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Step 3: Evaluating The Solutions

Core i7-870 Overclocking And Fixing Blown P55-Based Boards
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Now that we’ve defined the circumstances under which three motherboards had failed in our previous review, we can fully evaluate the improvements that ASRock and MSI provided. Our previous page shows that our processor consumed over 200W when fully overclocked at 1.45V, while ASRock’s engineer told us the P55 Pro’s voltage regulator is designed to sustain 150W. While many might suspect a hardware change might be required, ASRock already had a hardware solution designed into its motherboard.

It turns out that the motherboard already had over-current protection built-in, and ASRock had simply neglected it in the BIOS, believing that average overclockers wouldn't need it. A BIOS update to version 1.80 was the sole requirement to fix the P55 Pro, and ASRock even had Newegg ship a retail sample from its normal stock to prove this.

MSI stated that the board we received was produced prior to retail distribution and replaced it with exactly the same model. We went over the board in great detail trying to find any component changes, but there weren’t any. Whatever the defect of the previous sample, we put the new one through its paces using the same BIOS version found in our original review.

We were first pleased to find that a simple BIOS update allowed us to fully test the P55 Pro’s overclocking capability without a single sign of fatigue to the board. It completed several hours of eight-thread Prime95 stress testing at 1.35V, and dutifully shut off when we tried to apply even more stress through increased voltage and clock speed. The only way to push further without triggering the voltage regulator’s safety switch was to test at lower stress levels, and though that’s not practical for assuring 100% stable operation, disabling some cores might be. Intel is, after all, throwing out hints at an upcoming dual-core LGA 1156 processor (the 32nm Clarkdale).

The MSI P55-CD53 was limited to far less voltage, and our 1.25V test was the practical limit of the board. Unlike ASRock’s solution, the P55-CD53 would only shut down the CPU voltage regulator in response to a high thermal load. A blank screen resulted whenever we tried to apply more than 0.210V of offset voltage, which is the only method this affordable MSI board provides for CPU-voltage adjustment. Further prodding proved the tiny voltage regulator sink was the culprit. We’ll never know how much power the motherboard could potentially provide, simply because thermal protection kicks in long before over-current protection would be needed. However, the fact that this protection mechanism works very well is enough for us to withdraw any concerns about using it at or near stock voltage.

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  • 13 Hide
    bucifer , November 3, 2009 11:50 AM
    I would be great to see how the more popular i7 860 or at least i5 750 scale with the voltage.
    I don't think i7 870 is a popular choice because of it's price (people would go for socket 1336)
Other Comments
  • 6 Hide
    cyberkuberiah , November 3, 2009 6:19 AM
    but some of us would rather give some extra beans and go 920 , and have dual pcie2.0 x16 . a few extra watts doesn't matter too .
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , November 3, 2009 7:02 AM
    FYI: Power consumption of switching cmos silicon increases with the square of voltage, and linear with frequency. The increases shown here seem to be in line with that, rather than the stated decrease in voltage regulator efficiency (which certainly does decrease, but probably much less).
  • -5 Hide
    Crashman , November 3, 2009 8:01 AM
    dan__gFYI: Power consumption of switching cmos silicon increases with the square of voltage, and linear with frequency. The increases shown here seem to be in line with that, rather than the stated decrease in voltage regulator efficiency (which certainly does decrease, but probably much less).


    Can you turn that into a more accurate estimate than 200W to 240W, where all that can be proven is that it's "high, but less than 240W"?
  • -8 Hide
    jeffunit , November 3, 2009 11:32 AM
    Are your power consumption measurements of the cpu, dc power or wall socket power? If they are the latter, which I suspect they are, then you have to factor in the power supply efficiency, as 150w socket, means 150w DC.
  • 13 Hide
    bucifer , November 3, 2009 11:50 AM
    I would be great to see how the more popular i7 860 or at least i5 750 scale with the voltage.
    I don't think i7 870 is a popular choice because of it's price (people would go for socket 1336)
  • 0 Hide
    ctbaars , November 3, 2009 12:32 PM
    Thanks for article.
    For me - This and previous articles have convinced me to game at stock, w/ tb+ settings on, and a high end GPU card and the i5 is most appropriate for my usage. I need to condition myself to turn off the computer esp. when noone is home.
  • 0 Hide
    avatar_raq , November 3, 2009 2:40 PM
    Although Thomas labels Asrock as "succeeds" I will not buy their motherboards, you'll never know what else this company ignores in the bios, and do you think they would fix that issue if it weren't for THG? After how many failing boards?
  • 2 Hide
    tecmo34 , November 3, 2009 2:52 PM
    cyberkuberiahbut some of us would rather give some extra beans and go 920 , and have dual pcie2.0 x16 . a few extra watts doesn't matter too .

    I agree with you 110%... :D 

    Also, I would like to see the voltage scaling using the i5 750, as mentioned by bucifer
  • 2 Hide
    Onus , November 3, 2009 3:10 PM
    A few extra watts being "used" is fine. A few extra watts being "wasted" is something else entirely.
    I don't see a howling difference on these overclocks either. If I bought an i7, that probably means I'd have little reason to OC it.

    While ASRock seems to be taking a "successive approximations" approach to improving their products, the ones I've bought so far have all been solid, but any OC has been mild.
    And, once again (even if it isn't quite epic), MSI = FAIL.
  • 0 Hide
    jerreece , November 3, 2009 3:49 PM
    I was glad to see this article. I was just thinking about this whole debacle this morning. :) 
  • -3 Hide
    Anonymous , November 3, 2009 3:54 PM
    "The result of huge power losses with moderate performance gains is a decrease in efficiency of over one third at our highest settings"

    The first thing i care about when over clocking is being "green"
    Why is this even in the report?
  • 5 Hide
    Crashman , November 3, 2009 4:02 PM
    Antigreen"The result of huge power losses with moderate performance gains is a decrease in efficiency of over one third at our highest settings"The first thing i care about when over clocking is being "green" Why is this even in the report?


    Sometimes you can acgtually gain efficiency when overclocking: This is especially true when voltage levels aren't altered.
  • 2 Hide
    cyberkuberiah , November 3, 2009 4:53 PM
    avatar_raqAlthough Thomas labels Asrock as "succeeds" I will not buy their motherboards, you'll never know what else this company ignores in the bios, and do you think they would fix that issue if it weren't for THG? After how many failing boards?


    i'd go with evga/asus ,and for amd , gigabyte or asus . the crosshair 3 formula is top end at just 200 dollars .
  • 2 Hide
    Shadow703793 , November 3, 2009 6:05 PM
    Can some one please make a list of what motherboards use the problamatic Foxconn socket?
  • 2 Hide
    warezme , November 3, 2009 6:13 PM
    Whats wrong with 3.8Ghz? Its good overclock, with minimal stress on all your junk. Why folks have to push their stuff to 4Ghz or higher stressing the hell out of the hardware just for a couple more lousy FPS. I have an X58 that can push voltage and run at 4.2Ghz but voltage and heat requirements go up way to much and only give me a few more FPS. Its not really worth it.
  • 0 Hide
    grimjester , November 3, 2009 6:55 PM
    CrashmanCan you turn that into a more accurate estimate than 200W to 240W, where all that can be proven is that it's "high, but less than 240W"?


    I'm not sure how to interpret the results, but the best fit I get for trying to get a constant W / (GHz * V^2) is a base load of only 7W plus a draw of 36.63-36.72W * frequency in GHz * voltage squared. The fit is fairly accurate; there's a 0,26% difference between the min and the max.

    Obviously stuff other than the CPU draws more than 7W, but I don't know enough about the hardware to give an explanation. I'd assume that you get fairly close to 7W + (voltage^2 * GHz * 36,7W) if you measure the draw at other speeds and voltages though.
  • 0 Hide
    Proximon , November 3, 2009 7:21 PM
    Thanks Crashman, this goes towards a resolution and at least we have a few lower budget boards now that look to be relatively safe.

    Didn't you use a different PSU last time? Playing it safe with the higher quality 850HX maybe?
  • -1 Hide
    Crashman , November 3, 2009 7:21 PM
    Shadow703793Can some one please make a list of what motherboards use the problamatic Foxconn socket?


    ASRock, Asus, Biostar, ECS, Foxconn, Gigabyte, and MSI use Foxconn sockets. Jetway and EVGA use the cheaper Lotes sockets.
  • 5 Hide
    Crashman , November 3, 2009 7:38 PM
    warezmeWhats wrong with 3.8Ghz? Its good overclock, with minimal stress on all your junk. Why folks have to push their stuff to 4Ghz or higher stressing the hell out of the hardware just for a couple more lousy FPS. I have an X58 that can push voltage and run at 4.2Ghz but voltage and heat requirements go up way to much and only give me a few more FPS. Its not really worth it.


    Uh, d00d, let me see if I can explain this in terms you can understand: 1.45V has been used for 45nm Intel processors long enough that it's now a standardized OC test voltage. There are many reasons for it having become this standardized test voltage, including the fact that it's considered the maximum safe voltage in some Intel documentation, that it's the maximum voltage most processors can run using above-ambient cooling, that it's the spot just before power consumption spikes, etc. It makes sense, and because it's NOT extreme, was never extreme, was never intended to be extreme, and is in no way extreme, it's something that any overclocking motherboard should tollerate.

    We understand that cheap boards exist. If you're going to market a cheap board towards low-cost overclocking, you need to put in over-current protection. If you're going to market an even cheaper board with no protection, you need to disable the overclocking features.

    It's one way or the other, when it comes to overclocking either do it right or don't do it at all. Half-fast solutions aren't acceptable in the overclocking market. It's a quality issue, and Tom's Hardware has tested MANY high-quality budget parts in the past.

    There's no excuse to cut quality when you can instead cut features to produce a cheap product. IE, if you really really really wanted to make a board that could only do 1.35V before blowing the VRM, and really wanted to sell it without overcurrent protection, you'd really really really want to limit the BIOS settings to 1.35V. Because when you didn't, you'd get caught with your pants down by a site such as this one.

    To not report such a finding would be proof of a lack of integrity. To give up testing at this setting would be to cave in for low-quality products at the expense of not revealing the superiority of high-quality products. The reader isn't served, the industry is disserviced, everyone loses.


    ProximonThanks Crashman, this goes towards a resolution and at least we have a few lower budget boards now that look to be relatively safe.Didn't you use a different PSU last time? Playing it safe with the higher quality 850HX maybe?


    Nah, same power supply since September, might have forgotten to change the model in the setup table.
  • -1 Hide
    JeanLuc , November 3, 2009 8:01 PM
    cyberkuberiahbut some of us would rather give some extra beans and go 920 , and have dual pcie2.0 x16 . a few extra watts doesn't matter too .


    Why do you want dual x16 slot when it offers no extra benefit? You might want to give this a read before you start clicking that thumbs down button, and if you do disagree please tell me why I'm wrong.

    Even the most powerful card in the world can't saturate an x8 slot according to that source.
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