MSI 785GM-E65: BIOS And Overclocking
A list of voltage and frequency ranges can be found on page 21 of this review.
MSI did a good job of including all of the requisite BIOS options. The four BIOS profiles for saving settings are appreciated. The only curious omission was the SidePort voltage, as this is the only SidePort-equipped board without that option. As it turns out, this isn't much of a limitation, as the 785GM-E65 was the only AM3 board in our roundup able to successfully overclock the SidePort memory without screen corruption or crashing.
There was one more strange limitation to note: the board wouldn't allow us to manually set the tRAS memory latency. All of the main settings worked, however, including CAS latency, tRCD, and tRP. Since tRAS is what I'd consider a secondary setting, this didn't bother us too much.
Similar to the Gigabyte and ASUS boards, the MSI 785GM-E65 has an EC Firmware option in the BIOS that changes the way AMD's ACC works. If EC Firmware is left at the default “normal” setting when ACC is enabled, you won't unlock any dormant CPU cores, but you might get the improved overclocking headroom from an original Phenom processor. However, if EC Firmware is set to “special,” it allows for CPU cores to be unlocked. This is a great feature because most other boards only offer one type of BIOS. Either they will unlock dormant CPU cores and crash an unwilling processor or they will not unlock dormant CPU cores and allow for more overclocking tolerance.
The EC Firmware setting allows the user to choose what works best. We tested this feature and found that it worked great, allowing our Phenom II 550 BE to run stably with the ACC feature enabled without unlocking the dormant CPU cores. This same Phenom II 550 would crash when the “special” feature was used with ACC enabled, because the locked cores were faulty. But our Phenom II X3 705e sample would work with all four cores enabled.
The MSI 785GM-E65 couldn't boot our Mushkin XP3-12800 at 1,600 MT/s using relaxed 9-10-10-25 timings, even though this memory is sold as a 1,600 MHz 7-8-7-20 kit. Once again, we know that it's difficult to get AM3 CPUs working with memory speeds faster than 1,333 MHz, and we appreciate that MSI doesn't push this as a board that can handle 1,600 MHz memory. While we did find a small 1,600 MHz overclocking claim on the back of the box, the manual lists 1,333 MHz as the highest compatible memory frequency.
This board was one of only two that would accept a SidePort memory overclock, and the only AM3 option that could do it, despite the lack of SidePort voltage setting in the BIOS. We were able to set the SidePort memory to 1,700 MHz, the highest available setting the BIOS, with no screen corruption or crashing.
Unfortunately, the integrated GPU wasn't as overclock-friendly as the SidePort memory, yielding a final overclock of 800 MHz. The extra 300 MHz over the 500 MHz stock speed isn't bad, but it's still the only board that couldn't reach 900 MHz stably. Hopefully the SidePort memory overclock can help the frame rates in the overclocked benchmarks.