8GPXNP Duo Revisited - IntroductionIntroduction
We here at TweakTown have been very lucky to work with many computer companies over the past half a decade or more for our hardware reviews as well as in a technical role. When we first published our results in our Intel I925 and I915 Mega Roundup
article, we had some serious issues with the Gigabyte 8GPXNP Duo (Intel 915 chipset for Pentium 4 processors) motherboard. When we first tested the board, Gigabyte supplied what was to become the retail BIOS onboard as well as a BETA BIOS for evaluation - both BIOS versions proved to be somewhat problematic.BIOS version known as M2 allows for a somewhat possible overclock, however, no divider rations were provided, voltage control was somewhat limited and it also refused to detect our Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.4GHz CPU. When swapping over to the retail version F2 BIOS things went from bad to worse. F2 BIOS would not allow you to select a FSB above 205MHz, or the system would simply fail to post, C.I.A.2 control would not work, as setting it to enable would also cause a POST failure. To top this all off, the performance of the BIOS was also less than stellar.We have been working with Gigabyte for some time now on this issue and they have come up with a new BIOS version to fix some of the problems we encountered with the original release. Today we are going to revisit the Gigabyte 8GPNXPD Duo motherboard with the new D3 BIOS
to see what has been improved and what still needs some work.
8GPXNP Duo Revisited - The new BIOS in detailThe New BIOS
Before we managed to do our tests on the new BIOS we had to flash the motherboard with the latest offering from Gigabyte. Thanks to DualBIOS and Q-Flash this is no longer a matter of DOS boot disks, only a simple floppy disk is required with the BIOS image loaded on, the rest is all done through the BIOS.
Once you enter BIOS, which is your standard press DEL key to enter BIOS routine, you then press the F8 key that loads the DualBIOS/Q-Flash utility. Once opened this control panel lets you arrange the DualBIOS redundancy options as well as flash the BIOS from the FDD image, all without needing any DOS boot disks. It can even be done without any Hard Disks attached. What would be nice is the option to do this from a flash drive or a flash memory card, however, Gigabyte hasn't advanced their DualBIOS technology this far yet.
Here you can see the actual control panel. To flash the BIOS you need to select Flash Main BIOS from Floppy. This will then search the floppy disk for the image file, once you select the file, BIOS checks to make sure that this BIOS is the right one for your board, when all is clear you are given the Yes or No option to flash the Main BIOS. Once you have flashed the BIOS you simply reset the PC and bingo, you now have the new BIOS installed on the board. While you can flash the Backup BIOS with the floppy image, it is recommended to make sure the current one is stable and works fine. Once you have verified this you can flash the backup BIOS with the latest file which will give you a much better restore point if your BIOS ever corrupts.Now that this is complete, we will have a look at the new BIOS. Gigabyte has been hiding all the advanced options in its BIOS's, but you can still access them if you are an advanced user. Pressing the F1 key when in BIOS brings up the Advanced Chipset Features menu into the main window, as well as unlocking features under each of the existing sub menus.
In the picture above you can see on the left the BIOS screen before the F1 key is pressed, on the Right you see the BIOS after the F1 Key is pressed, note the appearance of the Advanced Chipset Features menu. While we are testing the new BIOS we aren't here to do a run down on each of the menu feature but skip to the all important one, the MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T) Menu where the Overclocking and optimisation features are held.
Under the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T) menu Gigabyte has placed all the overclocking options that one would expect. Gigabyte hasn't changed much in the way of overclocking except from allowing you to set the M.I.B.2 options manually, which wasn't available previously. When it came to testing this time we were somewhat happier with the results. Using the default BIOS that Gigabyte supplied last time FSB adjustments above 205MHz would cause the system to simply fail POST, the C.I.A.2 settings had to be disabled; selecting any of them would cause a failed post. When it came to C.I.A.2 settings we managed to have the PC run all settings without any problems, setting from Cruse all the way to maximum would allow the PC to POST and load Windows without any problems - stability tests were 100%, so Gigabyte has a top mark for this part.As for the manual overclocking, this still has some work to do. As you can see from the image there is no PCI-E or PCI ratio locks, which poses the question, are they actually on? At the moment there are no programs that can accurately detect the PCI-E or PCI bus speed to determine this, Gigabyte did tell us that the PCI-E and PCI were locked, however, this does seem a bit suspect since our overclocking topped out at 247MHz. With other boards like the ASUS P5AD2 and the ABIT AA8, when setting divider locks speeds over 266MHz were achievable. Adding the feature in the BIOS and allowing the user to select the ratio locks would be a much better approach in our opinion.Voltage tweaks are something that Gigabyte needs to address also. Even with the latest BIOS voltage options were still limited. CPU voltage goes to a Maximum of 1.6v. While this may seem okay for Prescott users, Gallatin users (P4 Extreme) will not be happy as this is the limit for them too. PCI-E Over-Volt runs to a maximum of +0.3v above standard, this translates to 1.8v which does come in with a lot of the boards these days. DIMM Over-Volt runs to the same max of 0.3v above default making a maximum of 2.1v for DDR-2 memory modules.Overall on the overclocking we do see a fairly good improvement from the previous settings; however, we believe there is still room for improvement if Gigabyte want to be at the level ASUS and ABIT are at with their Intel 915 and 925 motherboards.
8GPXNP Duo Revisited - Benchmarks - Test System Setup and Sisoft SandraTest System SetupProcessor
: Intel Pentium 560 (800MHz FSB) (Supplied by Spectrum Communications
: 2x 512MB DDR2-533 Micron Hard Disk
: 2x Maxtor Maxline III 250GB RAID (RAID 0)Graphics Card
: nVidia GeForce PCX5900 (Supplied by Gigabyte
: Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP1Drivers
: nVidia Forceware 66.93 and DX9cTo evaluate the performance of the new BIOS from Gigabyte we re-tested the motherboard with the original BIOS and then re-tested with the new BIOS flashed onto the motherboard. To maintain accurate results, all of the settings (such as memory timings) were set the same with each BIOS.SiSoft SandraVersion and / or Patch Used:
2204 SP2bDeveloper Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.co.ukProduct Homepage: http://sisoftware.jaggedonline.com/index.php?location=home&a=TTA&lang=enBuy It Here
SiSoft Sandra (S
iagnostic and R
ssistant) is a synthetic Windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
Here we can see that the memory performance has improved over the last BIOS revision.
8GPXNP Duo Revisited - Benchmarks - PCMarkPCMarkVersion and / or Patch Used:
2004Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/pcmark04/Buy It Here
PCMark is a multipurpose benchmark, suited for benchmarking all kinds of PCs, from laptops to workstations, as well as across multiple Windows operating systems. This easy-to-use benchmark makes professional strength benchmarking software available even to novice users. PCMark consists of a series of tests that represent common tasks in home and office programs. PCMark also covers many additional areas outside the scope of other MadOnion.com benchmarks.
Again performance has improved over the last BIOS revision - so far so good.
8GPXNP Duo Revisited - Benchmarks - 3DMark Series3DMark2001 SEVersion and / or Patch Used:
330Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark2001/Buy It Here
3DMark2001 SE is a part of the popular 3DMark series. By combining DirectX 8.1 support with completely new graphics (including the GeForce4), it continues to provide benchmark results that empower you to make informed hardware assessments.3DMark03Version and / or Patch Used:
350Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark03/Buy It Here
3DMark03 is the latest version of the highly favored 3DMark series. By combining full DirectX9.0 support with completely new tests and graphics, 3DMark03 continues the legacy of being industry standard benchmark.Please Note: Due to recent events with the 3DMark03 series, we are adding results purely for those who are still in favor of 3DMark03. These results should not be taken too seriously and are only added for interest sakes.
In both 3DMark2001 SE and 3DMark03 we see an improvement in performance.
8GPXNP Duo Revisited - Benchmarks - AquaMark 3AquaMark 3Version and / or Patch Used:
1.0Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.deProduct Homepage: http://www.aquamark3.comBuy It Here
AquaMark 3 is the latest instalment of the Aquamark benchmark suite. This new benchmark is much more powerful and demands much more from both the system and the graphics card. If there is any weakness in the system or 3D components, AquaMark 3 will find them.
Aquamark shows the same trend.
8GPXNP Duo Revisited - Benchmarks - Halo PCHalo PCVersion and / or Patch Used:
1.0Timedemo or Level Used:
DefaultDeveloper Homepage: http://www.bungie.netProduct Homepage: http://www.bungie.net/Games/HaloPC/Buy It Here
Though we have used Halo in a couple of benchmarks in the past, it has now found a permanent place in our Benchmark Suite. This is simply due to its support for the latest DirectX 9 API's to put some more stress on the system to determine the best of the best.
Halo shows so far the biggest improvement in performance.
8GPXNP Duo Revisited - Benchmarks - Far CryFar CryVersion and / or Patch Used:
1.0Timedemo or Level Used:
DefaultDeveloper Homepage: http://www.crytek.comProduct Homepage: http://www.farcrygame.comBuy It Here
There is no denying that Far Cry is currently one of the most graphic intensive games on the market, utilizing PS2.0 technology (the latest versions support Shader Model 3.0 with DX9c) and offering an exceptional visual experience there is no denying that even some of the faster graphics cards struggle.
Far Cry shows the same gap, it appears that the rift has been fixed by Gigabyte.
8GPXNP Duo Revisited - Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 2004Unreal Tournament 2004Version and / or Patch Used:
Patch 3339Timedemo or Level Used:
as-convoyDeveloper Homepage: http://www.atari.comProduct Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament.com/ut2004/Buy It Here
Unreal Tournament 2004 or UT2004 for short is the latest instalment to the Unreal Tournament series. The full version of the game is based on DX9 (the demo only uses DX8.1 like UT2003) and has faced quite a big make over and is a lot more intensive then its predecessor.
Unreal Tournament in the last test gives the win to the new BIOS version.
8GPXNP Duo Revisited - Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
It is clear that Gigabyte has put a lot more work into their latest BIOS in terms of performance tweaking. When we first tested the motherboard, performance was well below what we would have expected, in fact; it was well below that of the Intel Desktop (reference) motherboard in terms of power. Now, Gigabyte has climbed the ladder a few rungs in order to make a more performance orientated motherboard, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. BIOS Voltage selections need to be addressed, especially in the area of CPU voltage, DRAM voltage and Northbridge voltage as they are what make or break an overclocking motherboard. Another problem is the high load on the Gigabyte motherboards. While this has improved, running a Prescott at high voltage tends to trip the over power circuit on the motherboard, which is not quite what we wanted, as other motherboards in this same class tend to pass this problem, though it has improved, it still needs a bit more work.If you are looking for a motherboard with heaps of features, reasonable overclocking potential for your Prescott or Celeron D CPU, the 8GPNXP Duo has now become one of serious thought due to a bit of solid work by Gigabyte engineers to help make it much better than it was with the original BIOS. You can feel a lot safer buying this motherboard now and if Gigabyte decides to release a new BIOS to fix some of the problems we discussed above, life will be even sweeter.- You can download new BIOS files for your Gigabyte 8GPXNP Duo motherboard (only) here