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Ultimate Budget Overclocking

We've uncovered something special, something we've not seen the likes of since the   original Slot-1 Celeron C300A of yore, something wonderful. No, it's not full of stars, but it is full of silicon. ...

We've uncovered something special, something we've not seen the likes of since the   original Slot-1 Celeron C300A of yore, something wonderful. No, it's not full of stars, but it is full of silicon. We've uncovered the latest Intel budget dual-core processor and by Jove, it overclocks more crazily than a supermodel on an economy class flight.

On first impressions, the E7200 seems unremarkable, other than a bargain. Running at a stock 2.53GHz on a 1,066MHz FSB it's built on a 45nm process with 3MB L2 cache and can be snapped up for around $l20. That alone makes it the best value Core 2 on the market. But hang on, this is built on the new 45nm process, which means it'll run very cool and with CPUs already running at 3.2GHz on the same process just how fast will this boy run?

Even under normal settings the performance is impressive with it running at 30°C just passively cooled with a cheap $15 cooler. Under load this rises to 50°C, but even that is more than acceptable for day-to-day work and incredible for passive cooling. Feeling brave we initially went straight for 3.2GHz running on a 337MHz FSB and even with the stock cooler we got a stable overclock.

Taking the FSB up to 350MHz showed the first signs of strain. It would boot into Vista, but bluescreen shortly after or during benchmarking. Switching to the Akasa Blue Aurora soon sorted that problem out and once again we were stable, running at 3.33GHz. That's 800MHz or 30 per cent faster. It was, unfortunately, at this point our fun ran out, as beyond 350MHz our chosen motherboard, a budget ASUS P5LD2-X/1333 'lost' all the SATA hard drives. Even then it was happy to boot to the BIOS at up to a 390MHz FSB (3.7GHz) on the stock core voltage. Proving there's a lot of overclocking territory left to discover with this beauty.

Overclocking the processor is all about pushing up the front side bus speed. This not only affects the processor, but the memory speed. While many motherboards do enable you to 'clock-down' the memory bus it's always helpful to have performance memory parts installed, alongside your processor and performance cooler.

The first step to good overclocking has nothing to do with settings or indeed your hardware: it's to make sure you install your cooler correctly. That means don't overdo the thermal grease. A micron-thin film is all that's required, place a few blobs, push the heatsink on, remove it, wipe clean and then install it for a better contact. Of course, the BIOS is at the heart of overclocking, while Windows-based tools have somewhat alleviated the need for it, frankly this is still where the real work has to be done. An overclocking motherboard will, of course, greatly help as it will provide better recovery tools and more advanced tweaking options.

If you really want to get the most out of the E7200, then grab yourself a decent cooler. The Akasa Blue Aurora stepped up to the mark nicely hereArticle Submission, help us to push the FSB from the stock coolers 320MHz to a cool 350MHz.

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