Articles: Mainboards

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Testbed Configuration

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

  • Gigabyte GA-X79-UD3 rev.1.0 mainboard (BIOS version F9);
  • Intel Core i7-3930K Extreme Edition CPU (3.2-3.8 GHz, Sandy Bridge-E rev.C2, 32nm, 130 W, LGA 2011);
  • 4 x 4 GB DDR3 SDRAM Corsair Vengeance CMZ16GX3M4X1866C9R (16 GB, 1866 MHz, 9-10-9-27 timings, 1.5 V voltage);
  • MSI N570GTX-M2D12D5/OC graphics card (Nvidia GeForce GTX 570, GF110, 40 nm, 786/4200 MHz, 320-bit GDDR5 1280 MB);
  • Crucial m4 SSD (CT256M4SSD2, 256 GB, SATA 6 Gbps);
  • Zalman CNPS12X 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, Nvidia GeForce Driver 285.62 graphics card driver.

Operational and Overclocking Specifics

When we discuss the mainboard design and features we pointed out that there were a lot of expansion card slots onboard, while the ATX dimensions remained within standard that is why the first graphics card slot had to be moved pretty close to the processor socket. We use a large Noctua NH-D14 CPU cooler in our tests, but theoretically, you can install a graphics card into the first slot even in this case. However, you should be careful, because the steel fan retention clips of the cooler may close some of the contacts on the back of the card. That is why we installed our graphics accelerator into the second PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slot, just like on ASRock Fatal1ty X79 Professional where we saw a similar situation. Other than that, the system assembly on Gigabyte GA-X79-UD3 was very simple and didn’t pose any other major problems and the mainboard booted well.

Although the startup image shows that you can use “Tab” key to turn it off and view the startup information instead, it is totally useless. The board doesn’t display any information about the startup processes and the only thing you will see will be AMI BIOS logotype. The “F9” key seems to be a doubtful alternative, though it should display the same info as we see in the mainboard BIOS. In reality there is not that much useful information there at all: the actual CPU frequency is not indicated correctly and the memory frequency is simply missing. So, we have to wait for the OS to boot in order to check which mode is on, and it is very inconvenient.

After the first boot-up we discovered that the board has an opinion of its own about the memory timings. The mainboard set 9-9-11-24 timings for the default 1333 MHz frequency, instead of 9-9-9-24, which is recorded in the modules SPD. At first, Asus boards used to ignore the information written in memory modules profiles, but even though they have already fixed it, Gigabyte mainboards decided to take over.

During our processor overclocking experiments we discovered that the board is unable to boot the operating system with a 47x clock frequency multiplier, which worked perfectly fine on Asus Rampage IV Formula. When the processor frequency increased to 4.6 GHz, the system booted fine, though failed the stability tests. At 4.5 GHz the system remained perfectly stable and functioned flawlessly. Just like on other mainboards, we increased the memory clock to 1867 MHz, but even in this case the mainboard continued to set the third timing to 11 instead of 9, as stated in the X.M.P. Profile.

We always overclock mainboards in such a way that they could be used for a prolonged period of time in this mode. We do not try to make our life easier by disabling any of the mainboard features, such as onboard controllers, for example. We also try to keep the CPU's power-saving technologies up and running normally to the best of our ability. And this time all power-saving technologies remained up and running even in overclocked mode lowering the CPU voltage and frequency multiplier in idle mode.

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