The First Stage

Back at it, this time older and plenty wiser after endless days of research in hardware websites.

All this research revealed to me few things:

1> Throughbred B core Athlons seemed to be excellent overclockers for their price and the crown jewel seemed to be the $93 Athlon XP2100+.
2> EPOX EH-RDA+ motherboard was overclockers dream with features like Nforce2 with dual channel memory, automatic Athlon unlocking!, AGP lock and countless other specialties... and cheap.
3> Kingston Hyper-X 3500DDR was one of the fastest memory on marked and didn't have any problems with RDA+ (like some Crucial chips had).
4> SLK-800 is the king of the coolers with decent 80mm fan (Thermaltake Smart Fan II in my case).
5> You need power to overclock, so decent 420W PSU with dual fans.
6> Good cooling, 4x80mm fans (2 suck, 2 blow) in Ahanix case.

So this was my basic setup, I also threw in 180GB (7200prm 8MB cache) IBM HDD, 15GB 5400rpm IBM , Lite-ON 52xCD-RW, KB, Mouse, FDD and old Geforce graphics card. (At this time I'm still waiting for Tyan Tachyon 9700 Pro - should arrive on 02/28/2003).

Putting machine together was a blast, except installing SLK-800 was hair raising experience since one needs to use some serious force to get the clip on (and I remembered those small rubber "legs" - otherwise core would've cracked!) For my pleasant surprise, machine started on first go and I could tell the fans were doing their job since machine was blowing out COLD air (weird huh!).

First boot was done at 100MHz FSB, which was quickly changed to normal 133MHz. After installing Windows XP and few essential programs and benchmark tests... it was time to see what it could do. Actually for someone who doesn't understand the FSB / Multiplier / DDR talk: 

The processor speed (or core speed) is always generated by the system clock speed (or FSB: Front Side Bus), which today is 66, 100, 133 or 166MHz, multiplied with 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0. For example if you have processor running at 100FSB and it's multiplier it 13 the clock speed would be 1300MHz. DDR instead means Double Data Rate and usually is used to describe memory type. So if your computers FSB is 100MHz, would you DDR memory run at 200MHz.

First change was to memory timings, from Optimal 6-2-2-2 to Aggressive 5-2-2-2, as you can tell from benchmarks it helped a little bit. I also ran the Disk Benchmark and was very surprised how fast the new IBM drive performed. Then it was time to increase FSB, first day I was able to run following settings successfully with default voltages/bus settings:

1730MHz - 13x - FSB 133 - PC266 Expert 5-2-2-2
1820MHz - 13x - FSB 140 - PC280 Expert 5-2-2-2
1950MHz - 13x - FSB 150 - PC300 Expert 5-2-2-2
2080MHz - 13x - FSB 160 - PC320 Expert 5-2-2-2

I couldn't believe it, seems like this will be a good overclocking machine.

Next Stage questions?
- Maximum FSB with 13x multiplier?
- When is more voltage needed?

The Second Stage

It is time for some more: 2210MHz and everything was still ok - unbelievable, and I though I would have to go and change the multiplier down from 13x.

Next FSB180 and we suffered a minor hit, windows crashes big time. I suspect voltage and increase core voltage to 1.7v and memory to 2.77v. This time computer boots fine and lets me run the benchmarks. Increasing voltage always worries me since I never know much is enough and when do I fry my chips. I did some looking around and came across an article at thecrucible.com's forums.

I downloaded the membench86 programs and started playing with it, first FSB133 and normal setting and let it ran for 30mins, everything is ok. Same with 140, 150, 160 and 170FSB. As soon as I threw in 180FSB screen was filled with errors and I increased the voltage to 1.7v and memory to 2.77v like I did previously and test ran fine. I though we were close to the end of overclocking since 185FSB required 1.775 core and 2.77v memory, luckily Epox motherboard give voltages up to: 2.00v Core, 2.90v memory and 2.0v AGP.

I ran membench86 again with 190FSB and few errors appeared but they were gone after voltages hit 1.825v core and 2.77v memory. It was time to see if this thing would even boot to windows. As soon as windows desktop came up then whole screen went haywire and I had to turn the computer off. 

Back to BIOS and increased AGP's voltage to 1.6v and also locked it down to 66MHz and viola - we were at windows and were able to run the benchmarks. I was VERY happy with 190FSB since it's same as 2470MHz, 740MHZ overclock from $93 processor! So today's runs were: 

2210MHz - 13x - FSB 170 - PC340 Expert 5-2-2-2
2340MHz - 13x - FSB 180 - PC360 Expert 5-2-2-2
2470MHz - 13x - FSB 190 - PC380 Expert 5-2-2-2 (not stable!)

And all this with most aggressive memory timings, Hyper-Xs truly are great memory chips. 

Since lots of you are probably wondering about temperatures, at 2470MHz the temperature was 36-37.5C, fact is that I didn't really run it with 100% load on it for long time, I look into it.

Next Stage questions?
- Temperatures?
- What the maximum stable AGP speed?
- Lot's of people say 200FSB is max for RDA+

The Third Stage

Son of a Bi.... came home and found power supply dead and had to resort to older 400W PSU which doesn't give me stable 190FSB, so I've been doing burn-in tests. Been running rock stable last 3 hours with 170FSB - 2210MHz, MP3 Player, Pifast (running to 100M decimals) and MP3 compression. Maximum temperature: 39C

Later on raised FSB to 180MHz and machine is still rock solid, ran several tests and "burn-in" tests and system behaved perfectly. Maximum temperature was: 41C under load.

Next Stage questions?
- How fast is Radeon?

The Fourth Stage

Radeon 9700 arrived (as well as case lights etc.), good god that card is fast, machine and Radeon stock:

3DMark2000: 12517
3DMark2001: 13289
3DMark2003: 4600

After this I decided to do some Multiplier tests and hours of hours of different combinations I ended up with 12.5x195FSB - 2438MHz (rock solid, and makes me happy camper 708MHz extra vs. stock!). I was actually able to boot to windows at 11.5x205FSB, but 3Dmark2001 crashed. I think this is because I'm using 2 x Dimm chips in syncronous mode.

12.5x195FSB and Radeon at 365/682MHz (Highest clock without artifacts (and balcony door open), which seems pretty low):

3DMark2001: 17296
3DMark2003: 5344

Also tested the AGP speed: 66MHz - OK, 75MHz - Crash, 70MHz - Crash, so I decided to keep it at 66MHz. Max temperature: 43C

Next Stage questions?
- Radeon not clocking because of bad thermal paste?
- 5V voltage low, check PSU dials (if any) might affect Radeon/MB?
- Voltage mods for MB / Radeon (warranty gone, so not sure if I want to attempt)

The Fifth Stage

Opened the PSU and cranked up the 5v up to 5.26v, but this didn't really seem to have any kind of affect on the system. Got scared thou, suddenly machine stopped responding to keyboard completely and I was ready to RMA the motherboard already, but luckily I did one more test and found out about 3 hours later that the cases Power Led was causing a short so left it out.

It seems we have reaced the top of the mountain 12.5x195FSB is still 100% solid, but voltages are up to: core 1.875v, AGP 1.7v and Vdimm 2.9v. 95% stable at 12.5x197FSB, but that's not accectable. So for everyday use system now runs at 13x185FSB - 2405MHz, and voltages are as low as 1.775v, 1.6v, 2.77v, quite impressive!

Got new new boost out of Catalyst 3.2 drivers, the drivers itself are actually slower than 3.1 version, but if you do Soft9800 modification to them, you will see pretty nice boost! Latest top score is 5412 in 3DMark2003, unfortunately machine wasn't plugged into Internet at the time so no official result (have the excel file thou).

Also I took open my Tyan graphics card and I have to say I'm disappointed, the cooling thing really sucks and paste they used was terrible, so I changed it to Arctic Silver 3, couldn't use it on the memory thou since the heat sink was so far from them. I also used screws instead of pushpins to secure the heatsink more tightly. Didn't see much on the overclockign are, but temperatures dropped over 10C !!!

I have instructions for Radeon 9700 Pro Vmod and I also have all the required equipment, but soldering a $350 card is kinda scary, so I'll wait for a while before I attempt this, would be cool to get the R9700 core up to 400MHz+. I can tell the R9700 is running very low voltage, 1.45-1.5v.

Tested memory settings of 4-2-2-2 and didn't see any kinda difference so went back to 5-2-2-2 (I actaully get bit better performance with these)

I need to get this machine hooked up to Internet and run 3DMark2001 and 3DMark2003 again with the new Soft9800 drivers, i bet scores around 17500 and 5400.

Update! Found interesting things, using SMD grabbers (already ordered) I can modify BOTH EPoX RDA+ and Radeon 9700 with out any soldering! This seems like very interesting concept so I'm definitely going to do it. Also I noticed in my 3DMark2001 score my AGP was set to 2x, I'll try to run test today again with 8x and new Soft9800 drivers.

Next Stage questions?
- Radeon Vmod? 400MHz+ Core
- Epox RDA+ Vmod? 200FSB+

The Sixth Stage

Scary day of modifications since this stage includes some serious modifications and playing with voltages.

Since I'm far from soldering guru, I decided to do the Radeon 9700 Vmod using SMB Grabbers which is quite nice since I can remove the mod anytime I want and the main thing, I don't have to solder anything to my $350 card. I also used 10K Potention Meter for this because it allows me to change the voltage on fly. The basic instructions for the mod can be found for these sites:

TheCrucibles Radeon 9700 Mods
Vmod with SMD Grabbers

I set the potention meter to 8 Ohms (using multimeter) and plugged the thing into the pin 18 and 20 on my Radeon. I gotta say I was sweating like a dog when I turned on the computer, but for my pleasent surprise modification worked like a dream and I could adjust the voltage on fly!

I was able to achieve 387/702MHz at 1.72v (quite high voltage!), which is still kinda low - this might be because of cooling of the card, but it's still a huge step from 357/666MHz. What really surprises me is the memory performance since this mod should only apply for the GPU, but can't complain :)

New benchmark scores (12.5x195FSB - 2438MHz):

3DMark2001: 17897
3DMark2003: 5709

I also noticed I had to raise voltage to 1.8v when I'm running my system at 2405MHz to keep it 100% stable, had few problems with C&C Generals with 1.775v.

I just found following information: "HyperX...been there done that....I had the same problem running dual HyperX PC3500 modules...ripping and tearing and crashing in 3DMark2001SE. If you go to the Kingston site it states that HyperX has known issues running in dual channel mode and is not certified for that use. They recommend using their regular PC2700 or PC3200 ram if going dual channel.

To prove I'm right...remove one of the sticks and run 3DMark. The tearing will dissapear. I ended up selling my HyperX for certified Corsair TwinX and the problems went away."

Could this cause the artifacts in 3DMark200x and not the Radeon? I definitely look into this.

Next Stage questions?
- HyperX responsible of artifacts in 3DMark200x?
- Epox RDA+ Vmod? 200FSB+
- 3DMark2001 18K club???

The Seventh Stage

Finally did the motherboard Voltage Modification and threw in the Radeon one too, also changed the PSU to give better 5V line out (4.86v -> 5.02v). With 940 Ohm's I got Vdd voltage up to 1.74v. I tried following combinations: 12x210FSB, 11.5x215FSB, both kept crashing but I was able to run some beachmarks, too unstable to publish results.

But I got 12.5x200FSB stable enough to run tests fine (1.925v core, 1.7v agp, 2.9v vdimm, 1.74v vdd) and with Radeon clocked too, top results are now as follows:

3DMark2001: 18479
3DMark2003: 5821

Very impressed by results! but not pleased with stableness, I look into the Mosfets and Northbridge cooling some more. Also haven't had time to play with memory chips.

Next Stage questions?
- HyperX responsible of artifacts in 3DMark200x?
- NB and Mosfets cooling?

Benchmark Results
PiFast Results

Benchmarks for download: 

Sisoft Sandra 2003


AMD Athlon 2100XP+ (13x185FSB) @ 2405MHz
Epox 8RDA+
2 x 256 Kingston Hyper-X DDR3500
SLK-800 CPU cooler with Thermaltake Smart-Fan II
6x80mm Sunon fans
Tyan Tachyon G9700 Pro
IBM 185GB HDD (7200rpm, 8MB cache)
IBM 15GB HDD (5400rpm, 2MB cache)
Black Lite-On 52xCD-RW
Anahix Black Case
400W Antec PSU
Zalman NB-32J north bridge cooler (South Bridge)
UV Sensitive round IDE cable
UV Sensitive round floppy cable
2 x 80mm blue led fans
Black Mitsumi Floppy Drive
Black Microsoft Internet Keyboard
Black Microsoft Optical Mouse
2 x Blue CCFL Lights
Radiation Applique
19" LG 995 Display


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Copyright 2001