Articles: Mainboards

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Have you noticed that it is becoming more and more difficult to overclock CPUs? And the CPUs are not the ones to blame for it: the manufacturing process is improving, new models are coming out, new core steppings are released. The overclocking potential of the CPUs is doing just fine, but our overclocking attempts are hindered by… mainboards!

Long time ago overclocking was really hard to do. In order to change the clock frequency multiplier, adjust bus or memory frequency, set the correct voltage, you had to reset a lot of jumpers. Moreover, the increment was very big and the supported value range – very small. For example, you could only set FSB to 60, 66, 83 or 100MHz, and later the maximum was shifted to 133MHz. The mainboards that features more convenient DIP-switches were considered good. And any even smallest mistake would require you to get back inside the system case to clear CMOS and reset a few additional jumpers.

The revolution in the overclocking world was performed by Abit Company, when they introduced their Soft Menu – the tool that allowed adjusting all the major parameters right from the BIOS. They couldn’t give up the jumpers completely, even today you can still see them on the boards, but the most important thing had been done. As time went on more and more manufacturers followed into Abit’s footsteps, so today BIOS Setup is a complicated software complex with huge potential and rich features, which are getting even more and more numerous with the time. Adjustable frequency with 1MHz increment, adjustable voltage with 0.0125V increment, BIOS reflashing options directly from the BIOS Setup, saving of user preset profiles for different usage models – now these are very common everyday features, but a few years ago they were so fantastic, that no one even thought about implementing them.

Good times have come. The curtain of mystery has been raised, all obstacles have been eliminated. The today’s overclocker is not a restless young man with a soldering iron in his hand, who is humping over the system case performing some weird manipulations. Today every one of you may become an overclocker: increase the bus frequency, reduce the memory frequency, raise the voltage if necessary and then check the system stability – that’s all. There are three stages: frequency adjustment, voltage increase and stability test. And your computer has been overclocked!

The situation has been like that until recently, but things started changing for the worst lately. We were applauding to every new feature that appeared in the BIOS Setup, but most quantitative improvements are gradually turning into qualitative changes. Namely, it is becoming more and more difficult to find your way among all those settings. Can anyone explain the meaning of over a dozen timing settings and the connection between them right on the spot?

The best example here would be the DFI LANParty UT ICFX3200-T2R/G mainboard we have recently reviewed on our site. The richness of the available BIOS features impresses you at first glance, but then it starts scaring you a little. How can one find his way here? Now you cannot overclock your computer in three easy stages, because each stage is split into a bunch of sub-stages, but the most frustrating thing is that changing one single parameter will immediately require you to adjust all the other ones. This is a dead-end. Overclocking is no longer simple and efficient with pleasing result to follow. It has turned into an exhausting search for ideal parameters combination. So, what is different from the time-consuming jumper resetting of the days past? The form is, but not the essence.

At the same time, no one will deny that sometimes process of achieving certain result is more important than the result itself. It is so much fun to share all the hardships you had to overcome on the way to successful overclocking, and to enjoy the respect and admiration in your friends’ eyes, as you were the only one who managed to achieve this. But this is a totally different experience, it is a hobby already. There are special clubs where enthusiasts restore old automobiles, or build their own models, but the majority of people need the car as a means of transportation. And what will you say if you get a perfectly fine car that can run, but in order to make it go fast, you will have to spend a few days in the body shop first? Would you like a car, where the changing angle of the driver seat requires you to reinstall the front wipers and reset the radio? If you replace the CPU or the system memory, you will have to reset all the individual parameters, i.e. you will have to move your car to the body shop each time you get a new passenger in. I don’t feel very excited about it.

Luckily, DFI manufactures not that many mainboards and ATI RD600 chipsets will not become widely spread for some objective reasons. However, it doesn’t mean that a different manufacturer will not decide to try launch something like that tomorrow, or if we do not discover any additional “surprises” from Nvidia chipset.

However, today we are going to talk about a completely different mainboard on a different chipset. Asus Commando is remarkable not only for its own unique name instead of the lettered-numeric marking. The mainboard is based on Intel 965 chipset for LGA775 processors and belongs to the new Republic of Gamers series. This mere fact implies that the board is very feature-rich and was manufactured using the latest and greatest technologies. Let’s take a closer look at this product to find out what really hides under this attractive name.

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