Articles: Mainboards

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Testbed Configuration

We carried out our tests on a testbed that included the following components:

  • Asus Maximus V Formula rev. 1.02 mainboard (LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express, BIOS version 0804);
  • 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 graphics card (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;
  • Enermax NAXN ENM850EWT PSU;
  • 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 12.4 graphics card driver.

Operational and Overclocking Specifics

Just like most of the time lately, the assembly of our test system on Asus Maximus V Formula went smoothly. However, during our discussion of the mainboard features and functionality we have many times expressed concerns about certain minor issues and inconveniences. For example, when you power up the system, you see the start-up logo, but there is still no mention of the active “hot” keys anywhere.

The list of hot keys won’t be displayed even if you disable the start-up image, although I have to admit that the board correctly displays not only the current memory frequency, but also the processor clock speed, too. Unlike “ROG” series mainboards, regular Asus boards are unable to do so for some reason: they always report only the nominal processor frequency.

The OS booted successfully, but it immediately turned out that the default settings do not provide nominal operational mode for the processor. Under any load the board will always increase the processor clock frequency multiplier to the maximum value allowed by Intel Turbo Boost, which is only intended for single-threaded load. Very recently we have already touched upon this matter in our Asus P8Z77-V LX mainboard review. We described in detail that we had already come across the same issue during Asus Maximus IV Extreme test session and that it was then that we discovered a new F6 functional key on Asus LGA 2011 mainboards, which was tied to Asus Ratio Boost automatic overclocking technology. We also explained that this function later on transformed into “Asus MultiCore Enhancement” parameter with the same functionality. We also mentioned that we didn’t know whether this issue was later eliminated on Asus Maximus IV Extreme mainboard, but today we are pretty certain that nothing has changed, because as we can see, the new Asus Maximus V Formula acts in exactly the same manner.

We are confident that with the default settings absolutely any mainboard should be able to guarantee nominal operational conditions for all system components: processor, graphics card and memory. However, we would agree to slight processor overclocking on an enthusiast mainboard, if there were an easy way to roll back to the defaults if necessary. You can make Asus Maximus V Formula work in nominal mode, but it is not as easy to accomplish as on ASRock Z77 OC Formula, for example, where all you need to do is to disable the “MultiCore Acceleration” technology. On the Asus board you should set “Ai Overclock Tuner” to “Manual”, which will give you access to a number of additional parameters. Here you should disable “Ratio Synchronizing Control” and only after that the processor will start working in its true nominal mode.

Well, we seem to have figured out the nominal mode. Now let’s check out the board’s overclocking potential. We decided to start with its automatic overclocking features. Regular Asus mainboards have an “OC Tuner” parameter in their BIOS. The “ROG” series products have a similar parameter called “Gamer’s OC profile”. Once this profile has been selected, the board offers to increase the CPU clock to 4.5 GHz under maximum load, in case of three-core utilization the clock frequency multiplier should increase to x46, for two cores – to x47, and single-threaded operational load should push the CPU clock speed to 4.8 GHz. However, the core voltage of the fully utilized CPU varied around 1.376-1.384 V, which is way too high for Ivy Bridge processors. A few seconds into stability tests protective technologies kicked in. They caused throttling, which lowered the CPU clock frequency multiplier to save the processors from overheating and possible permanent damage. That was a miss, however, we still had “CPU Level Up” parameter in reserve, which also allows automatically overclocking the processor to several preset levels.

When we set “CPU Level Up” to “Auto”, the board selected to overclock our processor to 4.6 GHz. The Vcore didn’t rise as greatly as before, but it was still way too high – around 1.330-1338 V. the result was identical: same throttling and performance drop instead of an anticipated boost. It looks like both automatic overclocking algorithms are unfit for Ivy Bridge processors, because such high core voltage could only be usable with some Sandy Bridge CPUs and only with advanced cooling in place. It is somewhat funny, but also a little disappointing that the entry-level Asus P8Z77-V LX mainboard automatically overclocks processors much better than the overclocker Asus Maximus V Formula. I believe it would be fair to say that this “ROG” mainboard is completely unable to automatically overclock Ivy Bridge processors. At the same time, the regular mainboard didn’t shoot for records and increased our CPU frequency only to 4224 MHz, but it did it quick and easy and even kept all power-saving technologies intact.

All automatic overclocking systems are not perfect enough to come close to the results of manual overclocking, when the most optimal parameters are carefully selected. Unfortunately, the board didn’t demonstrate any outstanding results here, too, and failed to overclock our test CPU to its maximum frequency of 4.6 GHz. We had to stop at 4.5 GHz CPU frequency. The memory frequency was also increased accordingly.

Now I would only like to remind you that we always overclock mainboards in such a way that they could be used for a prolonged period of time in this mode. We do not try to make our life easier by disabling any of the mainboard features, such as onboard controllers, for example. We also try to keep the CPU's power-saving technologies up and running normally to the best of our ability. And this time all power-saving technologies remained up and running even during overclocking lowering the CPU voltage and frequency multiplier in idle mode.


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