Articles: Mainboards

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Before starting our overclocking experiments, both – MSI CoreCenter and GreenPower Center – were removed to avoid any additional interference. However, unfortunately, he results turned out not very good. We lowered the clock frequency multiplier of our Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 processor to the minimal value of 6x and reduced the memory frequency in order to determine the maximum FSB frequency when MSI P45 Platinum could remain stable. However, we couldn’t get the system to run stably even at 500MHz FSB. There was one time when almost all BIOS settings were left at Auto and the board worked at 520MHz FSB for a while, but we couldn’t repeat this success again. We checked out multi-step overclocking option after we had increased the starting frequency to 400MHz with the corresponding jumpers and raised the voltages, but all in vain. In the end we managed to overclock the CPU to its maximum frequency, but only with the default multiplier so that the FSB frequency didn’t have to be increased too much.

The tests performed with a quad-core Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 processor also turned out pretty disappointing. We had to stop at 445MHz FSB, which is a little below average and is way lower than what this CPU is capable of, as we saw on other mainboards.

Anyway, we didn’t pay too much attention to the obtained results. The thing is that MSI P45 Platinum mainboard sample we got had a few physical defects, so we couldn’t be absolutely certain that they had no effect on the results. Therefore, we didn’t rush to draw any hasty conclusions and waited for a replacement sample that was kindly provided to us by MSI.

This time we got a mainboard revision 1.1 instead of 1.0. We didn’t notice any exterior differences from the previous revision, both boards looks identical, even resistor nominals were the same. The only difference that we noticed immediately is that the new board uses much more convenient jumper caps with long tails. Of course, I doubt that anyone will introduce a new mainboard revision for the sake of different jumpers. The differences have to be internal.

Unfortunately, we didn’t notice any improvements during our overclocking experiments. We still couldn’t get even close to 500MHz, however, the system booted at 510MHz with the voltages set at Auto in the mainboard BIOS. In this case the smart BIOS of MSI P45 Platinum mainboard increases the voltages. So what voltage settings do we need for stability? The limited functionality of the H/W Monitor section allows us only to check the CU Vcore, which you can also get from any other utilities, such as CPU-Z or HWMonitor. To get ore details we had to install MSI CoreCenter, which once again disappointed us. When the memory and chipset NB voltages increased, the utility reported them being at close to nominal values. And the other way around: when the voltages remained nominal and the CPU was not overclocked, the utility scared us with twice the voltage on the chipset North Bridge.

Moreover, when we worked with this utility, the system froze twice so that we had to use Reset button. However, GreenPower Center proved unexpectedly great. MSI CoreCenter can only tell us the memory voltage and chipset NB voltage, while GreenPower Center also reports South Bridge voltage, VTT FSB Voltage, CPU GTL REF Voltage, DDR VREF Voltage and MCH GTL REF Voltage. And most importantly, it shows the correct value for all these voltages. At least they were very close to what was actually set in the BIOS.

You can’t get rid that easily of MSI CoreCenter that boots every time you load the OS. However, MSCONFIG utility came to rescue. As a result, we managed to use the advantages of GreenPower Center monitoring tool. As we found out, at 510MHz FSB the mainboard sets the chipset NB voltage at 1.436V, which is just a little lower than what we set manually at first. However, the VTT FSB Voltage increased to 1.32V, which is way lower than our manual setting of 1.45V. Could we have set the FSB bus voltage too high by mistake?

Let’s check it out by setting the VTT FSB Voltage to 1.45V without changing anything else. The OS boots, but Prime95 utility reports an error immediately. The same result with 1.4V and 1.35V settings. It seems that VTT FSB Voltage cannot be raised too much for successful overclocking. And what about the chipset North Bridge voltage? We increased it only to 1.46V and got an error message in Prime95 in less than a minute. Well, what if we return these voltages to their “correct” values of 1.32V and 1.436V that the board used in Auto mode? No, no Fatal Error this time: the OS simply didn’t boot at all having displayed the dramatic blue BSOD.

Unfortunately, there are no “correct” or “incorrect” voltages. The problem is that MSI P45 Platinum mainboard is unstable at FSB frequencies approaching 500MHz. We were also upset that the board set a pretty high Performance Level. The lower this setting is, the higher is the performance. But with Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 in its nominal mode Performance Level equals 7, while during overclocking when the memory divider is set as 1:1 – it rises to 10.

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