P67 Motherboard Roundupccokeman - March 8, 2011
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Each of the motherboard manufacturers come to market with a suite of utilities that add value to the entire package. These utilities offer up overclocking and monitoring functions, easy ways to update the drivers and BIOSs used on the board as well as a way to quickly jump online with a small Linux distribution that loads up much faster than the Windows OS. What I will focus on are the utilities that really matter to this crowd. Mostly the overclocking and monitoring utilities. Each of these utilities deliver real time overclocking that can be applied in the OS without the need to reboot the computer, a real time saver when you are trying to find your hardware's limits. I will start off in alphabetical order and show each of the utilities.
ASUS comes to market with the latest implementation of their AISuite II utility. When I looked at the precursor to this package at an ASUS event in November, the first thing I thought was that it was done right. This new look is a tremendous step away from a fractured utility with everything having an individual interface. Now its all under one comprehensive suite accessed through a toolbar menu. This toolbar has 5 separate functional areas plus an "Auto Tuning" tab that is accessible in the Turbo V submenu. When you dig under the surface, the Republic of Gamers version used with the Maximus IV Extreme is the same application with the ROG Logo up top to let you know you have an ROG product. It's a nice added touch.
Tool: Under the tool section there are a total of six separate functional areas to look through. TurboV Evo, DIGI+ VRM, EPU, Fan Expert, Probe II and Sensor Recorder. Sensor Recorder will show you the system status over time. You can monitor voltages, temperatures, fan speed and set the duration of the monitoring and the interval in which it polls the system. Probe II allows you to choose what functions you can set alerts for. You can set thermal, voltage and fan speed thresholds that will throw an alert. Fan Expert allows you to set up fan profiles as well as choosing from a set of pre-set profiles from Standard to Turbo. The EPU Control Panel is used to define the power profile of the system from High Performance to Maximum power saving modes that reduce the carbon footprint of the system using the EPU processor to its fullest capability.
DIGI+ VRM offers some pretty unique features that allow you to really fine tune the capabilities of the P67 lineup from ASUS. Under this submenu there are a total of five areas that can be manipulated. The first is the familiar Load Line Calibration to change the Vdroop when the CPU is loaded from 0-100% in 25% increments. DIGI+VRM CPU Current Protection allows you the ability to increase the current flow to the CPU with a wider range of up to 180%. DIGI+ VRM Switching Frequency can be set to auto or fixed frequency mode. This helps when overclocking and the frequency range is from 250Khz to 1100Khz in 50 Khz increments. Much like most of the adjustments we make, this one has a trade off between stability and overclocking potential. DIGI+ VRM PWM Mode can be set to T.Probe or Extreme. Phase control can be set to one of three presets as well as a manual adjustment option to set how fast the phase switching of the VRM circuit occurs.
TurboV Evo is the section where you set the voltages and target frequency you are shooting for. You can use the Auto Tuning section to let the TPU (TurboV Processing Unit) take over and set up an overclock using the Fast or Extreme options. When running the Auto Tuning, I saw varying success with it depending on the board with the Maximus IV delivering an overclock of 4.5Ghz using the Extreme option while I was able to pull a stable 3.8GHz with the WS Revolution using the Fast mode. Using the Manual configuration option you can push to almost the extreme maximum your chip is capable of reaching through this interface. Under the More Settings section of TurboV Evo is an advanced mode section with additional voltage options as well as the CPU ratio tab that allows for adjusting the CPU Turbo Boost ratio. Once you find your sweet spot, the profile can be saved so that changing between settings can be a simple process so that you can step up on a new setup slowly or fall back to the saved settings when things don't go so well when overclocking.
One of the features of the ROG version of the P67 ASUS lineup is the ROG connect feature that allows you to manipulate the settings available in the AISuite II from a remote computer. That's all well and good but ASUS has gone one step further by allowing the ability to do this via your smartphone or other computer. Most of the monitoring and overclocking functionality is there and I had to try it out. This application connected to the ROG Maximus IV Extreme through its Bluetooth connection with the phone. All I had to do was transfer the files to the phone and install them then marry the phone to the computer and start overclocking. It was interesting to walk in the front door of the house start the RC Bluetooth application on my HTC Incredible and power the system on. No laptop needed for this chore although that option can be used. I think I had more fun playing with this option than actually overclocking in the EFI BIOS or with AISuite II.
The P8P67 Pro and ROG Maximus IV Extreme come with Bluetooth capabilities. This allows for transferring of data between Bluetooth capable devices and the ability to use the RC Tweakit utility. Transferring files was a simple process once the computer and device were connected.
MSI Is not the only one to revamp their signature overclocking utility. MSI's Control Center application delivers much the same way that AI Suite II does for ASUS. The utility is fully functional in the OS allowing for real time overclocking. Under the Overclocking section there are a total of four areas that have either information or the capability of manipulating the clock speeds, voltages or memory timings. The Mainboard section gives top line information about the motherboard with more detail found under the "More" button to the right of the window. The CPU monitor section again gives top line info about the installed CPU, in this case an Intel second generation Core i7 2600K. The CPU monitor tab to the right of the window opens up a new window that shows the current CPU clock speed, clock multiplier, temperature and maximum Turbo Boost ratio by cores. The "More" button shows information displayed that is similar to what you see displayed in CPU-Z.
For the DRAM portion of Control Center, the main page displays the type and size DIMMs populated into each slot along with the manufacturer, part number and speed. Pushing the DRAM timing button opens up a window to allow the memory primary and sub timings to be adjusted while pushing the More button shows the SPD information of the modules for three JEDEC specifications as well as the XMP profile for the test modules. The Overclock section is where the voltages can be tweaked to increase the level of performance of the processor , motherboard and system memory. Included is a small widget for use with the Windows sidebar when Control Center is minimized.
The "Green Power" section of this application is where the board parameter can be set to maximize the efficiency of the power systems through a series of presets. Here is where the Phase LEDs can be enabled or disabled.
ECS makes use of the Intels performance tuning utility for overclocking in the operating system but offers up a bit of software for configuration of the operating parameters of the Hydra Logix cross manufacturer multi-GPU solution.
Let's see how each of the BIOS are configured. This should be interesting with the move to an EUFI BIOS for the majority of the boards.