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

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MSI P965 Platinum: BIOS & Overclocking

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MSI P965 Platinum: Exploring the BIOS
Let's start with the basics 

The AMI BIOS that came with the P965 Platinum is a familiar sight for anyone who has built even a few systems in their time.  A standard list of sections are listed down the left side of the main screen, offering up options that are more or less catered to basic setup of the system.  For example, date, time and drive information is found on the Standard CMOS Features, while CPU parameters and simple Boot-up procedures get listed under the Advanced BIOS Features.

AMI BIOS    Standard CMOS Features   Advanced BIOS Features

Advanced Chipset Features    PCI Configuration

In the Advanced Chipset Features, the first thing that you'll notice are there aren't very many options available.  Even after disabling the setting for 'Configure DRAM Timing by SPD', the timing options are only limited to the "big" four: CAS Latency, RAS to CAS Delay, RAS Precharge, and RAS Activate to Prec.  There are no other fine tunings, or other means available for tweaking the system at this point.  As MSI is usually a tweaker-friendly manufacturer, this comes as a bit of a surprise.  We might have expected fewer options on a lower-end desginated board, but not on a "Platinum" model. 

Integrated Peripherals offers a slew of choices to choose from, as just about everything you could want for in the board comes standard on the P965.  Onboard LAN, FireWire, HD Audio - it's all in there.  There's also mention of the Onboard RAID controller, which is actually referring to the JMicron JMB361 controller.  It's almost a misnomer, as there is a higher probability that you will be using it for connecting IDE drives rather than using it in a RAID setup, especially since 6 of the SATA ports controlled by the ICH8R Southbridge are already able to be used for RAID configurations.

Integrated Peripherals    On-Chip ATA Devices   IO Devices

Hardware Monitor    Power Management

Drilling down even further into the On-Chip ATA Devices is where you'll need to go to set that RAID up, and the ICH8R supports RAID 0, 1, 10 or RAID 5 configurations.  I/O Devices contain the lost stepchild of the BIOS settings, enabling or disabling what are mostly seen as legacy devices these days.  These include parallel and serial ports, what type of parallel port mode to use, and the floppy drive support.  It's been years now that motherboard manufacturers have been on the edge about dropping support for parallel and serial ports, as they are rarely ever used, but I for one will always need my floppy drive.

It's when we get to the Cell Menu that the real fun begins.  Within this section are just about all of the settings for overclocking the P965, whether that means using one of MSI's presets, or going about it on your own. It's even possible to overclock the CPU only, the video card, or both from here as well, taking guesswork completely out of the hands of the newly indoctrined overclocker.

Dynamic Overclocking    CPU or Video D.O.T.   CPU Voltage

Assuming you are up to the challenge, moving directly to the CPU FSB Frequency is where you will get started.  The FSB can be set anywhere between 266 and 550MHz in 1MHz steps with the voltage going from the default setting as high as +0.7875V.  Not that we would ever go that high, but it's good to see that the range exists.  As voltages are raised, the new voltage level will actually be colored to match a safety level: gray for default values, white for safe, yellow for "high performance" and red meaning the setting is not recommended and may cause an issue.

DRAM Frequency    DRAM Voltage   NB Voltage

DRAM frequencies allow for some creativity as it allows the user to install various kinds of DDR2 modules into the system, and also allows the speed to be lowered or raised over the actual rated frequency.  DRAM Voltage ranges from 1.85V to 2.45V, and can be used to stabilize the DDR or at least meet expected values.  For example, the Corsair DDR2 we used is only rated to hit its timings at 2.1V, which is what we set it at here in the BIOS.   Finally, it's also possible to dial in the frequency of the PCI-Express bus and adjust the NB Voltage from a min voltage of 1.26V to a maximum 1.84V.  All of these voltage options could come into play when overclocking the system.

MSI P965 Platinum : Overclocking
Over the speed limit, and loving it

SANDRA CPU Performance

CPU-Z Motherboard Info

Overclocked SANDRA Results

Overclocked CPU-Z Results

E6300 @ 2.56GHz

E6300 @ 2.56GHz

Overclocking the P965 proved to be a bit more of a challenge than we expected, considering all of the luck users have had with overclocking Conroes.  We were only able to move up to a 300MHz FSB before Windows would not load in at all.  At this point we lowered the DDR frequency so that it would not cause any issues (at a 300MHz FSB, the DDR was running at 900MHz - well above the specified speed of 800MHz).  We still had problems getting into Windows, however, and had to bump up the CPU Voltage.

We continued to push onwards, raising the NB voltage up to 1.51V when we reached a 320MHz FSB to once again stabilize the system.  The final tally was a 366MHz front side bus resulting in the E6300 running at 2.56GHz.  Total voltage added to the CPU was 0.175V, the NorthBridge voltage was set to 1.67V, and the memory, which was kicked back to a 533MHz setting, was running at 732MHz while at 2.1V.

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

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