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How To: Get A 4 GHz Dual-Core For $120

Many processors suitable for overclocking present disadvantages: they’re either too expensive (think of Intel’s Extreme series) or they don’t deliver sufficient performance (Pentium Dual Core family). However, we found an overclocker that provides a great mix of performance and cost: the Core 2 Duo E7200, which is available for less than $120. It delivers mainstream performance at stock speeds, but provides better computing power than the fastest dual cores available.

Overclocking Is Easy

Overclocking this processor is easy, as most motherboards support running such a CPU at faster bus speeds. Operating the Core 2 Duo E7200 at FSB1333 rather than FSB1066 results in core clock speed of 3.16 GHz instead of 2.53 GHz. Switching to FSB1600 results in a 3.8 GHz core clock speed, an increase of about 50 percent. We found this extremely easy to achieve on an MSI P45 Diamond high-end motherboard. We increased the processor voltage in the motherboard BIOS to 1.4 V, switched the chipset to a slightly higher voltage, and achieved a perfectly stable system that outperforms all other Core 2 Duos—even those with 6 MB L2 cache.

E7200 Performance & Power

The overclocked Core 2 Duo E7200 at 3.8 GHz performs way better than the E8500 at stock speed. The only applications in which the overclocking of the E7200 was less effective were some games and WinZip, which is very sensitive regarding L2 cache capacity and memory performance. For all other benchmarks the E7200 at 3.8 GHz provided amazing performance. Using a high-performance Cooler Master 850 W power supply, peak power increased 40 percent and idle power increased roughly 10 percent. Using a model with less output (roughly 400 W to 500 W), however, would decrease power requirements by several watts. It’s wise to purchase an efficient processor cooler, as the stock device isn’t able to keep up with heat dissipation at 3.8 GHz; we used a Zalman CNPS-9700 LED.


Overclocking to 3.8 GHz isn’t the maximum for the Core 2 Duo E7200—we’ve read forum posts from users running this processor at 4 GHz. In some cases, especially if you don’t alter the processor voltage, you may be limited to 3.5 or 3.6 GHz. We believe this processor offers the best overclocking bang for the buck. More E7000 models will likely follow, which means there will be processors that support higher multipliers, so you’ll be able to overclock with a smaller bus speed increase.

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  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 17 November 2008 23:13
    Why didnt you bench the processor at the same speed as the 8500 to make things nice and easy?...
  • 0 Hide
    graphicequaliser , 21 November 2008 02:00
    I have an E8500 overclocked to 3.8GHz using the 400MHz FSB and DDR2-800 Nanya dual channel memory running 1:1. It is the fastest ever and it barely gets warm. It is my home PC. I also have an office PC running an E7200 at stock speeds and that is nice and fast (quiet too). I must say Intel's new 45nm chips are really excellent vfm, fast and ecologically-friendly. Well done Intel! You can find my configs and benchmarks under the picture at
  • 0 Hide
    Solitaire , 25 November 2008 01:33
    You moan about how lame the E5200 is then fail to even bench it to prove your point. You also forgot to say that quite a few people can't afford the extra ~€50 to buy a E7200 over a E5200, or that they'd probably have to spend a similar additional amount on an even better performance mobo to eke out the higher FSB needed to effectively OC a E7200.

    Yes, more FSB is good, but it costs money as the combination of a FSB1066 CPU and a low multiplier means you need a performance mobo that can run stable at FSB1600 to get the E7200 to a speed the high-mult, low-FSB E5200 can achieve at a measly 302MHz FSB (FSB1208 quad-pumped) - something even many cheapie boards can achieve (with FSB1333 compliance being considered the entry level more and more now).

    And I'm surprised that you need 1.40v+ to keep the E7200 stable at 3.8GHz - my E5200 is stable up to 3.75GHz at just 1.30v, and I'm nowhere near finished OCing it. The E5200 is based on low-binned silicon dies and thus is on average more power-hungry (and hot/wasteful), requiring relatively higher voltages to achieve the same speeds as the middle-binned E7XXX (which is in turn inferior to the high-bin E8XXX). Just as a comparison the Intel safety spec says voltages over 1.3625v are not at all good for a 45nm chip's health (although extreme cooling mitigates this somewhat)...
  • 0 Hide
    bobalazs , 25 April 2010 22:29
    The only thing that sucks about this processor is that it does not have virtualization.Otherwise, it's cheap, and easily overclockable.
  • 0 Hide
    bobalazs , 25 April 2010 22:32
    For proper overclock you would have to reduce the 9.5 multiplier to 9 or 8 as most motherboards have trouble with the half multi.