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Overclocking Experiments

We decided to check out the overclocking potential of Foxconn Mars mainboard in an open testbed assembled with the following components:

  • Foxconn Mars, BIOS P06 mainboard;
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 CPU (1.86GHz, FSB 266MHz, 2MB, Conroe-2M, rev. B2);
  • 2x1024MB Corsair Dominator TWIN2X2048-9136C5D;
  • NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 320MB graphics card;
  • Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 HDD, ST3320620AS, 7200rpm, 16MB, SATA 320GB;
  • Zalman CNPS9700 LED cooler;
  • SunbeamTech Nuuo SUNNU550-EUAP PSU (550W).

If we disable the startup logo we will see all sorts of info that Foxconn Mars displays during POST. I found it a little unusual that the Boot Menu for selecting the boot device can be accessed by pressing Print button.

Our Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 CPU can overclock to 490MHz FSB, however even though the mainboard could boot Windows at this frequency, it failed to pass the tests. The system remained more or less stable at 480MHz FSB.

I said “more or less” because the system passed the stability test with OCCT utility, passed the one and a half hour Prime95 test but once everything was completed and I just tried to change the window size to make a better screenshot, it displayed the blue screen of death.

There is one thing that concerned me: although we increased the chipset North Bridge voltage during our overclocking experiments, the heatsinks remained just a little warm, almost cold. However, AEGIS Panel utility reported North Bridge temperature of 55ºC in idle mode and 65ºC or even 75ºC during the tests depending on the type of workload.

I always keep an additional fan at hand for my processor overclocking experiments, namely for better chipset North Bridge cooling. However, Foxconn supplies a fan like that with their mainboard, although in this case we didn’t really need it; why use additional cooling for a cold heatsink?

We usually test mainboards without any modifications, the way the actual customer will get them. However, this time I decided to replace the chipset cooling system, because I suspected that the contact between the chips and the heatsinks is not proper. However, once I removed the Cool Pipe system, these suspicions didn’t confirm: the contact was perfectly fine. There is a thermal pad between the heatsink and the chipset Bridges that melts when the chip temperature rises. As for the MOSFET transistors, there is a thick layer of thermal interface on gauze base. They use the same thermal interface for the memory chips on graphics cards.

We managed to reduce the temperature by about 10ºC by simply replacing the North Bridge cooler with Cooler Master Blue Ice Pro, although the SmartFan technology automatically reduced its fan rotation speed. This heatsink was warm and the chipset cooling really worked in this case. Unfortunately, we still failed to improve our overclocking results in any way.

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