|ASUS P7P55D-E Pro Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Thursday, 24 June 2010|
Page 8 of 17
ASUS BIOS and Overclocking
It seems like Intel, AMD and NVIDIA can't help themselves. Every new product line they introduce seems to have a built-in capacity for higher clock rates. In this very aggressive semiconductor marketplace, it seems there is a soft spot for conservative speed ratings. It's not like this is a big secret anymore; ever since enthusiasts started getting 100% overclocks on the Intel Core2 Duo chips with decent air cooling, it seems the whole world is in on it.
ASUS makes it easier and easier to achieve those overclocks with each new major release of their BIOS. For several years now, the core functions required to maximize the performance of your PC have been contained on the "Ai Tweaker" tab of the custom AMI BIOS. There are several ways of tweaking the performance. CPU Level Up is the simplest; it just bumps up your BIOS settings to the next higher level processer specs. If there isn't one, you can jump up to the next tier; got an i5, want an i7? Just do it, as they say. The OC tuner takes a more deliberate approach, and goes through a sequence of repeatedly raising clocks and then testing for stability. It's a well established process that most people would do themselves, manually. With OC Tuner, it's automated. Lastly, there is support for utility programs that run in Windows and can speed up the process by eliminating the repetitive rebooting process.
I'm a manual overclocker at heart; it's how I learned it the first time I did it, and I'm most comfortable when I have full control. Yes, it's just an illusion, but humor me..... I also get annoyed with machines that don't think the way I do. For example, if I'm running benchmarks, I can't have the Intel SpeedStep controller slowing the CPU down at the exact moment I press the button to start a test. The lag isn't that much, but it's never consistent. The same goes for Intel TurboMode; it cranks up one of the cores to Eleven at the first sign of a major CPU task. Nice! Great! Love it! But once again it doesn't do it exactly the same each and every time. I tried running some benchmarks with it turned on and they were all over the map; it's most intrusive with short tests like the memory assessments in Everest. I could never get two sets of results that matched with either of these features turned on.
In order to reach the full potential of your system, it is usually necessary to adjust some system voltages. Once again, everything is accessible in BIOS, with either the automated processes I discussed above, or with fully manual adjustments. All the basics are here, and I especially like how the current voltage is displayed; it gives you an idea of the default voltage without having to go look it up on some obscure website, if you can find it at all.
Ultimately, I decided to perform the testing for this article with two different overclocks. One was achieved with the default voltage for everything. All I did was set the memory to the correct speed and timings, using the XMP profile embedded in the DIMMs, and adjust the base clock and multiplier for the CPU. With these few, simple changes I got a stable overclock of 3.6 GHz on the CPU, with TurboMode turned off for testing purposes.
After I completed testing with that configuration, I turned the CPU voltage up slightly to 1.30 volts, and then bumped the CPU up to 4.0 GHz. I left it there for a couple reasons. One, a 1.33 GHz increase is pretty significant upgrade; it's 50% higher than the factory clock. Two, 4.0 GHz is a nice round number, a milestone, if you will. Three, the 200 MHz base clock kept the memory speeds right at their rated specs. I could have pushed them higher, but for the sake of comparison, it's helpful yo keep as many things constant as possible. Four, core temps on the CPU were creeping up and I didn't want to risk instability. It's a real pain to get to the last test of the day and find out that it's the only one that crashes your system with its new settings....
The P55 platform, and ASUS' P7P55D-E Pro, may look like a mainstream product, and it may be priced in the same range as a mainstream product, but it sure behaves like an enthusiast product. Couple that with the fact that it supports SLI and CrossFireX with the full, unaltered 16 lanes of PCI-e 2.0 connections direct to the CPU and you have a product that is eminently suited for gaming usage.
Please stick around for the next section, as we proceed with testing.