One more subsection of the mainboard’s BIOS Setup I’d like to dwell upon is Hardware Monitor, which somehow found its place in the Power section. An unpleasant thing about it is that the system hangs up for a while (during data refresh) and takes no notice of you punching the keyboard. But then it suddenly wakes back to life to recall all your keystrokes and execute them right away. An annoying thing. And as we are talking about monitoring, the ASUS PC Probe utility coming with the mainboard cannot correctly read up the values from the temperature sensors. At least, the data it provides differ from what we see in the BIOS. This problem is solved by installing the newer version of the utility, but it not honest of ASUS to provide utilities that don’t work correctly from the beginning.
So, this winds up the description of the BIOS Setup. We are now going over to practical tests.
Overclocking tests of this mainboards were carried out according to the methods we used in our Six VIA KT400A Mainboards Roundup. First, we check whether ASUS A7V600 can feed an Athlon XP working at 2250MHz (166x13.5). I realize that this frequency is just a little above the nominal for Athlon XP 3200+ (2200MHz), but together with higher Vcore (1.85V), this provides a stress on the CPU power circuit. And that’s exactly what we want to see – the quality and stability of the power circuit. The stability is checked by running 3DMark2001 SE three times, by launching four demos from Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo one by one and by going through all the tests from SPECviewperf 7.1. I guess this is more than enough to call a system stable.
Again, this mainboard allows setting Vcore depending on the CPU’s nominal voltage. That’s why I pushed aside an Athlon XP 1700+ I usually use for the maximum voltage test (its voltage could only be increased to 1.7V) and used an Athlon XP 3200+ instead. But these are minor details as long as the mainboard passed the test.
During the second test I checked the mainboard’s ability to increase the memory frequency in the synchronous mode (memory works at the same frequency with the FSB). The CPU multiplier is reduced, while the memory timings are increased to 3-4-4-8. Two OCZ PC3700 EL DDR modules of 256MB capacity each were used with an increased voltage (2.85V), so the memory will surely not stop overclocking.
Moreover, I dropped the AGP speed to 4x for the graphics card not to limit overclocking, either. The point of this is that our RADEON 9700 PRO card is operational at an up to 70MHz AGP in the 8x mode, and 75MHz in the 4x mode. With the AGP divisor set to 3, we have 15MHz more of the system bus frequency and even more – of the CPU clock-rate, while the difference in system performance with AGP 8x and 4x is negligible in modern applications. With the mainboard set up in this manner, we are increasing the FSB frequency to the stability peak. The stability was checked just like in the previous test.
The result of this test was rather depressing. The system was only stable until 207MHz FSB. Keeping in mind that 200MHz is the nominal for KT600-based mainboards, this can only be regarded as an overclocking failure. I suppose the poor results may caused by the absence of additional 12V power, which is usually used on all mainboards targeted for overclocking fans. We hope this is not in the nature of the VIA KT600 based mainboards, otherwise, its name may become a curse word in the overclockers’ mouths.