Articles: Mainboards
 

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Testbed Configuration

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

  • MSI Big Bang-XPower II, MS-7737 ver. 1.1 mainboard (BIOS version 1.2);
  • Intel Core i7-3930K 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);
  • Noctua NH-D14 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 9.3.0.1019, Nvidia GeForce Driver 285.62 graphics card driver.

Operational and Overclocking Specifics

We have already mentioned that the biggest and unfixable disadvantage of the MSI Big Bang-XPower II mainboard is its unnaturally large size. Even in order to fit this mainboard onto our open testbed we had to use additional stands, otherwise, it simply wouldn’t fit. Other than that we didn’t experience any problems during the system assembly and it booted perfectly fine.

You can disable the startup image and in this case the board will display some basic information including the actual CPU and memory frequencies instead.

Once we loaded the operating system, it turned out that the mainboard didn’t maintain the nominal settings for our Intel Core i7-3930K processor, its clock frequency multiplier was jumping to the maximum of 38x under any type of load, although it was supposed to vary in the interval from 35x to 38x. We strongly disapprove of any deviations from the default system settings, although in this case there were some mitigating circumstances. There is a parameter called “Enhanced Turbo” in the mainboard BIOS. If you disable it, the CPU will return back to its original default settings, though we assume it would be better to have it disabled by default and give the user an option of enabling it if necessary. Unfortunately, when we turned off the “Enhanced Turbo” parameter, all MSI’s proprietary power-saving technologies also got disabled, including the dynamic change in the number of active phases in the voltage regulator circuitry for the CPU, memory and chipset depending on the load level. there is no way to turn them back on, you can only turn them off, as you can only select “Auto” or “Disabled”. For some reason, they got turned off on their own in the “Auto” mode. Moreover, when we disabled “Enhanced Turbo”, we were unable to activate the ECO-mode: pressing the corresponding button in the BIOS didn’t do anything and the mainboard continued working in standard mode.

It is somewhat inconvenient that there is no hot key in the BIOS that would allow you to get back to original settings. Other manufacturers’ products have a key like that and sometimes it comes in very handy.

Like other contemporary mainboards, MSI Big Bang-XPower II allows to adjust the intensity of counteraction to the processor Vcore drop under heavy load. However, we didn’t find any explanations about the way this technology works not in the BIOS, nor in the user manual included with the board. At first we assumed that “Level 0” indicates no counteraction, and “Level 7”  will ensure maximum increase, but in reality things turned out just the opposite.

The last uncovered issue was the mainboard’s inability to save settings profiles in even slots. The profiles were saved fine in slots 1, 3 and 5, and the profiles in slots 2 and 4 were lost.

Speaking of overclocking, Micro-Star mainboards yield to the products from other manufacturers in this aspect, because they are unable to increase the processor core voltage in Offset mode by adding a necessary value to the nominal setting. MSI mainboards had this features for a short period of time and then it was gone. Previously it meant that it was simply impossible to overclock processors on MSI mainboards with all the Intel processor power-saving technologies intact. Even if we didn’t increase the processor Vcore, the boards would do it on their own if we overclocked by raising the base frequency. In this case all power-saving technologies were blocked, the voltage was locked at a certain value and didn’t get reduced in idle mode. Luckily, the launch of LGA 1155 and LGA 2011 processors changed this situation and made it more convenient to overclock using clock frequency multipliers. In this case, MSI mainboards do not increase the processor Vcore that is why all processor power-saving technologies remain up and running, unless you adjust the CPU Vcore manually.

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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