The Slot A Athlon might be dead in the eyes of AMD, however there are many people out there who have these brilliant processors, either because they can't afford a new Thunderbird or they are like me and find the performance they deliver is good enough for them.
Overclocking your Slot A Athlon has now become so much easier than when the processor first came out. Stories of people having to solder on resistors have vanished since the arrival of Gold Finger devices. These little gems mean that you don't have to get out the trusty soldering iron, just a screwdriver to pry open the black plastic casing of the processor.
One of the first devices to hit the UK market was Ninja Micro's Freespeed Pro. While the Freespeed is still the GFD (Gold Finger Device) of choice for many, the design of these devices have moved on a great deal. The latest designs do not require external power supplies, and are much more user friendly. They do not give any performance increase, but just make your overclocking experience less painful.
The one we got in our test rig at the moment is the Paradox, which is another variation using DIP switches. Once we got it in we were pleasantly surprised by the small size. The paradox sits alongside the back of the Athlon taking up little vertical space. It has two sets of DIP switches, similar to the ones used by the Tweeking Device and the FreeSpeed Pro. There are 8 switches in all, the first 4 control the core voltage and the second set of 4 control the frequency.
If you haven't read any of our previous GFD reviews, then to put it simply, you will need to open the plastic casing of your Slot A Athlon. This will require a little caution, and if done in a sensible manner there isn't too much of a risk involved. Thankfully you do not need to remove the heat transfer backplate, which is the trickier, and somewhat more dangerous one.
Once the cover has been moved, you will see a set of 'gold fingers' to which the Paradox (or any other GFD will fit onto).
The instruction sheet which issupplied, was well written with good, clear and concise instructions which we found easy to follow. The tables are set out clearly so there is no confusion, with a easy to understand graphic should which set of DIP switches do what.
On the whole we thought the installation process went cleanly and the instructions provided were one of the best we had seen so far.
As usual we used our Athlon 550 (revision 2, stepping 1) and our trusty Globalwin VOS32 cooler, the same setup we used for the previous experiments.
The Paradox didn't do anything too special compared to the other GFDs we tried out. We managed to hit 700 MHz when at 1.7v and wasn't able to go any higher.
As we have said in previous reviews, we do not recommend you changing your GFD if you currently have one which works. Unless you have money to burn, you will not find an increase in speed if you buy one or the other.
The Paradox revision 3 is an advance from the previous versions of this device, and is much improved in both design and functionality. This version does not require a power connector which saves on hassle and leaves one of your 4 pin connectors free for other use. The Paradox also does not take up as much space as before, and this is a very nice design feature. The actual height of the Paradox is very small. The PCB is only as long as the Gold Finger connector and the 2 DIP switches. In terms of width, it couldn't be made any smaller.
When comparing the Paradox to our other gold finger devices we have reviewed, it fairs well. The main problem we found with the Freespeed Pro was that it simply too many DIP switches to adjust. It became quite a pain in the rear end when overclocking. The main physical problem with the Freespeed was that the power connector is very hard to reach. However saying all this, the Freespeed Pro was the first GFD on the market here in the UK, and many swear by it, and make no mistakes, there is no actual performance drop, just usability.
On the other hand, the Afterburner does not use DIP switches, but an innovative dial method, which really excels and makes life very easy for the overclocker. However this device is not a small one, and runs alongside the backplate of your Athlon. If the Afterburner was available in the UK then I have no doubts that it would be one of the best sellers.
We were stunned by the easy of use and overall features of the Afterburner until we met the Tweeking Device, which was the first device which didn't require a power supply. We were blown away by the small size. The Tweeking device was the first GFD to let us use the VOS32 ducting, since it was so small. The only down side to the Tweeking Device was that it used DIP switches. So far the best method of adjusting the GFD was the dial switches which is found on the Afterburner.
So how does the Paradox compare to these? From using the Paradox we can say that there isn't any performance increase from using one GFD or another, therefore we made our decision by the usability of this device. It is much easier to use than the Freespeed, and since it has the same amount of DIP switches as the Tweeking device, we thought they were both same in terms of usability. The Tweeking device is a much better design however, being smaller and allowing us to use our VOS32 ducting.
We still believe that the Afterburner holds the 'easiest to use' award. However the Paradox comes up close to the Tweeking device (our overall GFD of choice). The Tweeking device has the edge on the Paradox, however the availability of the Tweeking Device in the UK means that the Paradox offers an easier to reach solution. If you can get hold of the Tweeking Device (available from HighSpeedPC) we would recommend it over the Paradox, but the hassle of importing might not be to all tastes.