CPU and Motherboard Recommendations

CPU: AMD Athlon XP 2500+ Mobile Barton (512K L2 cache)
Motherboard: ABIT NF7-S Revision 2.0 (nForce2 Ultra 400)
Price: CPU - $98 shipped (OEM). Motherboard - $98 shipped



Up until recently, the AMD overclocking scene had gone virtually unchanged for several long months. New motherboard revisions and BIOSes to popular boards, such as the NF7-S, A7N8X Deluxe, etc., were coming out that ended up overclocking the latest AMD processors higher, but the best bang for the buck CPU was still AMD's Athlon XP 2500+ processor. Now, AMD overclockers finally have something to look forward to in the mobile version of AMD's 2500+, which was released sometime around the turn of February. Operating at 1.45V instead of 1.65V and with other electrical layout changes, the mobile 2500+ has quickly become a favorite among AMD overclockers. A key feature of the mobile 2500+ is the fact that it comes factory unlocked, meaning its multiplier is adjustable from (in this case) 11X up to 22 and as low as 5X. This is vitally important to overclockers because this allows them to squeeze out more performance from their chip without having to resort to fantastic FSB speeds. Being multiplier unlocked is an important feature of the mobile 2500+, not only because it gives overclockers more performance, but because the regular (desktop) version of AMD's 2500+ processor is now coming factory locked, and that means that your motherboard has to sustain much higher FSB speeds than an unlocked CPU like the mobile 2500+.

We purchased a mobile Athlon XP 2500+ processor recently from a local vendor and tested it ourselves to see what we could ring out of it. We set the mobile 2500+ to 1.65V instead of leaving it at the default 1.45V, primarily because most Athlon XP processors' Vcore default at 1.65V anyway. On just 1.65V, we were able to get a 2.38GHz core clock speed. This was stable during Prime95 and SPECviewperf 7.1.1 runs (8 hours), both of which, by the way, are good programs to test the stability of your system. This is simply a great overclock, especially on 1.65V. Remember, the mobile 2500+'s stock speed is 1.87GHz (not 1.83GHz like the desktop version), meaning that we were able to achieve a 510MHz total overclock. Moving on, we decided to head straight to the highest Vcore at which we would run a chip like this; 1.80V. At 1.80V, we were able to get a stable 2.52GHz overclock. In other words, with an additional 0.15V, we pumped out another 150MHz of speed. Knowing that most overclockers are frequent upgraders who usually don't use a CPU more than 9 months (sometimes much less), 1.80V will be OK with the proper cooling and maintenance. We suggest a lower Vcore (like 1.75V or 1.775V) if your working environment happens to be significantly hotter than room temperature, as your CPU may overheat under load in a poorly ventilated room. Granted, as you'll see at the end of this review, we chose powerful enough cooling that basically prevents this from ever happening.

Anyway, when you overvolt your CPU, you normally should be wary of how much you overvolt. For example, running your Athlon XP CPU at 2.0V or higher is simply not a good idea by any stretch of the imagination if you plan on keeping your CPU more than a month or two. It will die at that high of a voltage; we've seen it happen before and have had countless reliable reports of such failings. However, with the right mix of overvolting (1.75V-1.80V), your CPU should last as long as you're going to keep it, which is usually 9 months or less (by the time the better overclocking chips come around, in other words). However, we should note that not all mobile 2500+ processors will be guaranteed to reach the overclock that we experienced. 2.52GHz is simply not going to be possible for everyone. However, look at the bright side - you could get a chip that overclocks higher than 2.52GHz, and that would be a steal.

In case you're wondering, our mobile 2500+ is an IQYFA 0343 stepping processor. If you receive a different-week mobile 2500+ don't panic, we've seen reports of overclocks similar to ours with non-IQYFA chips.



Seeing that we're recommending the ABIT NF7-S Rev. 2 today, you would be correct to infer that we used this motherboard to achieve the 2.52GHz overclock with our mobile 2500+ processor. The NF7-S includes features like SATA RAID, SPDIF, and sound via the nForce2's APU, using the MCP-T South Bridge. Overall, the NF7-S provides a very nice package for just $98. The addition of four mounting holes for more powerful HSFs is an absolute necessity for AMD overclockers and is greatly appreciated. Combined with the mobile 2500+ processor, this motherboard will make a great foundation for your overclocking rig. Make sure you check out ABIT's user forums for more detailed information regarding daily BIOS and driver updates available to your NF7-S Rev. 2, in addition to any other information that you may need to tweak and overclock your system better. Online forums can be a very useful tool to maintaining your overclocked system over time and is highly recommended if you're a serious overclocker. Then again, there probably aren't very many overclocking enthusiasts who haven't visited an online forum, so forgive us if we're being a little too elementary.

Anyway, another nice little thing that the NF7-S Rev.2 does is allow full access to CPU multipliers 5X-22X. While full access is sometimes completely unnecessary, it's nice to have, and basically shows that ABIT has made a motherboard, in part, to serve the overclocker's needs. Thankfully, ABIT allows Vcore tuning up to 1.90V (and higher, but that's unnecessary) on the NF7-S Rev.2, in addition to plenty of VDIMM and FSB adjustments. This is all necessary on an overclocker's motherboard like the NF7-S Rev.2, so we see it as no surprise.

Listed below is part of our RealTime pricing engine, which lists the lowest prices available on the AMD CPUs and motherboards from many different reputable vendors:




If you cannot find the lowest prices on the products that we've recommended on this page, it's because we don't list some of them in our RealTime pricing engine. Until we do, we suggest that you do an independent search online at the various vendors' web sites. Just pick and choose where you want to buy your products by looking for a vendor located under the "Vendor" heading.

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  • greendonuts3 - Friday, March 26, 2004 - link

    Thanks for this guide. I used it to build a nf-7 and 2600xp-m system and am pleased as punch with it. I'm at 400 fsb and 100f cpu temp.

    I have some feedback about the stinkin'
    Thermalright SP-97 Copper Heatsink with Heatpipe :

    Incredible cooling, but designed by sadistic sons of female dogs, including:
    --tiny, windborne, nearly invisible clear plastic washers (you only get 1 extra).
    --screw holes that are nearly inaccessible through the maze of heat pipes unless you have 3 hands (or use needlenose pliers to load screw)
    --instructions that read "use needlenose pliers to tighten heatsink nuts to back bracket" which caused me to gouge my mobo cutting 3 traces. This was on the nf7-v2 which has no room for a socket wrench between the zif lever and the heatsink nut.

    Nevertheless, thanks for the good work and keep the guides coming.

    Reply
  • magratton - Thursday, March 25, 2004 - link

    BTW: I noticed that there is an extra little tab that is sticking out on the SLK-947U. It is sticking out about a millimeter or so. Pulled out my handy-dandy dremel tool and ground it down so that it is flat with the rest of the aluminum mounting plate and voila! no longer touching the capacitors.
    Reply
  • magratton - Monday, March 22, 2004 - link

    The thing that I am most worried about is heat. After a pass at installing Windows XP (not completed) my CPU is at nearly 40 degrees C. I have the SLK-947U with AS5 paste in between. Any thoughts? Aside from removing CPU/heatsink from mobo and checking that it seated properly... just paranoid too much in and out of cpu/heatsink, I am gonna zap something. Reply
  • magratton - Monday, March 22, 2004 - link

    #29 - I noticed that mine was essentially "pushing" the capacitors as well. I was able to secure it though. VERY tight fit.
    Reply
  • Furse001 - Friday, March 19, 2004 - link

    Nice article. I decided to try out the system. Problem is the thermalright heatsink will not fit on the abit nf7-s Rev.2 motherboard… Went to the manufacturer’s website and it states the same thing. Anyone want to but a spanking new SLK-947U heatsink? Anyou have any suggestions to an alternative that will fit? Thanks. Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - link

    I have my Muskin PC3500. It doesn't run at the default specs... 216 Mhz at it's rated 2-3-3 timings is unstable. Prime 95 crashes within within 4 minutes. If I let it run at 200 Mhz, adjusting the multiplier to keep the speed of the CPU the same, or slightly higher, it runs indefinately with no errors. Reply
  • matt426malm - Sunday, March 14, 2004 - link

    Reply
  • noxipoo - Sunday, March 14, 2004 - link

    I don't see the NF7-S mobo for sale anywhere for $82, they are all 100+ Reply
  • Zebo - Saturday, March 13, 2004 - link

    all that's left is to decide on the video card. "to spend or not to spend? that is the question." no time to hurry. ;)
    ------------
    Come join the community..theres a video forum with plenty of advice.:) Good luck with your mobile.


    Reply
  • DAPUNISHER - Saturday, March 13, 2004 - link

    Kristopher,


    How about adding the SoundStorm comment to the article? Lumping it in with the audio on the P4C800-E just ain't right! You should have mentioned how good SS is when hooked via SPDIF and doing the HTPC thing. Certainly we all know that but many who read that guide may not. They could use that $70 to get the 9800pro if they understand that SS will be a very nice solution for integrated. At least it'll give them a choice to weigh instead of the heavy handed feel of "you're missing out if you don't get the Audigy2"

    Other than that I say it's a great guide that will give neophytes the info they need to build and overclock a budget system that will kick some butt.
    Reply

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