"Overdrive" capability was first introduced in 2003 in ATI's Catalyst drivers for some Radeon 9000-series graphics cards, but it may soon make it over to AMD's processors, according to a report by Chinese site Expreview.
On graphics cards, Overdrive allows users to automatically overclock based on their cards' thermal performance. On processors, Expreview says the software will behave more like Nvidia's nTune application, enabling manual control over overclocking settings right from the Windows desktop. There will be a twist, though: a screenshot posted by the site suggests the new Overdrive will enable discrete overclocking for each of a Phenom X4 processor's four cores. In the screenshot, a chip is running with multipliers of 11X, 12X, 12.5X, and 11.5X for its four cores, achieving respective speeds of 2.93GHz, 3.2GHz, 3.33GHz, and 3.07GHz.
This functionality isn't as far-fetched as you might think. Phenom and Barcelona processors are capable of throttling their cores independently in order to save power, so per-core overclocking by adjusting multipliers—and not the base HyperTransport speed—should theoretically be possible. Assuming multipliers are unlocked upward, at least.
If AMD does deliver the capability, per-core overclocking could allow users to run three of their cores at a given speed even if the fourth didn't have what it takes—a possibility not present on Intel's current offerings. Judging by the screenshot, the purported CPU Overdrive app will also enable users to run benchmarks, test their systems for stability, and tweak memory settings.