPUs. The prohibitive price of the latter is out of the reach of many.

The recent move to a 13-nanometer process, coupled with a decrease in operating voltage, and the relatively new inception of the P4 processor, ensured that it would scale well. As the newer Northwoods were smaller and therefore cheaper to produce than their Willamette counterparts, Intel simply released them in a number of speed grades. The lower rated Northwood, the 1.6GHz and 1.8GHz CPU, were prime candidates for surpassing their rated speeds comfortably.

Earlier this year, there was much excitement in the overclocking community when the 1.6GHz and 1.8GHz Northwoods were released. These not only surpassed the fastest available P4, the 2.2GHz CPU, they often scaled to 2.4GHz and beyond with just a little voltage increase.

Time has moved on and we now have a 2.53GHz processor available to those who are deep of pocket. I'd read on a number of forums that the recent 2.26GHz CPUs were doing very well, often surpassing 2.53GHz at default voltage (assuming your motherboard supported FSB manipulation). With this in mind, I procured a couple and waited in anticipation. When it arrived, this was displayed on the side of the box.

Read on to find out just what this gem could do.