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Overclocking the XScale PXA270 CPU

 Posted - 2/9/2009 9:34:26 AM  - Show Profile  Edit Message

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I'm seriously considering overclocking the PXA270 (formally Intel now Marvell) XScale Processor in my A696 - I know for a fact that other PDAs contain these same processors but clocked up to 600+ Mhz. There seems like no actual limit outside of the hardware (heat/power).

Out of the box the A696 comes with power saving enabled - and this can help battery life, but I have a spare battery and some emergency chargers if I need them - so I think I may give this a try . The most annoying thing though is changing batteries on the fly, something I could do easily by plugging in my rx1950 and then doing the switch and unplugging it - but the A696 has a battery cover switch that detects if you open up the compartment and switches it off.

But that's besides the point - overclocking here: I have the XCPU Scalar and I'm going to give it a shot


 Posted - 2/9/2009 10:09:45 AM  - Show Profile  Edit Message

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Here's what happened in my test using XCPUScalar 2007 v3.03. Instant crash/hang on first test, after rebooting the PDA it would instantly white out the screen when starting the program. Even with the ASUS built in control program turned to Normal (from Auto) it will still crash/freeze.

So, not a good result. The software is supposed to be Windows Mobile 5 compatible with this type of processor - so either it is something different about WinMo6 - or it's to do with the ASUS built-in drivers/software.


 Posted - 2/9/2009 11:07:32 AM  - Show Profile  Edit Message

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Success! Even though the FAQ states to set the PDA to anything but Auto to prevent lockups, Normal would lock up as well - but Maximum disables all power saving options and the app works.

I currently have the PDA set to 624 MHz. It stayed working on that mode for about 1 second before locking up.

However, 520 MHz is completely stable so far from my testing. I'll have to do some more tests and try this out with higher intensity tasks (such as watching a HQ Youtube video for example).

Testing autoscaling the system idles at 208 mhz. The default clock of the CPU is 412mhz if no scaling is in use and the system is at maximum performance. I set XCPUScaling Auto Scale mode to:
1-15% 208 MHz
26-40% 312 MHz
41-70% 412 MHz
71-100% 520 MHz


CorePlayer Benchmarks Performed on local copy of Youtube Video "Time For Some Campaigning"

Test Details : Average Speed Result
With XCPUScaling On and set to Auto Scale: 237% (2 runs)
With XCPUScaling On @ 520MHz: 346% (Avg 3 runs)
With XCPUScaling On @ 416MHz: 293% (Avg 3 runs)
With XCPUScaling Off (ASUS Power Auto Mode): 276%
With XCPUScaling Off (ASUS Power Saving Mode): 159%
With XCPUScaling Off (ASUS Power Normal Mode): 232%
With XCPUScaling Off (ASUS Power Maximum Mode): 307% (3 runs)

So it seems XCPUScale AutoScaling mode doesn't recognize CorePlayer benchmarking as a process requiring maximum performance - however, when set to 520 Mhz manually you get a fair performance boost.

520 MHz is exactly a 20% higher clockspeed over 416 MHz, so seeing that 13-15% increase over stocks is nice (15% with the app running at stock, 13% over the PDA at stock without the app running).

Based on the tests though, I would only turn on XCPUScalar when I want that performance boost and I don't care about power usuage - performance does take a bit of a hit when using this software over the default ASUS application.

So it's too bad that 624 MHz is not stable - but being able to set to 520 MHz definitely can't hurt. I can see this really helping sometimes when the GPS gets sluggish or has to calculate/re-calculate a long route. It could also help using the GPS anyway when having to make a detour on the fly - sometimes in that case seconds can count if you don't want to miss your exit. And in that case I'll have my 12V car adapters to use along with my emergency chargers in a pinch. I might also do a battery test as well to see how things are affected (especially if anyone asks for it).


 Posted - 2/9/2009 12:18:38 PM  - Show Profile  Edit Message

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I also tested with Pocket Hack Master and got the same results as XCPUScalar when it came to the crash at 624 MHz. Pocket Hack Master though let me test 553MHz as well and that was stable.

Here are is the same benchmark as above with this new MHz rating:

With PHM On @ 553 MHz: 373% (2 Runs)
With PHM Off @ 553 MHz: 375.5% (3 Runs)
With PHM On @ 520 MHz: 353% (2 runs)
With PHM Off @ 520 MHz: 354.4% (2 Runs)
With PHM On @ 416 MHz: 301%
With PHM Off and ASUS Maximum Performance Mode: 304% (2 Runs)
With XCPUScaling On @ 520MHz: 346% (2 runs)

MHz difference between 553 and 416 MHz is ~25%
The performance difference from a stock system based on these tests is about 20%
The performance different from 520Mhz on XCPUScalar to 553 Mhz on PHM is ~ 8%

Therefore it seems you can get an even bigger increase with Pocket Hack Master than with XCPUScalar and it also seems that the software is more efficient at not taking extra resources in the background (which is why I redid those some of those last tests from before). Of note as well is that unlike XCPUScalar the changes in PocketHack Master stick even after exiting the application. After exiting though, ASUS could still take over without a problem so it is fairly safe.

XCPUScalar does have the advantage of a nice quick display on my Today screen, but PocketHack Master can do more overclocking and do so more efficiently - so I think I'll stick with that for now.

So it does seem to be worth it when you need the power - 20% is pretty significant and the PDA running that much faster can be a very noticable improvement - and it only took a few clicks. It was about 21*C when I did these tests, and maybe in summer when it's warmer there may be some more issues, but even if I had to stick with 520Mhz the performance increase is still there. Of course the real world results might not be quite as good, but the test program I used was CorePlayer, playing a vid I do actually play on the PDA from time to time - so I certainly think it is a valid indicator of potential performance. Definitely worth giving a try - I just hope the battery life doesn't decrease quite as much as the performance increased .

Both peices of software have trial period so you can give it a try as well. If you can post your results as well that would be great.


Edited by - PJPeter on 2/9/2009 11:26:12 AM

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