Quality and Setup of the DFI AD73 RAID
Primer on the "Multiplier":
If overclocking the DFI AD73 RAID
motherboard is your plan, then it is important to
familiarize yourself with the multiplier setting.
One of the keys to successfully overclocking a system is
by unlocking the CPU's mulitplier. Generally, a "series" of processors are designed
with the same core and are "locked" at the factory.
This means that essentially the same chip is used for a
range of speeds by simply locking the multiplier to a
specific setting. If
the processor is successfully unlocked, then you can enjoy
the fullest potential of the core's design, occassionally reaching
the high-end of the core's rating without issue. Once the processor is unlocked, the
core frequency of the chip can be adjusted to higher or
lower than the factory setting.
What this means is although an AthlonXP 1800+ runs at
1.53GHz. from the factory, it could be set to run as a 1900+
Finding the right balance
between bus speed and multiplier setting is key to achieving
a stable overclock. Where a system might have topped
out at 145MHz. when adjusting the bus speed alone, with a
reduced multiplier setting, the bus may go much higher while
keeping the processor running well within tolerances.
For example, take the AthlonXP 1800+ running at 1.53GHz. its
internal multiplier is set at 11.5 (11.5 x 133 bus =
1530MHz.) If the bus speed is increased to 160 this
would push the processor speed up to 1.84GHz.(11.5 x 160 bus
with an unlocked processor, we could reduced the multiplier
setting to 10 which would bring the CPU speed to within
tolerances at 1.6GHz. (10 x 160 bus speed), while
maintaining a higher bus speed, improving overall system
performance. Of course this is just a scenario, but it
does demonstrate how much more success you could have
overclocking your system by unlocking your processor.
The DFI AD73 supports adjustment
of the CPU's multiplier setting by implementing a series of
dipswitches on the board. These dipswitches can adjust
the multiplier from 5x to 12.5x, offering an ample range of
settings. Although I normally prefer settings be
adjusted from within the BIOS, I do prefer this method when
it comes to adjusting the multiplier. This process
makes it easy to adjust the setting, as well as
reversing it if the system becomes unstable, without needing
to clear the BIOS.
Unfortunately, the CPU we used
for testing is one of a handful of AthlonXP processors whose
traces are burned, making unlocking almost impossible.
However, it didn't stop us from pushing things a little
higher with the bus. So let's take a look at the BIOS
and then we'll cover more on overclocking.
The BIOS of the
DFI AD73 RAID
The DFI AD73 RAID comes with an
Award BIOS and has a good amount of settings available for
optimizing system performance.
The BIOS provides a wide array of options that one would
expect from a "workstation" type motherboard. The DRAM
Clock/Drive Control had an excellent range of settings to
maximize the memory performance, while the Frequency/Voltage
Control screen provided the bare-minimum for overclocking
the system. The CPU voltage can be adjusted up to
1.85V while the bus speed can be adjusted up to 250MHz.
As we mentioned earlier, the multiplier setting must be set with the dipswitches on
the motherboard itself, rather than from within the BIOS..
The BIOS also includes a fairly
thorough PC Status screen for monitoring critical voltages
and fan speeds. Alarms can be set to shutdown the
system if the CPU fan fails and/or the CPU temperature
exceeds the maximum setting.
OK, so we know what ties
everything together, but how does this board perform?
Well, let's get to it!
HotHardware Test Systems
AthlonXP All the Way!!
DFI AD73 RAID
AMD AthlonXP 1800+.
ATA100 7200RPM 42GB HD
VIA 4.38 4-in-1
A Few Words
About The Benchmarks:
As weve noted in the past, weve seen a wide
difference in benchmarking scores across the
net. To help explain the scores we achieve
when testing a product, we felt it necessary
to explain how we set up a system before
running the benchmarks. With the DFI
AD73 RAID motherboard, we started of by
setting the BIOS to Load Optimized
Defaults. The memory frequency was
manually set to 266MHz.(DDR). We then set up the Two IBM Deskstar hard drives in a RAID-0 configuration
with the Promise controller set for
Performance/A-V Editing. We then installed a
fresh copy of Windows XP Professional and
followed that up with a download of all
Critical Updates in Windows Update. Next we
ran Scandisk and then defragmented the array.
Windows XP has a number of video features that
make the interface more visually pleasing, but
at a cost of some performance. In our test
system we set the visual quality to "best
performance" with both the Windows Desktop
Customize option and in the Video drivers.
The results of our benchmarks were compared to
a MSI KT3 Ultra ARU and a Shuttle AK35GT2/R
motherboard as a point of reference for the
DFI AD73 RAID results.
DFI AD73 RAID Motherboard
Get On The Bus!
overclock a motherboard, we generally like to do it with an
"Unlocked" processor. Adjusting the multiplier with an
unlocked processor, instead of increasing the bus speed,
allows us to isolate the cause of a failed overclock to
either the motherboard or the processor. Once an
increased bus speed is introduced, a lot of other variables
enter the fray.
the AthlonXP 1800+ that we used for testing cannot be
unlocked easily because the traces are burned, preventing us
from jumping them. So with the DFI AD73 RAID
motherboard we had to settle for increasing the bus speed
only. Once we got ourselves up and running, we started
pushing the bus speed up 1MHz. at a time.
With the limited
overclocking features of the BIOS, we didn't expect to get
too high with the DFI AD73 RAID and it looks like our
instinct was correct. The maximum bus speed that we
could reach stably was a mere 140MHz., any higher and we
would see blue screens as Windows XP would load. Even
with some voltage adjustments we couldn't go any higher.
Keep in mind that this was achieved with the most aggressive
memory timings and could certainly improve if we backed off
a little. However I am of the opinion that if you need
to drop the memory performance down to increase CPU
performance, the trade off is not always worth it. So we
settled for the 140MHz. bus speed which increased our
processor from the default 1.53GHz. to 1.61GHz., an increase
Sandra 2002, PCMark2002 and More!