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DFI Lanparty Blood Iron P45-T2RS Elite Motherboard Review

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Eldonko

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DFI Lanparty Blood Iron P45-T2RS Elite Motherboard Review




Manufacturer Product Page: DFI Lanparty BI P45-T2RS Elite Motherboard Overview
Product Number: Lanparty BI P45-T2RS Elite
Availability: None in Canada, limited in USA
Price: Approximately $100-$110 USD
Warranty Length: 1 year



In late 2008, Hardware Canucks had the pleasure of reviewing a micro-ATX motherboard targeted for enthusiasts, the DFI Lanparty JR P45-T2RS. Keeping with the DFI theme, we are pleased to present a review of the new and more budget-oriented Blood Iron P45 board, the DFI Lanparty BI P45-T2RS Elite! Similar to the JR, the BI P45-T2RS Elite is based off the popular Intel P45 chipset and runs high-speed DDR2 memory. For size, the BI P45-T2RS Elite is classified as an ATX board, not a micro but it is 4cm narrower (30.5 x 20.5cm) than the standard ATX size of 30.5 x 24.5cm. While the board seems to be missing a standard feature, CrossFire, it hosts a number of features common to full-sized boards such as eight channel digital audio and DFI’s infamous BIOS. There is actually another version of the BI P45-T2RS Elite that has CrossFire support; however, this review will be of the non-CrossFire version of the BI P45-T2RS Elite so keep that in mind.

With the upcoming release of Intel’s mainstream i5 platform and current availability of i7, one may think that manufacturers are no longer supporting socket 775 boards. Well that couldn’t be further from the truth. Only a small percentage of users bothered to upgrade to i7 due to the perceived cost in relation to a small improvement in performance over socket 775. As such, motherboard manufacturers have been pumping out P45-based boards in record numbers.

DFI is shooting for the budget P45 market with the BI P45-T2RS Elite and to be successful they have to produce a motherboard that will retail near the $120 range. Although we have yet to see any availability in Canada, the BI P45-T2RS Elite is going for just over $100 USD in the United States, which definitely hits the mark in terms of price. Also, since DFI is known as an enthusiast and overclocker’s brand, customers expect a level of overclockability with DFI boards that go above and beyond that of the competition. Hopefully this board in particular will live up to its mandate of being a budget board that can also achieve a decent overclock.

DFI provides a 1 year warranty for motherboards through Authorized Distributors which means you can approach your retailer before having to RMA your motherboard to the factory in Taiwan (or other support center). DFI also has support offices in the US and Europe with technical staff available to help users in three languages (English, Dutch, and Chinese).

All in all, we have some extremely high hopes for this board. Let's hope it delivers.

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Eldonko

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Chipset & Board Features

Chipset Features


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The P45 chipset by Intel supports a variety of features including 1600 MHz Front Side Bus processors, high speed DDR2 and DDR3, Extreme Memory Profiles (Intel XMP), next-generation dual PCI Express 2.0 lanes, and Intel Extreme Tuning, allowing for maximum platform performance.

The Intel P45 Express Chipset is driving PCIE2.0 to mainstream users, delivering up to 16 GB/s bandwidth, twice the bandwidth of PCI Express 1.0. The Intel P45 Express Chipset supports either a 1 x 16 or 2 x 8 PCI-E 2.0 configuration for expandable discrete graphics capability. PCI-E 2.0 also provides greater flexibility and reliability in design because it is backward compatible with PCI-E 1.0 and can dynamically manage power and performance through software controls. The greatly improved 16 GB/s of graphics bandwidth capability enables much higher levels of performance on graphics-intensive applications such as high-end gaming and video rendering.


DFI Lanparty BI P45-T2RS Elite Features

A few notable features on the DFI Lanparty BI P45-T2RS Elite include 8.1 Channel HD Audio, All Solid Capacitors, a ton of USB 2.0 ports (12), Core 2 Duo, Quad and Extreme support, Genie BIOS, CMOS Reloaded and ABS capabilities. A brief summary of each of these features is as follows:

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Eldonko

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


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The DFI Lanparty BI P45-T2RS Elite box uses a texturized brown color with DFI’s various logos featured prominently on its front. The main logo and the part of the box that catches the eye is the Blood Iron logo, featured front and center. Meanwhile, smaller graphics are found on the front and sides including DFI’s always familiar Lanparty logo, CPU support, and the ABS II logo.

The reverse of the box focuses mainly on features and provides a brief description of each. The BI box as a whole may not be as eye catching as the UT series or even the JR, but the Blood Iron logo is very well done and makes up for the color choice.

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DFI really knows how to use it’s logos to promote the brand as we can see from the use of the Blood Iron and Lanparty logos on all sides of the box. The top corner also highlights that the board is compatible with all socket 775 CPUs.

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Looking inside, the contents seem pretty slim with just a driver cd and a few accessories in the front of the box but that is to be expected considering this board's price. The accessories are packed similar to most motherboards which means they are all individually packaged in plastic and situated in the front part of the box. The motherboard itself is wrapped in the standard anti-static bag to avoid damage to components from static charges while beneath the board there is a thick foam sheet to prevent shipping damage.

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Above we see the accessories included with the Blood Iron and as we stated above, this is indeed a no-frills package.

Specific package contents and motherboard accessories include:

Package Contents

- One system board
- One IDE cable
- Two Serial ATA data cables
- One power cable with 2 Serial ATA power connectors
- One I/O shield
- One DVD
- One user’s manual
 
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Eldonko

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Included Software

Included Software


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The DFI Lanparty BI P45-T2RS Elite motherboard comes with an installation disk containing drivers needed for the board as well as a few additional programs and tools. Navigating the disk, users will find chipset, audio, LAN, storage, graphics, and RAID drivers. Extra software is found under the Tools page and includes Adobe Acrobat Reader, the Auto Boost II program and DFI’s hardware monitoring program called Smart Guardian.

There is one additional page we would like to share on the Blood Iron install disk since it contains links to various overclocking software including: 3DMark, Everest, CPUZ, SuperPI, OCCT, HD Tach, Stressprime, and Sisoft Sandra. These types of overclocking programs are updated so frequently that it would be pointless to put the actual install files on the disk so DFI simply included the links so users can get the latest version. We think it's a great idea.

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DFI’s Smart Guardian is a system monitoring tool that includes system temperatures, voltages, and fan speeds. As part of our usual installation process, we find it is always useful to install Smart Guardian to keep an eye on your temps and voltages, especially when overclocking. There are also different skins you can download for Smart Guardian; above is the default for the BI P45-T2RS Elite.

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The Auto Boost System II technology provides the convenience of saving and loading several overclocking settings. It allows users to swap profiles with other users by sending a small .abs file and makes tweaking on such a complex board a little less overwhelming for a novice user. This is also a great program for tech support as they can request your .abs file to help users with settings or just send a pre-tested profile. The ABS program also comes pre-loaded with "upgrade" options for different processors. For example, users with a 1333 FSB CPU could select the 1333 upgrade to 1600 option and enjoy extra performance with little to no overclocking experience. These profiles are designed to be general and to work with most setups; however a user should at least know overclocking basics in case some minor tweaking is needed.

In our testing, the features of ABS II worked flawlessly and we think it is a useful feature for DFI boards. ABS II can really save time when overclocking since all you have to do is simply press F1 on POST to access the ABS utility and the screen will show CPU upgrade information. ABS is also accessible in the BIOS under CMOS Reloaded and in Windows with the included software utility. Please remember to use extreme caution when playing with these settings as hardware damage and operating system corruption is possible if the user goes too far with an unstable overclock.
 
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Eldonko

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A Closer Look at the DFI Lanparty BI P45-T2RS Elite

A Closer Look at the DFI Lanparty BI P45-T2RS Elite


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Above you will find a map so to speak of the BI P45-T2RS Elite motherboard with descriptions of the various parts.

The first thing that you will probably notice is that the BI P45-T2RS Elite’s color scheme is different than the typical Lanparty boards we are all familiar with. Instead of the DFI standard black, yellow, and orange design they went with a typical Blood Iron red PCB with a black and blue theme. The CrossFire version of the same board looks identical except for the PCI-E slots, which are DFI yellow.

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Starting at the right hand side of the board just below the CPU socket, we see the PWM chip: ISL6322. This is a four-phase digital PWM control IC and provides the board’s voltage regulation and includes integration of power MOSFET drivers into the controller IC instead of using a separate PWM controller. Signals sent can command the ISL6322 to adjust voltage margining offset, converter switching frequency and overvoltage protection levels.

Meanwhile, in the bottom right corner we have the CPU fan header and the 24 pin connector. The 24-pin ATX connector is situated on the bottom of the board, which keeps it out of the way of installed components such as video cards and after market heatsinks.

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Moving left across the board we come to the memory slots and the Northbridge heatsink. The RAM slots are in a standard location and are color coded to indicate the correct slots for dual channel use. For cooling, there is no fancy heatpipe cooling or even a fan on this budget board. Instead, DFI stuck with a basic black aluminum heatsink for both the Northbridge and Southbridge.

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Continuing to the bottom left corner we have six SATA 2 ports, another fan header, and the front panel connectors. The SATA 2 ports are a basic design instead of right-angle connectors like we have seen in higher-end models. Straight above that is the motherboard battery and two jumpers. The battery is there to save BIOS settings and the red jumper is one of two CMOS clear jumpers. The blue jumper is a secondary RTC reset jumper so when the RTC battery is removed, this jumper resets the manageability register bits in the RTC.

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Also near the red and blue jumpers is an ICS chip titled 9LPRS918JKLF. This is the motherboard’s PLL or clockgen chip and this code is actually the one you use if you want to use a clockgen overclocking program like SetFSB. Moving to the top left corner we have a fairly large ITE chip. The ITE IT8718F chip provides the most commonly used legacy Super I/O functionality plus the latest Environment Control initiatives such as H/W Monitor and Fan Speed Controller.

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Just to the right of the ITE controller chip, we see a Realtek audio chip. The Realtek ALC885 chip runs the sound on the Lanparty BI P45-T2RS Elite and is a high-performance 7.1+2 Channel High Definition Audio Codec with advanced lossless content protection technology. This protects pre-recorded content while still allowing full-rate audio enjoyment from DVD audio, Blu-ray DVD, or HD DVD discs.

For PCI-E slots, there are four (as shown above), one 16x and three 1x. This means CrossFire is not possible on this board. Below the PCI-E slots there are two PCI slots.

One other feature you will notice on this board is the solid capacitors. These caps are said to be of higher quality and more durable than the older electrolytic style capacitors which have often been a source if trouble on older electronics. It seems most motherboard manufacturers are using solid caps these days, even in budget boards.

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Moving right along the top of the motherboard, we come to the I/O panel. For sound, the BI P45-T2RS Elite includes High Definition audio outputs (Coaxial S/PDIF Out Port, Optical S/PDIF Out Port) for your Home Theatre needs in addition to the standard input/outputs. The second CMOS jumper is also shown above; which is very useful for users that have the board inside a case where the other CMOS jumper is not accessible.

The rear panel inputs and outputs are pretty standard overall. I/O ports include the previously mentioned HD audio outputs, one PS/2 Mouse Port, one PS/2 Keyboard Port, six Ready-to-Use USB 2.0 Ports, one LAN Port with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED) and a CMOS jumper.
 
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Eldonko

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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown


Ever since DFI brought in BIOS engineer and legend Oskar Wu, DFI boards have become known for having some of the most advanced and feature rich BIOS on the market. Even the basic BIOS of a DFI budget board is more advanced than most enthusiast boards from other manufacturers. On top of that, pressing F9 reveals a whole extra set of BIOS settings, all of which the user can tweak to get those extra few Mhz.

The Lanparty BI P45-T2RS Elite features an Award BIOS with 8Mbit SPI flash as well as the CMOS Reloaded feature. As mentioned in the software section, CMOS Reloaded allows users to use BIOS presets by pressing user defined hotkeys upon POST. To enter the BIOS initially, the delete key is used when the POST screen comes up.

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By default, The Lanparty BI P45-T2RS Elite displays a brown splash screen and Blood Iron logo consistent with the marketing on the box. The BIOS also has an option to disable the splash screen to allow viewing of POST messages. Disabling of splash screens is recommended when overclocking in order to see what speed the system is booting at from the POST screen and to view other POST information.

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Starting with the main page in DFI’s Award BIOS, we see many subpages. The pages that are most useful to us for overclocking are the Genie BIOS Setting, PC Health Status, and CMOS Reloaded. Advanced BIOS Features is also a useful page as it contains settings like Hard Disk priority, which is where you can change to a USB drive for BIOS flashing. There is also boot device priority and some other boot options. If you scroll to the bottom of the screen you will find the option to disable the POST screen.

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The next two subpages of the main AwardBIOS page we will cover quickly are PC Health Status and CMOS Reloaded. The PC Health Status page is rather advanced compared to some boards we have seen, likely because of a higher-end monitoring chip. CPU, chipset, and PWM temperatures are shown as well as a number of voltages. Voltages monitored include: Vcore, vmem, vNB, VTT, as well as all PSU rails.

CMOS Reloaded page in the BIOS looks like the ABS II software. Users are provided with four banks where they can save custom BIOS settings and this allows for quick reloading of BIOS settings which is great for overclocking. Shown in the screen capture above are the three automatic CPU upgrade settings that come pre-installed on the motherboard.

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We will start with the main screen on the Genie BIOS Setting menu. This menu contains three submenus: CPU Feature, DRAM Timing, and Voltage Setting as well as some other important settings like FSB and memory dividers. CPU Clock Ratio (multiplier) and CPU clock (FSB) are the settings used to change the FSB and multi of the system. Boot UP Clock allows for booting at a different clock which is helpful when you run high FSB so you can boot at a lower clock and then move up to your desired FSB. CPU Clock Amplitude settings are essentially clock output strengths and tweaking these settings helps with higher FSB. CPU Clock Skews are the skew clocks for the Northbridge, also useful for achieving higher FSB. Optimal settings for the Amplitude and Skews on our test CPU are 800/100/0. Under the CPU Feature subscreen we recommend disabling all settings except for Multi-Core Processing when overclocking.

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Next up we have DRAM Speed and DRAM Timings. There are seven DRAM Speed settings available which allow for different straps and RAM speeds and the DRAM timings are the memory main (tCL, tRCD, tRP, tRAS) and subtimings. Every setting even the most advanced RAM tweaker would want is present.

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Clock Setting Fine Delay is a subscreen of the DRAM Timings screen. Here DLL and RCOMP tables are located. The DRAM DLL table is a base for calculating clock delays and the RCOMP values are impedence ratings of chipset registers. In plain English, DLL and RCOMP control signals between CPU, NB, and RAM and are essential for successful overclocking. Recommended profiles for DRAM and RCOMP are 3/3/1, 5/5/1, and 0/0/2.
 
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BIOS Rundown pg.2

BIOS Rundown



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Now to move on to the Voltage Setting sub-page of the Genie BIOS page. This page is where you find all the adjustable voltages you need for overclocking. At the top is CPU Special VID Add. This is for adjusting vcore and up to +.787.5mv above VID but remember that this is enough to easily kill any CPU, so be careful.

Next on the voltage list is DRAM voltage. An unheard of 3.28v is available for memory but keep in mind this is for extreme overclocking only and most modules will not like more than 2.2v.

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Next up we have PLL and Northbridge voltages where 2.15v is available for PLL and 1.97v for Northbridge. We can’t see an instance where you would need above 1.75v on PLL nor 1.7v on Northbridge even for the most extreme benching session, but the volts are available if needed.

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Continuing down the voltage list we have VTT and Clockgen voltages with respective maximum voltages of 1.6v and 3.85v. Clockgen voltage is used to achieve stability when using high FSB and VTT and is crucial for overclocking at high FSB but must be kept in balance with GTL, NB and many other settings. VTT is said to be one of the most dangerous voltages to increase over a period of time so use it with caution. Often, P45 boards reach very high FSB with relatively low VTT and Northbridge voltages if the correct combination of GTL is used.


Now we get into GTL and FSB Ref settings. GTL REF Voltage is basically CPU VTT reference voltage. CPU GTL 0/2, 1/3, and NB GTL all must be used in perfect ratios to achieve stability at high FSB. Meanwhile, FSB Ref voltage is a tweak to MCH parameter registers and is sometimes useful for breaking a perceived FSB wall. Recommended settings to test are 23/24/25/2A/2B. The GTL combination we found most useful for our Xeon 2110 was .61/.61/.58.

As you can see there are a TON of BIOS tweaks available so an enthusiast or hard core overclocker should be very pleased (or overwhelmed) with the options available. It is important to use a methodical approach when overclocking; that is, tweak one setting at a time, test stability, and then move to the next. If you try and tweak everything at once it will take many days to figure out which setting(s) are causing instability. Luckily ABS II can help a new overclocker swap settings with his friends.

Always keep in mind there are enough voltage options to easily fry your RAM, motherboard, and CPU if care is not taken. We recommend a lot of background reading and overclocking experience in general before increasing voltages and trying for that extreme overclock.
 
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Test Setup and Methodologies

Test Setup and Methodologies



Test Setup

Processor: Intel C2D Xeon E3110 (45nm dual core)
Video Card(s): MSI N9800GTX 512MB (675/2200)
Memory: 4GB Mushkin XP2-8000 Redline
Motherboard: DFI Lanparty BI P45-T2RS Elite
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 80GB SATA II
Power Supply: Tagan BZ 900W
Case: None
Cooling: Swifttech Apogee (CPU), 2 x dual heatercore w/ 4 x 120mm fans
Fans: 1 x 120mm
Operating System: Windows Vista Basic 64 bit

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Overclocking Methodology

The following section shows the maximum overclock achieved on a dual core Xeon E3110 45nm 1333FSB CPU. For testing methodology two main tests will be used and several benchmarks will be run at the overclocked speeds. The first of the two main stability tests will be a 5 hour custom test of OCCT v3.1.0 (medium data set, priority normal) which tests CPU, memory, and FSB stability. OCCT is a great test for reviews because it tests multiple core CPUs, creates user friendly graphs of temperatures and voltages, and is very efficient at picking up errors.

The second stability test will be 3 runs of 3DMark Vantage. This tests the 3D stability of the overclock as well as CPU, FSB and memory. Once an overclock passes these tests but fails anything further, this is the point deemed as “stable” for the purposes of this review.

The latest official BIOS from DFI for the Lanparty BI P45-T2RS Elite was already installed in the board so no BIOS flash was required. We always flash the latest official BIOS for a motherboard before testing commences.


General Benchmark Methodology

All benchmarks will be a comparison of the Xeon E3110 at stock speed and at maximum overclock to give an idea of how much performance a user can gain when overclocking the Lanparty BI P45-T2RS Elite. Since the motherboard is not CrossFire compatible, CrossFire benchmarks will be omitted in this case.

The overclocked speed on the Xeon E3110 will be 4200Mhz on the overclocked tests and RAM speed will be set to 467Mhz (DDR934) and 5-5-5-15. Nvidia ForceWare 186.18 drivers will be used for 3D along with Windows Vista Home Basic 64 bit.
 
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Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


Socket 775 and the P45 chipset have been around for a while now, so many of you are probably familiar with the ins and outs of overclocking with this chipset/platform. We aren’t going to talk about every possible outcome, but this section will give an overview of our overclocking experiences with the Lanparty BI P45-T2RS Elite.

First off, the board worked flawlessly at stock and arrived pre-installed with the latest official DFI BIOS. It was basically plug and play; we set it up, turned it on, and installed Windows immediately without an issue. Next we tested the preset ABS profiles and although we didn’t spend a whole lot of time on them, everything booted up fine and OCCT ran for an hour no problem. This is great news for a novice user looking to upgrade his CPU from 3000Mhz to 3600Mhz by taking two seconds to load up a BIOS profile


Max System Overclock

Next up we went right for what most users will want: the maximum stable system overclock. This means we want to maximize the CPU and memory overclock while keeping voltages and temperatures in check. 4000Mhz was no problem, we didn’t have to access the advanced BIOS settings and we achieved 4Ghz (445x9, 445Mhz memory) with minimal effort. Of course that is not enough as we want to max this sucker out so we slowly went up, tweaking settings as required. One thing we want to mention right off the bat is this board POSTs like no other. The JR that was tested previously was notorious for not POSTing and then you would have to clear CMOS. But with the Blood Iron, even if the overclock was completely unstable, the board would POST pretty much every time and we only reset COMS a few times throughout the whole process. This however makes it extra important to do pre-Windows tests such as Memtest and Vista’s Memory Diagnosis. If you boot into Windows with memory errors your install, will be corrupted very quickly.

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We have tested many motherboards with this Xeon E3110 chip and the maximum overclock always ends up at around 4200Mhz. Some boards make it, others do not. Passing pre-Windows tests and booting the BI P45-T2RS Elite into Windows was reasonably easy but we had some issues completing our suite of stability tests. We would get memory errors and OCCT would drop after 10-20 minutes. Being very familiar with P45 chipset boards and a DFI BIOS we knew we would have to tweak the advanced BIOS settings to get full stability at 4.2Ghz.

After moving into the advanced settings by pressing F9 on the main BIOS screen we were able to find full stability at 4.2Ghz by tweaking TRD, DRAM Skews & RCOMP, GTL settings, RCOMP, and CPU Skews. Since VTT, GTL REF, PLL, and Skew are all metrics controlled by the CPU itself these settings must be in perfect balance or stability is shaky at best. DFI forums have a ton of guides that will help new tweakers to understand the more advanced settings. In the end, the maximum system overclock achieved with the BI P45-T2RS Elite was 4.2Ghz, the maximum the Xeon can run with prolonged stability.


Max FSB + Memory Overclocking

Testing memory and FSB independently, the board performed on par with other P45 boards we have tested in the past. In this review we were using a 4GB kit of memory so huge FSB clocks were limited by the memory but we able to run 500FSB with memory at 1:1 (333/666 strap) giving DDR 1000 at 5-5-5-15. All of the secondary settings you can imagine are available in the BIOS and the auto settings are set up quite well for users that do not want to tweak at that level. We recommend caution in interpreting memory errors, as an improper mix of GTL and skew settings often leads to memory errors. Basically if you have run memory at a certain speed in the past and your timings and voltage is ok but you still get errors, GTL and Skew likely need tweaking.

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Out of curiosity, we threw in a 2GB kit of Ballistix PC8500 to see where we could get with FSB. The 4GB Redline was really limiting for FSB benching since it maxed at 520Mhz or so but we knew the Ballistix would bench upwards of 600Mhz. We were very pleasantly surprised that we were able to bench PI 1M at 625FSB and the board likely would have went further but the RAM was erroring out too badly any further. This was a whole new level for the Xeon E3110 as we had never been able to exceed 600FSB in the past!

In the end, we were quite pleased with how the Blood Iron P45-T2RS Elite overclocked. We maxed out the chip without too much effort and the BIOS seemed quite mature and bug free. The board clocked at very high FSB effortlessly and likely would have gone further if we had a better kit of benching RAM around. The different strap settings all functioned properly and CMOS Reloaded makes DFI boards a pleasure to work with. Even a novice user should be able to get a decent overclock with the BI P45-T2RS Elite using only basic BIOS settings and an experienced overclocker should be able to get those precious extra Mhz by using the advanced BIOS settings. All in all the Blood Iron gets a pass from us!
 
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