The AL8's BIOS & Overclocking
Driving the AL8 experience is a customized Phoenix Award BIOS that closely integrates with ABIT's GURU processor. When we first enter the BIOS utility, the majority of performance options could be found in the GURU Utility menu. Within Guru Utility is both OC Guru and ABIT EQ. A lot of the options found here match up to what we already reported on with the Windows utilities. The FSB offered a broad adjustment ranging from 133MHz to 400MHz. The PCIe Clock was adjustable from 100MHz to 150MHz while the CPU Strap could be set for 1066, 800 and 533 depending on the CPU installed. CPU core voltage ranged from 1.35v to 1.70v in increments of .025v. PCI voltage was adjustable, ranging from 1.5v through 2v in .05v increments while DDR Voltage could adjusted from 1.75 to 2.3v in .05v steps.
ABIT EQ matches up well with ABIT EQ Windows-Based Utility, allowing for exceptional control over fan speeds, shut-down temperatures and operating thresholds. In fact, we almost found it to be too much. On the voltage side, however, voltage monitoring was extensive, which is an important feature for general performance, overclocking and troubleshooting.
Outside of the Guru Utility Menu, the Advanced Chipset Features page was the next most important screen. Here the memory timings could be adjusted to your liking. The CAS latency ranged from 3, 4, 5 and 6 while the DRAM RAS# options ranged from 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Between this screen and the GURU Utility, ABIT offers a wide range of performance control options. Next, we'll put these setting to the test in our overclocking segment.
Since the AL8 is clearly built with overclocking in mind, we found the end result to be somewhat disappointing. We could not get our AL8 to exceed 221MHz FSB, no matter what. Anything higher resulted in a system freeze using the OC Guru and a black screen during POST when adjusting the FSB in the BIOS. We updated to the latest BIOS, lowered memory speed, applied conservative timings, and put a Pentium 530J in place of the Pentium D and all resulted in the same exact outcome. We've seen others report very good overclocking with the AL8. Considering all of the performance features and overclocking tools, we are confident this issue resides with our particular board.
In the end, an increase from 200MHz FSB to 221MHz is a respectable gain that will yield visible performance deltas. With a boost equating to 12.5%, the Pentium D 820 stepped up from 2.8GHz to 3.10GHz. Nonetheless, we sure would like to have gone higher.