Freezing the nVidia ION: Record Intel Atom 330 overclock ahead!

A few weeks back, we at the Bright Side of Overclocking* team came up with an idea to go and overclock one of the rarely overclocked items, the nVidia ION platform and Intel’s Atom CPU in its dual-core form, e.g. Diamondville.

We managed a nice 600 MHz boost up from the stock operating speed [1.6 GHz]. At the time, the Zotac’s ION-ITX-A board had no modifications done to it, and was cooled using only a 120mm fan.

Given that the best overclockable motherboard for Intel’s Atom processor is based on the nVidia ION chipset and manufactured by Zotac, we didn’t give a second thought before getting in touch with Zotac, who delivered a BIOS revision allowing us to bump up the processor voltage by an additional 0.2V. Since we had already done air cooling, we thought heck, why not try mounting a single stage phase-change unit on it. So that?s what we did!

Zotac's ION motherboard getting some phase-change loving
Zotac’s ION motherboard getting some phase-change loving… with CPU running at -42.C [-44.7F]

Once we got into the new engineering BIOS of the Zotac ION-ITX-A motherboard, we fine-tuned the BIOS settings and went for another overclocking run. We took a prod at it and with the Atom 330 cruising around a healthy -42 degrees Celsius, we once again managed to push the limits of dual-core Intel Atom overclocking.

HWbot stats - BSO* takes the top results for dual-core Atom CPU
HWbot stats – BSO* takes the top results for dual-core Atom CPU

The end result for maximum validated speed is pretty neat, with the processor reaching 2311 MHz (FSB 192 x 12 multiplier), putting it awfully close to the absolute world record for an Intel Atom CPU. The current record calls for a clock speed of 2,315 MHz. In order to create the CPU validation at such a clock, Team Australia used the liquid nitrogen cooling to freeze the single core Intel Atom N270. Our CPU-Z run is the highest validated speed of a dual-core Intel Atom, and the second fastest validated speed of the Atom platform as a whole.

All in all, we’re delighted with the stability shown by Zotac’s ION motherboard, enabling sufficient power to overclock a more thermally-challenging dual-core processor. We wonder whether motherboard makers are toying around with the idea of creating overclocking motherboards for Atom CPUs… only time will tell. 

No Intel Atom processors were hurt during this BSO* experiment 😉