CPU and Motherboard Alternatives

CPU: Intel Pentium 4 2.8C 800MHz FSB Northwood (512K L2 cache)
Motherboard: ASUS P4C800-E Deluxe (875P chipset)
Price: CPU - $180 shipped (OEM). Motherboard - $175 shipped

Like the AMD overclocking scene, the Intel overclocking scene was at a standstill for several months after the 2.4C was released. Now, most consider the 2.8C as the new Intel overclockers' CPU of choice. The 2.8C, like the 2.4C, runs at 800MHz FSB, but the primary difference is the 2.8C's multiplier - 14X instead of 12X with the 2.4C. Unlike a lot of AMD processors, all Intel processors come factory locked. It's an unfortunate, but true, reality for overclockers. Nonetheless, Intel overclocking is most definitely a viable solution for overclockers these days, especially due to the superb additional performance you get versus an overclocked Athlon XP system.

As usual, we have some testing to share as well. First off, we decided to try out our luck with the 2.8C's default Vcore of 1.525V. At this voltage, we were able to achieve a stable overclock of 3.39GHz. Clearly though, more than 1.525V was needed, so we cranked up the voltage to what is probably the highest Vcore with which you want to experiment using a Pentium 4 processor, 1.65V (1.70V might be OK). At 1.65V, our 2.8C reached 3.59GHz, or an additional 200MHz bump in clock speed as a result of raising Vcore 0.125V from its stock 1.525V setting. At nearly 3.6GHz, we were able to sustain stable operation for 8 hours using Prime95 and SPECviewperf 7.1.1 programs. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to replicate exactly how stable your system is going to be over months of usage when we were only able to verify stability at 3.59GHz for a few hours. But what our results do tell you is that a stable 3.3GHz to 3.4GHz is definitely easily possible under 1.65V. Of course, we're assuming you get a chip at least as good as ours, and there's no guarantee of that. We bought our 2.8C, just like we did our 2500+, from a local vendor, so our processors were not handpicked from Intel or AMD themselves. Therefore, our results are representative of a CPU that is widely available to the public through online venders. As we've reiterated countless times, overclocking is never guaranteed, so don't be disappointed if you can only get, for example, 3.0GHz from your 2.8C. Remember, Intel and AMD processors do not have the same scalability limit, as each processor is binned according to the demand of that grade processor.

When all is said and done, the P4C800-E Deluxe has proven itself to be the premier Pentium 4 motherboard for overclockers. We have been routinely able to reach into the 270MHz-280MHz FSB range on good, old retail Intel cooling with a good 2.4C processor. However, with a 2.8C processor, the FSB that you're able to reach isn't really too important, while the core clock speed is. However, if you're using a 2.4C processor, the P4C800-E's ability to sustain a 1:1 FSB:memory ratio is significant. Running your memory and FSB in sync at that high a speed will yield tremendous performance. But in the end, the performance hit you take by using high speed memory to match your high speed (overclocked) FSB may not be worth the extra money due to inflated memory timings (read: latencies).

However you cut it, though, the ASUS P4C800-E Deluxe offers everything the overclocker could want; plenty of room for FSB overclocking, 2.85V max VDIMM, 1.95V max Vcore, and features like CSA Gigabit LAN, SATA and IDE RAID, IEEE 1394 FireWire, etc. This motherboard is absolutely packed with just about every feature a high end user and overclocker could need. The P4C800-E Deluxe is also capable of handling 2.8E processors, based on the 0.09-micron Prescott core. However, as we've mentioned in previous Buyer's Guides, we highly advise against purchasing any "E" revision Pentium 4 processors for now, even though they are 100% compatible with the ASUS P4C800-E Deluxe. The slightly higher prices on "E" Pentium 4 processors, the more or less slower performance, and their high power consumption are all drawbacks of using a Prescott processor for overclocking.

Listed below is part of our RealTime pricing engine, which lists the lowest prices available on the Intel 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.

CPU and Motherboard Recommendations Memory and Video
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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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • matt426malm - Sunday, March 14, 2004 - link

  • noxipoo - Sunday, March 14, 2004 - link

    I don't see the NF7-S mobo for sale anywhere for $82, they are all 100+
  • 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.

  • DAPUNISHER - Saturday, March 13, 2004 - link


    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.

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