AMD Motherboards with CPU Core Unlocking: Why is this important?

April 11th, 2010 in .Desktop & All-in-one PCs .Products
Nick Holland
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In the last couple of years AMD has released several dual and triple core Phenom II and Athlon II CPUs. These CPUs have cores “hidden” from public eyes and there is actually full quad core silicon underneath the aluminium heat-spreader. AMD did this because the hidden cores are sometimes defective, but usually it’s because it needs to fill the demand for popular dual and triple core parts. You see, making a single piece of silicon for everything saves AMD design time.

In conjunction with certain motherboards, those hidden cores could be unlocked to yield CPUs offering more than you paid for! Dual or triple core CPUs can become full quad cores! That’s some awesome bargain buying, which many tens of thousands of people to date have taken advantage of! It’s like overclocking except instead of more CPU frequency; you get more actual CPU to play with!

However, AMD has recently removed this feature from its latest 8-series chipsets – citing that users did not understand that not everyone gets a free upgrade: defective cores cause people headaches from an unstable or completely unbootable PC. Obviously that’s not great for AMD’s reputation, but because the proportion of actually unlockable cores versus defective ones is pretty good, customers felt entitled to the freebie, rather than looking at it as a bonus.

Despite AMD removing the feature though, Asus has reinstalled it. On its recent 890GX motherboard, the M4A89GTD Pro, there is still the core unlocking option in the BIOS. This is the first motherboard to do so, with competitive manufacturers still developing their own solutions.

Core unlocking is important to AMD because it adds value to the platform. Where Intel is currently predominant in its CPU repertoire, AMD is still competitive in the crucial sub-100 dollar/euro category but still needs as many cards in its favour as it can, and core unlocking is just one of them.

The upcoming 890FX and 880G motherboards from Asus will also contain the core unlocking feature, and current 785G, 790FX and 770X boards do also, so if you are looking at a budget upgrade do some investigation into which CPUs are potentially unlockable and buy accordingly. Who knows, you might get lucky!

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