Intel P965 Shoot-Out: Asus P5B-E vs. MSI P965 Platinum

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ASUS P5B-E: BIOS & Overclocking

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ASUS P5B-E: Exploring the BIOS
Overclocking Options Galore

The Asus P5B-E comes with an AMI BIOS that at first seems much more condensed then the version used on the MSI P965 Platinum.  Instead of arriving at a series of sections to choose from, this BIOS immediately displays the System Date and Time, whether or not a legacy diskette (read: floppy drive) is installed, and what drives are attached to the 6 SATA channels.  Clicking on each drive reveals more information such as Vendor and Size places the configuration settings at the bottom, most of which should be left at [Auto].  The IDE Configuration page controls the setup for the JMicron controller.  Finally, the System Information screen displays the current version of the BIOS, and some basic CPU and memory information.

Main BIOS Screen    IDE Configuration   Boot Priority

Hardware Monitor    CPU Settings   EZ Flash

Skipping over the Advanced section for the time being brought us to Power, which covers the ACPI status mode and tweaking the settings for power loss occurrences or when the system should be awakened by device activity.  Delving a bit futher into the Hardware Monitor brings us to a page that displays the current CPU and Motherboard temperatures as well as the voltages and fan speeds.  ASUS Q-Fan control may be enabled here, with automatically controls the fan speeds to find a nice balance between cooling and noise output.

Under 'Boot', the boot device priority is set from the first device preferred down to the fourth.  The boot settings determine whether or not to display a full screen image, which can be modified using ASUS MyLogo, and what messages may or may not appear depending on certain conditions.  To protect your BIOS settings, a supervisor and user password can be saved in this section as well. 'Tools' offers up two handy utilities that take the headache out of updating the BIOS and in overclocking the system.  Rather than the arcane boot from floppy method for updating the BIOS, all one needs to do with the P5B-E is enter the BIOS and access the file from a drive.  O.C. Profile lets the user save two differing overclocking configurations - perhaps one for the highest stable overclock and one for just squeezing a few extra frames without risking your components.

Jumperless    CPU Frequency   DRAM Frequency

PCI-E Frequency    DRAM Timings   O.C. Profiles

Of course, one still needs to go about overclocking the system to begin with, and that brings us back to the Advanced menu. This menu lists 6 different sections, the first of which is labeled 'Jumperfree Configuration'.  By default, AI Tuning and DRAM Frequency are both set to [Auto], but switch over to [Manual] and voila!  there are frequency and voltage options galore.  CPU Frequences range from 100MHz all the way up to 650MHz in 1MHz steps.  DRAM frequencies, on the other hand, are chosen from presets of 533, 667, 800, 889, and 1067MHz (although the last one is not officially supported).  PCI and PCI-Express bus speeds can also be locked down to prevent any damage to these devices while raising the bus speed.

Of course, hand in hand with raising the speeds would be the voltage settings, and there are more options here than we have seen with just about any other board.  These include the CPU VCore, FSB Termination, NB VCore, SB Vcore, and ICH Chipset voltages.  The CPU VCore voltage can be set from 1.2750V to 1.7000V in 0.0125V steps.  Memory voltage, originally limited to a few choices in the original bios and ending at 2.1V receives an upgrade here, with voltages as high as 2.45V in the latest revision.  The NB, SB, ICH, and FSB voltages have far fewer options, typically consisting of three or four choices, the highest of which are usually cautioned against as they may cause damage to the chipsets.

 CPU VCore Voltage   Memory Voltage   FSB Termination Voltage

 NB VCore Voltage   SB VCore   ICH Chipset Voltage

Outside of overclocking, the Advanced menu also contains a few tweaks for the CPU and Memory.  On the CPU Configuration screen, the BIOS automatically detects and sets each option, although these can be manually overwritten.  The same is true for the memory timings found under the North Bridge Chipset Configuration.  When left to detect the DRAM Timings by SPD, the memory will be set at the timings found in the EEPROM on each module.  Disabling this setting unlocks 10 new options from the standard timings to some more esoteric ones.  

ASUS P5B-E : Overclocking
An Overclocker's dream

We took a Core 2 E6300 processor and the ASUS P5B-E and set out to see if the great number of options in the BIOS would result in a great overclock as well.  We started out by raising the front side bus in 10MHz increments, while dropping the DRAM frequency down from DDR2-800 to DDR-667, but still at 4-4-4-12 timings.  At each step, we booted into Windows, ran a few benchmarks and if everything ran stable, moved up and onward.  We continued on like this up past the 300MHz mark without having to change any other settings in the BIOS.    

SANDRA CPU Performance

CPU-Z Motherboard Info

 SANDRA CPU Performance

 CPU-Z Overclocked Results

E6300 @ 3.19GHz

E6300 @ 3.19GHz

We had to raise the CPU voltage at 360MHz to 1.35V, but never touched it again after that until the system began failing around 460 MHz.  We could not run any benchmarks and system unstable at this point, even with additional voltage.  The DDR Voltage was raised along the way to 2.1V at 420MHz since our RAM was now over spec, running at 840MHz, and we also relaxed the timings to 5-5-5-15 to keep things in hand.  When we started having problems running benchmarks while in the mid 400's, the NB Voltage and FSB Voltage were bumped up a notch to increase stability.

The final, stable overclock we were able to reach and maintain a stable environment at was a 454MHz FSB, which comes out to a 3.19GHz clock speed - up 1.33GHz over default speeds.  That's nearly an extra third higher than the 1.86GHz that the Core 2 Duo E6300 is expected to run at.  Our gut feeling was that the P5B-E might have been able to reach even higher, but at 454MHz the RAM was running at 908MHz, and we believe that might have held us back. We ran a few benchmarks including SANDRA and the F.E.A.R. performance test to get a feel for what we accomplished.  The SANDRA results were great and getting up to 432fps in F.E.A.R. speaks for itself.

F.E.A.R. Overclocked Results
F.E.A.R. running at an avg. of 432fps!

Tags:  Intel, Asus, MSI, ATI, MS, shoot, SHO, platinum, PLA

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