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AMD Overdrive: Smart Profiles

AMD Overdrive is a useful utility that allows for CPU, voltage, and memory tweaks to be performed directly from the Windows desktop, without having to enter the BIOS at all. The newest 3.0 beta version introduces a new feature that may help improve performance without increasing power draw: Smart Profiles.

AMD Overdrive: Smart Profile screen.

Smart Profiles allows individual CPU core frequencies as well as affinity to be adjusted when a designated program is launched. As an example, we set up a profile for WinRAR. As a single-threaded program, it makes little sense for all four cores to increase to its nominal speed. So we set WinRAR to use only Core 0 with the maximum CPU multiplier. The other core multipliers we set to minimum, so they will stay at 800 MHz. That's right — independent core frequencies! You can also use this to overclock each core, as long as you have an unlocked processor.

Smart Profile at work.

Once AMD Overdrive detected WinRAR.exe as being active, the first core ramped up to 3.2 GHz, while the other three stayed at 800 MHz. Running our WinRAR benchmark with this Smart Profile active resulted in an average power savings of 2W during the operation. Using a new profile, we set it to overclock the first core to 3.4 GHz — this which wiped out the power difference, but resulted in our benchmark finishing 5 seconds faster.

While this may seem like an easy, free way of getting a bit more performance without using any extra power, it still needs work. Firstly, and most importantly, the moment we loaded AMD Overdrive, Cool'n'Quiet disabled, resulting in higher idle power draw. After we exited the utility, we had to restore the power plan we were using in Vista to its default settings to re-enable Cool'n'Quiet. If saving power is the goal, this absolutely kills it.

The way profiles operate needs serious improvement as well. Once a profiled program was loaded, the clock frequencies changed accordingly but Overdrive didn't distinguish between an idle application, and one that was actually in use. For example, you could set it to overclock all four cores heavily when a video encoding application is running, but even after the encoding is finished, the clock speeds will remain overclocked because the program is still open. Also, it does not handle multiple profiles well. If Program A is launched first, the Smart Profile for that program activates, even if a second profiled program, Program B, is loaded. When Program A is shut down, the settings revert to default, rather than switching to Program B's profile. For it to work properly, you can only use one profiled program at a time.

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