Articles: Mainboards
 

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Testbed Configuration

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

  • Asus P8Z77-V LX mainboard (LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express, BIOS version 1201);
  • 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 )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 9.3.0.1020, AMD Catalyst 12.4 graphics card driver.

Operational and Overclocking Specifics

When we assembled our Asus P8Z77-V LX based system we didn’t have any problems or difficulties. We also didn’t experience any issues during the installation of the operating system, reflashing the BIOS or just using the system in the nominal mode with the default settings. During system startup we see a startup image, but there is no mention of any hot keys on it.

Disabling the startup image won’t bring the hot key reminders to the screen. Moreover, the board can’t tell us the actual CPU clock frequency, and will always report the nominal one. However, it does read the memory size and frequency absolutely correctly.

In the latest reviews of ASRock mainboards we pointed out that they started and rebooted very fast. The BIOS of Asus P8Z77-V LX mainboard as well as the BIOS of other Asus’ boards, allows setting the startup delay (at 3 seconds by default). And as for rebooting, the board does it simply instantaneously. It actually happens so fast that we sometimes had hard time accessing the BIOS to correct any of the settings. The board flies through the startup process and sometimes we would only stop it in the beginning of the OS loading.

Although this is not one of Asus’ flagship products, it does have some overclocking-friendly functionality, including automatic overclocking. The easiest way to overclock is to use “Asus MultiCore Enhancement” function, which allows increasing the processor clock frequency multiplier to the maximum allowed by Intel Turbo Boost technology under any type of operational load. I think it makes sense to remind you where this parameter comes from in Asus mainboards.

About a year ago in our Asus Maximus IV Extreme Mainboard Review we pointed out that this board always increased the processor clock frequency multiplier to the maximum allowed by Intel Turbo Boost technology, which was only intended for single-threaded loads. Of course, we could be excited about this unexpected CPU overclocking, but we would prefer to have the control over the choice of non-standard operation modes. We would prefer to be able to make our own informed decision instead of being forced into this mode, and to have the system in nominal mode work the way it is supposed to. This was the reason why we didn’t like this peculiarity back then. Luckily, there was a way to get Asus Maximus IV Extreme mainboard to work in nominal mode properly. We ran our standard set of tests and now we don’t really know what’s going on and if this issue has been fixed, because at that time it was one of the last LGA 1155 mainboard reviews.

A little later we moved on to LGA 2011 boards and discovered that there was a continuation to this story. There appeared a new F6 functional key in Asus mainboards BIOS, which was used to activate “Asus Ratio Boost” automatic overclocking technology. When this parameter was on, it increased the processor clock frequency multiplier to the maximum allowed by Intel Turbo Boost technology, and in the nominal mode the processor was working as the specifications declared. Everything seemed to be exactly the way we wanted, but this particular implementation did have one small problem. We rarely pay attention to the list of hot keys in the lower right corner of the BIOS screen, and therefore, we didn’t notice this new function until we started reviewing Asus Rampage IV Formula mainboard. In the meanwhile, Asus P9X79 Deluxe already had this same exact feature, although we dind’t notice it during the review process.

So, the appearance of the new “Asus MultiCore Enhancement” parameter in the main parameter list, which we pointed out in our Asus P8Z77-V Deluxe mainboard review, became a logical conclusion to this story. It is possible to allow the processor clock frequency multiplier to increase to the maximum as approved by the Intel Turbo Boost technology under any type of operational load, or to disable this feature. This parameter is very visible, but has a few peculiarities of its own. Although it is set at “Enable” by default, it doesn’t affect the CPUs working in nominal mode. Only if you change the nominal system settings, for example, use the X.M.P. profile for the memory, the function kicks in and boosts the overall speed by slightly overclocking the processor.

However, this is not the only thing the board is capable of in terms of automatic overclocking. You can also use “OC Tuner” parameter, which will produce an ever better result. In our case the base clock frequency was increased to 103 MHz, which affected all frequencies connected with it, such as the memory clock frequency, and the processor clock multiplier was increased to 41x. Together with the effect from higher base clock this pushed the resulting CPU frequency to 4224 MHz. It is important to point out that all processor power-saving technologies lowering the processor clock frequency multiplier and core voltage in idle mode continued working just fine.

However, everyone knows that no automatic overclocking can be as effective as manual search for the most optimal parameters. Unfortunately, the mainboard didn’t let us overclock our test processor to its maximum frequency of 4.6 GHz, but it easily reached 4.5 GHz. The memory frequency was also increased.

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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