BIOS and Overclocking
Like many other consumer-level boards, the EVGA nForce 790i SLI FTW Digital PWM utilizes a Phoenix AwardBIOS. In the three images below, you can see the main BIOS page/menu, the Integrated Peripherals page, and the PC Health Status page. For the most part, these screens are all standard fare and not too exciting. We have to dig a little deeper to see what EVGA cooked up for those who like to tweak.
The "Frequency/Voltage Control" menu is where all your overclocking and tweaking adventures will start. For those of you who do not want to look at a bunch of different settings and fiddle with all the details, EVGA was kind enough to include a "Dummy O.C" option. As you can see in the first picture below, the "Dummy O.C" allows you to set an overclock from 5% to 25% in 5% increments. Keep in mind, though, that all these options won't work just because they are available. You'll still have to do some trial and error work to see what your components can handle. In the second picture, you can see that this BIOS allows you to save and load three different timing/voltage profiles. The third image shows the "System Clocks" page, which is where you will find the CPU multiplier.
The following two images show the "FSB & Memory Config" and "Memory Timing Setting" screens. In addition to being able to adjust the FSB, you can also enable or disable EPP 2.0 if you have compatible EPP memory. In addition, you can alter the FSB-memory ratio and tweak the memory speed. For hardcore overclockers and tweak addicts, EVGA also included advanced memory settings.
The "System Voltages" screen is where you see just how serious EVGA was about making this board an overclocker's best friend. Not many boards offer the range that EVGA does on these voltages, and not just one of them but all of them. EVGA even color codes the options to let you know how dangerous the choices can be. As you can see in the images below, EVGA uses white, green and red text to indicate the risk level to the user. Red seems to indicate very risky voltages; green is less risky; and white seems pretty safe. CPU core goes all the way up to 2.0V, and memory hits 3.075V.
There is no doubt that this board has enthusiast written all over it. Still, we are glad to see that EVGA didn't forget about the average Joe by including color-coded voltages and the "Dummy O.C" options.
We'd be willing to bet that if you are even considering this board, then you are probably interested in overclocking. Since we aim to please and satisfy the curious, we set out to see how much higher we could get the FSB with our Core 2 Quad Q9650 (3 GHz). Note that we didn't use any elaborate cooling for this overclocking session. We simply used a standard heatsink and fan combo.
As you can see above, we were able to hit 475MHz FSB (which, quad-pumped, equates to 1900MHz). We tried some voltage increases to go higher, but it just wasn't having it. We were hoping to go higher, and we probably could if we put more time into it and used a dual core processor. Nevertheless, we were pleased with how easy the motherboard was to overclock with a Q9650 in its socket. We never once had to actually reset the BIOS after failed attempts. The board handled the failures gracefully and allowed us to go back into the BIOS and make changes, just the way we like it. The board also did a nice job of automatically adjusting voltages as needed to help maintain stability. EVGA put a lot of effort into this BIOS, and it shows.
As always, overclocking is something you do at your own risk, however, and your mileage will vary.