Articles: CPU
 

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Testing Methodology

Now that we know how far our Phenom II X4 920 can be overclocked with air-cooling, we decided to check the performance level we could achieve with an overclocked CPU. The main goal was to find out if the new AMD processor could become a better buy for overclockers than quad-core Intel CPUs from the same price range. So, the main action during this test session will be about the side by side comparison of Phenom II X4 920 overclocked to 3.72 GHz against overclocked Core 2 Quad Q8300 and Core 2 Quad Q6600. Intel set the price point for these processors at $183, while Phenom II X4 920 is officially priced at $195. Moreover, we have also included a more expensive Core 2 Quad Q9300 processor. Although it has almost completely disappeared from the official price-list, it is still retailing widely for a somewhat higher price than that of Phenom II X4 920.

As we have already mentioned in our previous reviews, the overclocking potential of junior Intel processors from Q8000 and Q9000 series is determined not by the frequency potential of the semiconductor dies, but by the ability of the chipsets and mainboards to ensure stable operational conditions at high FSB speeds. Therefore, we decided to test our Core 2 Quad processors with a popular ASUS P5Q Pro mainboard. It allows increasing the FSB frequency to 475 MHz for quad-core processors. So, Core 2 Quad Q8300 and Core 2 Quad Q9300 with a 7.5x multiplier were overclocked to 3.56 GHz (7.5 x 475 MHz) in order to be able to compete against Phenom II X4 920. It is the average frequency the owners of these processors can count on.

The previous-generation quad-core Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor is initially designed to work with 266 MHz bus, so its multiplier is higher and equals 9x. So, its overclocking potential was not limited by the mainboard, although high heat dissipation wouldn’t let us push its frequency over 3.6 GHz (9 x 400 MHz).

To get a general idea of overclocked processors’ performance we included a few high-end CPUs in their nominal mode: Core 2 Quad Q9650, Core i7-920 and Core i7-940. You will also see the results demonstrated by Phenom II X4 920, Core 2 Quad Q8300, Core 2 Quad Q9300 and Core 2 Quad Q6600 processors in their nominal mode. They will help us estimate the performance gain from overclocking.

As a result, we put together three different platforms on 7 processors:

1.  AMD Socket AM2+ platform:

  • CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 920 (Deneb, 2.8 GHz, 6 MB L3);
  • Mainboard: Gigabyte MA790GP-DS4H (AMD 790GX + SB750).
  • Memory:  GEIL GX24GB8500C5UDC (2 x 2 GB, DDR2-1067 SDRAM, 5-5-5-15).
  • Graphics card: ATI RADEON HD 4870.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD1500AHFD.
  • OS: Microsoft Windows Vista x64 SP1.

2.  Intel LGA775 platform:

  • CPUs:
    • Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650 (Yorkfield, 3.0 GHz, 333 MHz FSB, 2 x 6 MBL2);
    • Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 (Yorkfield, 2.5 GHz, 333 MHz FSB, 2 x 3 MB L2);
    • Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 (Yorkfield, 2.5 GHz, 333 MHz FSB, 2 x 2 MB L2);
    • Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (Kentsfield, 2.4 GHz, 266 MHz FSB, 2 x 4 MB L2).
  • Mainboard: ASUS P5Q Pro (Intel P45 Express).
  • Memory:  Corsair TWIN2X4096-8500C5 (DDR2-1067 SDRAM, 2 x 2 GB, 5-5-5-15).
  • Graphics card: ATI RADEON HD 4870.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD1500AHFD.
  • OS: Microsoft Windows Vista x64 SP1.

3.  Intel LGA1366 platform:

  • CPUs:
    • Intel Core i7-940 (Bloomfield, 2.93 GHz, 8 MB L3);
    • Intel Core i7-920 (Bloomfield, 2.66 GHz, 8 MB L3).
  • Mainboard: ASUS P6T Deluxe (Intel X58 Express).
  • Memory:  Kingston HyperX KHX16000D3K3/3GX (DDR3-1333 SDRAM, 3 x 1 GB, 7-7-7-20).
  • Graphics card: ATI RADEON HD 4870.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD1500AHFD.
  • OS: Microsoft Windows Vista x64 SP1.

Four processors out of seven were tested not only in their nominal mode but also during overclocking:

  • AMD Phenom II X4 920:

  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600:

  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300:

  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300:

 
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