High performance on the cheap – Alex Dumas
With Fast processors coming out everyday, it’s important to find one that fits your needs and budget. This project will show how you can take a lower end processor and make it a powerful, high performance machine. Just about anyone can do this with little or no effort.
We are going to try to reach the 3 GHz Barrier with this project, using the new Celeron 2 GHz, Northwood based processor. As you know, the Celeron Northwood is based on the Pentium 4 processor, with the same instruction set – just less cache memory.
What you also have to keep in mind is the processor is only running 100 MHz Bus – seems great to overclock for me. This is the first Celeron running the 0.13 Micron die process and should run very cool. I’ve also included the 1.7 GHz Celeron, based on the 0.18 micron process.
The best part about this overclock is the price; I was able to pick up the processors with motherboards as a combo deal. The following are the boards and prices:
- MSI 645E-max motherboard & Celeron NW 2 GHz Bare CPU: $139.00
- ECS P4S5A2 motherboard & Celeron 1.7 GHZ Retail CPU: $99.00
- Shuttle MV42N motherboard & Celeron NW 2 GHz Retail CPU: $142.99
The other part about this test setup, which is extremely important, is the memory. Below indicates the test memory and prices accordingly:
- Corsair PC-2100 256MB DDR DRAM memory CL2: $79.99
- Micron PC-100 128MB DIMM memory CL2: $24.99
- Generic PC-133 128MB DIMM memory CL3: $9.99
The last pieces to the puzzle of course are the heat sink, and cooler fans:
- Intel Retail Boxed CPU Fans, (2); Price of combos included fans.
- Thermal Take P4 Volcano 478: $16.99
I am going to test each of these boards and processors with different memory configurations, heat sink/fan configurations and board configurations to achieve the best possible price/performance ratio. We are also trying to reach the 3 GHz Barrier.
By the end of this article, you will know exactly what will work for you, what the prices will be, and the performance you can expect without shelling a penny out to test.
The first tests were to make sure all the boards posted properly and worked without any flaws. After Windows loads and 3D Mark 2001 running for a solid 4 hours on each system, I knew it was a GO.
The first system was the Shuttle MV42N combo, with built-in video and sound, along with the retail 1.7 GHz CPU. This was a very cheap combo and for $99, I couldn’t go wrong (or at least I thought that was true). The MV42N provides multiple solutions for integrated peripherals. It does include the 133 MHz FSB Jumper which we will use to overclock.
I tested the Celeron 1.7 with the Intel fan – ran perfectly at stated speed. I adjusted the FSB to 133, booted and the machine didn’t post. I cleared the CMOS and the board booted fine at 1.7 stated. The next processor was the Celeron 2 GHz retail with Intel fan.
The board booted at stated speed; I adjusted the FSB to 133, booted and the machine didn’t post again. Well, actually the board never posted EVER again. Processor checks out fine, but the board is toast. Scratch one for the Shuttle board.
The next board was the ECS P4S5A-2. I tested the Celeron 1.7 with Intel fan. It ran perfectly at stated speed. I boosted the FSB to 133 and again no post. The next processor was the Celeron 2 GHz retail with Intel fan. The system booted fine at stated speed. I adjusted the FSB again to 133 and WHAM! posted, BIOS reported “Celeron 2.70 GHz”. I started Windows XP and then the system blue screened, locked up, and reported the infamous hardware error.
Just getting it to boot was a sign of something that I knew would be possible. Unfortunately, in the ECS BIOS, there was no sign of a voltage increase setting. I have seen people adjust and solder the motherboard to create a voltage increase, but for most people like me, that’s just too much darn work. So finally I head on to the MSI board.
I decided to forget about the Celeron 1.7 all together – it’s just basically not worth the time and effort. I skipped up to the OEM Celeron NW, booted it at normal operating speed – works great. I set the FSB to 133 and it booted SOLID – ROCK SOLID. The system reported the processor at 2.66 Ghz.
Now what’s really cool about the MSI 645-E is that Micro Star includes Fuzzy logic 4, their premium overclocking tool. I clicked on auto and the program automates what you can expect to get your processor to. It achieved 2718 MHz – and that’s without a voltage increase! I knew that wouldn’t be enough for me.
So I rebooted, entered the BIOS and upped the voltage to max, which was 1.625v. Playing and testing, I was able to achieve a solid 2880 MHz with an inexpensive P4 Volcano from Thermaltake. I was able to post the board and CPU at 3 GHz! The voltage settings on the MSI board just aren’t enough!
Also, getting a better cooler may help the chances of this to be successful. Notice this board isn’t your top of the line ASUS or SOYO motherboard, but MSI sure builds some nice features into its boards.
What you have to take into consideration is:
- The Celeron is Intel’s inexpensive (cheap) line of processors. It’s not built to be the fastest CPU on the market.
- Cache memory greatly increases the productivity of your processor. P4s have 512Kb Celerons only have 128 KB.
- Celerons are running on 100 MHz FSB; 90% of the motherboards built for the 478 architecture support the 133 MHz Quad pumped bus. All you basically need is the voltage increase and a good cooler.
- Spending less money on the CPU and getting great performance by overclocking means you can spend more money on other items such as memory or video cards. Saving your money in once place can give you more to add to another component.
Below are results from SiSoft Sandra, first showing the best, most stable speed for the CPU, being 2.87 GHz.
Total MIPS was 5750 – amazing speed. It beats out the P4 2.66 GHz; it also beats any Athlon configuration at the time. Included is the WCPUID program to show you the FSB, Quad Pumped bus, and the actual chip ID’s:
To sum this all up:
Celerons are cheap; if you do purchase one, go with the Northwood core (0.13 die process). Currently, the 2 GHz processors are the only one.
This is a MAJOR overclock. Speeding your processor 800+ MHz with little ease? That’s just unbelievable.
Most people run 800 MHz PC’s in their office. For the money, you can’t go wrong – the price vs. performance ratio is just incredible. Just as the first batch of Celerons were Overclocking monsters, the current batch are just as incredible.
I encourage everyone that reads this to go out and purchase the new Celeron, get a good motherboard and see how high you can get it! By the way, I am and AMD supporter to the end, but you have to give credit where credit is due.
With my last article, I have received over 40 emails in just a short time. I wanted to do further experiments and fill in “All of the blank spots” with my previous article. Please understand that I’m not a “Writer”; just a person who wants to help people achieve a better PC for the buck. For most of you people who emailed me, this article should answer further questions pertaining to the previous article.
The problem with my previous experiment was lack of premium overclocking material. So I fixed that! I went to “PC Club” which is located about an hour and a half from me. I picked up the best P4 cooler they had in stock and one of the best air-cooled units available on the market. The cooler purchased was a Volcano 7+. It is rated for P4 3Ghz +.
The purchase price on this cooler was a *Nice* $29.00. Everyone emails me to say “Why don’t you buy one of these water cooling units, you’ll get better results.” My answer to that is: This is an inexpensive upgrade, with a very “price derivative” solution. People who are just beginning to understand overclocking can get great results with this experiment without having to shell out major cash.
I looked and broke down the Thermal Take Volcano 7+. The main features are:
- Full Copper heat sink, with tiny fins.
- Fan Speed Setting Cable
- Fan Duct, 70x70x5mm, 6,000 RPM Fan
- PRICE: $29.00, includes thermal paste and compatible with Athlon XP’s!
Below is a picture of the Volcano 7+ while it was still a virgin:
Please Note: Voltage modifications to any CPU, may, and probably will damage the CPU.
Please do a search on electro-migration, which will state that: Every CPU has a certain “life” to it. By forcing the CPU’s default voltage higher than rated, you are also enhancing electro-migration. Keep in mind: Average CPUs last a long time – some I’ve even seen for 12+ years running.
Even if electro-migration cut your CPU’s TTL (time to live) in half, that still gives you a good 6 years, which is more then ample time for basic computer users before upgrading to another solution. Also please note that you can fry your CPU from too much voltage, so I suggest don’t go too high, unless you have CPUs or money to burn.
Neither the author or Overclockers.com will be responsible for any damages due to the modifications you may read below.
With that out of the way, we shall continue. As stated in the previous article, my default voltage for the CPU was 1.525 Volts. The max voltage on my MSI motherboard was 1.625 volts, which was enough to get the processor to a stable 2880 MHz. This was just not good enough for me. I received an email shortly after the previous article, which gave me the link to the Overclockers.com forum. In the email it stated that there was an easy voltage mod’ing solution for Intel CPUs.
Further reading the forum, I noticed that there was an S.N.D.S (Sudden Northwood Death Syndrome) going around, most of which “MAY” have had to do with the much easier voltage mod’ing trick. So I decided to go with the pin wrapping MOD. I don’t recommend this for the impatient or people with less then 20/20 vision. This is a very complicated procedure.
Many people have read through the Intel spec sheets. Basically, the wire wrapping consists of taking a very, VERY fine piece of wire and wrapping it around two of the pins located on the bottom of the processor (VID 3, VID 4). What this MOD will do is tell the motherboard that the default voltage of the processor is higher then what it actually is. After about 45 minutes of squinting eyes, and very frustrating failures, I finally got it!
I installed my processor very carefully, locked it into position, applied a small thin layer of thermal paste to my Volcano 7+, installed that, crossed my fingers, and hit the power button. BEEP! I pushed delete, went into BOIS and checked my frequency/voltage control setting. Mission accomplished! Voltage increments of 1.7, 1.725, 1.750, 1.775, 1.8, and 1.825 appeared. This was great. Time for some hardcore, Overclocking action.
I don’t want to fry my processor; I just want to get the 3 GHz speed out of it. However, I am willing to take chances. First chance I got, I upped the voltage to 1.750 and the FSB to 150 MHz. Board booted fine, got into Windows, then locked up. I checked the cooling – seemed fine at a nice 45 Degrees Celsius.
I increased the voltage to 1.8 – board booted fine and stable. I was able to run lots of benchmarking tests without any problems or hitches. I did however find one problem. While playing Warcraft 3, the machine just magically “Rebooted”; of course, it had to be in the middle of a game I was winning. Talk about timing.
It got me to think maybe I should raise the voltage more. While going into the FSB/Voltage setting, I notice the CPU temperature was 57 Degrees – that was a dramatic increase. I thought even with this Volcano 7+ it’s not keeping that processor cool enough. Rather than forcing more voltage, and higher temperatures, I decided to go with another better cooler. *NEWBIE ALERT* OK – I guess I’m like any human being on this planet.
I of course do make mistakes, and I made one here. Remember in the pictures and on my case there is a fan speed controller switch. I had the switch running on the LOW setting. I immediately switched to high and it sounded like a whirlwind was coming through the room. This did the trick, running at ice cold 47 Degree temperatures now. I now have a fully functional 3 GHz, computer.
Me being the mad scientist that I am, I couldn’t just keep the urge for more speed! I upped the voltage to 1.825 Volts (max) and kept increasing the FSB. I eventually got to 169 MHz and was able to boot, just couldn’t run any applications. I had a chance however to take a screen shot with MSI’S Fuzzy logic 4 utility. The speed was 3388 MHz, which was just amazing. Below is the screen shot:
Below I’ve included the new SiSoft Sandra 2003 CPU Arithmetic, and Multimedia scores. Also I’ve included the PC Mark 2003 Results.
Because of the many emails I received on having such a great article, I decided to work more in-depth and finish what was started. Now I have a fully functional Northwood based Celeron running at 3,000 MHz, (3 GHz).
Please don’t hesitate to email me, just click my name below. In a final note, I am planning to test the new Athlon XP 2800+ @ 3500+ on the SY-KT400 Dragon Ultra motherboard. Please check back for the updated details. (Processor arrives in 6 days) Also, if you would like to purchase a 3 GHz Celeron Combo, email me for prices!