Overclocking the Atom Processor

Zotac provides a couple of performance tweaking options within its BIOS. You can set memory latencies manually as well as adjust the FSB and memory clocks. The biggest failure here is the inability to adjust the Atom’s core voltage, which is ultimately what limits how far we can push the processor.

The Atom 330 runs at 1.6GHz by default with a 12.0x multiplier and a 533MHz quad-pumped FSB frequency (133MHz source clock x 4). Bumping the FSB up to 667MHz gave me a 2.0GHz clock frequency and I was actually able to boot into Windows at that speed. Unfortunately, even with additional cooling, that wasn’t stable enough to complete my benchmarks. I suspect that with additional voltage I’d be able to get 2.0GHz stable.

I backed down to a 640MHz FSB, resulting in a 1.92GHz CPU frequency and the result was completely stable over the course of several hours of benchmarking. Performance also went up by a good amount:

  x264 HD Encode (1st Pass) World of Warcraft Frame Rate Power Consumption
Atom 330 @ 1.92GHz 14.5 fps 20.5 fps 28.5W
Atom 330 @ 1.60GHz 12.2 fps 17.7 fps 28.2W


I generally saw a 15 - 19% increase in performance over the stock 1.60GHz Atom 330, which is quite good given that it’s a 20% increase in CPU frequency. I kept memory clock stationary at 800MHz but I’m guessing there’s additional room for a performance boost if you overclock that as well.

Power consumption only went up 0.3W from 28.2W to 28.5W - even overclocked, the Atom is a very efficient microprocessor.

Watching Flash Video on the Ion Cooling the Zotac Ion
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  • UltraWide - Thursday, May 21, 2009 - link

    are there full screen playback limitations???

    this is not good news...
  • Pandamonium - Thursday, May 21, 2009 - link

    I'm curious about this myself. I wonder if the scaling is a limitation of the GPU? I just can't see how it would be CPU-bound if usage is below 80%.

    I think all the HTPC users want to know is if this thing is viable for Blu-ray (confirmed), remote power on/off (fingers crossed for Zotac's response), and full screen (1080p and 720p) playback of 720p and 480p flash video (negative at stock speeds). I don't have a Netflix subscription myself, but I imagine people are also interested in knowing what quality stream it can play smoothly.

    I think the holy grail for many HTPC enthusiasts is a quiet/low power machine capable of S3 shutdown/resume via USB, yet powerful enough to handle physical media and streamed media at HD resolutions.

    Could you do a quick followup on the capabilities of the overclocked board? This is very close to what the HTPC crowd has been waiting for.
  • roamer - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - link


    could anymobody please test the performance of the onboard NIC?
    In another review it was mentioned that the troughput was only 19,5 MB/s. This would be really poor for GbE NIC.
  • flipmode - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - link

    Anand, your response to feedback is very commendable. You're a class act. Thanks. flipmode.
  • UltraWide - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - link

    It answered all my lingering questions.

    Now, I am just waiting for this to be in stock anywhere. I have purchased all the other required parts...

    Zotac, hurry up!!!!
  • Basilisk - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - link

    ... but not directly plugged into the board, that's pretty odd. It's counter-intuitive to me -- shouldn't your KVM be identical to a comparably long USB extension cable? I'm puzzled you didn't write more on the point. I'm curious what other hook-up variations might enable wake-up: extension cables, wall-powered USB hubs, different mice/keyboards. Or... is your KVM, itself, re-shaping the USB signal in some way in some way beyond adding resistance to the wires?!
  • 457R4LDR34DKN07 - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - link

    I am really kind of interested in seeing the point of view ion board. Then at least you have the option of upgrading the the not so sucky but still integrated video.
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, May 19, 2009 - link

    Zotac's earlier nVidia 7100 boards could not do S3 standby properly; it required a new board revision to fix it.

    Perhaps this board isn't making enough 5VSB for the peripherals.

    Hey Anand, care to stick a Super Talent ssd in the mini pci-e slot to test it?


  • AmdInside - Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - link

    For what it's worth, I have an HP Slimline PC with nForce 430/Geforce 6150 and also a custom built PC with Asus Geforce 8200 motherboard and both have no problems waking up from USB whether it is wireless keyboard or MCE remote control. I use them both as HTPCs so they go to sleep quite often and are woken up by USB often.
  • lemonadesoda - Tuesday, May 19, 2009 - link

    Did you remember to select, in control panel, mouse, properties, hardware, properties, power management, "allow this device to bring computer out of standby"?

    It is silly this is not set to "true" by default.

    The KVM driver probably HAS this set to true by default.

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