MSI P7N Diamond Reviewccokeman - May 18, 2008
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The hardware-specific adjustments for the processor, system memory, and chipset are normally located in the BIOS somewhere, sometimes in a special menu that requires a strategic key-press to enter, other times out in the open. Whether the manufacturer calls it Extreme Tweaker, UGuru - or in this case, the Cell Menu - this section this is where you make the magic happen, or at least it's where you make a valiant effort.
The first thing you'll notice in the Cell Menu is a box at the top of the page that displays CPU frequency, FSB, and RAM speed. Right below that box is the toggle for the Dynamic Overclocking (D.O.T.) function, which can be used to dynamically adjust CPU speed based on system load. EIST (Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology) should be disabled if you will be overclocking the system, since this tool relies on the system being configured at stock settings. EIST works similarly to D.O.T., except that its function is reversed - the system lowers CPU clock speed when there is no load in an effort to conserve energy, and kicks the frequency back up when the computer has a job to do. SLI-Ready Memory and Maximum OC are pre-determined RAM overclock settings built into some memory modules that the user can switch on and off; these settings will provide a mild or extreme overclock, respectively.
System Clock Mode allows three different configurations - Auto provides an automatic configuration, Linked syncs CPU and RAM speeds, and Manual allows the independent clocking of the CPU and system memory. The CPU core clock can be adjusted from 400MHz to 2500MHz, while the RAM can be adjusted from 400MHz to 1400MHz. Because Intel processors are "quad-pumped", the real CPU speed will range from 100MHz to 625MHz. A similar situation happens to the system RAM, which operates at a "double data rate" (DDR), so speeds of 100 to 700MHz are the reality. The CPU multiplier can be adjusted up or down, with the CPU's instructions being the limiting factor; for example, the Q6600 used in this review has a maximum multiplier of 9x, with 6x being the minimum.
Advanced DRAM Configuration is where you will set RAM sub-timings to maximize your system's memory performance. An important RAM setting known as TRFC is conspicuously absent from the memory tuning page, and this may have a negative impact on 780i owners who intend to use 4GB RAM or more. Hopefully this can be incorporated into a newer BIOS, and for now, you can use the Memset utility to change TRFC within Windows.
The PCI-E Bus frequency can be adjusted from 100MHz to 200MHz; adjusting this upwards can increase the bandwidth available for video cards and some RAID controller cards. Auto Disable PCI/DRAM frequency turns off unused PCI and DIMM sockets.
The P7N Diamond's voltage settings are abundant enough to get the system to perform, but users will notice that this board goes about altering voltages differently than most. To safely increase the CPU's voltage for overclocking, the user must know their chip's VID, as it is regarded by the BIOS as the stock voltage, and all overvolting will build upon that VID number. The CPU used in this review had a VID of 1.275v, so adding .2250v to this base voltage would give me a grand total of 1.50v. DRAM voltage maxes out at 2.8v, the Northbridge at 1.6v, and the Southbridge at 2.0v; the remaining voltages can be used to fine tune the system.
Last - but not least - is the Spread Spectrum control, which can be Enabled and Disabled.