Articles: Mainboards

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Testbed Configuration

We performed all our tests on a testbed built with the following components:

  • Mainboard: Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 rev.1.0 (LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express, BIOS version F6a);
  • 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;
  • 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, AMD Catalyst graphics card driver version 12.4.

Operational and Overclocking Specifics

Thanks to its user-friendly PCB design, we had no problems assembling our testbed components around the Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3. The OS installed smoothly and the mainboard worked flawlessly at its default settings, the CPU, memory and graphics card all having normal operating parameters. When starting up, the mainboard shows you a pretty picture with reminders about supported hotkeys.

The Tab button is missing from the hotkey list, though. It is also useless to disable the startup picture in the BIOS to see detailed information because the mainboard doesn't output any. The only thing you will see is an AMI BIOS logo. If you do need to know system information, you can press F9, but in this case you will learn the current clock rate of the CPU (even if it’s overclocked) but not of the system memory. Besides, the need to press something to see what is normally displayed by default doesn't seem right to us.

When it comes to overclocking, Gigabyte mainboards do not offer any automatic overclocking features in their BIOS. So if you do not want to do that manually, you have to use the Easy Tune 6 utility. It offers three overclock modes on the Tuner tab and you can also let the utility find optimal parameters by clicking Auto Tuning. The auto-overclock procedure is started by pressing a large red button.

The rude warning in clumsy font contrasts with the nice-looking button, but you have to agree with it.

The system will then reboot and start looking for optimal overclocking parameters. The CPU clock rate will be steadily increasing as the system is checked for stability.

We were rather skeptical about that feature, watching the CPU clock rate rise almost to 5 GHz, but the result was quite satisfactory. The final CPU clock rate was indeed very close to what we later achieved manually. The power-saving technologies were up and running and the memory clock rate was increased along with the CPU one.

So, after some trying and testing, the utility suggested that the second predefined overclock mode was optimal for our configuration.

Still, we wouldn’t recommend using automatic overclocking tools just because manual tweaking provides better results. For example, here we can see that the CPU voltage was set too high. Moreover, the voltage of the CPU-integrated graphics core had also been increased, although that core was disabled by default.

When overclocked manually, the mainboard couldn’t reach the CPU frequency of 4.6 GHz, like the products we had tested previously, stopping at 4.5 GHz. But we only added 0.03 volts to the default CPU voltage instead of 0.15 volts as suggested by the automatic overclock feature for a lower CPU clock rate. As for system memory, it worked at 1867 MHz with timings of 9-10-9-27-1T.

We always overclock mainboards in such a way that they could be used permanently in such mode. Therefore we do not disable any features, e.g. onboard controllers, and try to keep the CPU’s power-saving features up and running. The G1.Sniper 3 was overclocked in this manner, too. When idle, it lowered the CPU's voltage and frequency multiplier to save power.

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