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MSI K8N Diamond Plus Review Page 4 of 6

BIOS

This Bios is packed, like the motherboard, with about everything you could think of or want. For the enthusiast, the features for setting memory timings and frequency, voltage adjustments for the CPU and memory are extensive. Referring to voltage selection, those for the VDimm are generous with the default adjustments ranging from 2.6V-3.2V. For the serious overclocker MSI offers an even more extensive feature with capability of accessing voltages over 3.2V to as much as 4.1V with a jumper setting. Remember though, you have to remove the warranty seal to access the jumpers.

OVERCLOCKING

Another impressive aspect of this motherboard is the large array of overclocking options. Provided are such selections for the tweaker and/or overclocker as:

  • FSB Settings: 200MHz to 210MHz in 0.5MHz steps and 210 to 450 in 1MHz steps
  • PCIe Frequency: 100MHz to 148.4375MHz (in 1.5625MHz)*
  • RAM Frequency: 1:2, 2:3, 5:6, 1:1 (DRAM:FSB ratio)
  • CPU Voltage Settings: +50mV to +750mV (in 50mV steps)
  • Memory Voltage Settings: 2.70V to 3.00V (in 0.05V steps)
  • DDR PowerBoost: 3.30V to 4.1V (in 0.1V steps)
  • PCIe x16 Voltage Settings: 1.50V to 1.85V (in 0.05V steps)
  • CPU to NB Frequency: 200MHz to 1600MHz (in 200MHz steps)
  • NB to SB Frequency: 200MHz to 1600MHz (in 200MHz steps)
  • NB Voltage: 1.2V to 1.5V (in 0.1V steps)
  • Multiplier Selection: Yes (unlocked CPUs only), Down-stepping available to normal CPUs

Also available for selection is an automatic overclocking feature labeled Dynamic Overclocking Technology (DOT). Included with MSI CoreCell technology, this feature is designed to detect the load balance of the CPU while running programs, and to adjust the best CPU frequency automatically. When the motherboard detects the CPU is running programs, it will automatically speed up to make the program run smoothly and faster. When the CPU is temporarily suspending or staying in the low load balance, it will revert to the default settings. Usually, the Dynamic Overclocking will activate only when a large amount of data like when running 3D games or other video processes.

The selections in DOT included in the Bios are as follows:
[Disabled] Disable Dynamic Overclocking function.
[Private] 1st level of overclocking, increasing CPU frequency by 1%.
[Sergeant] 2nd level of overclocking, increasing CPU frequency by 3%.
[Captain] 3rd level of overclocking, also the default value of the Load High Performance Defaults, increasing the CPU frequency by 5%.
[Colonel] - 4th level of overclocking, increasing CPU frequency by 7%.
[General] - 5th level of overclocking, increasing CPU frequency by 10%.
[Commander] 6th level of overclocking, increasing CPU frequency by 15%.

Also available are the overclocking options of NV4X Core clock and NV4X Memory clock which provide the same clock increase selections by percent (%) as identified in DOT as listed above. In addition to the above, overclocking solution selections are the manual selections that overclockers are familiar with.

A couple of overclocking tools available are the down-stepping option for the CPU multiplier. A locked CPU's multiplier can be reduced to a lower multiplier for allowing a higher memory clock. Also in repeating myself, the row of jumpers next to the Dimm slots that can be switched allowing Dimm voltages to be increased beyond default options.
 

XP-90 Installed With Room to Spare

The XP-90 and a 92mm Panaflo setting on top ready to force-feed air to cool the CPU. It looks like time to crank it up, on to the benchmarks!

TESTING

I used a combination of processors and video cards in testing the K8n Diamond Plus. I wanted to check SLI performance and since I did not have two 7900 GTs I opted to use the two 6800 GS PCI-e cards that I had on-hand. The comparisons I use are not intended to actually rate the two setups but to show performance capabilities, or lack thereof, of this motherboard using a current single card offering and those of an SLI setup. The same applies to the use of the single core 3700+ and the X2 4200+ CPUs. Another motive in using an assortment of hardware components is simply to test compatibility between the nForce4 and component selections. Although the selection I used is by no means extensive, I think it is representative. Not mentioned in the review were the testing of 2 SATA HDDs in a RAID array (RAID 0), one 7200 RPM drive, and memory modules from no less than four manufacturers (rated PC3200 and higher).

SYSTEM PERFORMANCE BENCHMARKS

To start the tests PCMARK 2005 was selected for system testing. This benchmarks stresses all major component hardware with a number of programmed tests giving the motherboard a good workout. If something is not performing up to par it will show up here. Everything seems to be performing well in this instance. There are a few things I think can be improved and I will get to them after the review as I intend to use this setup for some gaming. NVIDIA GeForce 84.21 drivers were used.

PCMark 2005 Performance Results
AMD X2 4200+ (dual core) w/ 7900 GT (550/1580MHz)

DIRECTX 9 SYNTHETIC BENCHMARK

Both system's processors are running at 2.2GHz with the same multiplier (x11) and the memory running at 200MHz, dual channel. You will note the X2, dual core processor, shows it has some muscle in Sisoftware Sandra almost doubling the single core's score in the CPU performance results. I need to investigate where I am losing memory bandwidth on the X2 system. Nevertheless, I have no complaints on the K8N Diamond Plus' contribution to performance so far through the tests.

SiSoft Sandra 2005

DIRECTX 8 BENCHMARKS

I have not used the CodeCreatures benchmark in a while but since I wanted to use a good DirectX 8.1 API application benchmark it was an obvious choice for me. CodeCreatures benchmark incorporates the use of Vertex and Pixel Shaders and requires a minimum of 128 MB of ram to store textures required for the test which severely stresses the graphic cards. The benchmark plays a photo-realistic nature scene and calculates the performance of the graphics adapter by measuring the FPS that it can display at selected resolutions. I used 1024x768, 1280x1024, 1600x1200, and 2048x1536 resolutions.

CodeCreatures


Results in CodeCreatures were consistent except for a slight bottleneck with the 7900 GT at 1024x768 with no AA/AF applied. The 7900 GT maintained a performance lead through all resolutions and settings of about 9% over the 6800 GS SLI setup.

Next Page: Benchmarking Continued

Last Updated on April 10, 2006


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