Intel P35 Express Comparison: ASUS & Gigabyte

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Gigabyte GA-P35T-DQ6: BIOS & Overclocking

The GA-P35T-DQ6 uses Gigabyte's familiar version of the Award BIOS. Unlike the P5K3 Deluxe's BIOS, which has been heavily modified from the basic Award layout to support a plethora of sub-menus, the P35T-DQ6's BIOS has a classic Award layout. The advantage of sticking with the basic Award BIOS interface is that it's instantly recognizable and usable to just about anyone who has rummaged through a BIOS before. However, the P35T-DQ6's BIOS does have one new edition, an extra menu called the "Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker", or M.I.T. for short. This menu is unique to Gigabyte boards and it contains all of the performance, overclocking and voltage related settings.

Gigabyte GA-P35T-DQ6: Exploring the BIOS
Overclocking Heaven
The P35T-DQ6's BIOS should be familiar to just about anyone who has tinkered with an Phoenix-Award derived BIOS. With the exception of the M.I.T. menu, which we will get into later, the BIOS is pretty standard Phoenix-Award fare, and everything was where it should be.

T he standard options are all there, in their usual spots. It's all pretty unremarkable until you get to the M.I.T. menu, which isn't necessarily a bad thing when we're talking about standard options that pretty much every motherboard has. It's good to know that they are in familiar places and that you won't need to bust out the manual when you need to do something simple like change the boot order.

The real fun begins when you get into the M.I.T. menu. This menu contains all of the overclocking, voltage, memory timing, and automated tweaking options, all in one place. While most of these options are available right away, the memory timings are hidden. To unlock the memory timings and make them visible, you need to press CRTL+F1 in the main menu. After having done that, when you enter the M.I.T. menu again, all of the options available will be visible. This procedure need to be performed each time you enter the BIOS.

We don't quite understand why the memory timings need to be hidden by default. We can understand that it may be good to hide some of the more advanced options that could damage your hardware if set incorrectly, but why aren't the non-automated overclocking and voltages settings not hidden then?

The first option available in the M.I.T. is the Robust Graphics Booster setting. This determined how aggressively the system accesses the PCI-E x16 slot bus. There are three settings, Auto, Fast and Turbo. The Auto option simply allows the system to choose the setting for you based on your system configuration. Another interesting option is vaguely called "Performance Enhance". To make things worse, there is no entry for it in the otherwise detailed BIOS section of the manual. Apparently the Performance Enhance option is supposed to control the chipset's internal timing options. You can choose between Standard, Turbo and Extreme. Finally, there is CPU Intelligent Accelerator 2 (C.I.A.2) option. This is the automated CPU overclocking feature of the motherboard. There are five different levels of automated overclocking starting with Cruise which overclocks the CPU by 5%-7%, depending on the CPU loading, all the way up to the maximum setting of Full Thrust, which overclocks the CPU by 17%-19%.

Moving on to manual settings, the FSB can be set to anything from 100MHz to 700 MHz. The speed of the memory can be adjusted through via a memory multiplier and the actual memory frequency results from the multiplier combined with the FSB. The multipliers available are 2.4, 3.0, 3.2, and 4.0. There is also an Auto setting that lets the motherboard choose for you. Unfortunately there is no way to unlink the memory frequency from the FSB. The estimated actual frequency of the memory is displayed below the memory multiplier option. There is an interesting setting called "High Speed DRAM DLL Settings" that toggles the way memory timings are handled internally between two options. If your memory overclock fails, you could try the second option and it could end up working out.

Lastly, we have the voltage settings, or rather the OVERvoltage settings. There is no way to undervolt anything except the CPU. The memory voltage can be increased by as little as 0.05V to as much as 1.55V, in 0.05V increments. The PCI-E and FSB voltages can both be increased by as much as 0.35V in 0.05V increments. The FSB voltage setting effectively increases the voltage to the north bridge. The south bridge's voltage is controlled through the 'MCH' setting and it can be tweaked as high as 0.375V in 0.025V increments. Finally, we have the CPU voltage setting, which is not an overvoltage. The CPU can be set from as low as 0.5V to as high as 2.35V. The increments between the settings differ depending on which part of the voltage spectrum you're in.

The P35T-DQ6's BIOS has one last trick up its sleeve. Many of the settings in the M.I.T. menu are monitored by the BIOS so if you create a potentially troubling setting combination flashing red warning text will appear on your screen. The entire BIOS is also self-documented, with information being displayed on a bar to the right, although the description is usually very cursory. Overall the P35T-DQ6's BIOS is well laid out and easy to use. We found the Overclocking options to be acceptable and the warning indicators somewhat helpful, especially when first getting used to the BIOS. The only thing we didn't particularly like was the default locking of the memory timing settings, which we thought was unnecessary.

Gigabyte GA-P35T-DQ6 : Overclocking
Overclockering to the MAX
We took our Core 2 E6850 processor and set out to see if the P35T-DQ6 could match the P5K3 Deluxe's overclocking results. We loaded the BIOS' optimized defaults, dropped our multiplier to 6, then increased the FSB as far as we could go without having to increase voltages to achieve stability. The frequency of our Kingston KHX11000 modules were kept as close to their rated speed of 1375MHz in the BIOS' memory multiplier settings as possible.

were able to take our FSB to a very nice 530MHz (2120MHz effective), resulting in a CPU frequency of 3180MHz. This is the highest FSB our system was able to handle with perfect stability. That's 5MHz lower FSB overclock than the P5K3 Deluxe was able to achieve. However, it isn't much of a difference. Just like with the P5K3 Deluxe, these results were obtained at stock voltages using stock cooling.

We particularly enjoyed overclocking the P35T-DQ6 because it was such a painless process. If we went too far and the system failed to boot, after 3 unsuccessful tries the CMOS would automatically reset itself. We never once had to manually reset the CMOS after a failed overclocking attempt. The P35T-DQ6 was also surprisingly resistant to instability during booting, it would either boot as usual or fail completely and restart itself automatically. No middle-ground that ultimately results in a frozen screen in the middle of the boot process. Overall, this meant that the P35T-DQ6 was a joy to work with.

Tags:  Intel, Asus, Gigabyte, Pre, XP, son, express, AR, COM

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