Articles: Mainboards

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Operational and Overclocking Specifics

While you hold a mainboard in your hands everything looks perfect. But often things start to change once it is installed into a testbed. And unfortunately, Asus Maximus III Formula mainboard is not a lucky exception. We have experienced all sorts of incidents. For example, there was one time when our USB keyboard got disabled in the BIOS when the board was working in nominal mode. The board didn’t hang, we could see the voltages changing, but it wouldn’t respond to any keystrokes. During overclocking experiments the board usually displayed POST status correctly. We didn’t have to use Clear CMOS jumper or button even once, the board would always restart in safe mode on its own and then stop and offer us to load the default settings or correct the existing ones. However, after the next restart all BIOS settings got reset. Of course, this particular configuration hasn’t been yet saved, so I had to reconfigure everything manually again.

We also didn’t avoid a well-known problem of many Asus mainboards connected with the adjustment of the CPU cooling fan rotation speed. If you enable it, the board will lower the fan rotation speed right away and will immediately get scared of its own actions.

To make sure that the board doesn’t stop and display this warning on every boot-up, you should disable processor fan rotation speed monitoring in the BIOS. I am sure they could have made this routine procedure automatic years ago.

However, these are just isolated incidents that can be easily overcome. And one of the biggest issues with Asus Maximus III Formula mainboard was the fact that every time after a “cold” start it recognized a new processor.

It is yet another typical issue of Asus boards, which we have heard about multiple times, but encountered in our own lab for the first time. The issue is not with overclocking, because we got this message even in nominal mode, and not with the battery, because all BIOS settings remain in place. All you need to do is access the BIOS, press F10 key and you can continue working, but it is very annoying to have to make all these extra steps every time we start the mainboard after powering the system off completely.

We experienced some issues during overclocking, too. However, I have to remind you that we have already discussed the basics, terminology and approximate overclocking algorithms in our earlier article called “Guide: Lynnfield Overclocking on Asus P7P55D Deluxe Mainboard”. Of course, we mostly focused on Asus mainboard and Intel Core i7-860 processor, but the basic overclocking principles typical of LGA1156 platform are the same on every mainboard and you will easily find the corresponding equivalents among the parameters of your mainboard and CPU.

At first Asus Maximus III Formula mainboard couldn’t work stably at 210 MHz base clock and we had to stop at 205 MHz. this is no big difference and we don’t really need such high frequencies to overclock our Intel Core i7-860 CPU to its maximum. However, we faced another problem here. So far only Asus and Gigabyte mainboards could easily overclock a CPU to 3.95 MHz, while all others stopped at 3.9 GHz. Unfortunately, Asus Maximus III Formula dropped out of this elite group and also stopped after we hit 177 MHz base clock.

Here I have to make one small but very important remark. When we say that some mainboard didn’t reach 210 MHz base clock or couldn’t overclock our processor to 3.95 GHz, it doesn’t at all mean that this mainboard is incapable of doing it. maybe a different mainboard of the same model will do it, maybe even this mainboard can work at the desired frequencies provided that you are patient and persistent enough. We definitely want to succeed, but unfortunately, we don’t have unlimited time to devote to resolving this matter. And that is the primary difference between certain mainboards: some cope with their tasks fairly easily and others cannot accomplish anything within a reasonable time interval.

However, far not every user will spend days trying to find the optimal overclocking settings. That is why Asus Maximus III Formula BIOS offers such options as “CPU Level Up” and “Memory Level Up”, which will allow you to easily increase the CPU and memory clock to one of the preset values. For example, our Intel Core i7-860 processor can be overclocked to 2.94, 3.06 or 3.36 GHz by raising the base clock to 140, 146 or 160 MHz respectively, provided the voltages are increased accordingly.

It is really quick and easy, but the board cannot possibly know what your particular processor or memory modules are capable of. It doesn’t know how efficient the cooling system is. That is why it sets some average frequencies and voltages, but not necessarily the optimal ones, which will provide operational working conditions. If for some reason you don’t dare overclock on your own, I would recommend using OC Tuner Utility – a new tool for automatic overclocking, which we have first seen by Asus P7P55D Deluxe. In this case the board will keep rebooting slightly increasing the base clock each time. As soon as it starts detecting errors, it will roll a little back from the latest setting to avoid them later on.

Of course, this is still a pretty primitive approach to overclocking, but it barely requires any user participation, is performed automatically and adjusts for the current configuration. But be careful, it turns out that only when you select “Good Performance” or “Better Performance” for “OC Tuner Limit Value” parameter on Asus Maximus III Formula board, the board searches for frequencies and tries to adjust overclocking for the capabilities of specific processor and its cooling system. But if you select “Turbo Profile”, the system will overclock in a preset mode, just like in case of “CPU Level Up”. The only difference from “CPU Level Up” is that the base frequency increases even higher, the memory frequency is lowered more and at the same time the processor clock frequency multiplier gets lowered, too. In my opinion, this “Turbo Profile” needs to be made into one of the options for “CPU Level Up” parameter, in order not to mislead the users and not to interfere with those features of “OC Tuner Utility” that are really interesting.

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