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ASUS Mainboards and Power Consumption

Well, ASUS Maximus Extreme mainboard looks almost ideal – it is fast, very convenient to work with, offers excellent features. However, it is time we through in something that may spot a number of other ASUS mainboards as well.

When our Platform lab received the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 processor, we decided to check it out on ASUS P5K3 Deluxe. Unlike other mainboards on Intel P35 Express, it didn’t have any problems with CPU overclocking. This time everything was also going on just fine. All the power-saving technologies were enabled, when I suddenly noticed that in idle mode the processor clock frequency multiplier dropped to x6, while the voltage remained unchanged…

We decided to get to the roots of this strange phenomenon. Our investigation revealed that in nominal mode and after slight overclocking everything works fine, but the voltage stops decreasing as soon as we change the BIOS setting to anything other than Auto or when the “smart” mainboard increases it on its own for further CPU overclocking.

Too bad, I really liked ASUS P5K3 Deluxe mainboard, however, this frustrating feature made me pretty upset. And what about other ASUS mainboards on Intel P35 Express? We checked out ASUS Blitz Formula, which proved to act in exactly the same way. But when did it all start? Our tests showed that ASUS Commando on Intel P965 Express also does the same thing. We managed to track this problem back to ASUS mainboards on Intel 975X chipset. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any older ones at hand.

I wonder why I never noticed it before? CPUs very rarely idle in testbeds, however, I haven’t noticed anything like that even on my home system for a while. I believe I just didn’t pay enough attention to the actual voltage settings. I assumed that since all power-saving technologies were enabled, they should have been working properly.

It is ironic, however, that I overclocked a CPU on my home platform, but lowered the voltage a little bit because the mainboard would actually report it higher. As a result, the processor would receive 1.33-1.34V in any work mode. If I returned the processor Vcore setting to Auto, then it would be at extremely high value of 1.38-1.39V when the CPU was running full speed, however in idle mode it would drop down to 1.23-1.24V. In fact I was very surprised why my processor was running at over 45ºC in idle mode, but I though I just got a little “warmer” unit. However, the reality was very simple: while I believed that my processor was in economy mode, it was in fact wasting the power. And it is not only about economy, actually. Temperature dropped and so did the rotation speed of the processor fan, making the system much quieter. However, now I have to put up with higher power consumption and more noise for the sake of more comfortable work mode under low workload.

In fact, I could put up with this fact, if giving up power-saving technologies were determined by peculiarities of Intel processors or mainboard chipsets. However, all mainboards from other manufacturers do not have this problem. So, why do I have to face this complicated choice with ASUS mainboards, while I am entitled to get flawless performance at maximum frequency when needed and lower power consumption and noise in idle mode?

Right from the start when Conroe processors appeared, Intel had been struggling to make them as economical as possible. If you remember, first processor revisions consumed about 20W in idle mode, then they reduced this number to 12W, and then to the impressive 8W. However, those overclockers who own ASUS mainboards, cannot take advantage of this. ASUS EPU (Energy processing Unit) Technology that should monitor and adjust processor power consumption under different workloads doesn’t really contribute much to the power-saving (for details see our article called ASUS P5E Mainboard Review). Besides, the fact that they gave up Intel’s EIST leads to a lot of wasted watts of power, and the higher the processor Vcore is, the bigger the waste.

Different problems and mistakes tend to accumulate with the time. Contemporary ASUS mainboards starting with the ones on Intel P965 Express chipset lost their ability to adjust the rotation speed of three-pin fans, although a lot of other mainboards can still do it. Why? Now this power consumption issue. Why again?

I have believed until recently that there is no alternative to overclocker mainboards from ASUS out there. Now I am no longer that categorical. Namely there are a few companies who can successfully compete against ASUS. Take abit for instance with their extremely successful IP35 Pro. Of course, abit and ASUS cannot be compared to one another in terms of size, however, Gigabyte, for instance can compete with them in terms of products capacities and sales volumes, and as for overclocking-friendly features, we have to give due credit to Gigabyte for making a lot of progress in this direction over the past years. Foxconn is another strong player, with big potential. Theoretically, any manufacturer can design a successful product. The only problem is that it is really hard to release one successful mainboard after another. And ASUS have to put themselves together, because competitors are wide awake.

 
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