MSI turns quad-core chips into hexacores

The grapevine has been buzzing with rumours about AMD’s forthcoming Zosma-based Phenom II X4 CPUs, and how they might really be hexacore chips in disguise. However, the gossip has now been confirmed by MSI, who says that its new 890FXA-GD70 motherboard can specifically unlock the chips’ extra two cores.

The feature comes courtesy of MSI’s imaginatively named Unlock CPU Core technology, which the company says will "reveal two extra cores on the latest Zosma-based quad core CPUs, turning the quad core CPUs in[to] hexacore CPUs.”

As well as this, you can also use the technology to unlock some Phenom II X2 chips and effectively gain a quad-core CPU. Of course, MSI isn’t the only company to offer such a feature. Asus’ M4A89GTD Pro, for example, has a similar feature that the company says can turn Phenom II X3 chips into quad-core CPUs. However, this is the first time we’ve seen a motherboard manufacturer specifically targeting the new Phenom II X4 CPUs.

Rumours about AMD’s next-generation Phenom II X4 chips first started appearing last month, with some sources saying that the forthcoming Phenom II X4 960T was in fact a six-core chip with two cores disabled.

AMD has previously tried to stop tweakers from unlocking latent cores by disabling ACC in its new 8-series chipsets, but it looks as though both MSI and Asus have already found a way around this. To prove that it’s possible, MSI has even put up an instruction guide, showing you how to enable the extra cores in your BIOS, complete with before and after CPU-Z screenshots.

In addition to the core-unlocking feature, MSI’s new 890FX-based motherboard will feature five PCI-E graphics slots, one PCI slot, a single 1x PCI-E slot, four DIMM slots and a pair of 1Gb/sec Ethernet connectors. You’ll also find six USB 2 ports on the back, along with a pair of USB 3 ports. As well as USB 3, the motherboard also supports the latest 6Gb/sec SATA standard for those with high-speed SSDs.

MSI is particularly chuffed with the cooling system, and the board’s stability, which it reckons will appeal to overclockers. The company has used Hi-c capacitors around the CPU socket, and there’s also a hefty heatsink covering the VRMs, which is linked to the chipset via a flat heatpipe system.

So, if you can get hold of a cheap Phenom II X4 960T, then you may well be able to unlock its extra cores and get a hexacore chip for free. As with any unlocking features, though, this is a bit of a gamble. While some chips may be perfectly working six-core chips, there are also going to be plenty of units that didn’t quite make the X6 grade, and had the two faulty cores disabled for a reason.