Articles: Mainboards

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Operational and Overclocking Specifics

We had no problems running the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) at its default settings. The mainboard correctly set up our CPU and memory. Intel’s power-saving technologies worked normally, lowering the CPU frequency multiplier and voltage at low loads. At high loads the CPU frequency was increased by the Intel Turbo Boost technology. The line of onboard LEDs helped monitor the number of active CPU power phases which was dynamically adjusted by means of the exclusive Active Phase Switching technology. So, everything was okay until we tried to change something in the mainboard’s settings.

When testing the MSI Big Bang-XPower II, we found out that it couldn’t save BIOS profiles in the even-numbered slots. The same problem occurred with the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) and turned out to be somewhat more complicated than we had thought. We again lost settings written into profiles 2 and 4 whereas profile 6 was only available until we wrote settings into profile 5. The problem seems but a small nuisance until you start actively working with the profiles and saving different settings into them. When you find out that a profile is lost, it takes a lot of time to recall and reset everything in the numerous BIOS sections. And we had to use the profiles a lot during our tests because the mainboard was prone to automatically change a couple of settings besides the one we actually changed, so it was always easier to roll back to a saved profile rather than restore the default parameters one by one. Unfortunately, MSI mainboards do not offer a hot button that would help return to the previous BIOS configuration.

By the way, we found a couple of more hot buttons while searching for that nonexistent option. When you press F8, the mainboard saves the current BIOS configuration as a profile to the attached USB drive. You can then load that profile by pressing F9. So, MSI’s mainboard still support external disks when working with BIOS profiles whereas most other mainboard makers have abandoned this feature after transitioning to UEFI BIOS.

It’s strange that the mainboard doesn’t seem to follow the fashionable power-saving trends as it disables not only MSI’s exclusive technologies but even Intel’s energy efficient features. We knew from our earlier tests of MSI mainboards that their Active Phase Switching didn’t work in overclocked mode. We don’t know why because we keep CPU’s power-saving technologies up and running during our overclockability tests. Like in the default mode, the CPU multiplier and voltage are reduced at low loads, so why the number of active CPU power phases is not reduced, too? Similar technologies of other mainboard makers keep on working even in overclocked mode.

Moreover, APS may get disabled even if the CPU is not overclocked. And it’s rather hard to turn it back on. For example, APS is turned off when you use XMP information to change your memory module settings. APS won’t work even when you return all settings to their previous values, load a BIOS profile in which APS worked, or press F6 to load optimal settings. It is only by pressing Clear CMOS that you can re-enable APS.

By the way, MSI mainboards do not require you to reenter date and time in the BIOS after using Clear CMOS.

As for overclocking, MSI is very proud of its OC Genie II technology that helps you overclock your computer in just a second by choosing the appropriate BIOS option or pressing a button. We checked this technology out.

Our CPU was overclocked to 4 GHz, and all power-saving technologies, both from Intel and MSI, were turned off. The CPU multiplier and voltage were not lowered in idle mode. The mainboard used XMP information for our memory modules but increased their voltage to 1.65 volts, which wasn’t necessary. The total power consumption of the system was over 150 watts or twice the normal level in idle mode. But when the XMP profile was selected manually, the mainboard correctly selected a voltage of 1.5 volts.

We wouldn’t be proud of such technology, as it leads to poor results. If you want to quickly boost your CPU performance on an MSI mainboard, you should instead use the Enhanced Turbo setting in its BIOS. This feature increases the CPU multiplier to its maximum value supported by Intel Turbo Boost technology irrespective of load. What’s important, Intel’s power-saving technologies and MSI’s APS feature will keep on working at that.

There’s some progress in terms of the automatic overclocking on MSI mainboards, though. The mainboard used to set up all parameters automatically, but now you can manually set up the OC Genie II mode. After enabling My OC Genie in the BIOS, you can access My OC Genie Option and use it to define OC Genie II parameters. A similar feature has long been available on ASUS’s ROG series: you enter required settings in the Go Button File subsection and then overclock your system by clicking GO.

Unlike most other mainboards, MSI ones cannot increase CPU voltage in offset mode by adding a certain value to the default level. Therefore we have to overclock the CPU without changing its voltage to keep all power-saving technologies enabled. MSI’s exclusive APS technology doesn’t work anyway but Intel’s will work if you enable them manually (the mainboard disables them automatically when you change some BIOS settings). Surprisingly, the MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) could overclock our CPU to 4.5 GHz, like most other mainboards. We used the XMP profile for memory settings. It worked correctly when selected manually rather than via the OC Genie II feature.

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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