Articles: Mainboards

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Overclocking with New BIOS Versions

Well, we have run some performance benchmarks, the article is almost over and as you may see, both mainboards didn’t really do that well. abit AW9D-MAX suffered because of the low processor overclocking result, and Gigabyte GA-965P-S3 lost most of its overclocking potential with 2GB of system memory installed. Besides, we also had to increase the memory timing settings to 5-5-5-15, which added to the list of drawbacks of Gigabyte GA-965P-S3. However in the end of last year both mainboard manufacturers released new BIOS versions for their products, therefore we decided to retest both mainboards before making the final conclusions about them. And our efforts were not vain!

Gigabyte GA-965P-S3 mainboard with BIOS version F7 has rehabilitated almost completely allowing us to speed up Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 processor to 490MHz FSB, i.e. to 3.43GHz. The memory in this case was running at 980MHz with 4-4-4-12 timing settings, which a very good result as well.

We failed to hit 495MHz FSB frequency. After that the system froze when we tried to reset the BIOS settings and wouldn’t start again until the retention of the Tuniq Tower 120 cooler was almost completely loose. The good thing about this cooler is that it offers highly efficient heat dissipation and at the same time provides tight contact with the CPU surface. Maybe Gigabyte GA-965P-S3 mainboard features some hidden defect that opens or closes an additional contact somewhere. So, we had to give up Tuniq Tower 120 cooler and replace it with the Corsair Nautilus 500 liquid-cooling system. As a result, the CPU running at 3.43GHz heated up to 63?C during the Intel Thermal Analysis Tool test (TAT) run at 22-23?C room temperature.

At the time I was writing this article I assumed that the issue with Tuniq Tower 120 cooler was just a peculiarity of our particular board sample that is why I never really mentioned it before. And in our today’s review I had to mention it in order to explain why I replaced the Tuniq cooler with Corsair Nautilus 500. However, it might be much more complicated than a single-board issue. A few days before the review was scheduled to go up on the site, we received an email from one of our readers who had a Gigabyte GA-965P-S3 mainboard with Thermaltake Big Typhoon cooler and was complaining about the potential difference between the processor and the cooler retention bolts. If the plate retention pressing the cooler to the PCB was removed, the board was working just fine, otherwise he could even see sparking! This was a totally different mainboard sample and a different cooler model, but the high pressure issue was absolutely the same. Something seemed to be awfully wrong about Gigabyte GA-965P-S3 mainboards…

I suppose that the issue emerges only if the cooler uses a backplate. The thing is that there are a lot of contacts on the reverse side of the Gigabyte GA-965P-S3 PCB right underneath the LGA775 socket. Other mainboards do not have that many contacts there, or have none at all. As a result, the metal backplate of the Thermaltake Big Typhoon cooler presses through the protective padding and closes some contacts that leads to potentials difference. In case of Tuniq Tower 120 cooler, no contacts are closed from the reverse side, but it is pressed too tightly against the CPU, so the contacts get pushed out thus ruining the connection.

On the left you can see a photo of the reverse side of abit AW9D-MAX mainboard beneath the LGA775 socket – almost no contacts there. On the right – the same spot on Gigabyte GA-965P-S3:

abit AW9D-MAX mainboard also showed better results with the new BIOS version 1.3, although not too greatly. This BIOS version features support for Conroe L and Core 2 Quad revision B3 processors, improved compatibility with some memory modules, option to adjust DRAM tRFC timing. As a result, when we increased the chipset voltage to 1.9V and processor Vcore to 1.4V, the CPU worked stably at 429MHz bus speed.

Since the resulting frequency is not very high, we stayed with Corsair Nautilus 500 liquid-cooling system during our performance test session, although Tuniq Tower 120 could still be used without any problems, too. abit AW9D-MAX has no issue like Gigabyte GA-965P-S3. The overclocked processor didn’t heat more than 54?C even with a pair of Prime95 utilities running. However, we had to give up TAT, as it reported an error right at start when running on abit AW9D-MAX mainboard.

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