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Attempted CPU Overclocking

Theoretically, Foxconn X38A mainboard has all necessary options for frequency and voltage adjustment and successful CPU overclocking. However, unfortunately, our practical experiments proved it was absolutely unsuitable for this task.

Since the BIOS of Foxconn X38A is pretty complex and confusing, we couldn’t at first figure out why Intel SpeedStep tech parameter responsible for enabling or disabling the EIST technology was moved from CPU Configuration section where it usually is located into the main menu of Fox Central Control Unit. It turned out that there is a good reason for that: during the very first overclocking attempt when we changed the FSB frequency by only 1MHz, EIST technology gets disabled.

As you probably remember, I used to complain that ASUS mainboards disabled EIST when I changed the processor Vcore. Foxconn X38A did even more: any overclocking attempt automatically deprives you of the possibility to reduce the processor clock frequency multiplier and voltage in case the workload drops. Very sad.

Despite this unpleasant discovery, we still proceeded to our overclocking experiments with Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 processor that can work at 490MHz FSB frequency. However, the board wouldn’t even start at this speed. AT 480MHz the board would start, but failed to boot Windows, and at 470MHz we managed to complete the boot-up one time, but the board inevitable hang on system restart. Replacing the memory with a different type didn’t affect the stability (or instability, to be more exact) in any way.

Replacing the processor with Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 didn’t improve the situation in any way. As you can see from the screenshot of a hardware Health Configure page from the previous part of this review, the board set its Vcore to 1.128-1.136V, which is much lower than the nominal setting of 1.225V. In fact, we have also seen MSI P35 Platinum Combo and MSI X48 Platinum do the same thing: they also lowered the processor Vcore when the system booted with a new processor for the first time, however after restarting the system the core voltage would raise back to the nominal.  It seems to be the peculiarity of MSI mainboards, however, in case of Foxconn X38A the voltage remained lowered and didn’t change even from Windows when power-saving technologies kicked in. Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 processor has sufficient safety margin, it worked stably enough in nominal mode with the low Vcore like that. However, we didn’t manage to overclock it.

When Foxconn X38A mainboard fails to boot during overclocking, it restarts automatically and offers to correct some parameters. It would sometimes loop on boot-ups, too. You can fix the problem by clearing CMOS, but then you will have to reset all parameters again, because the board doesn’t allow saving user profiles. Besides, the mainboard changes automatic timings adjustment to manual during overclocking.

In fact, we have been postponing this article for over a month waiting for the new BIOS update that could fix the problem. We first tested the mainboard with the latest BIOS version P05 dating back to last November, but finally an update appeared: new BIOS version dated end of February 2008 was posted on the company web-site. Unfortunately, the only new thing was a bat-file that allowed setting the keys for BIOS updating with Afudos utility. The actual BIOS version and its functionality remained exactly the same, which we double-checked in our second round of tests.

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