MSI P6N Diamond - NV680i with X-Fi Audio - HotHardware

MSI P6N Diamond - NV680i with X-Fi Audio

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MSI P6N Diamond : Exploring the BIOS
Let's start with the basics 

           

The AMI BIOS that the P6N Diamond is equipped with at first looks almost exactly like the earlier P965 Platinum, with the sole exception of an apparently missing Advanced Chipset Features option. As we entered the first section, we saw the typical options to set time and date, a list of our drives, and an overview of some basic information such as BIOS version, CPU Frequency, and amount of memory installed.  The Advanced BIOS Features vary slightly regarding what features are available based on the chipset - Toggling Intel SpeedStep technology on the P965 vs. Setting the Frequency between the C55 NB to NVIDIA SB on the 680i, while still giving us standard items such as setting up the Boot Sequence or displaying a logo during POST.

Having a feature-rich board requires an area in the BIOS to turn or off each of these components, and that's what the Integrated Peripherals section is used for.  Running quickly through the list, there's the USB controller, dual LAN controllers, FireWire, and the external SATA.  The BIOS also lists an HD Audio controller, which is actually the Creative X-Fi Xtreme Audio chipset, and must be enabled or disabled depending on whether or not you want to install your own audio card.

        

Going deeper into the On-Chip ATA Devices is where you'll need to go to set up your drives, including both IDE and SATA, and whether or not you want to use a RAID configuration.  Note that there are two different controllers for the SATA ports: SATA ports 1-5 are controlled by the nForce 590i SB, which supports RAID 0,1, 0+1, 5 or JBOD.  SATA ports numbered 6 and 7 are separate from the group, and are used for dedicated Hardware RAID supporting modes 0 and 1.  This is provided for by the SiliconImage Sil4723 chip placed just next to the 590i, closest to SATA6-7.  The benefits of Hardware RAID is that is a "true" RAID, not subject to any software or operating system constraints, and as such doesn't use any of your CPU's processing power.

        

MSI has long set aside a section for tweaking and overclocking called the Cell Menu, and at first glance it seems underwhelming.  D.O.T. Control is MSI's built-in overclocking method, with preset overclocks ranging from 1% up to 15%.  Directly underneath this are where the current FSB, Memory, and PCI-E clock speeds are shown, as well as the Voltages.  Under Advance DRAM Configuration are the individual memory timings with ten different options shown. 

MSI P6N Diamond : Overclocking
Over the speed limit, and loving it

To go about overclocking the P6N Diamond, we needed to switch over from an Automatic System Clock Mode to Manual, which now allowed us to input the FSB and Memory clocks directly, and separate from one another.  Although the memory clock appears to be set, there still dividers being used.  We noticed that even though we set the memory speed in at 800MHz, the actual speed shown varied a few MHz here and there.

        

Knowing the results of our past attempts at overclocking our E6300, we knew it was possible to get into the range of around 450MHz (1800 QDR) on the front side bus using nothing more than some voltage tweaks and a stock Intel cooler.  Still, we started out somewhat cautiously, bumping the board up to 1100, then 1150, 1200, and so on.  At each point, we entered Windows and ran a few applications including a SANDRA CPU performance module to see how stable the system was.


SANDRA CPU Performance

CPU-Z Motherboard Info

 

Core 2 Duo E6300 @ 2.73GHz

Core 2 Duo E6300 @ 2.73GHz


Eventually, we managed to move all the way up to a 375MHz FSB (1500 QDR), which surpassed the MSI P965 Platinum.  This was accomplished with no voltage tweaks or other modifications.  Buoyed by this, we continued on and immediately headed into a roadblock.  We found that at any speed higher than 388MHz (1550 QDR) Windows would not POST.  More disturbing was the realization that no amount of extra voltage applied to the NB or VCore would get us any higher.  Thus, we settled for running some benchmarks at 388MHz and calling it a day.  Yes, we got further than the other MSI board, but we were far shy of other 680i boards.

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