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If you’ve read any of my recent reviews, you know that most of my motherboard testing is on Intel platforms. In fact, the last time I did any testing on AMD was when Phenom II first came out. I tested a few Phenom II CPUs, reviewed a few AM3 motherboards, did a little LN2 overclocking, and went back to playing with Intel stuff. I think the last AMD CPU I tested was Phenom II X3 720 the week it came out, so it’s been a while for me. Around that time, AMD CPUs started to become known not only for their ability to operate at extremely low temperatures, but also for the fact that an extra core could be locked on some of the X3 models, making them into cheap X4 chips. Eventually AMD introduced dual core CPUs that exhibited the same abilities.
But core unlocking was hit or miss. Y0u could buy two seemingly identical processors, and one or both or even neither would unlock. Motherboards were also hit or miss in that specific models were known for core unlocking, but only with specific (often older) BIOS versions, etc. On top of that, if you managed to find a CPU that was able to unlock, there was a decent chance the extra core(s) would be too unstable to use. While you still take your chances with getting a good CPU for unlocking, once you have one, MSI has included a BIOS feature in their new motherboards to make the rest of your core unlocking experience as easy as possible. I believe they have also added the new unlocking feature in new BIOS versions for most of their existing motherboards.
This is initially just a review sample. I didn’t see myself using it much beyond that, but I was wrong. This is actually a fantastic board, and is now being used in my primary computer. The ability to use a cheap dual unlocked to a quad, as well as the integrated HD 3000 graphics, are just two of the many reasons I decided to use this a my daily driver.
MSI’s BIOS is one of the best features. In addition to the usual overclocking options, MSI has included a setting for each CPU core. This is can be very handy if you’ve got a dual core and only one of the cores is strong enough to be used. You can enable and disable nearly any combination of processing cores you like. The CPU I’m using is a Phenom II 545.
I’m fortunate enough to own a Phenom II X2 545 that not only unlocks to a quad, but has 4 very strong cores. I wish I could say this was a fortunate retail purchase, but that’s not the case. I bought it used from someone who had already verified the CPU was unlockable. I did not know all four cores would do so well though. I ran three benchmarks that are heavily CPU dependent, and scale well with added processing cores. I first ran the benchmarks using 2 cores at stock speed, followed by what I would call ideal 24/7 settings, those being 4 cores at 3600mhz.
Overclocked and Unlocked
MSI has done a fantastic job once again in giving the enthusiasts what we want. I’ve seen a few people questioning whether or not AMD would approve of this blatant core unlocking ability. Are you kidding? AMD is loving it. If they didn’t want us unlocking the disabled cores on their CPUs, they wouldn’t make it so easy. I think it’s a win-win situation any way you look at it. I’d like to thank MSI for letting me test this product, and making it even easier to unlock these CPUs.