Setting Up The FreeSpeed Pro

   My FreeSpeed Pro arrived from Ninja Micros simply but effectively packaged with a single sheet of instructions for using the device.  Setup is not at all difficult but you'll want to set aside a few hours to really get the best stability and performance out of your Athlon system.  The first thing you must do is remove the plastic casing from your Athlon.  This may be cause for unease for the neophyte but really isn't too difficult if you're careful.  It is basically a matter of prying the casing off with a screwdriver and full and detailed instructions with pictures can be found on the Ninja Micros web site.  If you tend to have problems with hardware it would be a good idea to go there and print out these instructions before tearing your system down. 
   The FreeSpeed Pro requires you to plug the board into a standard PC 12 volt power connector and if you don't have one available you'll need to go out and purchase one.  These are inexpensive and can be found at almost any PC supply shop and even places like Radio Shack and Staples carry them.

Front View

Rear View

   The unit is of simple but effective design using a pair of 8-switch dipswitch blocks to control the clock multiplier (12 switches) and core voltage (4 switches). Once you have removed the modules casing, you simply attach the FreeSpeed Pro to the edge connector at the top of the Athlon.  The switches will be facing you as you look at the front of the processor or the heat plate. 
   In this picture the heat plate has been removed but you get the idea. You can the install the processor's cooling device, then put the CPU back into its slot on the mainboard.
   You can start by configuring the FreeSpeed to match your processors default clock multiplier and core voltage to make sure that the device is working correctly.  After you have set the switches correctly, attach the power connector and then slide the device over the 'golden fingers' and you're ready to boot.

   If the LED on the FreeSpeed Pro lights up and the PC boots properly you'll know that the device is working properly.  You can then adjust the switches to increase the multiplier.  It is safest here to follow the directions found on the instruction sheet and increase the frequency of the Athlon in 50MHz increments, rebooting each time to determine that the system is stable.

   If the system isn't stable you can then increase the core voltage to get the stability you require but you'll want to watch your CPU temperature.  Remember that there are 16 switches to configure so you may want to double-check their configuration each time you reset the device as the settings aren't generally changing a single switch or even two each time you increase the multiplier.  More often than not you'll be changing the configuration of a dozen or so.

Our Results

Our FreeSpeed Pro was set up under the following system configuration:

Test System for Ninja Micros FreeSpeed Pro
Athlon Overclocking Device

Mainboard Gigabyte GA-7IX
Processor AMD Athlon 500MHz
(Prod. ID - AMD K7500MTR51B  C)
(Ser. # 2199390292223)
K7 Core - K7600AFC 0.25
L2 Cache - Samsung -3.6ns
Cooling Generic Athlon heatsink with 
Single Global Win fan @ 6K RPM
Memory 2 x 64MB Generic PC100 CAS3 SDRAM
Hard Drive Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 6800 13.6G 
7200 RPM UltraATA/66
Graphics Card Matrox Millennium G400 32MB AGP
Operating System Windows 98 SE

   Our GA-7IX mainboard tends to run the core voltage a bit hot (typically 0.03v over spec.) and so we left the Vcore setting at 1.6v up to 600MHz.  The system booted just fine and even ran reasonably stable with the frequency set to 650MHz but when we pushed the system using SYSmark 2000, it could never complete a full pass until we bumped the core voltage up to 1.65v (1.68v in BIOS).  At 700MHz, although the system would boot with a core voltage of 1.7v (1.73v in BIOS) it was never truly stable.  Increasing the Vcore to 1.75v had no effect on the system's stability either.  We did get stability out og the system however by using a software L2 cache divider program called WCPUA2 by H. Oda which can be downloaded at http://www.h-oda.com and setting the cache divisor to 2/5.  

The problem with this program is that it requires you to already be in Windows to load.  I would imagine that it will be available from a command line in the config.sys file before too long but for now it is somewhat useless unless the system is already running.  I was quite happy with the 650MHz (30% over spec.) setting however which was unbelievably stable and ran Business Winstone for about 8 hrs, putting the system through 5 iterations between reboots over that time and never saw the CPU temp climb over 41.5 C (105 F) well within the normal operating thermal range.
   I mentioned earlier that I was quite excited to see an 0.18 micron core in a 500MHz part and thought I may be able to really push it even with its -3.6ns L2 cache, but alas, it also was stable at 650MHz but could not even boot the PC at 700MHz no matter how high we pushed the core voltage.  This CPU is a bit of a conundrum and must have been a test unit as the markings on the core itself are strange..
   I recommend a brief visit to the K7 Core web site where you can find that most Athlon 500MHz tend to overclock in the 700 to 750MHz range.  And, while I would have liked to say that I got a 50% increase in the speed of my Athlon 500MHz CPU, I am still quite impressed with both the processor's overclock-ability and the FreeSpeed Pros ease of use and functionality.

Conclusion

   If you like the thought of pushing your Athlon processor to the limit this may be the device you are looking for.  While at $65.00 USD it is a bit steeper than other "golden fingers' overclocking devices,  the price includes shipping to wherever you may be and comes with a lifetime guarantee.  Clear, easy to understand instructions are also a major plus.  I was never confused as how to proceed with this device and the Ninja Micros web site offers lots of great information.  As far as I'm concerned - THIS ONE'S DEFINITELY A KEEPER!

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