Now we take a closer look at the BIOS. ASUS uses its trademarked Award Tab BIOS, as we like to refer to it as. Its appearance and colour scheme is identical to the reference BIOS Intel uses for its own desktop boards, but ASUS has a lot more tweaking options under its hood.
The AI Tweaker tab has all the overclocking options, apart from actual control of the CPU ratio. This has to be done in the Advanced tab under the CPU Control Sub menu. Also from here, you can set the boot-up VID rather than having to rely on the default VID the CPU is set for.
BCLK Frequency: 100 - 500Mhz in 1MHz Increments
PCIE Frequency: 100 - 200Mhz in 1MHz Increments
UCLK Frequency: 1600 - 5600MHz in Various Increments
QPI Frequency: 4800/5866/6400Mhz
CPU Voltage: 0.85v to 2.1v in 0.00625v increments
CPU PLL Voltage: 1.8v to 2.5v in 0.02v increments
QPI/DRAM Voltage: 1.2 - 1.9v in 0.02v increments
IOH Voltage: 1.1 - 1.7v in 0.02v increments
IOH PCIE Voltage: 1.5 - 2.76v in 0.02v Increments
ICH Voltage: 1.1 - 1.7v in 0.02v increments
ICH PCIE Voltage: 1.5 - 2.76v in 0.02v Increments
DRAM Bus Voltage: 1.5 - 2.46v in 0.02v Increments
While we are getting quite used to overclocking on the Phenom and Core 2 platforms, Core i7 is a whole new kettle of fish. With limited time to really get the hang of it, our experience involved quite a bit of trial and error.
Where our GIGABYTE EX58-UD5 reference board would not even go 1MHz BCLK above standard without looping endlessly in a power on/power off state (a few users out there know of this drama), the ASUS board actually managed what we consider to be a good start. By its nature the QPI bus is highly clocked and even slight changes can cause a lot of crosstalk and noise. And with Intel's strict voltage tolerances for the Core i7 memory controller (1.65v max), it's looking like overclocking might be a bit of a no go.
However, we are glad to report that we were extremely impressed; we managed to clock up from the stock BCLK of 133MHz to an impressive 200MHz, this by lowering the QPI and UNCORE ratios down as well as increasing the CPU PLL voltage, I/O hub voltage and QPI/DRAM Voltage. 200MHz was then stable during all our tests. This isn't a bad start at all.
Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking, or as new BIOS updates are released. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.
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