AMD said in a blog post that the eight FX processors had been overclocked at speeds up to 8.429 GHz, beating the prior record of 8.309 GHz, using a third-party team of overclocking enthusiasts.
More importantly to the average consumer user, however, AMD found that the company's FX chips could reach over 5 GHz using normal air cooling or water-cooling rigs that cost less than $100.
"Based on our overclocking tests, the AMD FX CPU is a clock eating monster, temporarily able to withstand extreme conditions to achieve amazing speed," Simon Solotko, a senior manager with AMD, wrote. "Even with more conservative methods, the AMD FX processors, with multiplier unlocked throughout the range, appear to scale with cold. We also achieved clock frequencies well above 5GHz using only air or sub-$100 water cooling solutions."
Guinness is expected to certify the record, an AMD spokesman said Tuesday.
AMD's announcement opens the Intel Developer Forum here in San Francisco, a developer conference hosted by AMD's arch-rival and much larger competitor, Intel.
What is overclocking? Historically, overclocking was a practice begun in the early days of the 486 and Pentium where a microprocessor was pushed past its rated speeds. Microprocessors are generally "binned," where each chip is tested to determine the fastest speed at which it can operate before it starts generating electrical faults and/or incorrect results due to the heat it itself produces. Within a PC, notebook computer or phone, these chips are generally either air-cooled using a series of "fins" that distribute the chip's warmth to the outside air via a fan. A sealed network of tubes, filled with water, can also be connected to a copper-based "heat sink," which thermally conducts heat away from the CPU.
Overclocking a chip can void its warranty, however, meaning that it's generally a risky practice even for enthusiasts. An overclocked chip that fails can essentially be destroyed, as can the motherboard or chipset components.
Extreme overclocking uses liquid helium and nitrogen to cool the chips; liquid nitrogen can push the chip's temperature down to less than negative 180 degrees centigrade. The risk here is a "cold bug," which can also prevent the chip from working. Fortunately for AMD, the team of overclockers found no such bug.
AMD's FX chips represent its enthusiast line of high-end chips, which are "unlocked," allowing users to set its operating voltage and clock speed multiplier in order to overclock the chips.