Introduction

The AMD64 X@ 3800+ X2 3800+ Retail box

A few weeks ago Legit Reviews brought you the premier of AMD's newest processor, the Athlon 64 X2 3800+. While many appreciate the dual core performance at a budget price, we didn't have much time to really put Manchester core to the test for our overclocking readers. Today, Legit Reviews takes a closer look at the dual core 3800+ in an overclocking environment. While the majority of users will appreciate the benefits of dual core for ~$374, the enthusiasts among us are looking to squeeze ever last bit of performance out of this processor. If you are interested in overclocking the AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ keep on reading!

CPU-Z

Test System:

The DFI board will  use the 623-3 BIOS found at DFI Street as well as Nividia's 6.66 Chipset Driver. ATI's Catalyst 5.7 drivers were used for the video card, and finally Windows XP with SP 2.

While this processor came from AMD it is undoubtedly a top overclocker, please look at this as the high end you might achieve with your processor. I will run the following benchmarks, along with some gaming that will put the system under prolonged load and test its stability.

Overclocking the X2 3800

When overclocking, the best advice is really some old advice, isolate, then consolidate. what this means is we will find the max overclock for the CPU, board, and memory individually, then consoldate them to find the best balance between each component in our system. To cut directly to the chase, here is an excellent overclocking article for an AMD 64 system, written by ThunDA at DFI Street, with each step clearly explained. Since we are using a fully water cooled system, our overclock should end up being close to the max for this processor.

First, we are simply going to overclock the 3800+ to 4800+ frequencies (2.4GHz). Using a minimum voltage increase (1.4V), setting the HTT to x4, and keeping the memory timings as tight as possible (1:1 @ 2-3-3-6), we'll judge the 3800+ in our benchmarks against the $1100 4800+.

Then, we're going to do the simplest overclock possible, by simply raising the FSB/HTT frequency as high as possible  with a 1:1 divider and memory timings of 2.5-3-3-7. 252FSB/HTT frequency was as high as I could stabily go, though that may have been limited by my memory. HTT was left at x4.

CPU-Z 2.52GHz

I was able to boot up and run benchmarks at a higher frequency, but without having to loosen up the timings so much that it was counterproductive. My idle temps at 2.52GHz were 31C idle and 38C load.

Now, we're going to leave the multiplier at its default setting (x10), set the HTT to x3, drop the memory divider to DDR333 (5:6), and raise the v-core to a point where stability is balanced with heat  and performance. To me this is usually a point where overclocking stops being productive as small jumps in performance call for a large jump in core voltage, this also is usually accompanied by a spike in both idle temperature and load temperature.

CPU-Z

At 270 FSB my CPUs temperature idled at 34C, and reached a maximum temperature of 41C under load. As to memory performance, with the memory divider set to 5:6, I had no problem running my memory at some pretty tight timings of 2-3-2-5 at its default voltage, this gave me an overall memory frequency of 225.1MHz.

After making sure that each setting was stable, it was time to move on to some benchmarking. Let's take a look at the results from our AMD64 X2 3800+.

Benchmark Results

3DMark 2005 v1.2.0

3DMark05 is best suited for the latest generation of DirectX 9.0 graphics cards. It is the first benchmark to require a DirectX9.0 compliant hardware with support for Pixel Shaders 2.0 or higher! By combining high quality 3D tests, CPU tests, feature tests, image quality tools, and much more, 3DMark05 is a premium benchmark for evaluating the latest generation of gaming hardware.

3DMark05

3DMark03 Build 360

3DMark03 is a collection of  four 3D game based tests. Each 3DMark03 game test is a real-time rendering of a 3D scenario. It is important to note that these renderings are not merely animations or a set of recorded events; they are designed to function like 3D games work. As with 3D games, all computations are performed in real time. This is a critical part of FutureMarks philosophy of 3D graphics benchmarking.

3DMark03

Sisoft Sandra 2005 SR2:

SiSoftware, founded in 1995, is one of the leading providers of computer analysis, diagnostic and benchmarking software. The flagship product, known as "SANDRA", was launched in 1997 and has become one of the most widely used products in its field. SANDRA is used by almost 400 world-wide IT publications, magazines, review sites to analyze the performance of today?s computers.

Multi-Core Support As well as SMP (multi-processor) and SMT (multi-threading/Hyper-Threading) support we have added multi-core support for future AMD and Intel CPUs. The benchmarks have been optimized to schedule the optimum number of threads on the optimum (virtual) CPU on both multi-core and Hyper-Threaded computers.

Sisoft Sandra CPU Arithmetic Sandra Multimedia Sandra Multimedia

AquaMark3

AquaMark3 is a powerful tool to determine reliable information about the gaming performance of a computer system. Again, resolution was set 1024x768.

Aquamark3

CINEBENCH 2003

CINEBENCH 2003 is the free benchmarking tool for Windows and Mac OS based on the powerful 3D software CINEMA 4D R8. The tool is set to deliver accurate benchmarks by testing not only a computer's raw processing speed but also all other areas that affect system performance such as OpenGL, multithreading, multiprocessors and Intel's HT Technology. CINEBENCH 2003 includes render tasks that test the performance of up to 16 multiprocessors on the same computer.

Cinebench Single CPU Render Cinebench Multi CPU Render

Benchmarking Results continued

ScienceMark 2.0 Final:

Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, ScienceMark 2.0 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias. Lower results (time in seconds) represent better performance. All of our testing was completed on the 32 Bit Final benchmark version that is dated March 21, 2005.

Sciencemark 2.0 Primordia Sciencemark 2.0 Cipher

Super PI

Super Pi is a program a lot of enthusiasts use to benchmark overall system performance, as the program is capable of calculating pi up to 33.55 million digits on a timer.  Many overclockers and enthusiasts are in a battle to get the lowest 1M Super Pi time possible

Super Pi

Doom 3

Doom 3 is one of the most system taxing games available. Its popularity also makes it a great choice for system benchmarking. I like to use Time Demo 1 with resolution set to 1024x768 with detail set to High.

Doom3 Timedemo Demo1

Far Cry- Volcano

Far Cry is another super popular FPS title that seriously taxes your systems graphics. HardwareOC developed this specialized benchmarking utility that automatically runs the test twice and averages out the score. V 1.41 was used here, with a resolution of 1024x768 and detail levels set to High.

Far Cry

While its clear memory has an impact on any benchmark, its still nice to see the $354 X2 3800+ put up good numbers at stock speed, and great numbers while overclocked. The 3800+ running at 4800+ speeds (2.4GHz) showed to be a great value when compared against a processor $700 more.

When overclocked to 2.7GHz, which wasn't a terribly difficult overclock, yet something I wouldn't recommend 24/7 on air, the 3800+ simply smoked.

Final Thoughts

The AMD64 X@ 3800+X2 3800+ Retail box

The results speak for themselves, the X2 3800+ is an outstanding performer in the right environment. I'll again point out that the processor I used was an Engineering Sample, so my results are probably toward the higher end of what you should expect. Even so, this processor is an excellent choice for the enthusiast as well as the average user looking for performance on a budget.

With dual core ability, and overclocking well into the 4800+ range, the 3800+ is a great processor at a great price. Having said that, make sure you approach overclocking with caution, use common sense and take your time as a few extra minutes of testing may seem incredibly boring, it means the difference between a stable overclock, and possibly damaging your hardware.

CPU-Z

Looking around different forums I've noticed most people hitting 2.6 to 2.7GHZ with good cooling, and a few hitting 2.8 to 2.95GHz on extreme cooling. While I can't vouch for anyone else?s stability or results I will say the 3800+ I have been torturing for a week now is one of the best processors I've ever had.

One issue I am seeing on message boards around the web deals with the IHS (Integrated Heat Spreader). It seems that people who have removed the IHS report a significant drop in temperatures, which result in much higher overclocks. The consensus among this group seems to be that the IHS seats poorly on the processors cores. Mind you, I am in no way recommending people remove the IHS from their processors, as it is a very risky procedure and one that definitely voids your warranty. I'm waiting to hear back from AMD on this issue, if there actually is one, and hoping to find out if there are plans to improve the IHS or redesign it totally. (Update: AMD does not plan on changing the HIS on any Athlon processors)

All in all, my short period of overclocking has done nothing to change my impression of this CPU. It's still quite a bit more than the Intel Pentium D 820, but taking into account the overall performance as well using current socket 939 motherboards, and the X2 3800+ is great choice for a budget user or for the hard core enthusiast.