|ASRock AOD790GX/128M AM2+ Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Bruce Normann - Edited by Olin Coles|
|Tuesday, 10 March 2009|
Page 7 of 16
If you're an overclocking enthusiast, then you need to be aware about capabilities of the motherboard BIOS. The BIOS never makes it onto the front page of the news release, it never gets a mention on the slick product packaging, it never gets displayed at CEBIT, but it has a big influence on how well you are going to get along with your new system. All of the heatsinks and heat-pipes in the world will not have the impact over the ability to achieve a decent overclock, to the same degree as a well designed BIOS will.
The first thing that any hardware enthusiast or overclocker should to do is investigate the latest BIOS available from the manufacturer. In some instances, the latest BIOS will only be found on special support forums, and you won't see any mention of it in the official product documentation on the manufacturer's website. That's just downright cruel, IMHO.
The board I received had the latest officially released BIOS installed, v1.40, which was just released in February 2009. I searched around and found no un-released versions floating in the Ethernet. v1.30 was released in December 2008 and it was the update for AMD Phenom II processors, so I was spared the BIOS flashing routine once more. I haven't seen a socketed BIOS chip in quite a while; usually, it's just an expense the manufacturer wants to avoid. I don't know why ASRock used one, but I assume they have a good reason.
ASRock puts most of its system tuning parameters on the "Advanced" tab of the AMI BIOS. It is well laid out and all the CPU, memory and chipset tuning options are there. There is no special key combination required to unlock certain function, like some vendors have. The AOD790GX/128M BIOS was easy to use for overclocking. I normally avoid the add-on tuning programs, and go straight to the BIOS and fiddle around. This time I tested out the latest version of AMD Overdrive (v2.1.6) and the OC Tuner utility that ASRock supplies with their motherboards. I found both rather easy to use and stable. Several Enhanced Performance Default settings are available on one of the tabs, for those who are unsure or unfamiliar with the nuances of overclocking, but still feel like they're being cheated if they don't get a little something extra.
I freely admit that there are people who know 10-100 times more than I do about BIOS tweaking, yet within an evening or so, I was able to get the Phenom II 720BE up to 3.8GHz. Getting to 3.7GHz was a cakewalk, it took some fine tuning of the reference clock, the HT Multiplier, and CPU, NB, and memory voltages to get a stable 3.8 GHz CPU clock. There's probably a few MHz left on the table, but stress testing got the three cores up to 45C, and since my Intel E7300 also runs 24/7 at 3.8GHz, I thought this was a good place to stop. We'll see in the testing section if I was right.
In the next section, Benchmark Reviews begins testing the AOD790GX/128M and we compare it to the Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P that was reviewed in January. The ASRock motherboard is a bit lower in price and features, but performance wise, it should be a good matchup.