Articles: Mainboards

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Testbed Configuration

We performed all our tests on a testbed built with the following components:

  • Mainboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme9(LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express, BIOS version 1.40);
  • Intel Core i5-3570K CPU (3.6-3.8 GHz, 4 cores, Ivy Bridge rev.E1, 22nm, 77 W, 1.05 V, LGA 1155);
  • 2 x 4 GB DDR3 SDRAM Corsair Vengeance CMZ16GX3M4X1866C9R (1866 MHz, 9-10-9-27 timings, 1.5 V voltage);
  • Gigabyte GV-T797OC-3GD )AMD Radeon HD 7970, Tahiti, 28 nm, 1000/5500 MHz, 384-bit GDDR5 3072 MB);
  • Crucial m4 SSD (CT256M4SSD2, 256 GB, SATA 6 Gbps);
  • Scythe Mugen 3 Revision B (SCMG-3100) CPU cooler;
  • ARCTIC MX-2 thermal interface;
  • CoolerMaster RealPower M850 PSU (RS-850-ESBA);
  • Open testbed built using Antec Skeleton system case.

We used Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64 bit (Microsoft Windows, Version 6.1, Build 7601: Service Pack 1) operating system, Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility version, AMD Catalyst graphics card driver version 12.4.

Operational and Overclocking Specifics

We didn’t have any problems during the system assembly on ASRock Z77 Extreme9. When the system is on we see a startup logo with the mention of all active hot keys.

You may turn off the start-up image. In this case we will see the correct processor clock frequency, which most mainboards from other manufacturers cannot do. However, as for the memory, the board will only display its size, but not the frequency. I would also like to stress that ASRock mainboards start and reboot very quickly.

Unfortunately, we experienced an issue in the nominal mode: the rotation speed of the processor fan didn’t adjust. Rotation speed management suddenly kicked in during overclocking, but we suddenly uncovered another issue: the board always set the maximum “Level 1” Vdroop no matter what the BIOS settings were. As a result, we simply couldn’t overclock our CPU. Either the voltage was too low, so that the board couldn’t even load the operating system, or the BSODs would appear immediately after the start-up and even before the tests started. Or the voltage was too high and the CPU immediately overheated at the very first seconds of the stability tests.

Before we started the test session we used the convenient “Internet Flash” function integrated into the BIOS. This function worked impeccably and updated our BIOS with the latest version 1.50. It turned out that all the problems were with this particular BIOS version. Once we rolled back to version 1.40, we didn’t have any issues in the nominal or overclocked mode. Therefore, we performed all the tests with the BIOS version 1.40 and talked about it in the “BIOS Functionality” chapter of this review. We have to give ASRock due credit for taking rapid action and removing the BIOS version 1.50 from their web-site. I am sure that once it becomes available again, it will already be problem-free, so you shouldn’t be worried. Once again we have to remind you of the golden rule: do not reflash the BIOS if everything works fine with the current version.

Once we returned to version P1.40, we easily overclocked our test processor to its maximum frequency of 4.6 GHz increasing the memory frequency to 1867 MHz at the same time.

Now I just have to remind you that we always overclock mainboards in such a way that they could be used permanently in this mode. Therefore we do not try to make our life easier by disabling any of the mainboard’s features, e.g. onboard controllers, and try to keep the CPU’s power-saving features up and running. This time we did exactly the same thing. All Intel power-saving technologies remained up and running and automatically lowered the processor Vcore as well as clock frequency multiplier in idle mode.


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