Tweaking And Overclocking
Tweaking and Overclocking
The low-power, low-heat nature of the Radeon Xpress 3200 chipset also is a great feature for the those potentially looking to overclock their boards. Both ATI and MSI have claimed that the K9A Platinum is a terrific platform for overclocking, and given how overclockable previous generation Socket-939 Xpress 3200 platforms were, we weren't surprised when hearing these claims. One of ATI's big features is that it can typically run at very high HyperTransport link speeds, supporting levels far higher than the Athlon64's advertised stock HTT link speed of 1000 MHz. The platform is very comfortable when being pushed past its advertised speeds.
MSI gives potential overclockers plenty of tools to use in conjunction with the motherboard's AMI BIOS. Overclockers have full control of the processor's multiplier (on FX models only, Athlon64 and Athlon64 FX models can control the multiplier downwards), and can adjust processor vCore from 1.2V to 1.4V, actually fairly tame in today's market of overclocker-targeted platforms. Full control over the system's DDR2 memory is provided too, with full support for timing tweaks on every setting to voltage support from 1.8V to 2.3V. MSI also provides you with the ability to push the voltage of the ATI RD580 Northbridge (1.8V to 2.15V) and HyperTransport link speed and voltage levels.
Our overclocking results were somewhat varied. With the MSI K9A Platinum, we were able to crank up our FSB speed from 200 MHz to 260 MHz and keep system reliability perfectly solid. Moving past this, however, was completely useless, no matter how much cooling or voltage we applied. The particular chip we used for overclocking, which runs at 2.2 GHz by default, was only able to clock up to around 2.5 GHz using this platform. Certainly a nice bonus, but nothing which will dramatically sway the benchmarks in favor of this board. One of the issues we found quite troublesome is that there is no overclocking safeguards, in that if you overclock too far, you have to manually clear the CMOS by hand. In today's market, most new platforms will automatically boot back up with fail-safe defaults if you overclock by too-great of an amount. Sadly, for MSI and ATI, we found that the Asus nForce 590 SLI platform was a far smoother overclocker for us, making the process much easier and user-friendly.
In addition, MSI's bundled CoreCenter software for Windows, which allows (or should allow, one could say) for on-the-fly thermal monitoring and overclocking, simply doesn't work on this platform. Every time we started up the software, the system would reboot. This left us with no way to monitor CPU temperatures within Windows, as ATI does not have an nTune-like fallback utility if the motherboard's native utility isn't working.
We took some quick power readings on our two identically configured platforms to see how the two systems we tested stacked up in terms of power consumption. As you can see, across the board, we see our MSI K9A Platinum system pulling 20-30 watts less compared to the Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe platform, showcasing the efficiency of the Radeon XPress 3200 CF chipset.