|ASUS Striker II NSE nForce 790i SLI Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Wednesday, 28 May 2008|
Page 6 of 14
ASUS Striker II NSE BIOS
For the past decade, ASUS motherboards have used a very direct BIOS layout. I know that everyone likes something different, but the ASUS has always done right by me when it came to how they programmed their BIOS structure. Things haven't changed all that much in ten years, which by some accounts is a shame. Should the BIOS still look exactly like it did ten years ago?
The Striker II NSE nForce 790i (NF790i) motherboard comes with a Phonix Award BIOS out of the box, utilizing a Winbond W39V080A 8 MB LPC. My test unit arrived with a version 0305 BIOS revision, which seemed entirely unstable at nearly all settings. I actually changed my CPU a few times during the testing because I thought there might be something wrong with my E8200. As it turned out, the NSE is just not cut out for DDR3 rated above 1600 MHz... at least not in the 0305 BIOS.
The initial instability didn't matter so much to me, as it is a standard practice to visit the manufacturers web site and download the most current BIOS. At the time of this writing, the 0403 revision was the best the ASUSTek site offered, so I requested the in-house beta version 0501. Throughout my testing, both BIOS updates would not install from the ASUS Update or EZFlash BIOS feature, and the process ultimately required a floppy disk drive (remember those?) and AWDFLASH.
Since I primarily work with Intel-based motherboards, there were a few settings in the 'Extreme Tweaker' group that took some extra attention. At first the 'CPU Level Up' and 'Memory Level Up' features seemed kind pointless, but after failing to reach POST using my settings I thought that I would give these features a try. As it turned out, they were a good starting point towards reaching my desired configuration. Once I became familiar with the BIOS, which admittedly took far longer than normal, I was able to get the ASUS Striker II NSE motherboard to overclock at the desired speed.
Next came the memory timing settings for the DDR3. The standard parameters are included in the first group, while more advanced sub-settings are identified in the following section. I don't usually go into the more advanced memory settings, primarily because I could spend an entire day tweaking the configuration to achieve a 1% difference at best. However, the more experienced overclocker will enjoy manipulating these settings and possibly even more performance from their equipment; which is what the Striker II NSE is explicitly designed for. In our tests the 'Advanced Memory Settings' were left at 'Auto', which is what I suspect most enthusiasts might use in their own configuration.
ASUS Striker II NSE nForce 790i (NF790i) 1600MHz FSB Motherboard
Last up on my journey towards a decent overclock (E8200 up from 2.66 to 3.60 GHz) was the voltage settings. This is one area in particular which requires some additional attention and care. In past products, such as the ASUS P5K3 Deluxe P35 motherboard or Gigabyte GA-X48T-DQ6 DES X48 motherboard, overclocking was a simple matter of raising the FSB (Front Side Bus) and applying appropriately increased voltage to the CPU and RAM. Not so simple in the Striker II, which has a large array of voltages to choose from:
My first attempts at reaching the same level of overclock in the X48 motherboard began by using the same voltages. When it comes to motherboard voltage I understand that what's selected in the BIOS isn't always what you get; which is why I record the configured voltage versus the actual voltage (as recorded by the motherboard). The P35 and X48 motherboards were practically identical in their required voltages, but the NF790i motherboard wouldn't budge. After many (many, many, many) hours speant tweaking the BIOS, I finally accomplished my goal. It took a lot more voltage than I had previously used, and the configured voltage was never what the voltage monitor reported, but it worked.
Just in case a reader is wondering what I used to get there, the voltages below are what was configured in the BIOS versus what voltage monitor reported.
It was surprising to see that the vast majority of voltages were slightly higher than I set them, which is worth noting if you plan on taking your hardware to the extreme limits. The only voltage that showed a trend otherwise was the South Bridge Core, which was only slightly beneath the settings.
In our next section, Benchmark Reviews takes the ASUS Striker II NSE nForce 790i motherboard and compares it head-to-head against the top Intel overclocker: the X48 chipset of our Gigabyte GA-X48T-DQ6 DES X48 motherboard.