BIOS Options & Overclocking
MSI sticks at what works best with both of these boards, and that's a mostly standard AMI BIOS. The menus are simple and uncluttered, and you don't need to be a rocket-scientist to figure out what most of the sections are referring to. The main menu lists these sections in more or less the order you'll want to run through, from standard and advanced BIOS features, to power management and monitoring information, and finally to GreenPower and the Cell Menu (ok, the last one might not be as intuitive unless you've worked with MSI boards before).
In the beginning, you'll want to quickly run through the Standard CMOS Features if only just to enter in the correct date and time, and make sure the right number of drives are listed, and in the correct port. Advanced BIOS Features aren't so much advanced as they are different, in that here you can decide whether or not you want one of the showy characters to appear as opposed to the POST information, order the boot sequence of your drives, and possibly enable or disable features such as HPET (High Precision Event Timers), TPM (Trusted Computing), or some CPU tweaks like Execute Bit Support and setting the maximum CPUID Value Limit.
Green is in, or so we've been told, and MSI's P45 boards come with not only the standard Power Management Setup screen allowing the user to setup ACPI standby states and wakeup events, but with a new Green Power screen used when the Genie is installed. The Genie gets installed between the PSU and motherboard and with the GreenPower Center application monitors the power usage of three main areas, CPU, DDR, and MCH, in order to control fan usage. This results in more effective heat dissipation as well as more efficient power usage.
The Cell Menu is where all the fine-tuning gets done, especially when it gets time to overclock the boards. D.O.T. is short for Dynamic Overclocking Technology, developed as part of the Dual Core Cell Technology found in the Cell Menu. It is load-balanced so that the system will enhance system performance when needed, but return to default settings when at idle. Steps 1 through 3 can be set manually from a tame 1% overclock to a maximum setting of 20%.
The Front Side Bus (FSB) speed is entered in directly ranging anywhere between 133 MHz and 800 MHz with the new CPU and DRAM frequencies updated dynamically on-screen. CPU ratio can also be set when SpeedStep is disabled to attempt even higher FSB settings than usually possible. Memory ratio dividers allow the user to keep the memory speeds in check while we raise the CPU speed, and the Memory-Z pages display the SPD settings of each DIMM installed. Finally Disabling Spread Spectrum helps prevent jitters from locking up the CPU. There are plenty of voltage options available, with grey defining default or "safe" settings, white as "high-performance", and red as "not recommended".
Here are some of the BIOS voltage ranges...
|0.9675V-1.9175V (0.010V steps)|
1.428V-3.324V (0.012V steps)
0.89V-2.47V (0.010V steps)
0.728V-2.624V (0.012V steps)
0.56V-3.41V (0.030V steps)
Overclocking began with the P45 Platinum, and we began with 10 MHz bumps of the FSB. We quickly flew past some of our recent attempts with a few X48 boards we had tested. At 395 MHz, we noticed that even though the CPU Voltage had been left at AUTO in the BIOS, CPU-Z reported that voltages were being raised automatically to 1.4V. After two failed POSTs, the board rebooted a third time going into Windows. CPU-Z now reported an increase in voltage to 1.44V which had stabilized the system. Along the way we had to continually alter the memory to FSB ratio all the way down to 1:1 so that the memory would not be affected.
At 530 MHz, we found that we could not get the system to work, with warnings that something had failed and the system needed to be restored, no POST, or even having the BIOS lock up. On the very next boot, the board cycled four times on and off and then allowed us back into the BIOS to change the settings. Our final result was a 525 MHz overclock of the FSB, 3.68 GHz for the CPU with the memory running at 1050 MHz using a 1:1 ratio.
MSI P45 Diamond Overclock
MSI P45 Platinum Overclock:
With the similarities between the two BIOS, we jumped right in with an aggressive overclock of 450 MHz on the P45 Diamond and immediately met with a blank screen. After clearing the CMOS, every attempt at getting back into the BIOS was met with a "WAIT..." screen that never changed. After some research, we found that the issue was to be fixed in a later BIOS, so we updated to version 1.5 from MSI's website.
We started again, a bit slower now and moved on up to 425 MHz, where again we could not continue, regardless of of the settings or tweaks we applied. Hearing of "dead zones" on some boards, we decided to try a large jump forwards and found we were able to get in at 475 MHz with no other changes from default settings other than the FSB and memory ratio. From here, it was mostly straightforward until we reached a high point of a 518 MHz FSB, 3.62 GHz for the CPU and memory running at 1034 MHz using the 1:1 ratio.