This is probably the most popular gold finger device available, with the manufacturer claiming to have sold over 10,000 of these units. A gold finger device in simple terms is a card that lets you overclock your Athlon without the need for soldering on the CPU's circuit board. We have also reviewed the Afterburner, which can be found here. Both the Afterburner and this, the Freespeed work in much the same ways. They alter the Core Voltage and the clock speed (ie. the frequency).
If you are wondering why they are called 'gold finger devices' it is quite a simple explanation. When you open the plastic casing of your Athlon on one of the top corners there is a set of gold pins or fingers, and as the Freespeed Pro and other such devices slot into these pins (or fingers) they are called gold finger devices.
Ninja Micros are a UK based company and therefore it was much easier to contact and get a review sample of this product than the Afterburner (all credit to Outside Loop who managed to get the Afterburner to us in such short time, but the fact of the matter is that they are a US based company and people generally like their hardware the next day). As far as I can recall this was the first gold finger device on the market here in the UK, when it first appeared at OcUK.
As with all gold finger devices, installation mainly consists of taking off the Athlon casing, which can be daunting rather than demanding for some people (lets face it, no one wants to destroy a perfectly working CPU), but generally if done with a sensible amount of caution, it should be pretty straightforward. One of the best guides to take off your Athlon's plastic casing can be found here.
The Freespeed slots onto the 'gold fingers' and rises quite high, however this didn't cause any problems in our Globalwin case. One of the major problems is the situation of the power connector. It is situated on the back side of the Freespeed which means it is facing the back of your case. This caused quite a few problems because no power connector would reach, and even with the aid of a power duplicator it was a very tight fit.
The Freespeed Pro uses DIP switches, and has 16 of them. The only disadvantage of using DIP switches, we found was the fact that you had to take the Freespeed off the CPU and then adjust it. This meant that a lot of time is used configuring the DIP switches and you could quite easily set one or two wrong.
Even though the Freespeed sat high on the Athlon, it was quite sturdy and wouldn't fall off during operation.
Once the computer is switched on and the red led is on, this indicates the card is operational. This is a nice usability feature and we felt that the indication that the card was operational made it easier to point out if something went wrong.
The instruction sheet which is included in the package gave us ample information about installation and the table was about as clear as you can get when you have 16 or so columns.
We were expecting to achieve the same results as we had got with the Afterburner, in that our 550 would go all the way up to 700. This happened and the same core voltage had to be used.
The Freespeed Pro is a well made device, no parts will fall off in your hand, and to the most part the documentation supplied is concise and well written. However there are some flaws in the design of this little card and these brought down the overall view we had on this card. The fact that the user has to set 16 DIP switches makes the task of configuring the Freespeed very tedious and time consuming. The power connector is situated at a very awkward position which gave us a lot of trouble, and only after many different tweaks to bring our power connector duplicator nearer we managed to give power to the Freespeed.
When we look at the other gold finger device we have reviewed, Outside Loop's Afterburner, we can see two totally different products. While both products are manufactured to high standards their design is totally different. The Afterburner uses dials instead of DIP switches, which we felt was much easier to adjust and did not require the removal and insertion of the card. The power connector was also easily reachable. While there is no difference in performance, we would recommend the Afterburner above the Freespeed simply because of it's design, rather than performance. Saying that the Freespeed is easier to get hold of in the UK and this is a major advantage, however if you can pay the trans-Atlantic shipping charges then we would say go for the Afterburner.