What Can $184 Get You?

The AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ "Windsor" Socket AM2 processor has become an attractive processor for those looking to get an X2 dual-core processor for roughly $184. Before last months drastic price cuts this processor ran over $330! Today Legit Reviews takes a look at the 4200+ AM2 processor, which is a CPU that doesn't get much time in the hot seat, yet is one of the most purchased processors in AMD's desktop arsenal.

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Last month the same processor would deplete $330 from your savings account, but thanks to the price war in the desktop market this price has been slashed. Thanks to the limited number of Intel Core 2 motherboards and high prices of those on the market many consumers are looking back to AMD platforms due to the price versus performance advantage that they currently offer. An example of the motherboard situation can be seen by anyone that looks at Newegg.com and finding that they carry 43 motherboards that support AM2, while only 11 can be found that support Core 2 processors. It's no secret that right now the market fully stocked with AM2 parts and consumers have more choice in the platforms that are built. We picked the AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ AM2 for this article thanks to its price point and with the hopes that it would be overclocker friendly to give us even more bang for our buck. 

For our testing platform we used the Foxconn C51XEM2AA-8EKRS2H motherboard that is based on the nVidia 590SLI chipset and runs roughly $179.99 after rebate. To back up our motherboard and processor we ran Corsair PC2-6400C4 memory and a Corsair HX620W power supply. We normally use water cooling on the test bench, but for this article we are looking to give real world numbers so we skipped the water cooling and clipped on the Zalman CNPS 9500 AM2 heatsink for some air cooling numbers.

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Here is our AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ AM2 90nm processor sitting in the Foxconn C51XEM2AA-8EKRS2H motherboard waiting to be run for the very first time!

4200+ AMD Features

The 4200+ AM2 processor comes from the factory with a clock frequency of 2.2GHz.  This means that the processor is running an HTT of 200 with a multiplier of 11 to reach the rated speeds.  The stock voltage on the CPU is 1.35V and as you will soon see the core can go well above that on air!

AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ AM2 Features:

Brand AMD
Series Athlon 64 X2
Model ADA4200CUBOX
CPU Socket Type Socket AM2
Core Windsor
Multi-Core Dual-Core
Name Athlon 64 X2 4200+
Operating Frequency 2.2GHz
HT 2000MHz
L1 Cache 128KB+128KB
L2 Cache 2 x 512KB
Process Type 90 nm
Vista Ready Yes
64 bit Support Yes
Hyper-Transport Support Yes
Virtualization Technology Support Yes
Multimedia Instruction MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, 3DNOW! Professional
Voltage 1.30 V/1.35 V
Cooling Device Heatsink and Fan
Manufacturer Warranty 3-Year
 

We started off at all default settings to make sure that our test platform was up and running okay.  Using CPU-Z to confirm out BIOS settings we found that our computer was up and running just like a default 4200+ AM2 processor should be.

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Who wants to run default clock speeds?  Let's first try overclocking without touching any of the voltages. Note that in the above image the voltage is set to 1.35V, but CPU-Z only reads it as 1.232V on the processor.  Keep in mind that the CPU-Z images show lower voltages than what we set in the BIOS.

Overclocking at Stock Voltages

To start things off we did nothing more than raise the hypertransport (HTT) in the BIOS and the system seemed to literally take off! As you increase the HTT, you will also increase the CPU clock speed since the two are directly related. When you get to a certain point, you're going to have to lower the HTT multiplier in order to keep increasing the frequency. It's 5x HT by default (200mhz x 5 = 1000mhz and then 'doubled' to 2000MHzz because it's HT 2.0). Once we reached 250MHz on the HTT the Foxconn board started to become unstable, so we decreased the HT to 4x. At 252MHz with the 5x multiplier we were hitting 2520MHz, but after lowering the multiplier on the HT to 4x it was lowered to 2016MHz - nearly stock.

If you are confused maybe this picture of the BIOS changes will help.  Here we see a picture of the system clocks page of the BIOS found on our Foxconn 590SLI motherboard. The two areas that needs to be changed have been marked in red.  The first is known as the reference clock (HTT) on the Foxconn board and anything over 200MHz will raise your final clock frequency that times the CPU multiplier. Since we were able to hit over 250MHz we lowered the HT Multiplier from 5x to 4x

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With just 1.35V we were able to reach a HTT of 252MHz with the stock multiplier of 11 and a HT multiplier of 4x.  Below is a screen shot of CPU-Z on the desktop.

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With the AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ AM2 processor clocking in at 2.6GHz and featuring a $315 price tag our little 4200+ has gone 166MHz past the stock 5000+ for far less money.   We have managed to take the 4200+ and overclock it to nearly the clock speeds of the FX-62 with no voltage adjustments on anything at all.  This is an impressive achievement to say the least.  Now let's take a look and see what happens when we increase the voltage on the processor.

Increasing The Voltage

The AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ AM2 processor comes set to run at 1.35 Volts and to go higher than 2.76GHz we need to increase the voltage running to the processor.  To do this we just need to go to the system voltage menu in the BIOS and increase the voltage from 'auto' to whatever Voltage you like.  The BIOS cautions going over 1.65V and that's not a concern as we just bumped it up to 1.45V. We also increased the memory voltage to 2.2V, which is the standard voltage on the Corsair PC2-6400C3 modules.

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After increasing the voltage we continued to increase the HTT and managed to go from 252MHz to 264MHz, which increased the overall frequency from 2.76GHz to over 2.91GHz.  This frequency is faster than any desktop processors that AMD currently sells in the market today!

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While reaching 2.9GHz on a 2.2GHz processor kicks ass we really wanted to keep going higher, but needed to check temperatures first.  After downloading nVidia's nTune software and the SpeedFan utility we found our processor was running in the high 40's, which is not too high for overvolting a processor on an air cooled system.  Since everything seemed okay we increased the voltage from 1.45V to 1.55V and was able to break the 3GHz mark. The load temperatures on the processor were recorded as being 53C with the idle being 33C.

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With a solid 800MHz overclock on our processor we seem to have a winner on our hands. At 3.0GHz the processor flies, but we did encounter some stability issues when running gaming benchmarks. We ended up raising the voltage to 1.65V to see if we could stabalize the system and for the most part we could.  Only under the most extreme benchmarking could we get the system to lock up and require a reboot.  No Blue Screens of Death this time around!

Reaching 3GHz for $184

Our AMD 4200+ AM2 Test System

In all honesty I didn't know what to expect in terms of overclocking when I started working on this article, but I'm very happy with the results. Taking a 2.2GHz processor that retails for $184 and overclocking it to 3.0GHz is priceless even if it wasn't 100% stable.  To reach this massive overclock we did use a number of products that are known to be good quality, but nothing was modified or any different than what you get when you order one from your favorite reseller.   

We are not done with the AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ AM2 processor and currently still have it on the test bench, but this time it's under water.  The goal here is to see if we can make it stable and get past 3.0GHz with the aid of water cooling.  While this article was not a normal review for the site, we hope that you enjoy it and find it informative.  Legit Reviews understands that not everyone can afford $400+ processors and that is why we got in a sub $200 processor.  For $184 I feel this processor is a steal and when one looks at pricing the Intel versus AMD battle is interesting. You can pick up the 4200+ AMD for $184 and the Foxconn 590SLI motherboard for $180 - making this a $365 combo.  Compare that to the Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 Allendale which retails for $299 plus the cost of a decent i975X motherboard which start at $229.99 and they go up from there making an Intel combo at least $529. Saving $165 and having the chance of getting an AMD A64 X2 AM2 processor that can hit 3GHz sounds like a pretty good deal. What do you think?  Sound off in our forums with your thoughts.


Update: Part 2 of this article has been published and can be read here. In part two we show performance benchmarks and use watercooling to overclock even higher than on air!