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Overclocking and Operation Issues

AMD Athlon X2 3800+ processor that we used for our today’s test session works at 2GHz nominal clock speed (200x10). It can overclock up to 2.7GHz (270x10) without raising the nominal Vcore of 1.35V. However if you increase the CPU Vcore to 1.45V this CPU will pass all tests at 2.8GHz (280x10) clock speed. Therefore, we reflashed the latest BIOS version 1.1, because this version offered more headroom for raising the clock generator frequency 9the previous version did not allow setting the clock generator frequency beyond 277MHz, and we need at least 280MHz for successful 100% overclocking results).

ABIT AN8 32X mainboard booted successfully and passed all the tests at 270MHz clock speed. However, when we set the clock generator frequency to the sacred 280MHz, the board refused to even boot. Some vague suspicion pushed me to set the frequency to 279MHz and try again. And to my surprise the board booted successfully and went through all the tests including stability tests with impeccable results.

Let me explain where my premonitions came from. The thing is that I have recently tested an ECS KN2 SLI Extreme mainboard on nForce4 SLI x16 chipset. This is a non-standard very originally designed mainboard. The peculiar thing about it is that the North Bridge of the chipset has been moved to a separate expansion card. So, this mainboard suffered from a pretty frustrating BIOS issue when it would run perfectly well at 279MHz clock generator speed, but refused to show any signs of life when we set the frequency just 1MHz higher – to 280MHz. don’t you think that this identical behavior is somewhat suspicious especially since we are talking about two mainboards from different manufacturers? Here I have to stress right away that the problem is not with the chipset, because the ASUS A8N32-SLI Deluxe based on the same Nvidia nForce4 SLI x16 chipset could work stably and reliably at even higher clock generator frequency of 300MHz (for details see our article called Dressed to Kill: ASUS A8N32-SLI Deluxe Mainboard Review).

It is no secret that Elitegroup manufactures mainboards for ABIT on its production facilities. There is nothing bad about it, outsourcing has become really widely spread during the past few years, a lot of companies do it these days. However, if ABIT mainboards will inherit the issues of the Elitegroup products, it will hardly have a happy ending. ECS KN2 SLI Extreme mainboard deserves our respect, because 279MHz is a pretty good result and a kind of a record for Elitegroup solutions. However, not for ABIT! It is simply ridiculous: the BIOS version 1.0 didn’t allow going beyond 277MHz, but the new “corrected” BIOS version 1.1 moved the bar 2MHz up.

It is a pure BIOS issue, because I managed to make the system work at the notorious 280MHz with the software tools, and it did work stably. To monitor the temperature I installed ABIT’s brand name μGuru utility. It is truly a very interesting tool that offers very convenient interface for easy temperatures, voltages and fan rotation speeds control. Take a look at the screenshot below:

 
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