Articles: Mainboards

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Testbed Configuration

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

  • Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD4-B3 rev. 1.1 mainboard (LGA1155, Intel P67 Express, BIOS version F2);
  • 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;
    • 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/ION Driver 266.58 graphics card driver.

Operational and Overclocking Specifics

Like all good mainboards, Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD4-B3 worked perfectly fine in nominal mode, which, unfortunately, wasn’t the case during overclocking. However, first we have to mention a function, which we have already come across on Gigabyte mainboards in a slightly different representation and which now has been implemented in the form of Turbo USB 3.0 technology. This function works only when you use one graphics accelerator, because when it is enabled, the available 16 PCI Express 2.0 lanes are split evenly between the graphics card and the USB 3.0 controller. In other words, the USB 3.0 controller gets connected directly to the processor, and not to the chipset.

However, we didn’t detect the promised 10% performance boost this technology was supposed to deliver. In our case the Buffalo Drive Station HD-HX1.0TU3 (with about 130 MB/s read and 120 MB/s write speed) limited the performance, which was far from the theoretical maximum of the USB 3.0 interface. At the same time, when this technology is enabled, the graphics card functionality may be affected, so you should be careful with it. Only on H67 based mainboards you can use Turbo USB 3.0 without any concerns when the integrated graphics core is working, because in this case the free PCI Express 2.0 lanes in the CPU aren’t used anyway.

Gigabyte mainboards are so far the only mainboards that display correctly the current frequency of the overclocked processor during start-up. Al other mainboards can only display the memory frequency correctly, while for the CPU they would indicate its nominal clock rate.

Just like in case of Biostar TP67XE mainboard, we had to give up the “Load-Line Calibration” technology counteracting the processor core voltage drop under heavy load, because in this case the voltage was set way too high. In this respect, Asus P8P67 Pro mainboard offers better implementation, because it allows administering a necessary “doze” of counteraction.

I am sure you already know that the new processors are very easy to overclock. All you need to do is to increase the processor clock frequency multiplier and the voltage accordingly. However, it is difficult to check processor stability at overclocked speeds. LinX utility based on Intel Linpack test creates very high CPU load, but it is not a reliable tool for testing LGA1155 processors. After each setting adjustment we have to run Prime95 program for at least an hour, but even this program couldn’t guarantee stability. Our CPU overclocked to 4.8 GHz passed all the tests successfully, but then during our performance tests the system crashed in a less than a minute long Photoshop benchmark. As a result, we had to lower overclocking to 4.7 GHz with the memory frequency set at 1600 MHz.

As for the power-saving technologies, they all worked in full swing lowering the voltage and frequency in idle mode.

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