X58 Showdown: ASUS Rampage II vs. MSI Eclipse
MSI Eclipse - BIOS & Overclocking
Our first attempt at updating the Eclipse's BIOS met with complete failure; using the built-in MFlash update tool, we rendered the board inoperable as the revision we used apparently was not compatible with this feature. This kink seems to be ironed out now with the newer BIOS we have used, but just points out the relative immaturity of the platform, and what pitfalls can befall a new purchase.
When we received our replacement board, we were able to get back to business and take some photos of the AMIBIOS that the Eclipse uses. Again, nothing earth-shattering to report and frequent MSI adopters will find some comfort in these familiar confines. Standard and Advanced BIOS sections report on the basics: what drives and CPU are installed, which drive to boot from, etc.
There is a wealth of information regarding the specifics of the CPU and Memory installed, just in case you need to refer to it later. CPU Specifcations will display the frequency, ratio, and amount of cache memory as well as a listing of supported extensions and other technologies. Listed on the Memory-Z page are the populated DIMM slots, with the SPD timings displayed for each stick of RAM.
Cell Menu for the Eclipse is what Extreme Tweaker is to the ASUS Rampage II Extreme. Although the options listed here are not as vast as what we saw with ASUS' BIOS, the Cell Menu is very straightforward and easy to use. To keep things simple and neat, major sub-sections are highlighted with arrows. To configure the QPI settings hit Enter on the QPI Configuration. Want to check on the memory timings? Open up MEMORY-Z, then enter the Advance DRAM Configuration to tweak them even further.
Of course, the Cell Menu isn't the only place you'll want to check out to maintain a stable environment. A big part of overclocking is keeping your components cool. H/W Monitor is where you'll get instant readouts of board and CPU temperatures as well as current fan speeds and voltages. Fans installed on the indivdually marked headers on the motherboard can be set at 50%, 75%, or 100% depending on the temperature / noise ratio you're looking for. In our overclocking process, we set all fans to 100% for maximum effect.
Memory ratios are oddly listed solely by a single number, thus you need to click on each number to see what effect it has on the memory speed. Displaying a ratio value or a speed setting would definitely streamline the process. Up to four overclocking profiles can be saved or loaded in, preserving one's accomplishments for future use. With a thorough understanding of the tools presented to us, we started in earnest on our overclocking.
We raised the core speed by 5MHz at a time from 135MHz upward without changing any of the voltages, which were left at [AUTO]. The voltages were automatically adjusted as we raised the base clock speed from the default of 1.25V to a high of 1.52V. At a base clock of 180 MHz, we could not POST the system at all, but after few reboots, the BIOS reset to the default values for the system. We loosened up the memory timings a bit, as our Qimonda DDR3 was now running out of spec, and found we could continue onward, but we didn't get too much further, running into issues quickly at 200MHz. Here, we switched the CPU Voltage from [AUTO] to 1.55V, trying to gain some stability.
We were able to only push a few MHz forward, winding up at a 206 MHz base clock as our final overclock. That translates to a 4.11 GHz overclock for our 2.66GHz Core i7 CPU - not bad considering we were using the stock cooler from Intel. In general, we spent very little time tweaking the system as it appears that the board is quite capable of tweaking itself for the most part. Our attempts mostly consisted of simply raising the base clock and trying to keep memory speeds in check, although the lack of available memory dividers made it kind of hard to continue. Higher speed memory would probably have helped us in this regard.