New boards promise to enable hidden AMD Phenom II cores

By on April 21, 2010, 9:50 AM
On Tuesday, MSI and Gigabyte were the latest to join Asus in announcing official plans to support hardware based methods of enabling the hidden cores found in AMD's new dual, triple and quad-core Phenom II processors. In scarce detail, motherboard manufacturers have been outlining their own hardware-based, BIOS-configured solutions which will allow users to enable or disable cores as they please. Not surprisingly, each manufacturer will have their own name for this technology such as "Core Unlocker" for Asus and "Core Boost" for Gigabyte.

For as long as multi-core processors have existed, CPU manufacturers have been disabling and under-clocking the physical cores of higher-end units which proved unable to meet their intended design specifications. Sometimes, the failures are subtle enough that by applying more conservative settings, chip makers can re-use this "defective" silicon and save on production costs. These downgraded processors ultimately wind up on shelves as re-labeled products, often times with lower advertised speeds, fewer cores and most importantly, lower prices.

The potential for enthusiasts is ripe. Code named "Zosma", the new quad-core CPU is very closely based upon its upscale, six-core counterpart known as Thuban. By enabling two cores, a user can easily unlock Thuban-like potential, Turbo CORE and all. However, not all processors are created equal and in the true spirit of over-clocking, the mileage enthusiasts get will most certainly vary.

At least initially, not all new Phenom II boards will support this feature. Models said to sport the new options include the M4A89GTD series for Asus, 89FXA-UD7 for Gigabyte and 890GXM-G65 for MSI with the promise of many more to come.

User Comments: 9

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compdata compdata, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Will be interested to see if AMD has any official comment on this.

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Wondering how how AMD will take this. I see them not being very happy about it.

Obakemono said:

I think AMD would be happy, because they would sell a great deal of these CPUs that have thier cores dis-abled (due to what ever reason), and the majority of the people who buy these CPUs are OC'ers and tech savvy users. People who want the latest and greatest and do not desire to either upgrade thier mobo will just buy the CPU that has all of the cores active or they do not care nor might not know that the CPU they bought has two hidden cores. Win-win for everyone.

isamuelson isamuelson said:

Hmm, well my Gigabyte board I have (which was released in 2009) unlocked my 4th core in my Phenom II X3 720 BE without any problems and I'm currently running it overclocked to a 3.51ghz with no issues what-so-ever.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

isamuelson said:

Hmm, well my Gigabyte board I have (which was released in 2009) unlocked my 4th core in my Phenom II X3 720 BE without any problems and I'm currently running it overclocked to a 3.51ghz with no issues what-so-ever.

I think the difference they are trying to promote here is 'ease of unlock' being a hardware based unlock as opposed to a software adjustment via ACC, and maybe getting a slightly higher OC of the 'defective cores'.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I just bought a M4A89GTD and a Phenom II X2 550. I tried unlocking 4 cores, it wouldn't boot Vista. It just sat there in with the green bar scrolling endlessly. Thankfully the BIOS had an option which let you try each of the two locked cores alone, and on the last try I unlocked one of the cores, and have a X3

However, different programs recognize it differently, some call it a X3, some call it a X4, even though the 4th core is not enabled in BIOS.

Badfinger said:

Cores are usually disabled for a reason?

Guest said:


Some cores are disabled because they have "issues".

Sometimes cores could be disabled to make a 4 core a 3 core (to sell w/ nothing wrong).

Guest said:

This is very good, I certainly hope these motherboard have more than two USB 3,0 and eSata connectors?

I would think AMD does not care if they can be unlocked, only a few that take the time to do this and properly check the stability. I would believe only a few run with lock cores opened, but this could help improve that number.

Can the Athlon 11 be made whole with these motherboards? Can the L3 Cache be opened easily on some of the Athlon 11 processors?

I was surprised to discover the 890 motherboard I looked over did not come with numerous USB 3.0 connectors...


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