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EVGA P55 FTW LGA1156 Motherboard Review

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Eldonko

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EVGA P55 FTW LGA1156 Motherboard Review



Manufacturer Product Page: EVGA P55 FTW
Manufacturer Part Number: 132-LF-E657-KR
Warranty: 3 Year Limited Warranty w/Registration
Buy from: NCIX | DirectCanada | BestDirect


In the last few years there has been a revolution of sorts in motherboard manufacturer attitudes and products. As recent as three years ago manufacturers did not want users overclocking their hardware and would not comment about overclocking whatsoever to the point where the response you would get was the usual “overclocking voids your warranty”. Back then enthusiasts and overclockers had to use their soldering skills to modify boards to overclock to their liking (yes, some of us actually miss those times). Today, nearly every motherboard manufacturer –including EVGA- has made a huge push to cater to an expanding enthusiast market. Now boards are made by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. You don’t have to volt mod to get the voltages you need, you don’t need a degree in electrical engineering to figure out where to probe with your multi-meter and PWMs are more powerful and durable than ever. Indeed, EVGA’s latest series of boards are what enthusiasts have been waiting for and it seems EVGA did a great job in adding everything that has been missing from boards for the last few years.

This review will be of a recent release by EVGA: the P55 FTW. If you are a geek like us (and you probably are) then you know that FTW is geek speak for “for the win” and is quite an amusing moniker for describing a product. Unlike many other more budget-friendly P55 boards, this one caters to a high end user or extreme enthusiast who not only overclocks, but overclocks to extreme levels in sub zero conditions. The FTW features 12 Phase PWM, 2x8pin CPU connectors that can provide up to 600w of power for the CPU and high quality LICC capacitors in the CPU cavity. Mess up a BIOS flash or corrupt a BIOS? No problem, there are three accessible BIOSes on the FTW which are all accessible by the simple flick of a switch. There are even voltage measure points and jumpers on the board for sub-zero conditions.

Even though all of the extreme features are a huge bonus for discerning enthusiasts, the EVGA P55 FTW will also suit the needs of a gamer or builder who does not plan to overclock at all. Using LGA 1156 i5 and i7 processors, the P55 chipset provides up to 8-threads of performance to handle massive throughput and Hyper-Threading Technology to optimize performance on highly-threaded applications. This means even at their stock speeds, these processors can pile on the performance. Meanwhile, the FTW can run both CrossFire and SLI and dual channel DDR3 memory which not only offers higher bandwidth than DDR2 but its lower voltages means increased efficiency as well. Also unlike some first generation i7 boards (socket 1366), P55 boards are actually affordable.

We should also mention that EVGA’s warranty for motherboards is among the top in the industry at 3 years if you register the product online. But that’s enough talk already, let’s take a closer look at the P55 FTW and see if it lives up to its reputation!

 
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Eldonko

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Specifications

Specifications

Performance
Based on Intel P55 chipset
Supports Intel Socket 1156 Processors

Memory
4 x 240-pin DIMM sockets
Dual Channel DDR3
Maximum of 16GB of DDR3 2600MHz+

Expansion Slot
2 x PCIe x16/x8, 1 x PCIe x4, 1 x PCIe x1
2 x 32-bit PCI, support for PCI 2.1

Storage I/O
x UltraDMA133
8 x Serial ATA 300MB/sec with support for RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 0+1, RAID5, JBOD

Integrated Peripherals
8 Channel High Definition
2 x 10/100/1000

Multi I/O
1 x PS2 Keyboard
13 x USB2.0 ports (7 external + 6 internal headers)
Audio connector (Line-in, Line-out, MIC)
FireWire

Form Factor
ATX Form Factor
Length: 12in - 304.8mm
Width: 9.6in - 243.84mm


 
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Eldonko

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Intel P55 Chipset and EVGA P55 FTW Features

Intel P55 Chipset and EVGA P55 FTW Features


The new P55 Express Chipset by Intel achieves incredible performance by supporting the latest Intel Core i7-800 and Core i5-700 processors, the latest Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (Intel XTU), and industry leading I/O technologies. Instead of the two chip approach, the Intel introduces a new generation of chipsets with a single chip. The repartition of the processor and chipset into two devices enables performance and system improvements over previous generations. The P55 Chipset offers up to 2.5 GT/s for fast access to peripheral devices and networking with up to 8 PCI Express 2.0 x1 ports, configurable as x2 and x4 depending on motherboard designs.

Intel’s P55 Express Chipset also provides power saving efficiency. PC platforms based on P55 use up to 50 percent less power than the previous-generation platforms. For size, smaller form factors are possible, because the Intel P55 Express Chipset footprint is 65 percent smaller than the previous generation platforms.

When using one or multiple hard drives, Intel Matrix Storage Technology (MST) allows users to take advantage of enhanced performance and lower power consumption. When using more than one drive, users have additional protection against data loss caused by hard drive failures. MST also provides benefits to users with a single hard drive. Using Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI), storage performance is improved through Native Command Queuing (NCQ).



EVGA P55 FTW Features

A few notable features on the EVGA P55 FTW include triple BIOS support, 12+2 phase PWM, VDroop control, EZ voltage read points, and EVBot support. A brief summary of each of these features and other board features is as follows:

 
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Eldonko

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


Opening up the retail version of the EVGA FTW we find a box sealed in cellophane, something rather uncommon for motherboards. Similar to the board itself, EVGA uses a black and grey theme for the motherboard box whose front features the P55 FTW branding which is also seen on the BIOS splash page and manuals. Meanwhile, the reverse side goes into the board features in detail.


Taking a closer look at the front and sides of the box we find more P55 FTW branding and logos for support of socket 1156 i5 and i7 processors as well as SLI. EVGA also calls their 90 day step up program to users’ attention on the back. Using this program, users can swap in their EVGA product for a higher model within 90 days just by shipping the product to EVGA and paying the difference.


Opening up the box we see EVGA has sealed every single accessory in anti-static protective bags. This is also rather uncommon since most manufacturers seal accessories in clear plastic bags.


Underneath the cardboard divider the board itself is in its own anti-static bag with the typical foam protective sheet underneath. The motherboard itself has stickers explaining how to install memory and the CPU and protective plastic over the heatsinks. We also see CPU installation instructions are illustrated and laid out in steps, which can be really convenient for a novice's first build.


Accessories included are typical of most motherboards. They include hard drive power adaptors, SATA cables and so on, but with the EVGA FTW there is one accessory bag not found with other boards: the ECP V2 (EVGA Control Panel). This handy little device connects to the board with two different sets of wires and provides users with an additional Debug LCD in case the one on the board is covered by a second GPU or is enclosed in a case. This alpha-numeric LED not only gives error codes in case of no POST, but it also displays CPU temperature when the system is running.

The ECP V2 also provides users with several useful functions at the convenience of the click of a button. Power, reset, and clear CMOS switches are included, jumpers to enable or disable PCIE slots are there, and there are voltage booster buttons as well. The voltage booster buttons allow for 0.1v increases to vcore or VTT by simple button click and there are also some LEDs which indicate when the voltage boosters are engaged. It seems EVGA hit the nail on the head when adding this little treat to the accessory package.
 
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Eldonko

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Included Software

Included Software


Typical of most motherboards, the EVGA P55 FTW comes with an installation disk containing drivers needed for the board as well as a few additional programs and tools. The main page of the install disk contains a link to the drivers page (see pic on right) and install files for EVGA E-LEET, Adobe Reader, and Intel Matrix Storage. In addition, there are options to create a RAID disk, view the .pdf manual, and there are even EVGA wallpapers. Navigating to the driver page, users will find chipset, audio, LAN, and e-SATA drivers.

At the top of the main page are links to EVGA’s main website, their gaming site, and mod site along with a link to register your product in order to take advantage of full warranty service.


EVGA’s E-LEET Tuning Utility is basically a system monitoring and tweaking tool built off the well-known monitoring program CPU-Z. Before we go into each tab of the tool, there is one feature worth mentioning: Logitech keyboard LCD display support. This handy feature allows information from EVGA E-LEET to be displayed on Logitech keyboards such as the G15.

The first tab in E-LEET looks almost identical to CPU-Z and includes CPU information and speeds as well as vcore readings. Under the second tab you will find your memory information including size, frequency, memory ratio, and timings.


The third tab in E-LEET includes all of the voltage, temperature, and fan speed monitoring needed for your board. Voltages monitored include 3.3V, VCORE, VDIMM, VTT, PCH, 5v, 12v, VSB3V, and VBAT along with temperatures for CPU, VREG, system, and the four CPU cores individually. If you have fans installed using the board headers, fan speeds are also included.

The next tab is where you start with system tweaks. QPI and PCIE clocks are adjustable by simply moving a slider and clicking “apply” while there is also a turbo mode control which allows for adjustments on a core by core basis. E-LEET also includes a Brink OC feature that automatically saves a screenshot with every clockspeed increase which is a great feature for benchers that are on the brink of instability but need that extra Mhz in a screenshot.


Finally, the last tab contains all of the adjustments for key voltages that are available in the motherboard BIOS. This is where you tweak voltages to get rid of that last bit of instability when looking for the ideal overclock. Voltages available include VCORE, VTT, PCH, PLL, DRAM, and four VREF voltages. The default value is also noted so users will have a reference regarding how far past specs they are pushing things. It is important to note here that voltage and clock tweaks are intended for experienced overclockers and your system can easily be damaged with the high voltages available in this utility. Novice overclockers should read and understand overclocking guides before attempting to increase voltages regardless of how easy and user friendly this software is.
 
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Eldonko

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A Closer Look at the EVGA P55 FTW

A Closer Look at the EVGA P55 FTW


Above is a map of the EVGA P55 FTW motherboard layout with descriptions of the various parts.

Similar to the rest of the EVGA P55 lineup, EVGA went with a black theme for the P55 FTW and it actually looks similar to the P55 Classified but instead of red as the second color, grey is used. The PCB is black, the heatsinks are black, and the memory and PCI slots are a combination of black and dark grey. It may sound a little boring just reading about it, but the FTW looks very sharp and has just the amount understated looks that we love so much. There are also a number of led lights around the board, each indicating something different and the power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons light up adding a nice modern look to the whole affair.


Beginning our clockwise tour around the board, we have the two 8-pin 12v connectors which provide power to the CPU. In case you were wondering what was up with this setup, supposedly EVGA provided a second 12V connector to ensure extra power and stability for extreme voltages and overclocking.

Next up we have two MOSFET coolers situated around the CPU to dissipate heat from the hotspot which allow enough space to use most coolers but the fitment of our waterblock was a bit tight. These could always be replaced with smaller coolers if there is a conflict with your CPU heatsink or waterblock.


Moving over to the CPU socket we have two sets of mounting holes: one for socket 1156 and another for socket 775. This is handy for those upgrading from a 775 system since it will save the cost of a new cooler or mounting bracket but we noticed the 775 holes do tend to leave coolers at an angle. This looks a little strange as you can see from the photo above right, but the temperatures were fine so there is nothing to worry about. This is because the offset of the 775 mounting configuration is so close to 1156 that EVGA had to put the 775 holes slightly off center to ensure there was enough PCB support.. All in all, we were happy the Apogee we have been using for a few years fit without issue.


Still in the CPU area, we have the 1156 socket itself as well as the ICS 9LPRS139AKLF clockgen chip, commonly found on x58 boards. We have word that EVGA is now using Tyco AMP and LOTES sockets for the FTW boards instead of the Foxconn sockets that many enthusiasts reported socket burn with. A few early models had Foxconn sockets but unless you got one of the first few batches you will be fine.


Next up we have a couple UPI chips which are responsible for PWM which provide switching frequency up to 1,189KHz and the cleanest possible variable power switching on the market. The uP6213A chips also provide accurate and reliable short-circuit protection, adjustable over current protection, and a delayed power OK output.

Moving up to the top left corner of the board, we have the voltage measurement points for enthusiasts to get exact VCORE, VDIMM, PCH, PLL, and VTT voltages with a multimeter. This is a nice addition since in the past enthusiasts had to read through circuit diagrams to determine appropriate voltage measurement points.


Up on the same corner of the board as the points we mentioned above, we have the memory slots and 24-pin ATX power connector which is the board’s main source of power. The EVGA FTW supports dual channel DDR3-1600+ memory and officially supports up to 16GBs of DDR3 memory.


Moving along the top of the board over to the right corner we come to the chipset heatsink and SATA ports. First of all, you may ask is that not the southbridge? Actually no, the P55 chipset controls both northbridge and southbridge functions on one chip thus eliminating the southbridge (or northbridge if you prefer) on the motherboard. EVGA chose to cool the P55 chipset with a passive cooler since it is a relatively cool running chip which in effect reduces noise by eliminating any type of active cooling on the board.

Immediately next to the chipset cooler you will find six SATA ports for connecting your hard drives. EVGA went with the side mounted ports which seems to be becoming more popular nowadays.


Next we come to the debug LED on the corner of the board and three sets of headers for extra USB ports and front panel headers to connect to your case. The debug LED is a great tool to help diagnose any issues you may have POSTing and when the motherboard has finished booting, it dubs as a temperature readout. Error codes are found in the appendix of the motherboard manual and include a brief description of what the error may be.


Above you will find a map of the front panel header for the P55 FTW including descriptions by pin type and as you can see, it is quite unique.

Meanwhile, midway down the right side of the board we find another chip which is marked 96A830W TSB43AB22A and made by Texas Instruments, This is capable of transferring data between the 33-MHz PCI bus and the 1394 bus at 100M bits/s, 200M bits/s, and 400M bits/s. Skipping the technical jargon, the TSB43AB22A runs your firewire ports.
 
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SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the EVGA P55 FTW cont.

A Closer Look at the EVGA P55 FTW



At the edge of the board, directly below the PCI slots you will find the power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons which are really quite useful when you use a test bench or run your motherboard outside of a case. We like that we don’t have to short pins with a screwdriver to turn the board on or clear CMOS and the buttons even light up and look pretty cool when the board is running.


Directly to the left of the power switch is the BIOS selector switch that can be used to change between the three BIOS chips onboard. We found this feature to be excellent for saving your butt from a bad BIOS flash or switching between tweaked settings when benching but it has limited use to most consumers

The rather large Fintek F71889F chip is the board’s I/O controller chip which provides the most commonly used legacy Super I/O functionality plus environment control initiatives such as H/W monitor and fan speed controller.


Just to the right of the I/O controller chip, we see a Realtek audio chip. The Realtek ALC885 chip runs the sound on the P55 FTW 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.

Nearby we have two more chips, marked 88E8057-NNC2. These are Marvell Yukon Gigabit Ethernet Controllers and in short are your LAN chips and provide features such as Wake-on-LAN support and Marvell Virtual Cable Tester (VCT) technology.


Where the northbridge once was on previous boards, EVGA has added an LED which glows red with the EVGA logo when the board is in operation. We are not aware of any purpose this serves other than being a cosmetic feature.

Next to the LED, we find a 4-pin molex connector. Similar to the additional 12v power connector, this molex is intended to supply additional power when a user is doing high voltage overclocking. Specifically, the molex supplies additional power when running overclocked GPUs in SLI.


Taking a look at the PCIE slot layout we see EVGA has given plenty of room to run SLI and recommends using slots 1 and 3 (the grey ones) for dual GPUs to give the most clearance. Another card fits in the middle but it is very tight for dual GPU cards. In total we have one PCIE 2.0 x1 slot, two PCI slots, and three PCIE 2.0 x16 slots where PCIE 2.0 slots provide x16/x4 or x8/x8/x4 lane allocation depending upon your GPU configuration.

The rear panel gives plenty of options for your devices with six USB ports, one PS2 keyboard port, two ESATA ports, one firewire port, two Marvell Gigabit LAN ports and a full audio panel. EVGA also included a clear CMOS button on the I/O panel for quick access if the board is installed in a case. This makes three options for clearing CMOS which is very convenient.

So as you can see, the board has pretty much everything you would need, lots of nifty looking LED lights, good spacing and plenty of opportunity for adding additional things such as USB devices. The only things we can see that are excluded are IDE and floppy ports. A missing floppy port is no big deal since few people use floppy drives anyway but some users with IDE DVD drives may be forced to upgrade. Luckily you can get an SATA DVD drive for under $30 these days.
 
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Eldonko

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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown

As always at Hardware Canucks we will do a brief rundown of the EVGA P55 FTW BIOS and provide some descriptions on what some of the settings do. A motherboard BIOS is what can make or break a board’s performance for overclocking and stability in general. Users look for available BIOS options, maximum settings available, and ease of use - that is can you still get a decent overclock mainly using auto settings. We will not go too deep into board overclocking in this section, see the overclocking page for specific overclocking performance.

The EVGA P55 FTW features a triple BIOS solution, giving multiple security layers to the system. This means there are three physical BIOS chips integrated onboard which provides quick recovery from BIOS damage or failure due to viruses, unstable overclock settings, or improper BIOS updating. Users simply have to flick a switch on the board to move over to the next BIOS.

To enter the BIOS initially, the delete key is used when the POST screen comes up.


By default, the EVGA P55 FTW displays a black splash screen and FTW 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.

After entering the BIOS you will come to the main screen of the AMI BIOS where all the sub menus are located. We are not going to go into every detail of every screen, just the most useful ones. To get a general idea of what all the subscreens are for, details on submenus of the main BIOS page are as follows:

- Standard BIOS Features: You use this menu to set up the basic system configuration.
- Advanced BIOS Features: Use this menu to set up the advanced system features and boot sequence.
- Advanced Chipset Features: Use this menu to set up onboard peripherals such as IDE, RAID, USB, LAN, and MAC control.
- PCI/PNP Resource Management: Use this menu to configure resource management.
- Boot Configuration Features: Use this menu to modify the system’s boot configuration.
- Power Management Features: Use this menu to modify power management, power on, and sleep features.
- Hardware Health Configure: Use this menu to view system vitals.
- Frequency/Voltage Control: Use this menu to optimize system performance and configure clocks, voltages, memory timings, and more.
- Load Optimal Defaults: Load default system settings.
- Discard Changes: Use this command to abandon all setting changes and exit setup.
- Save Changes & Exit: Use this command to save settings to CMOS and exit setup.
- Discard Changes and Exit: Use this command to abandon all setting changes and exit setup.


The above two screens are the first two subscreens in the main BIOS menu, Standard BIOS Features and Advanced BIOS Features. The Standard BIOS Features page is very basic and includes some system information and an option to set your time and date. One minor detail we didn’t like with this BIOS is the time and date are reset with every BIOS clear which doesn’t sound like a big deal but an enthusiast knows that you do a ton of CMOS clears when the board is on the edge of stability and setting the time and date many times gets annoying fast.

The Advanced BIOS Features screen contains settings such as IDE, USB, and AHCI configuration and this is where you adjust your boot devices.


Next we have the Advanced Chipset Settings and the H/W Health Configuration pages. The Advanced Chipset Settings subscreen contains Northbridge and PCIE configuration in which users can set the primary graphics adaptor and set advanced PCI Express options, such as Payload size. Another setting of interest on this page is Intel VT-d Configuration. This option menu allows users to enable, or disable, Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O which can help improve performance in a virtualized environment. A number of other items can be disabled if desired such as audio, LAN, iEEE, eSATA, etc.

The H/W Health Function page is where you enable or disable Hardware Health Monitoring and change the fan mode configuration. This page also gives relevant temperatures, voltages, and fan speeds. H/W Health Function is a good page to check when you first install a CPU to ensure your temperatures are in check.


Now for the BIOS page where an overclocker will spend 99% of his time, Frequency / Voltage control. The first setting at the top is one of the best; EVGA called it “Dummy Overclock” which when enabled will cause your FTW board to overclock itself with no work at all. This is not the Turbo Boost feature you may have heard about, this is an EVGA specific BIOS feature that gives you up to 600 extra Mhz without much effort at all. We tested this setting and it worked flawlessly and didn’t apply any excess amounts of voltage either but the final clock speed you get depends on whether or not you have Turbo Boost enabled.

Below Dummy OC you have a preview of your CPU and memory speed to eliminate the guesswork when working with memory ratios, multipliers, and CPU frequencies. Below that you have all the settings you need to adjust clock speeds as well as QPI Frequency and MCH Strap.

Next up there is an Extreme Cooling setting which works with a jumper on the board is to be enabled only if you plan on benching with sub-zero cooling. Basically, setting this to “Without VDroop” will lessen the board’s VDroop and let you run a lower BIOS voltage and we will be looking at how effective this setting can be a bit later in this review.

The Voltage list starts with CPU Vcore and there is and additional voltage for Vcore and VTT along with boot up voltage. This can allow users to cold boot processors at high frequencies by applying a lower voltage during POST. In addition to Vcore and VTT voltages, PCH, PLL, DRAM, DQ and CA Vref are also available so tweakers can find that perfect balance.


Continuing down the same page we come to PWM frequency settings which you can increase for more stability at high frequencies. We also see that there are four CPU Signal settings, two PCIE Signal settings, three DDR signal settings, DMI Signal, and PCH Signal. During our testing we found that leaving these settings on auto worked fine.

The bottom of the screen hosts a very useful feature: BIOS Profiles. Here are four profiles for users to save and load BIOS settings, making overclocking and tweaking much easier. Jumping back up to the top, the memory rations available are 800, 1067, 1333, 1600, and 1867.


At the top of the Frequency / Voltage Control page is a subscreen called Memory Configure (shown in the two screens above) which will allow the configuration of advanced memory timings including memory frequency, memory main and sub timings. At the top there is an option to select DRAM SPD as Standard or XMP followed by DRAM Frequency; which is where you find memory ratios.

Following DRAM Frequency you will find all of the memory timings you will need including Command Rate and Round Trip Latency. Another setting worth mentioning in this screen is Memory Remap which you will want to enable if you have 4GB of memory or more. Typically, the BIOS will automatically enable this feature if more than 4GB of memory is detected at POST.


There is one more useful subscreen of the Frequency / Voltage Control page worth highlighting: CPU Configuration. This menu will allow the configuration of advanced CPU settings such as Virtualization Technology, CPU SpeedStep, or CPU power saving options. If you would like to use Turbo Boost and the 22x multiplier, enable Speedstep and Turbo Boost. As a rule of thumb for overclocking using the 22x multiplier, we like to disable C1E and Speedstep and enable Turbo Boost and C-STATE.

Also above you will find an overview of the maximum voltages the board allows as well as available DRAM Ratios. As you can see, voltages well over dangerous and insane levels are available and an inexperienced user could easily damage their hardware by being a bit too overzealous here. Always overclock with caution and double check settings before hitting F10 in your BIOS.
 
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Eldonko

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Test Setup and Testing Methodology

Test Setup and Testing Methodology


Test Setup

Processor: Intel i7 860
Video Card(s): MSI N250GTS Twin Frozr 1GB, EVGA GTS250 512MB
Memory: 4GB GSkill Ripjaws F3-12800CL7D-4GBRH
Motherboard: EVGA P55 FTW
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 500GB SATA II
Power Supply: Tagan BZ 900W
Case: None
Cooling: Swifttech Apogee (CPU), 2 x dual heatercore w/ 4 x 120mm fans
Fans: 2 x 120mm
Operating System: Windows 7 Pro 64 bit




Overclocking Methodology

The following section shows the maximum overclock achieved on an Intel Core i7 860 Lynnfield 45nm 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 BIOS used for the OC tests is the BIOS that came pre-installed with the board, 080016 dated 09/09/2009. There are a few releases since this BIOS but we had no issues at all with the stock BIOS so we did not feel a need to flash. After testing commenced, the latest EVGA BIOS A39 dated 10/26/2009 was flashed and this BIOS also worked flawlessly.


General Benchmark Methodology

All benchmarks will be a comparison of the Core i7 860 at stock speed and at maximum overclock to give an idea of how much performance a user can gain when overclocking the EVGA P55 FTW. For SLI tests, the overclocked speed will be used to test performance between one and two GTS250 video cards in 3D benchmarks and games.

The overclocked speed on the Core i7 860 will be 4000Mhz on the overclocked tests and RAM speed will be set to 800Mhz (DDR1600) and 7-7-7-21 1T. Nvidia ForceWare 191.07 drivers will be used for 3D along with Windows 7 Pro 64 bit.
 
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Eldonko

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Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results

The EVGA P55 FTW is a board built for overclockers so and we intend to prove (or disprove) that in this section of the review. The features included in the FTW such as triple BIOS, additional power inputs, and ECP V2 have overclocking written all over them and really make this board a pleasure to work with. We will give an overview of our experience achieving our maximum system overclock (fully stable), maximum benchable bus speed (BCLK), and maximum memory overclock.

Before getting too deep, let’s start at the beginning. First off, the board worked flawlessly at stock and arrived pre-installed with an excellent working BIOS that really impressed us with its boundless functionality and myriad of tweaking options. It was basically plug and play; we set it up, turned it on, and installed Windows immediately without an issue. This is good news for a user who does not plan on overclocking or is a new overclocker looking to learn the tricks of the trade.

We also loved the fact that the “Dummy OC” setting presented no issues at all and actually worked extremely well. All you have to do is enable this setting in the BIOS and you get a very nice boost in speed with little to no overclocking experience needed. We didn’t spend too much time with the Dummy OC settings, but everything booted up fine and we ran OCCT for an hour without any crashes.


Max System Overclock

Now we have finally come into the sections most perspective buyers of this board want to see,:the maximum system overclock. This means we want to maximize the CPU and memory overclock while keeping voltages and temperatures in check. We started right off by booting at 200x20 and memory at 2:8, 7-7-7-21 1T with 1.4v for vcore and 1.35v for VTT. To our delight the board POSTed on the first shot and booted into Windows. While it wasn’t 100% stable at this point, we spent some time setting up secondary timings for memory, MCH strap, as well as tweaking voltages for PCH and PLL.


Setting VDroop Control to “Without VDroop” really eliminates the board’s VDroop and we saw that 1.4v was much higher than needed for vcore with this setting enabled. Gradually lowering vcore we got down to 1.350V in the BIOS and were actually still able to run every stability test we could throw at the P55 FTW. Setting 1.350v BIOS vcore gave 1.364v idle and 1.388v load vcore for full stability at 4Ghz but moving up from there, load temperatures would get too hot for our liking so we decided to cap the maximum stable overclock at 4Ghz.

We should add that we were able to get stability at around 4100Mhz as well but the temperatures were too high for our liking so we stuck with 4Ghz. We feel that 4Ghz is the best example of a 24/7 overclock that does not give any concerns about the long-term health of our system. This also points to an interesting aspect about this board: it probably won’t be the limiting factor of any overclock. Rather, it will probably be some other component such as cooling, the CPU or even the memory that will hold you back.


Max Benchable BCLK

When it came to the maximum bus clock or BCLK, we started tests by dropping the multi and the memory ratio so we could rule out memory and CPU instability at high BCLK. Here is where we ran into the first issue: we could not manage to utilize the 2:6 memory ratio for some reason. Every time this ratio was selected the board would not POST but that wasn’t too big of a deal as 2:8 would allow us all the BCLK we needed with water cooling.


After some tweaking we managed a BCLK of 215Mhz which is quite impressive. Since users will probably not be maxing out BCLK in a 24/7 overclock, we used benchmarks such as SuperPI and 3DMark Vantage as stability tests for 215Mhz. Meanwhile, using only 1M for stability we were also able to bench at 220 BCLK but more intense benchmarks would fail at that speed.

For VTT voltage, we stuck to a max of 1.375V, but it is likely with more VTT and further tweaking a user could exceed this level without too much effort. Even at 1.375V VTT (turbo boost enabled for 22x) an overclocker with some serious cooling would be able to run benches near 5Ghz which is more than most cooling can handle anyway. It all comes down to what BCLK you need for your cooling and whether or not you are willing to risk the life of your CPU.


Max Memory Overclock

Next up, memory! The memory we are testing is a low latency kit by GSkill specified to run 1600Mhz at 7-7-7-21 (4GB GSkill Ripjaws F3-12800CL7D-4GBRH) which is rumored to use BBSE DJ-F chips but we are unable to confirm that for sure at this time. What we can say however, is this Ripjaws kit is a very nice low voltage dual channel option for i5/i7.


Since we are running CL7 memory, we wanted to see how far we can push it at stock timings and voltage. We kept timings at 7-7-7-21 and voltage at 1.65v and were able to move up to 836Mhz using the 2:8 ratio. For stability, tests used were OCCT memtest, a run of SuperPI 32M and a run of 3DMark Vantage but you have to remember that we are not saying this means the memory is 100% stable from just these tests, but we can definitely say it is benchable.


Moving timings up to 8-8-8-24 1T the, CL7 Ripjaws give some extra headroom and we were able to achieve a speed of 883Mhz (DDR1766). Voltage remained at 1.65v which is the spec speed for the memory and the same stability tests were used.

All in all, the EVGA P55 FTW definitely has the overclocking potential an enthusiast will want whether it be for a solid 24/7 overclock or the edge of the seat and edge of stability benchmarking.
 
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