X58 for the Masses: Gigabyte's EX58-UD3R & EX58-UD4P
BIOS Options & Overclocking Results
On the Post Screen, the first thing you should see with both boards are the model number and BIOS version. Pressing F12 here will select a boot device without having to follow the preset order (if applicable). Hitting the <END> key will go straight into the Q-Flash Utility, which gives users the ability to update the BIOS from a USB Thumb drive. Updating the respective BIOSes changed the Initial Display options from PEG 1, 2, 3 to a more descriptive and user-friendly PCI-E X16-1, X16-2, X4-1.
Gigabyte uses an AWARD BIOS, with the following main sections: M.I.T., otherwise known as the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker - more on that later, Standard CMOS Settings, Advanced CMOS Settings, Integrated Peripherals, Power Management, PC Health, and then options to load failsafe or optimized settings, as well as function keys designed to save or load up to eight profiles. Many of these areas have been seen time and time again, and there's very little to comment on. For example, you'll set your system date and time in the Standard CMOS Settings, toggle Advanced CPU Features and set your primary display based on the expansion slot under Advanced CMOS Settings, and configure your list of onboard devices or power-saving functions under Integrated Peripherals and Power Management, respectively.
M.I.T. had additional features mostly geared towards overclocking a system, such as being able to change the clock ratio and frequency, deciding whether or not you want to enable 1, 2, 3, or all of the cores on the Core i7 CPU, and setting up thermal monitoring. C.I.A.2 is an option that takes overclocking out of your hands to some degree, as it will automatically adjust the CPU settings to maximize performance. Increases from 5% to 19% can be gained depending on the CPU load. Finally, there is an additional item called Performance Enhance, with Standard, Turbo, and Extreme options available. However, there is no information here, or in the manual, that truly explains what these settings mean. Builders using quality parts will probably aim for Extreme, but if stability suffers it's suggested to kick back to Turbo, and even as far as Standard, especially when overclocking. Any of the following can set the upper limit of Intel Turbo Boost Technology on a given workload: * Number of active cores When the processor is operating below these limits and the user's workload demands additional performance, the processor frequency will dynamically increase by 133 MHz on short and regular intervals until the upper limit is met or the maximum possible upside for the number of active cores is reached. Conversely, when any of the limits are reached or exceeded, the processor frequency will automatically decrease by 133 MHz until the processor is again operating within its limits.
These two boards also support Intel's Turbo Boost technology. Per Intel: As an independent and complimentary feature, Intel Hyper-Threading Technology (Intel HT Technology) along with Intel Turbo Boost Technology increases performance of both multi-threaded and single threaded workloads. Intel Turbo Boost Technology is activated when the Operating System (OS) requests the highest processor performance state (P0).The maximum frequency of Intel® Turbo Boost Technology is dependent on the number of active cores. The amount of time the processor spends in the Intel Turbo Boost Technology state depends on the workload and operating environment, providing the performance you need, when and where you need it.
* Estimated current consumption
* Estimated power consumption
* Processor temperature
Any of the following can set the upper limit of Intel Turbo Boost Technology on a given workload:
* Number of active cores
When the processor is operating below these limits and the user's workload demands additional performance, the processor frequency will dynamically increase by 133 MHz on short and regular intervals until the upper limit is met or the maximum possible upside for the number of active cores is reached. Conversely, when any of the limits are reached or exceeded, the processor frequency will automatically decrease by 133 MHz until the processor is again operating within its limits.
Within M.I.T. is where we would find all of the tools we needed to overclock the boards. The CPU Clock Ratio for our Core i7 920 CPU is locked in at 20x, although we can enable Base Clock (BCLK) Control to unlock the frequency adjustments. The BCLK frequency ranges from 100 to 1200 MHz, even though we will be testing only a short section in between. By default, the Core i7 920 runs at 133 MHz, and past experience with this processor has shown us that we can get to 200 MHz with a few tweaks to the voltages and other BIOS settings. So, we set out by raising the BLCK 5MHz at a time, but also lowered the Performance Enhance from Extreme to Turbo (and later Standard) as suggested on the BIOS screen. Memory frequency is also updated in real-time, and to keep the speeds within expected values, we switched the ratio in the System Memory Multiplier field from AUTO to 6.0.
We immediately shot past 3.20 GHz but at a 185 MHz BLCK we hit out first roadblock - we could get into Vista but none of our benchmarks would complete. Applying a little extra voltage for the memory helped us here although we would have to bump the CPU Voltage shortly thereafter at 190 MHz. We found that 1.5V was necessary to stabilize things. From here on, we had a mighty struggle to even squeeze out a few more MHz. CPU and DRAM voltages were raised to just under warning levels and we bumped up the QPI and IOH voltages as well with hardly any difference. Raising the latter two voltages actually seemed to do us more harm than good as the board would go into a vicious re-booting cycle. Lowering the Performance Enhancement settings for the system and dropping Command Rate to 2T for the memory still resulted in memory dumps, BSODs, and the like. Our final overclocking result stood at 192 MHz, which comes out to 3.84 GHz for the CPU. Not as high as previous attempts, but nothing to be ashamed of on a board not considered for the high-end market and using nothing more than the stock Intel cooler.
With mostly everything else amongst the two boards being the same, we jumped into an aggressive overclock on the UD4P and met with a quick failure. We backtracked just a bit to a 175 MHz BCLK with the memory divider again set at 6.0, and this time got into Windows. Moving forward, however, proved to be more of a challenge than what we encountered on the UD3R. We were hoping that the UD4P would allow us to push things a bit further, but that didn't turn out to be the case.
EX58-UD3R Overclocking Results
EX58-UD4P Overclocking Results
The reality is that the UD4P fell short. Using the same voltages and BIOS settings that we had used successfully on the UD3R had no effect, and we finally had to settle for a 176 MHz BCLK, well off of our previous mark. Of course, in overclocking, your mileage may vary and we just might have had a temperamental UD4P sample here, but we still remain a bit surprised that we weren't able to come up with better results all things being equal.