We got to the group managing voltage settings. Gigabyte’s approach to this extremely important aspect of an overclocked system has its advantages and drawbacks. For example, it is brilliant that there is a nominal setting mentioned for each parameter; many mainboard makers often forget about it for some reason. However, knowing defaults doesn’t necessarily mean that we know the actual current values for each of them.
Gigabyte mainboards, like other manufacturers’ solutions, know to increase the voltages on their own, if necessary. As a result, the user may often just set the desired CPU and memory frequencies and the board will take care of appropriate voltage adjustments. It is great and often very convenient, but the board doesn’t know what the particular CPU and memory modules installed into the system are capable of. As a result, it may increase the voltage too much or too little. Both these outcomes may result into pretty negative consequences, so the user should monitor all the changes anyway. However, Gigabyte mainboards BIOS doesn’t give us this opportunity. Some manufacturers repeat the current voltage readings from “PC Health Status” section in the section where voltage adjustment actually takes place. And Gigabyte mainboard, as we will see a little later during the “PC Health Status” discussion, reports only the processor Vcore and memory voltage. Nevertheless, we know that Gigabyte mainboards often raise Termination Voltage and PLL Voltage settings too high, however, we have no idea what their values actually are…
There is a solution, however, you will have to resort to special software. Gigabyte’s brand name EasyTune utility that we have known for a long time has changed significantly by the time it reached version 6. I didn’t have any experience with versions 1 and 2. I believe I was lucky in a way, because all following versions including EasyTune5 looked exactly as any other mainboard maker’s brand name utility would. It meant sophisticated shapes; inconvenient to work with windows, buttons, colors and fonts; limited functionality and various bugs. Gigabyte EasyTune6 is the first utility from a mainboard maker in my experience that is simply great to work with.
The program reports some info on the system CPU and mainboard, can read info from the memory modules SPD, helps overclock the CPU, memory and even graphics accelerator. You can use CIA2 (CPU Intelligent Accelerator) dynamic overclocking, adjust the rotation speed of the processor fan, check the monitoring reports. However, all the above mentioned functionality is also implemented in the mainboard BIOS and other utilities. The uniqueness of Gigabyte EasyTune6 is that it displays all the actual voltage values that the mainboard allows adjusting on “Advanced” page of the “Tuner” section:
But let’s get back to voltage adjustment parameters offered by Gigabyte GA-EP45T-Extreme mainboard in the BIOS. It can hardly surprise us with its ability to increase voltages on its own, many mainboards from other makers can do exact same thing these days. However, we don’t always need to increase the voltages. Sometimes, a too smart BIOS may do more damage than good.
To explain what I am driving at let me give you an example. Asus mainboards usually overclock processors pretty well, however, they allow doing it “free-of-charge” only in a relatively narrow frequency interval. At some point after another frequency increase a smart mainboard suddenly decides that it is time to increase the processor Vcore, even if your particular CPU doesn’t need it yet. Overclocking goes on fine, the system works, however, processor power-saving technologies are not longer active. In idle mode the system only drops the processor clock frequency multiplier, but not the voltage. In the meanwhile, CPU power consumption and heat dissipation depend primarily on the voltage, and not the frequency. The system starts wasting power turning it into heat, fans spin faster increasing the noise levels.
Gigabyte GA-EP45T-Extreme mainboard does exact same thing. Each voltage changing parameter has a certain fixed numeric value, an “Auto” setting when the board makes the adjustment on its own, and… a so-called “Normal” setting. In the latter case the board leaves the parameter at its nominal setting. Very simple and convenient!
You can select the desired value from a drop-down list, you can use “Page Up” or “Page Down” keys to go through the list faster, or type in the value using your keyboard. Overall, Gigabyte GA-EP45T-Extreme mainboard allows adjusting the voltages as follows*:
- CPU Vcore: from 0.5 to 1.6 V with 0.00625 V increment, then to 2,3 V with 0.02 V increment;
- CPU Termination: from 0.8 to 1.2 V with 0.1 V increment, from 1.24 to 1.8 V with 0.02 V increment;
- CPU PLL: from 1.1 to 1.5 V with 0.1 V increment, from 1.56 to 2.8 V with 0.02 V increment;
- CPU Reference: from 0.306 to 0.626 V with 0.02 V increment, then to 0.866 V with 0.015 V increment;
- CPU Reference2: from 0.313 to 0.673 V with 0.02 V increment, then to 0.873 V with 0.025 V increment.
- MCH Core: from 0.8 to 1.1 V with 0.1 V increment, from 1.14 to 1.8 V with 0.02 V increment;
- MCH Reference: from 0.373 to 0.633 V with 0.02 V increment, then to 0.918 V with 0.015 V increment;
- MCH/DRAM Reference: from 0.22 to 0.84 V with 0.02 V increment, then to 1.49 V with 0.05 V increment;
- ICH I/O: from 1.0 to 1.5 V with 0.1 V increment, from 1.54 to 2.3 V with 0.02 V increment.
- DRAM Voltage: from 1.5 to 2,5 V with 0.02 V increment;
- DRAM Termination: from 0.55 to 0.83 V with 0.02 V increment, from 0.84 to 1.24 V with 0.025 V increment;
- Ch-A Data VRef: from 0.22 to 0.84 V with 0.02 V increment, then to 1.49 V with 0.05 V increment;
- Ch-B Data VRef: from 0.22 to 0.84 V with 0.02 V increment, then to 1.49 V with 0.05 V increment;
- Ch-A Address VRef: from 0.22 to 0.84 V with 0.02 V increment, then to 1.84 V with 0.05 V increment;
- Ch-B Address VRef: from 0.22 to 0.84 V with 0.02 V increment, then to 1.84 V with 0.05 V increment.
* – these are the intervals for Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 processor with the nominal Vcore of 1.175 V.
As you see, the increments are pretty small, the intervals quite wide and the maximums reach scarily high values. It would be nice to actually warn the users. And it gets done: first some extremely high values are highlighted purple and afterwards – blinking red.
However, what we have just said is true only for the memory parameters. As if sending 2.3V to a CPU with the nominal 1.175V Vcore were not that dangerous at all.
“Standard CMOS Features” section contains usual familiar parameters:
And if you want to see all the parameters available in “Advanced BIOS Features” section, you have to press Ctrl-F1 combination while in the main menu. Our GA-EP45T-Extreme mainboard inherited this atavism from the old Gigabyte boards. Back in the days this sacred key combination hid a lot of useful functions, such as memory timings adjustment, for instance. And although Gigabyte’s user manuals did mention this key combination, it was not always easy to notice these words in a large multi-page document. As a result, this strange secrecy caused users a lot of problems, when they couldn’t find unassisted the settings they were looking for.
Those times are long gone. Today Gigabyte mainboards offer their owners extensive configuration options, sometimes even better than what the other mainboard makers have to offer. But what do they still use this rudimentary Ctrl-F1 key combination? It hides the two parameters of “utmost secrecy” in “Advanced BIOS Features” section: enabling/disabling Num Lock and floppy check on system boot-up.
“Advanced BIOS Features” section has a few options dealing with processor technologies. Ideally, it would be best to move them to “MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.)” section to all other important system parameters.
“Integrated Peripherals” section allows configuring peripheral devices and integrated controllers. I only wish that they enabled by default USB keyboard and mouse support, as these devices have already outnumbered their PS/2 counterparts.