Overclockers can celebrate Raspberry Pi turbo mode

Sep 20, 2012 by Nancy Owano report
Photograph taken of a Raspberry Pi computer

(Phys.org)—Up to now, overclockers hungry for more processing power had to trade off on the possibility of a shorter life of the SoC and a voided warranty. Eben Upton, a founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, had remarked earlier this year, that "This is a mobile phone chip. The voltage this chip runs at, you can't just give it a significant voltage overhead without harming the overall chip lifetime.' The Raspberry Pi designers have good news for power enthusiasts this week, however. The team has developed a turbo mode that boosts performance by about 50 percent while keeping warranties intact. The turbo mode is a key feature of its latest firmware update. Its blog headline is "Introducing turbo mode: up to 50% more performance for free."

The team notes that since the device's launch, the supported overclocking and overvolting the Raspberry Pi by editing config.txt. They acknowledged how overvolting was going to provide those who did it with more headroom, but voided the warranty. "We were concerned it would decrease the lifetime of the SoC; we set a sticky bit inside BCM2835 to allow us to spot boards which have been overvolted."

Not that they were going to leave it at that—support yet no warranty. The whole point of the little, low-priced, device is to explore. The team said they did a lot of work to understand the impact of voltage and temperature on lifetime. The result is the "turbo mode."

A new technique can dynamically enable overclocking and overvolting under the control of a cpufreq driver with no effect on the user's warranty.

"We are happy that the combination of only applying turbo when busy, and limiting turbo when the BCM2835′s reaches 85°C, means there will be no measurable reduction in the lifetime of your Raspberry Pi."

Users are told that the level of stable overclock that can be achieved will depend, though, on the specific Pi and on the quality of the user's . Raspberry Pi recommends Quake 3 as a stress test to check if a particular level is completely stable.

The new upgrade brings a number of attractions to light for computer enthusiasts. These include a choice of one of five overclock presets in raspi-config, the highest of which runs the ARM at 1GHz, and better analogue audio quality. The team says there is "Wi-Fi support out of the box"—well, if your WiFi driver is supported by the default linux tree, or is based on the popular RTL8188CUS chipset, then WiFi should work out of the box.

Instructions say, Boot the image with the WiFi dongle plugged in. Run startx and select "WiFi Config". You can scan for wireless networks and enter your wireless password and connect from the GUI. There is no need to install additional packages or scripts, they add.

Another attraction is a pre-installed Penguins Puzzle, with the instructions to "guide the penguin to the exit without falling in the water," and a pre-installed SmartSim. SmartSim is a cross platform digital logic circuit design and simulation package for Windows and Linux. Ashley Newson, a sixth-form student, first developed a home-grown circuit design and simulation package and subsequently polished it off and released it for public consumption under the GPLv3.

Explore further: Intel, SGI test 3M fluids for cooling effects

More information: www.raspberrypi.org/archives/2008

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User comments : 7

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baudrunner
3 / 5 (1) Sep 20, 2012
What about some benchmark tests? How does it rate compared to the current PC's/Macs?
Bowler_4007
5 / 5 (1) Sep 20, 2012
looks like the Raspberry Pi Super Computer is about to get a boost
n0ns3ns0r
4.5 / 5 (2) Sep 20, 2012
but can it run crysis?
Neurons_At_Work
5 / 5 (1) Sep 21, 2012
What about some benchmark tests? How does it rate compared to the current PC's/Macs?

It doesn't compare to either; it compares to an ARM based mobile phone. It runs Linux only, and cannot run Windows or Mac software due to various limitations--most notably 256mb of non-expandable RAM. Even given that, however, the Raspberry Pi has expanded far beyond its initial role as a programming/teaching tool for schools, etc. There are hundreds of projects now incorporating this computer, including robotics, use as a full-blown media center because of its high-end graphics capabilities--it has even been carried aloft under a balloon to 40km snapping pics and relaying its position via GPS. for $35 USD, the thing opens up a vast array of projects to those who might be short on cash but not imagination.
VendicarD
5 / 5 (2) Sep 21, 2012
ARM's claim to fame is extremely power efficient processing, not particularly fast processing.

It is hard to find benchmarks that can be compared, but the Pi at it's native clock speed appears to be around 1/4 of the speed of a low end single core Atom.

This is one of the reasons why phones that use these atom chips are mostly single tasking or limited multi-tasking. There isn't the oomph needed to run multiple apps at good speed at the same time.

"How does it rate compared to the current PC's/Macs?" - badrunner

The speed doesn't make it "bad" however. It has more than enough computational horsepower for most applications.
Neurons_At_Work
not rated yet Sep 21, 2012
but can it run crysis?

Ummmm....no.
Eikka
not rated yet Sep 21, 2012
The only reason why they're worried about the chip lifetime is because they neglected to add even a rudimentary heatsink to the chip in order to save on cost. That includes heat vias through the circuit board.

It already overheats as it is.

ARM's claim to fame is extremely power efficient processing, not particularly fast processing.


And it accomplishes this by being extremely modular. The ARM CPU is a purely virtual product which is composed of hardware description language code, which a subcontractor then manufactures for you. You can add or remove parts and functions depending on need, so that if you don't need fast floating point calculation for example, you can leave the FPUs out and save on the transistors that would add up to the power requirements. Or you can have minimal cache on-chip and only run very light programs etc. etc.

The Atoms on the other hand are full x86 implementations where you can't just chop off your other arm if you can make do with one.

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