Asus P7H57D-V EVO: Unique LGA1156 Mainboard

In our today’s review of the most extraordinary mainboard we are going to dwell not only on its features. We will also take a glance at solutions from other makers, reveal their peculiarities and discuss the existing tricks for successful overclocking of new processors.

by Doors4ever
03/17/2010 | 12:34 PM

We continue a series of LGA1156 mainboards, but this time we are going to focus on the new Intel H57 Express and Intel H55 Express chipsets. For that purpose we have slightly modified our testbed and changed the applications set, but we are going to dwell on these changes a little later. Now, however, we feel like talking a little bit about the new Clarkdale processors. Overall, they have undoubtedly turned out quite successful, although there are a few not quite clear and even disappointing things that come to mind. Just a reminder: we have a detailed article on our site dedicated to these processors that is called Dual-Core LGA1156 Processors: Core i5-661, Core i3-540 and Pentium G6950 CPUs Review that you can also check out.

 

The biggest disappointment about the new Clarkdale CPUs is obviously their memory controller that was removed from the processor core and is now located on a separate die. As a result, Clarkdale processors work with the memory slower than not only LGA1366 Bloomfield processor featuring a triple-channel on-die memory controller. Even LGA1156 Lynnfield CPUs are unattainably ahead, although their memory controller is a dual-channel one and works at lower frequency than the one in Bloomfield CPUS. The new processor work with the memory pretty much as fast as LGA775 solutions, which memory controller is located in an individual North Bridge chip, which means that Intel made a significant step back with their new Clarkdale design.

Things are also not quite clear when it comes to graphics integrated into the new CPUs. We have another special review called Clarkdale’s Second Half: Intel HD Graphics Review, which talks about this matter in detail. Of course, graphics has improved, but the price of the integrated graphics platform has also increased significantly. Before, you could find a $30 processor and pair it with a simple $50 mainboard featuring integrated graphics onboard. Just add some memory and a hard drive to get a decent entry-level PC. Now the best you can get for this money would be only the most primitive Pentium G6950 processor, which means that the minimal cost of an entry-level platform ahs in fact become a few times higher.

Some limitations have also stepped in on the other front, when we in fact care more about the maximum performance rather than minimal price, but at the same time are quite OK with the potential of the integrated graphics core. Until now the users had freedom of choice, meaning that they could install any processor into a board with an integrated graphics core. Right now we are limited to dual-core CPUs only. What if you need high performance? What if you would really want to go for a contemporary quad-core CPU? There are no solutions like that with integrated graphics, so you will have to purchase a discrete graphics card as well.

However, despite these drawbacks, the new CPUs turned out quite successful. Of course, we would still prefer if that were the case due to advantages rather than despite the drawbacks. These CPus are quite economical and perform well. They are dual-core solutions, but they outperform their predecessors and competitors due to Hyper-Threading technology. And even though they aren’t always capable of competing successfully against real quad-core CPUs, many users don’t really care about that. Since the new processors promise to become very popular in the market, it is really important to make sure that you find the perfect mainboard for them. Our goal is to help you make the right choice, so please enjoy our new review series that will hopefully make it easy for you. We are going to start with a truly extraordinary mainboard – Asus P7H57D-V EVO.

Package and Accessories

Asus P7H57D-V EVO mainboard ships in a pretty thin box with an eye-pleasing refreshed look:

There is a photo of the board on the back of the box together with a brief list of technical specification and some details about its key features.

Besides the actual board, the box contains pretty common set of accessories:

However, this accessories bundle doesn’t strike you as remarkable only at first glance. If you take a real close look at it you may come up with at least two questions. The first question is why they bundle the board with an SLI bridge? According to the official specifications, the new chipsets do not support ATI CrossFire or Nvidia SLI configurations. Besides, it turned out that the four SATA cables bundled with the board are not quite identical. Two of them are specifically designed for 6 Gbps speeds, although the only thing distinguishing them from the traditional Serial ATA cables is the marking.

PCB Design and Functionality

Asus P7H57D-V EVO mainboard looks quite common and resembles its predecessors. Namely, you can notice a lot of similarities with Asus P7P55D Deluxe, which we have already reviewed before.

However, this common looks is in fact the uniqueness of the new Asus P7H57D-V EVO. The mere fact that it comes bundled with an SLI bridge suggests that it supports not only dual-card ATI CrossFire configurations, but also Nvidia SLI configurations. How is this possible, since the official specifications indicate that the new chipsets do not allow splitting the 16 PCI Express lanes assigned to the graphics card into two sets of 8 lanes? The explanation is connected with the PCI Express controller that is no longer in the chipset but in the CPU. We can’t change Clarkdale processor, but if we use a Lynnfield CPU, then we can have two ATI or Nvidia graphics cards working at 8x speed. It is an excellent solution that shows clearly Asus Engineers’ extreme professionalism as well as out-of-the-box thinking. Asus P7H57D-V EVO mainboard is a universal solution, it boasts much more diverse functionality than any other solution out there. If your system is equipped with a Clarkdale processor, you may use their integrated graphics or a discrete accelerator, while with Lynnfield CPUs you can tie two graphics accelerators into Nvidia SLI or ATI CrossFire configuration.

It is interesting that other manufacturers have solutions on the new chipsets with two graphics card slots on them, while Asus P7H57D-V EVO is the only mainboard like that, all others have only one graphics card connector. Why? It is not necessary to have all mainboards support Nvidia SLI, ATI CrossFire may be more than enough and it won’t require any special effort. Since we already had MSI H57M-ED65 mainboard at our disposal (which review will be ready shortly), we decided to try and answer this question. It is sad that the only thing you can find on MSI web-site and in the mainboard user manual is the fact that it features two second generation PCI Express x16 slots and supports ATI CrossFire, but there is no mention of the operational speeds when there are two graphics cards installed into the system. We managed to find some answers from Gigabyte. Unlike MSI, Gigabyte is not afraid to provide detailed information on their company web-site and in the mainboard manuals. It truend out that there is a good reason why Gigabyte calls their second graphics card slot PCIEX4_X1. If it is on an Intel H57 Express based mainboard, it works at x4 speed, while on Intel H55 Express based boards it is limited to x1 speed. Moreover, the first PCI Express 2.0 x16 connector will switch to x4 speed once you install the second graphics card.

Now it is clear why there is only one graphics card slot on all other Asus mainboards built around the new chipsets. Because only with one graphics card in the system, we can get it to work at a decent speed. In fact, two graphics card connectors on the new mainboards will mislead the users. These mainboards support ATI CrossFire technology only formally, because with serious speed limitations like that it will hardly ever be used. The only exception is our today’s hero, Asus P7H57D-V EVO, because it is the only one that can guarantee the same quality of ATI CrossFire and Nvidia SLI support as on Intel P55 Express based mainboards, if you are working with one of Lynnfield processors.

Numerous onboard controllers significantly expand the functionality of Asus P7H57D-V EVO mainboard. First I have to name Marvell 88SE9123 controller that adds two SATA 6 Gbps ports and a NEC D720200F1 controller that puts two USB 3.0 ports on the mainboard back panel. They use Marvell 88SE6111 controller to provide Parallel ATA support. The same controller implements eSATA (SATA on-the-go) port on the back panel. Besides, there is VIA VT6308P IEEE1394 controller, Realtek RTL8112L Gigabit network controller and Realtek ALC889 eight-channel sound codec. Speaking of additional onboard controllers we can’t help mentioning PLX PEX 8608 chip, of course. It ensures that USB 3.0 and SATA III controllers are all connected using high-speed interfaces and provides support for an additional PCI Express 2.0 x1 connector (the lower dark-blue connector). Contemporary hard drives do not really care much about the latest 6 Gbps SATA, but the performance of USB 3.0 devices does depend a lot on the implementation. In the future we are going to include the performance of available USB 3.0 ports into our mainboard testing suite.

The mainboard back panel has the following ports and connectors:

Although there are quite a few additional controllers, the mainboard layout is very convenient, as you can see from the components layout chart below:

 

Asus P7H57D-V EVO, just like other contemporary Asus mainboards, retained its design peculiarities, such as wide lock latches on graphics card connectors or DIMM slot locks on only one side of the slot. We would like to conclude our discussion of the mainboard layout and functionality with the detailed list of its technical specifications:

CPU

Intel® Socket 1156 Core™ i7 Processor/Core™ i5 Processor/Core™ i3 Processor/ Pentium® Processor
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology

Chipset

Intel® H57 Express Chipset

Memory

4 x DIMM, Max. 16 GB, DDR3 2133(O.C.)*/1600/1333/1066 Non-ECC,Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel memory architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)

Expansion Slots

2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (single at x16 or dual at x8/x8 mode)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x1 (5GT/s, blue slot)
2 x PCIe x1 (2.5GT/s, gray slots)
2 x PCI
*Dual x8 mode is only supported by Intel non-Integrated graphics (Lynnfield) processors.

VGA

Multi-VGA output support: HDMI, DVI-D, RGB
Supports HDMI with max. resolution 1920 x 1200@60Hz
Supports DVI with max. resolution 1920 x 1200@60Hz
Supports RGB with max. resolution 2048 x 1536@75Hz
Maximum shared memory of 1748 MB

Multi-GPU Support

Supports ATI® Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology
Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology
*SLI™ and CrossFireX™ mode are available only for Intel non-iIntegrated graphics (Lynnfield) processors.

Storage

Intel® H57 Express Chipset built-in
6 xSATA 3.0 Gb/s ports
Intel Matrix Storage Technology Support RAID 0,1,5,10
Marvell® SATA 6Gb/s controller:
- 2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports (gray)
Marvell® 88SE6111 SATA & PATA controller:
- 1 x UltraDMA 133/100/66 for up to 2 PATA devices
- 1 x eSATA 3Gb/s port (SATA on-the-go)

LAN

Realtek® 8112L Gigabit LAN controller featuring AI NET2

Audio

Realtek® ALC889 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Absolute Pitch BD192/24
- DTS Surround Sensation UltraPC
- BD audio layer Content Protection
- Supports Jack-Detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-Retasking
- Optical S/PDIF out ports at back I/O

IEEE 1394

VIA® 6308P controller supports 2 x 1394a port(s) (one at mid-board; one at back panel)

USB

NEC® USB 3.0 controller:
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports (blue; at back panel)
Intel® H57 Express Chipset:
- 12 x USB 2.0 ports (8 ports at mid-board, 4 ports at back panel)

ASUS Unique Features

Unique PCIe X4 Bridge Chip for Ultra Performance
- True USB 3.0 Support
- True SATA 6Gb/s Support
ASUS Xtreme Design:
ASUS Hybrid Processor - TurboV EVO
- TurboV, Auto Tuning, CPU Level UP and Turbo Key
- GPU Boost
ASUS 12 Hybrid Phase*
- T.Probe Technology for Active Cooling
- 8+3 Phase Power Design
* 12 Hybrid Phase = 8+3 Phase x T.Probe
ASUS Hybrid OS - Express Gate
ASUS Xtreme Design
ASUS Exclusive Features
- MemOK!
- ASUS EPU
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution
- ASUS Fanless Design: Stylish Heat-sink solution
- ASUS Fanless Design: Stack Cool 3
- ASUS Fan Xpert
ASUS Crystal Sound
- ASUS Noise Filter
ASUS EZ DIY
- ASUS Q-Shield
- ASUS Q-Connector
- ASUS O.C. Profile
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
- ASUS EZ Flash 2
- ASUS MyLogo 2
- Multi-language BIOS
ASUS Q-Design
- ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
- ASUS Q-Slot
- ASUS Q-DIMM

Overclocking Features

Precision Tweaker 2
- vCore: Adjustable CPU voltage at 0.00625V increment
- vIMC: 128-step IMC voltage control
- vDRAM Bus: 64-step DRAM voltage control
- vPCH: 152-step chipset voltage control
- vCPU_PLL: 32-step reference voltage control
- iGPU: Adjustable iGPU voltage at 0.0125V increment
SFS (Stepless Frequency Selection)
- PCI Express frequency tuning from 100MHz up to 200MHz at 1MHz increment
- Internal Base Clock tuning from 80MHz up to 500MHz at 1MHz increment
Overclocking Protection
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)

Back Panel I/O Ports

1 x DVI
1 x D-Sub
1 x HDMI
1 x S/PDIF Out (Optical)
1 x IEEE 1394a
1 x LAN(RJ45) port
8 -Channel Audio I/O
1 x PS/2 Keyboard (Purple)
1 x External SATA 3Gb/s
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (blue)
4 x USB 2.0/1.1

Internal I/O Connectors

4 x USB connectors support additional 8 USB ports
1 x IDE connector
1 x COM port connector
2 x SATA 6.0Gb/s connectors
6 x SATA 3.0Gb/s connectors
1 x CPU Fan connector
2 x Chassis Fan connector (1x4-pin, 1x3-pin)
1 x Power Fan connector
1 x IEEE1394a connector
Front panel audio connector
1 x S/PDIF Out Header
24-pin ATX Power connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector
System Panel(Q-Connector)
1 x MemOK! button

BIOS

64 Mb Flash ROM , AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.5, ACPI 2.0a, Multi-language BIOS, ASUS EZ Flash 2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3

Manageability

WfM 2.0,DMI 2.0,WOL by PME,WOR by PME,PXE

Accessories

User's manual
2 in 1 Q-connector
1 x UltraDMA 133/100 cable
2 x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s cables
2 x Serial ATA 6.0Gb/s cables
1 x 2-port USB and eSATA module
1 x ASUS SLI bridge connector
ASUS Q-Shield

Support Disc

Drivers
Anti-virus software (OEM version)
ASUS Update
ASUS Utilities

Form Factor

ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )

BIOS Setup

We are pretty well familiar with the looks and functionality of Asus mainboards BIOS that is why today we are going to look through the main sections of the BIOS Setup without dwelling for long on each parameter individually. During our test session e used BIOS version 0066 from 02.11.2010. The screenshots you are about to see were taken from this particular BIOS version. Looks like it is the analogue of the final version dates 02.23.2010 that became available in early March.

Most settings dealing with overclocking and performance level adjustment are in “Ai Tweaker” section. This section is very structured, has very detailed contextual help displayed in the right field of the screen, and although there are quite many parameters in it, it is very easy to work with.

Memory timings are pretty numerous that is why they have been singled out onto a separate page. Besides the traditional but not very convenient way of displaying the timings values in a single string, there is also a column, where all the values stand next to the corresponding parameters. Now you can quickly see the current timings settings, easily adjust the desired values as needed. It has become much easier to work with this section.

The only thing that seems to be missing in “Ai Tweaker”, in my opinion, is an individual page with processor related settings. Only Asus ROG mainboards have a special section like that, while all other solutions have these settings placed in “Advanced” section.

You can also notice a sub-section called “Uncore Configuration” that is located inside the same “Advanced” section. If you use a discrete graphics accelerator, there is barely anything that could be of interest to you.

However, if you involve the graphics core integrated into the processor, then this is where you can adjust its frequency and the amount of system RAM allocated for GPU needs.

We would like to draw your attention to “EuP Ready” settings in the “Power” section, which has recently appeared in the BIOS of many mainboards. When this setting is enabled, all onboard LEDs will be turned off and some features that require constant system addressing, such as wake-on-mouse or wake-on-LAN. If you are not using any of these functions, then you won’t really lose anything by enabling this option, but the system power consumption when it is off but not unplugged will be minimal.

We definitely have to give Asus due credit for allowing fine tuning of the processor fan rotation speed depending on the temperature in “Hardware Monitor” section of the BIOS. This option has been added to the existing three modes: Standard, Silent and Turbo. Now you can fine tune the processor fan speed not only after booting the OS via special programs or utilities, but directly in the BIOS by selecting Manual mode.

I assume you were not discouraged by the fact that there are only four voltages that can be monitored in “Hardware Monitor” section. In reality, the board is capable of much more and all other voltages it can control are listed in “Ai Tweaker” section. It is much more convenient to actually see the current voltage settings in the section where you can adjust them to your liking.

We are going to wind up our discussion of Asus P7H57D-V EVO mainboard BIOS in the “Tools” section, where you can save full BIOS settings profiles into the system memory or onto an external storage device using “OC Profile” function. The same function will help you quickly load the desired profile. “Ai NET 2” technology will monitor the local network cable status, and the built-in “EZ Flash 2” utility will help you update the BIOS if necessary.

Although current BIOSes are very convenient to work with, there are always a few aspects that can be improved. And Asus mainboards present a great example of that. All in all, everything is great, the BIOS is very functional, well structured, informative, user-friendly, but nevertheless, we constantly see new changes and modifications, little things, that make our experience with Asus boards even greater.

Testbed Configuration

All performance tests were run on the following test platform:

We used Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit (Microsoft Windows, Version 6.1, Build 7600) operating system, Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility version 9.1.1.1025, ATI Catalyst 10.2 graphics card driver.

Operational and Overclocking Specifics

Frankly speaking, we didn’t notice any specific peculiarities during our Asus P7H57D-V EVO performance tests. And in this case it is really good. The board powered on just fine right from the start and continued to power on, off and reboot later on without any problems. The processor fan rotation speed adjusted fine, BISO got updated without any issues, settings profiles could be saved and loaded, all tests were passed. Mainboards are very complex devices that is why even the most detailed review still leaves out certain things. Therefore, we are going to use the opportunity and tell you about Asus Q-Led technology that started appearing on the latest Asus mainboards.

I am sure that some of you may have occasionally used POST controllers integrated onto mainboard PCBs or provides on special diagnostic add-on cards. If the board refuses to boot for some reason, the POST code indicator displays a combination of letters and digits. After that you have to consult a manual or look up this combination online in order to understand what it indicates and what the problem is. Asus and MSI have already tried to simplify and speed up this process, but small LCD displays that would show all boot-up stages in text format instead of codes didn’t really take off. Therefore, it is extremely interesting to check out the new Asus Q-Led technology. It is implemented in a very simple manner: there are a couple of LEDs grouped in a single line, like on Asus Maximus III Formula, or scattered over the PCB like on Asus P7H57D-V EVO. As the system boots, these LEDs light up and turn off: first the CPU indicator, then the one for the memory, the graphics card and finally the boot-up device. If all devices have been successfully initialized, the booting continues; if it stalled at some point, then the corresponding LED will stay on. As a result, you can almost instantly determine the source of the problem. I believe it is a very elegant and convenient solution.

Luckily, I didn’t have to resort to Asus Q-Led at any time during the test session, because the mainboard worked impeccably. And as for CPU overclocking, things got a little more interesting here. We got a new Intel Core i3-540 CPU, which potential hasn’t been studied yet. It works at the nominal 3.06 GHz frequency, supports 23x maximum clock multiplier and 1.025 V nominal Vcore. By the way, Asus mainboards do not indicate the nominal CPU core voltage anywhere. You can only guess what it could be like according to the current voltage setting in the BIOS. Only later on when we working with a Gigabyte mainboard we managed to find out what the exact default Vcore was for our particular processor sample. Looks like we have just found one more little thing that could be fixed to make Asus mainboards BIOS even better.

Overclocking Intel Core i3-540 processor turned out just as easy as overclocking any other CPU. The basics, terminology and approximate overclocking algorithms remained the same and we have already discussed then in our earlier article called “Guide: Lynnfield Overclocking on Asus P7P55D Deluxe Mainboard”. In fact, things are even a little simpler this time, because junior Clarkdale processors do not support Intel Turbo Boost technology that is why there is no need to limit the increase in the processor clock frequency multiplier during overclocking. Without changing the CPU core voltage our processor could pass all tests at 3.5 GHz frequency. It is a very good result, considering the low nominal core voltage of our unit. When we increased its Vcore by 0.2875 V we managed to get the CPU to work stably at 4.5 GHz.

Without any load processor clock frequency multiplier and Vcore drop, which lowers the power consumption, heat dissipation and generated noise.

We have to say a few words about the memory timings. Many Clarkdale reviewers complained that CAS Latency values reported by diagnostic utilities differ from the ones set in the BIOS. We faced the same exact problem: sometimes four different utilities would show four different values, and the BISO would show the fifth one. Only the last test version 1.53.5 of the CPU-Z showed the same CAS Latency as the one we saw in the BIOS. All these utilities could be working incorrectly because the memory controller had been moved from the processor die onto an individual die. So, don’t believe what you see on the Everest CPUID screenshots: in reality memory timings were set to 6-6-6-18-1T in all cases.

Overclocking by almost 1.5 times, from 3.06 to 4.5 GHz turned out a very good result, but later on we discovered that we could hit even higher speeds on Gigabyte boards: 4.6 GHz.

100 MHz difference is not crucial, but it proved to be stable and didn’t depend on the mainboard or chipset it was based on. We had to stop at 4.5 GHz on Asus P7H57D-V EVO and P7P55D Deluxe mainboards, while three difference Gigabyte mainboards could easily push the CPU clock to 4.6 GHz. However, let’s check out the performance numbers first, before we start criticizing Asus mainboards for not being able to reach maximum overclocking speeds.

Performance Comparison

As usual, we are going to compare the mainboards speeds in two different modes: in nominal mode and during overclocking. The first mode is interesting because it shows how well the mainboards work with their default settings. It is a known fact that most users do not fine-tune their systems, they simple choose the optimal BIOS settings and do nothing else. That is why we also run a round of tests without interfering in any way with the default mainboard settings.  Since we are now using a slightly different testbed, we have also updated the list of benchmarks and revised our test settings. Our goal was to cover different aspects of computer usage without adding too many new benchmarks and tests into the suite.

Since today we are testing the first mainboard on the new Intel chipset series, we needed to find a certain reference point for our comparison. We decided to take one of the mainboards based on the previous generation Intel P55 Express chipset and picked Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD4. There are two reasons for this choice: first, we have already checked that it overclocks new processors nicely. Second, it is a microATX mainboard, like most other H57/H55 solutions and it will not stand out among them too much. The mainboards are listed on the diagrams according to their performance (from high to low). The results of Asus P7H57D-V EVO mainboard are marked with a darker color for your convenience.

We started using the recently released Cinebench 11.5 program version. All tests were run five times and the average result of the five runs was taken for the performance charts.

 We have been using Fritz Chess Benchmark utility for a long time already and it proved very illustrative. It generated repeated results, the performance in it is scales perfectly depending on the number of involved computational threads.

A small video in x264 HD Benchmark 3.0 is encoded in two passes and then the entire process is repeated four times. The average results of the second pass are displayed on the following diagram:

In the archiving test a 1 GB file is compressed using LZMA2 algorithms, while other compression settings remain at defaults.

Like in the data compression test, the faster 16 million of Pi digits are calculated, the better. This is the only benchmark where the number of processor cores doesn’t really matter, because it creates single-threaded load.

There are good and bad things about complex performance tests. However, 3D Mark Vantage has become extremely popular. The diagram below shows the results after three test runs:

Since we do not overclock graphics in our mainboard reviews, the next diagram shows only CPU test from the 3D Mark Vantage suite.

We use FC2 Benchmark Tool to go over Ranch Small map ten times in 1280x1024 resolution with medium and high image quality settings in DirectX 10.

Resident Evil 5 game also has a built-in performance test. Its peculiarity is that it can really take advantage of multi-core processor architecture. The tests were run in DirectX 10 in 1280x1024 resolution with medium image quality settings. The average of five test runs was taken for further analysis:

You can clearly see that Asus P7H57D-V EVO and Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD4 mainboards demonstrate almost identical results. Looks like it doesn’t really matter which mainboard you use, what chipset it is based on and how different the two boards are if the system is running in nominal mode with the default settings.

We didn’t expect any surprises during CPU and memory overclocking. If you remember, we managed to hit slightly higher CPU clock frequencies on a Gigabyte board that is why it would be logical to assume that Asus solution will fall a little behind in all performance tests in overclocked mode. At first it was exactly like that. We see a logical although not serious advantage of the Gigabyte mainboard in the first three tests that use the computational potential of the CPU to the utmost extent.

However, the data compression test let’s Asus solution get ahead of the competitor, and the gap between them is not that small at all. In the next SuperPi test Gigabyte board again falls behind Asus, although not that dramatically.

3DMark Vantage benchmarks show approximate parity, either of the two boards occasionally takes the lead here. However, in games, Gigabyte solution again falls unexpectedly behind.

There are a lot of mysteries in life, but this one was solved very quickly: the difference between the mainboard resulted from the QPI bus frequency. Remember what Clarkdale processor architecture is: it consists of two dies – one contains the CPU cores and another one - graphics and memory controllers and other components. And these dies are connected via the QPI bus. In nominal mode when the base clock is 133.3 MHz QPI bus frequency is formed with 44x multiplier and equals 5865 MHz. the BIOS of both mainboards sets this frequency automatically, but during overclocking Gigabyte mainboard tries to keep this setting as close to the nominal as possible, while the multiplier on Asus board remains at its maximum. As a result, during overclocking to 200 MHz base clock on Gigabyte mainboard, the QPI bus frequency turned out even a little below the nominal and equaled 5600 MHz with 28x multiplier. However, on Asus board at 195 MHz base clock QPI bus frequency and therefore the data transfer rate between the processor cores and the memory increased to 8580 MHz. only small synthetic tasks, where all data may fit into the cache do not depend on the speed of operations with the memory. Therefore, despite the lower processor and memory frequencies Asus solution yields a little to Gigabyte in purely computational tasks, but in applications that use memory more intensely, it outperforms the competitor quite substantially.

I have to point out that lowering the QPI bus frequency didn’t allow us to improve the overclocking on Asus board in any way. Later on, when we get to reviewing Gigabyte solutions based on the new chipsets, we will definitely check if they can overclock processors just as good at the increased QPI frequency. And at this point we would only like to repeat that it’s better not to leave any of the significant BIOS settings at Auto. In reality, the seemingly neutral “Auto” may in fact indicate either On or Off as well as the whole bunch of intermediate values between them. By the way, another proof of this point awaits us in the next chapter of our today’s review.

However, the performance difference between the two mainboards is noticeable, but that’s about it. This is the way it should be, since we were trying to ensure that both mainboards were running in similar testing conditions. In order to estimate the performance gain from CPU and memory overclocking more illustratively, let’s check out the following table, where we compare the results of Asus P7H57D-V EVO in nominal and overclocked modes side by side:

I am sure you will agree that despite all objective drawbacks of the new Clarkdale processors, they have one obvious advantage: excellent overclocking potential and impressive performance gain resulting from it. It makes sense to use Clarkdale processors in nominal mode only if you have very good reasons for it. For example, you don’t really care about the system performance, but prefer to have low noise and low power consumption. If this is the case, then maybe you should reconsider your CPU choice. An Atom based system will be much quieter and more energy-efficient, but without overclocking, you will only use part of the Clarkdale CPU potential.

Power Consumption

We measured power consumption using Extech Power Analyzer 380803 device. This device was connected before the system PSU, i.e. it measured the power consumption of the entire system without the monitor, including the power losses that occur in the PSU itself. When we took the power readings in idle mode, the system was completely idle: there were even no requests sent to the hard drive at that time. We used LinX program to load the Intel Core i3-540 CPU. For more illustrative picture we created graphs showing the power consumption growth depending on the increase in CPU utilization as the number of active computational threads in LinX changed in nominal mode as well as during overclocking. The boards are sorted out in alphabetical order on the diagrams below.

In nominal mode Gigabyte mainboard appeared more energy-efficient. It is quite logical, since Asus P7H57D-V EVO is larger, more complex and uses more additional onboard controllers than the small Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD4. This overall picture repeats also during processor and memory overclocking, only under maximum load the boards’ power consumption readings are about the same, which is also not surprising. To overclock the processor higher on Gigabyte mainboard we had to increase CPU Vcore a little more, which resulted into a noticeable increase in power consumption. There is another thing that seems pretty paradoxical here: in idle mode when the CPU is overclocked by raising the processor core voltage, Gigabyte solution turns out more economical than in the nominal mode: this system consumes only 71 W instead of 81 W!

It may seem unreal and contradicting the laws of logics, but the explanation is again connected with the notorious “Auto” settings. It turned out that both mainboards allow the CPU to switch to deeper power-saving modes in idle state, when the corresponding BIOS settings (“C State package limit setting” on Asus and “C3/C6/C7 State Support” on Gigabyte) remain set to Auto. We didn’t change anything in the nominal mode, but during CPU overclocking we explicitly indicated for Gigabyte mainboard that it should keep all processor power-saving technologies up and running by setting all parameters in the “Advanced CPU Core Features” section to “Enabled” instead of “Auto”. By the way, if you set “C State package limit setting” parameter on Asus mainboard to “C6” instead of “Auto”, the mainboard will consume considerably less power in idle mode: this reading will drop to approximately 81 W in nominal mod and 91 W in overclocked mode.  As a result, you will save a lot of power, especially considering that the CPU is mostly idle during common everyday computer work.

Conclusion

It is always hard to predict how the readers will respond to a review. Sometimes it only takes a few days to write a review, but it stays on the top ten list for a long time, and sometimes you spend a month on tests and the article remains barely noticed. I hope that out today’s article wasn’t a waste of time for you. At least in my opinion, the obtained results are extremely interesting and educational. Parameters that we haven’t really paid any attention to before, have suddenly become very important and crucial for performance and power consumption. It is extremely important to remember that you should avoid leaving any of the significant BIOS settings in “Auto” mode.

Despite a number of obvious drawbacks, new Clarkdale processors made a very good overall impression. Besides, they are highly overclockable, which only adds to their high overall score. Besides Intel Core i3-540 CPU that we used during our performance and overclocking tests, we have also checked out about half a dozen of Core i3-530 processors that is why we can share some preliminary statistics with you already. During overclocking without changing the Vcore you can expect to get the junior processor models to hit at least 3.4-3.6 GHz with the maximum being between 4.2 and 4.6 GHz. During our numerous experiments I failed to get Intel Core i3-530 and 540 processors to work stably when the base clock was increased beyond 200 MHz, which limited the maximum overclocking for us.

And of course, we can’t help saying a few words about the main hero of our today’s article - Asus P7H57D-V EVO mainboard. From now on you will see a lot of reviews of different mainboards on the new Intel chipsets. Some can’t boast anything particularly special, some are truly unique, but I don’t think we will see anything like this Asus board any time soon. This solution is truly eye-opening. The unique thing about this board is that it has features that seem impossible to combine on a single platform: Intel H57 chipset and the same multi-card graphics configuration like on Intel P55 Express based solutions. Until today I couldn’t even imagine that it would be possible, but Asus engineers not only imagines but also implemented these ideas in real hardware. This mainboard is universal and in this respect is superior to all other solutions. We can use integrated graphics or a discrete graphics accelerator with a Clarkdale CPU, while with Lynnfield we can build an ATI CrossFire or Nvidia SLI graphics configuration. Do not forget that this board also supports all contemporary interfaces including USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gbps. I am sure you will agree that Asus P7H57D-V EVO totally deserves our Ultimate Innovation award as the most unique and extraordinary solution out there.