Articles: Mainboards

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Operational and Overclocking Specifics

We had no problems assembling our testbed configuration around the ASRock Z77 Extreme11. When launched, the mainboard shows a startup picture with hotkey prompts.

You can access the mainboard’s BIOS by pressing F2 or Del. The F6 key will launch the integrated Instant Flash utility to update firmware. F11 will show you a menu to choose the boot device. Pressing the Tab key will remove the startup picture so that you could see basic system information such as CPU clock rate and memory amount and descriptions of hotkeys.

Many modern mainboards start up so fast that you just don’t have enough time to press a button and enter the BIOS. That’s why some manufacturers have begun to provide a special button to automatically reboot to the BIOS. The ASRock Z77 Extreme11 offers the handy Restart to UEFI utility that serves the same purpose – we discussed it in our review of the ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6. You can also use the Setup Prompt Timeout option in the BIOS to specify a delay before the mainboard proceeds to boot the OS.

The first sample of the ASRock Z77 Extreme11 came to us with BIOS version 1.10 but dies during an attempt to reflash a newer BIOS version into it. As usual, we used the simple and handy Internet Flash tool which found the newer BIOS version 1.20, downloaded it and began the update procedure. The mainboard enabled failsafe mode and successfully passed the first step of the process. Then it restarted and seemed to have passed the second step successfully, probably having updated Intel Management Engine (Intel ME). After that, the mainboard couldn’t start up. It would turn on but refused to initialize.

We quickly got another sample of the mainboard but it refused to start up at all, showing the same exact symptoms. The second sample wasn’t new. It had gone through somebody else’s hands, so we can’t tell what had happened before its failure. However, the fact that two samples of the same mainboard just did not work posed a certain concern. We sent our non-operational ASRock Extreme11 sample back to Taiwan and, hopefully, ASRock engineers were able to find out what was causing this problem. The third sample we tested had BIOS version 1.20 already installed and we updated it to version 1.30 successfully, using the Internet Flash tool.

So we had no problems with the mainboard’s operation as part of the testbed, but there are a couple of nuances we want to tell you about. In the nominal mode the CPU is slightly overclocked because its frequency multiplier is increased to the maximum value (as permitted by the Intel Turbo Boost technology) under any load. As a result, our Intel Core i5-3570K worked at a clock rate of 3.8 rather than 3.6 GHz at full load, although 3.8 GHz is supposed to be used for single-threaded loads only. It is easy to make the CPU work at its nominal speed. All you have to do is disable the MultiCore Acceleration option in the BIOS. The other thing was noted during our power consumption measurements which showed that the idle system consumed 77 watts when overclocked with volt-modding but needed 81 watts at its nominal settings. It means that the default settings do not make full use of the mainboard’s power-saving technologies. You can easily correct this by changing the value of each power-saving option from Auto to Enabled in the mainboard BIOS.

The mainboard BIOS offers automatic overclocking features. You can also use predefined profiles with increased CPU or integrated GPU clock rate. However, it is only through manual overclocking that you can achieve the best results. Every ASRock mainboard based on the Intel Z77 chipset could make our CPU stable at a clock rate of 4.6 GHz, which is the maximum for our CPU. Mainboards from other brands couldn’t achieve the same whereas ASRock products, from the simplest ASRock Z77 Extreme3 to the sophisticated ASRock Z77 Extreme11, coped with that without hesitation. We also increased the memory frequency to 1866 MHz and adjusted memory timings a little.

By the way, as we were looking for optimal parameters, we sometimes chose inappropriate values and could for the first time see the blue screen of death of Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS. It is still blue and incomprehensible but has become somewhat more humane thanks to the sad smiley.

We would like to remind you that we always overclock mainboards in such a way that they could be used permanently in this mode. We don’t disable any features or controllers. We keep Intel power-saving technologies up and running so they lower the CPU frequency multiplier and voltage, disable unused CPU modules and switch the CPU into power-saving modes under low operational loads.


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