Articles: Mainboards

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Testbed Configuration

All performance tests were run on the following test platform:

  • Mainboards:
    • Asus P8Z68 Deluxe rev.1.00 (LGA1155, Intel Z68 Express, BIOS version 0706);
    • Asus P8Z68-V Pro rev.1.01 (LGA1155, Intel Z68 Express, BIOS version 0651);
    • Asus P8Z68-V rev.1.01 (LGA1155, Intel Z68 Express, BIOS version 0651);
  • Intel Core i5-2500K CPU (3.3 GHz, Sandy Bridge, LGA1155);
  • 2 x 2048 MB DDR3 SDRAM Patriot Extreme Performance Viper II Sector 5 Series PC3-16000, PVV34G2000LLKB (2000 MHz, 8-8-8-24 timings, 1.65 V voltage);
  • MSI N570GTX-M2D12D5/OC graphics card (Nvidia GeForce GTX 570, GF110, 40 nm, 786/4200 MHz, 320-bit GDDR5 1280 MB);
  • Kingston SSD Now V+ Series (SNVP325-S2, 128 GB);
  • Cooling system: Scythe Mugen 2 Revision B (SCMG-2100) CPU cooler and an additional 80x80 mm fan for cooling of the area around the CPU socket during overclocking experiments;
  • ARCTIC MX-2 thermal interface;
  • CoolerMaster RealPower M850 PSU (RS-850-ESBA);
  • 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, Nvidia GeForce Driver 280.26 graphics card driver.

Operational and Overclocking Specifics

We use this section to talk about any problems we meet when assembling our testbed components with the mainboard to be tested and then proceed to our overclocking experiments but this time around we’ve got a little more information for you. As for installation problems, we only had them with the senior model and we wrote about them in our review of the ASUS P8P67 Deluxe which is designed in the same way. One of the screws the mainboard’s central heatsink is fastened with prevented us from installing the back-plate of our Scythe Mugen cooler. This isn’t much of a problem, though. The central heatsink doesn’t cool anything by itself but only serves to increase the total heat dissipation surface of the mainboard's cooling system, so it doesn't need to be fastened firmly. It can be secured with a single screw just fine. This difficulty resolved, we ran our mainboards in their default mode and had no problems with them. Every mainboard worked flawlessly and we didn’t even have to adjust any settings except for the speed of the fans.

But here is the additional information we want to tell you about the P8Z68 Deluxe. Browsing through the user manual, we took note of the HyperDuo feature of the onboard Marvell 88SE9128 controller. This feature is not listed in the product specifications you can find at the manufacturer's website. ASUS doesn't really tell anything about that technology but we googled to find a lot of info on the Web. It turned out that last year Marvell carried out experiments on combining HDDs and SSDs similar to the Intel Smart Response technology later implemented in the Intel Z68 Express chipset. Marvell's concept was referred to as HyperHDD. This year they released the Marvell 88SE9130 controller which allows combining a slow HDD with a fast SSD to accelerate disk subsystem performance by caching frequently accessed files on the SSD. The final name for this feature is HyperDuo. There are two ways to join the drives together: Safe Mode and Capacity Mode. The former works as Intel Smart Response: frequently accessed files are mirrored from the slow HDD to the fast SSD, which ensures a considerable performance boost when a file is accessed repeatedly. The Capacity mode is somewhat less secure but makes use of the whole storage capacity of both the HDD and the SSD because there is no data mirroring.

What does it matter to us if the technology is announced for the special-purpose Marvell 88SE9130 controller and is expected to work on newer controllers but our ASUS P8Z68 Deluxe is equipped with the old Marvell 88SE9128? Well, it seems that you can enable HyperDuo by simply updating the controller's firmware. After that, our Marvell 88SE9128 (we even took off its heatsink to check out the marking) introduced itself as 88SE9130. Take note of the Device ID parameter in the next picture.

We must confess we were highly surprised. The Marvell 88SE9128 controller is very popular and can be seen on dozens of different mainboards from different brands. With this controller on board, you could use HyperDuo instead of Intel Smart Response which is limited to mainboards based on the Intel Z68 Express chipset. It was easy to combine the two drives with HyperDuo. We entered the controller's BIOS after starting our system up, selected both drives, and chose the desired mode in the list.

We preferred the Safe mode for security reasons. Besides, we wanted to compare the results with those of Intel Smart Response we obtained in our recent tests of the Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD mainboard. The OS booted up successfully and then we had to wait for data to be copied from the HDD to the SSD. However, the next reboot produced a blue screen of death which plagued us until we gave up HyperDuo altogether. The computer would hang up even as we tried to disable that technology in the controller's BIOS. The OS booted up normally from the single HDD but refused to work when we connected the SSD. Finally we left only the SSD connected to the controller and then managed to disable HyperDuo in its BIOS.

Despite the discouraging beginning, we still wanted to make HyperDuo work. Marvell offers a special tool called MRU (Marvell RAID Utility; it can be downloaded from the ASUS site under the name of MSU or Marvell Storage Utility). This tool helps combine the drives in an easier way than the controller's BIOS.

Having identified the HDD and SSD connected to the controller, the utility offered us to combine them into a HyperDuo subsystem. We agreed and waited for data to be copied from the HDD to the SSD. The long wait ended in a blue screen of death again, making us give up further attempts. The technology must be not ready yet for practical applications, but you may want to try to make it work.

As for overclocking, the ASUS P8Z68 Deluxe easily sped our CPU up to 4.7 GHz, which is the maximum clock rate our CPU can work at. The memory frequency was set at 1867 MHz.

Well, that's a top-end model which can be expected to have high overclocking potential, so we were even more pleased to see the P8Z68-V Pro deliver the same results as its senior cousin.

The P8Z68-V Pro and P8Z68-V are very similar and have the same design version but the junior model couldn't clock our memory at a high frequency. We had to drop the latter and make up for that by setting more aggressive memory timings. The P8Z68-V was just as good as the more advanced models in terms of CPU overclocking, though.

We always overclock mainboards in such a way that they could be used permanently in such mode. Therefore we do not disable any features, e.g. onboard controllers, and try to keep the CPU's power-saving features up and running. The ASUS mainboards were overclocked in this manner, too. When idle, they lowered the CPU's voltage and frequency multiplier to save power as you can see in the next animated screenshot.

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