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Gigabyte P67A-UD7-B3 Sandy Bridge Motherboard Review

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Eldonko

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As probably everyone has heard by now, Intel recalled all B2 P67 chipsets due to a manufacturing flaw that can affect the performance of the SATA 2 ports on motherboards. This recall took P67 boards off the shelf very shortly after release. Well finally the recall fiasco is coming to a close, P67 boards are hitting the retail shelves once again and B2 owners are having their boards replaced. We got our hands on a brand new GA-P67A-UD7-B3 board so you all can see how it performs and stacks up against the competition.

Best known for motherboards, Taiwan-based Gigabyte Technology has been in the forefront of computer hardware manufacturing for 25 years. The flagship UD7 series of motherboards takes the stage for every new chipset release and the P67 chipset UD7-B3 is the latest to hit the PC enthusiast market. The UD7-B3 comes in at the top of Gigabyte’s Sandy Bridge lineup and hosts a wide range of features and Gigabyte technologies such as Maximum Power Delivery technology, Dual CPU Power technology and Ultra Durable 3 design, just to name a few.

Among the first high end Cougar Point (P67) boards to market, the UD7 is on the shortlist of any enthusiast, gamer or overclocker looking to get the Sandy Bridge game. However the rule of thumb is that a rich feature set usually equates to a rich price point and the UD7-B3 is no exception. At over $300 on retailer's shelves, this is definitely not an inexpensive board. Users looking for expanded power regulation and 3-way GPU support can’t go wrong with a such a high end product and with Gigabyte’s huge lineup of Sandy Bridge boards users can choose the board with the exact features they want and need.

Competition is fierce in the enthusiast motherboard market and getting a board to market the day of launch gives a great advantage over competitors. In this review we will take a very close look at the board, the features, the accessories, Gigabtye exclusive software, the BIOS, overclockability, and 3D performance. We will also push the board to its limits with sub zero cooling and high voltages as we challenge 2D and 3D benchmark tests.

 
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Eldonko

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Specifications

Specifications:

Before jumping right into photos and testing, let’s take a brief look at the specifications for the P67A-UD7-B3.




Next we take a look at the Intel P67 Chipset and the P67A-UD7-B3 features.
 
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Eldonko

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Intel P67 Chipset and Gigabyte P67A-UD7-B3 Features

Intel P67 Chipset Features



The new P67 Express Chipset by Intel achieves incredible performance by supporting the latest 2nd Generation Intel Core processors and features such as Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 and Intel Hyper Threading technology. The Intel P67 Express Chipset unlocks flexibility and freedom by enabling performance tuning features on unlocked Intel Core processors, allowing the user to change the core multiplier to increase frequencies without having to run any other part of the system above specifications.

P67 provides flexibility for connecting I/O devices through Intel Rapid Storage Technology 10.0 by allowing SATA interface speed up to 6 Gb/s to support Solid State Drives and traditional Hard Disk Drives. Additionally, P67 drives lower power through enhanced link power management of the AHCI, enables easier expandability with support for hot plug, and boosts boot and multitasking performance with NCQ.



Gigabyte P67A-UD7-B3 Features

A few notable features on the Gigabyte P67A-UD7-B3 include 3 way SLI and CrossfireX, DualBIOS, 24 Phase Power Design, USB 3.0, SATA 6 Gbps, Power eSATA, Onboard Debug LED, and Dual CPU Power Technology. 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

One of the first things users will notice when buying the UD7 is sheer size of the box. This board is in a much larger box than an average motherboard since there is a separate section for accessories inside. You will also notice the color scheme is totally different than the last UD7 model with a P55 chipset. Gigabyte went with a black and gold theme instead of the typical blue and white that we have seen on many boards in the past. The B3 stepping chipset is also featured prominently on both the front and back of the box while the reverse side goes over the UD7's features in detail.


Taking a closer look at the box's front, the main thing that is really highlighted here is the B3 series chipset. Gigabyte made it very obvious to a user that they are buying a B3 board which should help to avoid confusion if any retailers still have a B2 on the shelf. On the rear on the box many features of the UD7 are highlighted such as 3-way SLI and CrossfireX, eSATA, USB 3.0 and so on.


The front cover of the UD7 box flips open to reveal a window showing the board itself and more features are shown on the inside cover, similar to the back of the box. Again the B3 chipset is made apparent on the inside cover.


Taking the outer shell off, the motherboard is encased in a flat black box with a clear plastic cover. We found this to be more pleasant to look at than an older style plain motherboard box as you can see the board inside. Also the board fits snugly in an upper box partition and since the board is held firmly in place and does not touch the top, no anti-static bag is needed.


Underneath the board itself, Gigabyte has made an accessory compartment or as we like to call it, accessory coffin. Here all the accessories are kept underneath a cardboard divider and additional dividers help with organization.


The accessory layout is pretty standard with a manual, driver disk, SATA cables, SLI bridges, eSATA hardware, etc. The B3 board has an updated manual (which states B3 on it) and an an updated software disk (version 1.03). With the recall of the B2 boards Gigabyte was able to update the software on the install disk and give users the latest versions of all the programs.

One particular accessory that we liked was the blue SATA cables which are a unique color and a nice change from standard red or yellow cables. We're not sure how it matches the black and gold styling of the UD7 though...


Last we have the 3-way SLI bridge. This can only be used on higher end cards with 3-way SLI support (two connectors per card).
 
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Eldonko

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Included software

Included Software


The first item in the Gigabyte software suite is the utility that an overclocker will use the most: EasyTune6. This is a very powerful tool and allows tweaking and monitoring of just about anything you will need. The first tab contains frequency, motherboard, and CPU information such as CPU clock, base clock, board model number, BIOS version, voltage, as well as details on the CPU itself. Tab 2 contains your memory information such as part number and SPD info.


Tab 3 is your tuner which controls frequencies and voltages. An overclocker will go straight to the advanced area and adjust BCLK and memory dividers under Frequency and CPU multiplier under the Ratio subsection. As a note on CPU multiplier, we were only able to reduce the multiplier using ET6, and increases to the multiplier had to be done in the BIOS.


Also within the Tuner section is a voltage tab. Here you can control every voltage the UD7 has to offer in your operating system. This can be very useful if you are on the edge of a stable overclock and you want to try a slight bump in voltage to achieve stability. The reference default voltage is on the left and current voltage is on the right.

Moving to tab 4, the video card overclocking options are available. There is a limitation here however since if you are running SLI, only the first card is available to overclock with ET6.


Under tab 5, smart fan options are available. Here you can set up your fan speeds according to your desired temperatures.

Tab 6 is the hardware monitor which charts CPU, RAM and power rails as well as fan speeds and temperatures. As you can see ET6 is a very useful tool and we recommend that everyone installs it. Check Gigabyte's website for the latest release.


The next Gigabyte utility we will go through is SMART 6. SMART 6 contains six utilities in one which can save a user time when installing drivers and utilities. Contained in the SMART 6 combo pack are SMART QuickBoot, SMART QuickBoost, SMART Recovery 2, SMART DualBIOS, SMART Recorder, and SMART TimeLock.


First up in the SMART 6 suite we have SMART QuickBoot. This utility does exactly what its name suggests: it speeds up the system boot-up process and shortens the waiting time for entering the operating system. By setting the BIOS to only run through the start up hardware scan once, up to 5 seconds can be saved on the BIOS boot time alone. OS QuickBoot allows you to power down your PC into Suspend Mode (S3) and Hibernate Mode (S4) at the same time which is like putting your PC to sleep, allowing you to maintain your data, while at the same time saving energy.

SMART QuickBoost is a tool that allows for quick and easy CPU overclocking by the simple click of a button. There are three different levels of CPU performance including Faster, Turbo and Twin Turbo, each giving a little extra speed. We will put these options to the test in the overclocking section.


SMART Recovery 2 allows users to backup their data such as system settings, applications, documents, photos, music, videos, etc. and allows users to retrieve their data, even if it has been deleted. You set up a partition or hard drive for storage and every day SMART Recovery 2 takes a ‘snap shot’ of your hard drive and makes a record for any added, deleted or modified files.

Smart DualBIOS can store certain bits of data directly to the BIOS chip, so that even if your hard drive fails and you have to reinstall the OS, the data will still be accessible. In order to accomplish this, the BIOS chip's onboard memory has been increased to 32MB to allow for extra storage space. Using SMART DualBIOS you can store up to 12 passwords along with a short description, making it much easier to manage passwords. SMART DualBIOS is password protected for security, so you still need to remember one password, but this is much easier than having to remember all 12. This is a very handy tool for today’s world of logins, passwords, and monthly password changes but remember to delete these if you sell your board.


The last two utilities in SMART 6 are SMART Recorder and SMART TimeLock. SMART TimeLock monitors and records activity on your system such as the time when you turn off or on your PC as well as when any large amounts of data have been copied from your PC. Using this utility you can always know if someone else has accessed your PC without your knowledge, and see if any important data was transferred.

Smart TimeLock is used for resource scheduling, allowing only certain access times. This is a great tool for parents who want to limit their children’s PC usage. You can allocate certain hours per day or specific times of the day that your PC can be used. Have a child staying up all night gaming or want to limit daily PC use? This is for you.


Gigabyte’s AutoGreen technology is a handy utility that automatically puts your PC into power savings mode when your Bluetooth mobile phone is out of range of your PC. To use AutoGreen you link your phone to the PC through Bluetooth. Walk away and the PC sleeps, then as soon as you come back into range AutoGreen automatically wakes the PC.


Staying on the topic of green technology, the Gigabyte Dynamic Energy Saver 2 (DES2) utility uses a proprietary hardware and software design to considerably enhance PC system energy efficiency, reduce power consumption and deliver optimized auto-phase-switching for the CPU, Memory, Chipset, VGA, HDD and even fans. Basically you just install the utility, and enable DES2 and save yourself some power. At least in theory....

The last utility we will look at today is @BIOS. This is a Windows-based BIOS flash utility which makes flashing your BIOS a quick and easy task. @BIOS allows for updating BIOS from the Gigabyte server, updating BIOS from a file, and saving BIOS backups. We would like to add that the version of @BIOS on the install disk that came with the board did not work; however, the latest version on Gigabyte’s website worked great. We used 6-7 different BIOS versions when testing the UD7 all of which were flashed with @BIOS.
 
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Eldonko

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A Closer Look at the P67A-UD7-B3

A Closer Look at the P67A-UD7-B3


Above is a map of the Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD7 motherboard layout with descriptions of the various parts. In this section we will take a close look at the entire board starting at the I/O panel and go around clockwise looking at each part in detail.


Compared to the previous generation socket 1156 P55 UD7, Gigabyte has made a complete change to the look and color scheme of the P67 series UD7. Instead of the blue theme like we had for the P55 chipset, the P67 has a black and gold theme with black PCB and a flat black and gold heat pipe system. We really liked the new color choices and the UD7 is proof that simple is better.

The B3 board has GA-P67A-UD7-B3 clearly marked on the pcb, however the board revision is still revision 1.0. This is because no hardware changes were made to the B3 board other than the chipset. Some other B3 Gigabyte boards are revision 1.1 which means there were hardware changes. We know the lower end boards got an audio chip upgrade at the minimum.

The PCB itself may have changed in color but the UD7 still features a 2x Copper PCB which reduces electrical waste by 50%, improves signal quality, and reduces temperature around critical onboard components.


Along with standard I/O panel components, the UD7 I/O panel features both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, eSATA ports, dual LAN ports as well as both optical and coaxial S/PDIF outputs.


Immediately behind the I/O panel the 8-pin ATX 12v connector is found. This is a typical spot for this connector and we had no issue with wire length from the PSU. Next to the ATX 12v is the beginning of the heatpipe cooling system. Around the edge of the CPU area the heatsink covers Gigabyte’s Driver MOSFETs.


Removing the UD7’s cooling system we can get a close look at the Driver MOSFETs. Driver MOSFETs are a 3 in 1 package that cuts mounting area in half by combining 2 Discrete PowerMOS and a SOP-8 Driver IC into a single chip. Compared to a Traditional MOSFET, Driver MOSFETs offer faster, smoother transfer of current while maintaining stable voltage and cooler temperatures under heavy loading. The 24 black cubes are the ferrite chokes for the 24 phase power.


The “brain” of the UD7 is the PWM (Pulse Width Modulator) controller chip, the Intersil ISL6366. The ISL6366 is a dual PWM controller; its 6-phase PWMs control the microprocessor core or memory voltage regulator, while its single-phase PWM controls the peripheral voltage regulator for graphics, system agent, or processor I/O. The ISL6366 supports SVID and provides a tightly regulated output voltage position versus load current (droop). You see the ISL6366 in action when you select various levels of Load Line Calibration. Interstil has a reputation of delivering among the best PWMs and Gigabyte chose the perfect IC for the job.

One of the UD7’s main marketing points is that it uses Gigabyte’s 24 phase power design using an Intel VRD12 Qualified Intersil PWM controller. What does that mean you ask? Well this power design is said to give the following advantages:

1) Faster response - Signals from a 100% hardware PWM to VRM components do not require a conversion from Analogue signal to Digital and back to Analogue again, this allows for faster response for voltage changes as CPU workload varies.

2) Higher accuracy - Signals from 100% hardware PWMs are processed immediately in real time, without the need for sampling the signals into digital waveform. This eliminates the risks of signal sampling error due to digitization especially during rapid signal change.

3) Improved stability - No programmable logic involved for processing PWM signals, so there is less risk of programming errors that may lead to CPU damage.

4) Improved durability - Greater tolerance to ESD and electrical noise, thereby reducing component damage.

Next to the PWM area you have the LGA 1155 CPU socket. LGA 1155 means the socket has 1155 protruding pins to make contact with the pads on the processor. To avoid putting the wrong type of CPU in the socket, LGA 1155 and LGA 1156 have different socket notches and only an 1155 CPU will fit.


The UD7 heatpipe cooler covers the DrMOS chips in an L shape and extends around to the NF200 chip (which we will take a closer look at later). Moving on to the corner of the board we have the DDR3 memory slots. We liked the distance between the memory slots and the CPU socket as it allows space for larger CPU heatsinks.


The days of shorting out pins with a screwdriver to turn on your system are over since Gigabyte has included power and reset switches on the board for those that use an open air case or a testbench. The power button is quite large and easy to access but the reset switch is smaller and in tight to the memory. This could create issues for memory with a dedicated fan but we were happy to have these switches on the board nonetheless.


Between the 24 pin power connector and the RAM we find a chip marked ISL6322G. This is an Intersil two-phase buck PWM controller with integrated MOSFET Drivers, I2C Interface, and Phase Dropping. This ISL6322G is one of two of this IC on the board and this one is responsible for providing a precision voltage regulation system for the memory. The other ISL6322G powers the NF200 chip.

The clear CMOS button is located next to the ISL6322G IC. We found this to be a somewhat difficult spot for the CMOS clear button and would have liked it to be more accessible since pressing it on a board installed inside a case could be very difficult.

The photo above right shows the board in operation with LEDs lit up. The LEDs next to the reset and power switches are the phase LEDs. The number of lit LEDs indicates the CPU loading level; the higher the CPU loading, the more lit LEDs. The LEDs above the 24 pin power connector are the CPU VTT/Memory Phase Indicator LEDs. These LEDs indicate the phase status of the CPU VTT and memory. The green LEDs light up under normal working conditions; the yellow LEDs light up during an overvoltage or heavy loading state.
 
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Eldonko

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A Closer Look at the P67A-UD7-B3 (p.2)

A Closer Look at the P67A-UD7-B3 (p.2)


Continuing on our trip around the P67A-UD7 we come to one of the key components of what makes the UD7 a flagship board: the NF200.


Located between the CPU socket and the PCIE slots we find the infamous NF200 chipset. On P55 and P67 boards, there is no Northbridge so SLI has to be integrated separately; hence the NF200. This chip is the main reason you are paying more for the UD7 over lower model Gigabyte boards. If you want to run dual 16x PCIE or tri-SLI on P67, then you need NF200, period. The NF200 is a bridge chip that doubles the bandwidth of the native 8 lane 5GT/s bus to give 16x5GT/s which gives support for 32 PCI-E 2.5GT/s lanes in total. With 32 PCI-E 2.5GT/s, 16x SLI is made possible.

Gigabyte added the NF200 to the heatpipe cooling system and provided a fairly large passive cooler for the chip.


As you can see from the block diagram above, all the PCI-E lanes go directly through the NF200 chip and the NF200 connects to the 4 PCI-E slots through 2 switches. Also, the UD7 is one of a very few boards that has it’s own PCI-E bus for USB3 and SATA6G so these devices do not pull any bandwidth from your PCI-E slots. In the end we have 2 x PCI Express x16 slots (@x16,x16) and 2 x PCI Express x16 slots (@x8,x8).

The little chips between the PCI-E slots, ICS 9DB403DGLF, are PCI-E clock generators. One ICS 9DB403DGLF is used for PCI-E slot clock gen and the other is for the other PCI-E bus for USB3 and SATA6G.


Above we have a shot of the NF200 and P67 chips with the cooler removed. Full features of the P67 chipset are found in the Intel P67 Chipset Features section.
 
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Eldonko

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A Closer Look at the P67A-UD7-B3 (p.3)

A Closer Look at the P67A-UD7-B3 (p.3)


To give an idea how the secondary PCI-E bus controls other chips through the P67 chipset, refer to the block diagram above. As we explain the function of each chip the block diagram will give a visual representation how everything works together.


The final portion of the heatpipe cooling system covers the P67 PCH. As you can see in the photo above left we rubbed a bit of the gold paint off by accident. Be careful with this as the paint on the lettering rubs off quite easily. We will take a close look at the UD7 cooling system and performance in the Heat Analysis section.

Near the P67 heatsink on the edge of the board we have the SATA ports. The four ports on the right side are SATA3 (6 Gb/s) and the four ports on the left side are SATA2 (3 Gb/s). The SATA ports marked white are native SATA 6Gb/s (direct to P67) and the black SATA ports run through 6Gb/s Marvell 88SE9128 SATA controllers. There is another Marvell 88SE9128 SATA controller to run the eSATA port on the I/O panel.


Here you have a closer look at one of the Marvell 88SE9128 SATA controller chips. As mentioned above these SATA to PCI Express 2.0 solutions control four of the SATA 6G ports.

Behind the SATA ports you will find the BIOS chips, on the corner a debug LED, and along the edge there are front panel connectors and UBS connectors. The debug LED is very handy for identifying issues with an unstable overclock. The most common error you will see is likely C1 which means memory issue but the manual has a full list of POST error codes for reference.


Next up we have a huge chip the iTE IT8728F. This Super I/O chip controllers the PS/2 Keyboard and Mouse ports, reads voltages, and provides fan controls.

Moving along the edge of the UD7 to the corner we have a chip marked TSB43AB23. This is a Texas Instruments integrated 1394a-2000 OHCI PHY/link-layer controller (LLC) device which in plain English means the IEEE chip for your IEEE 1394a devices.


Next up are few little chips just above the PCI and PCI-E slots; the Realtek ALC889 and the Realtek RTL8111E. The Realtek ALC889 is a high-performance multi-channel High Definition Audio Codec we have seen on a number of boards and the two RTL8111E chips provide Ethernet capabilities. The reason there are two Ethernet chips and ports is to provide teaming and bridging. LAN port auto-switching between the 2 physical Gigabit LAN chips gives users hassle free, zero downtime, high-speed network connectivity.

Network teaming allows for grouping of two systems doubling the bandwidth to up to 2 Gb/s. This performance enhancement is made possible with Dual PCIE 8111D. Basically you combine two systems together to create a third “super” connection.


Taking a step back from chips for a wider view of the UD7 we see the PCI and PCI-E slots. The board has 2 x PCI-E x16 slots, running at x16 (PCIEX16_1, PCIEX16_2), 2 x PCI-E x16 slots, running at x8 (PCIEX8_1, PCIEX8_2), 1 x PCI-E x1 slot, and 2 x PCI slots. The 16x slots are slots 1 and 3. No issues with space with the GTX 460s in our test setup however these slots are quite close together so if you have a larger video card dual 16x could be an issue.

Last but not least we have two NEC chips marked D720200F1. On the block diagram these NEC chips are marked Renesas since in 2010 NEC merged with Renesas, and Renesas took over all the business of both companies. In short these chips are USB 3.0 host controllers with a PCI-E bus interface. With these controllers and low resistance fuses Gigabyte features USB 3.0 Turbo, 3x Power, and ON/OFF Charge are possible.


Flipping the board over we can see that the cooling system is attached via Philips screws instead of plastic clips, 10 screws in total. Everyone hates those plastic clips so screws are always a nice addition.
 
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Eldonko

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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown

The P67A-UD7-B3 features two 32Mb Flash Award BIOSes, a step up in size from a typical 8Mb or 16 Mb BIOS. This extra space is to allow for storage of certain bits of data directly on the BIOS chip, so that even if your hard drive fails and you have to reinstall the OS, the data will still be accessible.

Unlike most of their competitors, Gigabyte hasn’t yet moved over to the more intuitive UEFI BIOS implementation. However, the larger capacity BIOS chips can allow for UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) simply by flashing the board to a UEFI version if one is ever available in the future. UEFI is used in some other boards and basically means your BIOS turns into an operating system-type interface that will provide a clean interface between operating systems and platform firmware at boot time. We don’t know if Gigabyte has a UEFI BIOS in development for the UD7 but support is there if they do.

The B3 version of the UD7 uses a new BIOS revision so when you are looking for the latest BIOS ensure you look for P67A-UD7-“B3” on Gigabyte's website.

The following section will provide a rundown of the UD7 B3 BIOS version F3c, which is the most recent BIOS version that we tested.


First up we have the BIOS splash screen which lists some of the Gigabyte features and shows that the UD7 uses Dual BIOS. We generally disable the splash screen so we can see what is happening with POST.

Next is the main BIOS page, typical to many motherboards with an Award BIOS.


The section that you will be in 95% of the time when overclocking is the MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) section. Here you find all the overclocking options you need. Going inside the M.I.T. section we have a page with subsections and essential information such as BIOS version, CPU and memory frequency, temperatures and voltages. The first subsection called Current Status shows more details such memory timings and Turbo Boost information. There is nothing editable in this screen as it is basically a monitoring page.


The next submenu in the M.I.T screen is Advanced Frequency Settings. Here you adjust BCLK by enabling BCLK/DMI/PEG Clock Control and multi by adjusting CPU Clock Control.

There is one submenu under Advanced Frequency Settings titled Advanced CPU Core Features. Here you find the Internal CPU PLL Overvoltage option which when enabled helps with stability on a higher BCLK overclock. Enabling Real Time Ratio Changes in OS allows for BCLK adjustments in Windows using ET6 while Turbo Boost Ratios and Power adjustments are available in the screen as well. At the bottom of the page you can choose to disable some CPU cores or Hyperthreading as well as set energy saving features such as C1E and EIST.


After Advanced Frequency Settings in the M.I.T. menu is a page called Advanced Memory Settings. This page has X.M.P. profile options, Memory Multipliers, and Timing Settings. To access the memory timings set DRAM Timing Selectable to Quick. The Quick setting allows you to change timings for both sticks of memory at once. Due to limited overclockability of BCLK, System Memory Multipliers are crucial to overclocking your memory. Six multipliers are available ranging from 8.00 to 21.33.


The memory timings available are shown above left. The main timings are at the top and the secondary timings are below in a separate section. In the BIOS shot above, the timings are all greyed out because timings were on auto at the time.

Going back to the main M.I.T. page we go down one submenu to Advanced Voltage Settings. Here you find all voltages that are available on the board along with the default setting of the left for reference. The Load Line Calibration has a few levels you can select from and works to eliminate vdroop and using the highest level actually gives more voltage at load than idle. Be careful with this as you may get more voltage than you expect.

Next we have Vcore (VCC), QPI/Vtt (VCCIO), and System Agent voltages. Vcore (VCC) is the voltage supplied to the processors inside the CPU and the main voltage you will tweak when overclocking. QPI/Vtt (VCCIO) is the voltage for the integrated memory controller (IMC) as well as the PCI-E controller. Be careful with VCCIO as you can damage your IMC with overvoltage over an extended period. We are not going to speculate on what safe levels are for these as there are a large range of opinions on this.

Dynamic Vcore (DVID) is greyed out in the shot above but you can adjust this instead of Vcore if you set Vcore to Standard. Dynamic VID is a type of Vcore option to fine tune Load Line calibration.

In the next grouping we have MCH/ICH voltages, PCH Core and CPU PLL. CPU PLL can help with stabilizing BCLK overclocking which makes sense because it is the voltage to the internal clock generator for the CPU. You may be able to avoid raising this by enabling the CPU PLL Overvoltage option under Advanced CPU Core Features.

Next we have memory-related voltages and the main one you will use here is DRAM Voltage (VDDQ). This is your memory voltage and it is recommended you use what your memory is rated for or less if possible. We did use up to 1.76v for DRAM Voltage for short benching sessions without any issues but for 24/7 less is always better.

Maximum, minimum, and default (for 2600k) voltages are as follows:




The last submenu under the M.I.T. screen is Miscellaneous Settings. Under Miscellaneous Settings there are only two subsets: Isochronous Support and Virtualization Technology. Isochronous Support determines whether to enable specific streams within the CPU and Chipset. Virtualization Technology enables or disables Intel Virtualization Technology. Virtualization enhanced by Intel Virtualization Technology will allow a platform to run multiple operating systems and applications in independent partitions. With virtualization, one computer system can function as multiple virtual systems.

Going back to the main Award BIOS screen we move down to the second submenu which is Standard CMOS Features. Here you find system time and date as well as hard drive configurations.


The submenu below Standard CMOS Features is Advanced BIOS Features. The main settings you will need in here are Hard Disk Boot Priority, Quick Boot, and No-Execute Memory Protect. Hard Disk Boot Priority specifies the sequence of loading the operating system from the installed hard drives. Also, you can set up your boot device sequence under First Boot Device if you want to set the system to boot from a dvd or USB stick.

Quick Boot enables or disables the quick boot function to speed up the system boot-up process to shorten the waiting time for entering the operating system and to deliver greater efficiency for daily use. The settings here synchronize with the settings of the SMART QuickBoot of Smart 6.

No-Execute Memory Protect enables or disables Intel Execute Disable Bit function. This function may enhance protection for the computer, reducing exposure to viruses and malicious buffer overflow attacks when working with its supporting software and system. We found that disabling this setting gives a small boost in performance. Full Screen LOGO Show allows you to determine whether to display the Gigabyte Logo at system startup. We usually disable this to see a normal POST message.

Init Display First specifies the first initiation of the monitor display from the installed PCI graphics card or the PCI Express graphics card. Select which slot you want as your first display here.

The next subscreen is Integrated Peripherals. Here there are a number of useful settings regarding your Peripherals such as USB, LAN, onboard audio, GSATA, and eSATA. eXtreme Hard Drive enables or disables the X.H.D function for the SATA controllers integrated in the Intel P67 Chipset. When set to Enabled, the PCH SATA Control Mode item below will be set to RAID (XHD) automatically. PCH SATA Control Mode enables or disables RAID for the SATA controllers integrated in the P67 Chipset or configures the SATA controllers to AHCI mode.


The next section is on Power Management Setup and contains things like sleep state setup and resume by alarm. You can set power to be by keyboard, mouse, or alarm here. Next in the main menu is PC Health Status. This page gives all of your temperatures, voltages and fan speeds as well as setup for warnings for a number of things from CPU temp to fans.


Ten BIOS profiles can be saved by pressing F11 and loaded by pressing F12 on the main BIOS page. The Q-Flash utility can be accessed by pressing F8; however, we had no luck getting this to work. Every attempt at a BIOS flash ended in an error message stating “Invalid BIOS”.

When using the B2 version of this board, there were many issues when flashing the backup BIOS with a different file than the one which existed in the primary BIOS chip. The B3 is a different story as Gigabyte has made some massive BIOS improvements. Since using this board we haven’t seen one case of BIOS corruption yet and we must say that the board is massively easier to work with than the B2 as a result. To flash the same BIOS to the backup slot you hold ALT-F12 on POST screen immediately when the board POSTs. The flashing process is found in the image above right so when you see this the backup BIOS is being flashed. Remember, this only works with the keyboard in the PS2 slot so if you use a USB keyboard, grab a USB-PS2 adapter.
 
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Eldonko

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Test Setup and Testing Methodology

Test Setup and Testing Methodology

Test Setup

Our test setup consists of an Intel i7 2600k Sandy Bridge CPU, Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD7-B3 motherboard, and a kit of G.Skill memory. Here are a few shots of the setup and hardware:


First we have the whole test bench up and running. As you can see we used watercooling (Apogee XT) for the CPU along with two heatercores.


On the left a second GTX 460 was added for SLI testing and on the right you have a shot of the board LEDs and the Trident.


Above you can have a closer look at the CPU and memory. The 2600k used for testing was from batch L040B165.


Overclocking Methodology

At Hardware Canucks, we understand we have a diverse reader base and to represent a variety of user types, we put the P67A-UD7-B3 through a number of overclocking tests.

  • Beginner Overclocker - To represent a beginner overclocker or a mainstream user that wants to have a quick and easy way to get some extra performance we used the Quick Boost software included in the EasyTune 6 suite.
  • Experienced Overclocker - To represent an experienced overclocker that is looking for the optimal 24/7 overclock to maximize system performance while keeping voltage and temperatures in check we overclocked the UD7 manually and stopped when we started to get concerned with voltage levels.
  • Advanced Bencher - To represent the bencher that is looking for short benchmark runs at absolute maximum CPU and memory clocks we tested with sub zero cooling and higher than recommended voltages. More on this is found in the sub zero testing section.

We did stability testing a little differently for the Sandy Bridge platform than usual. The main stability test used was Linpack (LinX version 0.6.4) with memory usage set to 3,072MB and 25 loops run. In the enthusiast world, Linpack is a benchmark designed to measure performance on Intel CPUs in GFlops. However, it's also a very useful tool for checking the stability of a CPU and memory. LinX picks up very quickly and if you are able to complete a 25 loop test with the specifications above your system is likely stable or very close to it. Typically we would run LinX much longer than 25 loops and add in Prime95 and OCCT; however there have been reports of degrading Sandy Bridge CPU overclockability with running these types of torture tests for long periods.

To avoid risking damage to the processor, after LinX stability was achieved, 3 runs of 3DMark Vantage and 3 runs of 3DMark 11 were run to test 3D stability. Once an overclock passed these tests, this is the point deemed as “stable” for the purposes of this review.

Windows 7 Service Pack 1 was installed to take advantage of the Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX) with Sandy Bridge processors. Intel AVX is a 256-bit SIMD floating point vector extension of Intel architecture. The stock BIOS installed in the UD7-B3 was F2 but we immediately flashed to the most recent beta version which is F3c. Note that the B3 board has a different BIOS revision than the B2 and the BIOS files are not interchangeable between B2 and B3.


General Benchmark Methodology

Benchmarks in the System Benchmarks section will be a comparison of the i7 2600k at stock speed, Twin Turbo Speed set by QuickBoost, and at maximum 24/7 overclock to give an idea of how much performance a user can gain when overclocking the P67A-UD7. For SLI tests, the 24/7 overclocked speed will be used to test performance between one and two GTX 460 video cards in 3D benchmarks and games.

For stock testing, optimized defaults are used and memory is at default speed of 668Mhz and 9-9-9 timings. The overclocked speed on the i7 2600k for Twin Turbo will be 4100Mhz with memory at default speed of 668Mhz and 9-9-9 timings. The overclocked speed on the i7 2600k for 24/7 stability will be 5000Mhz with memory at 1067Mhz and 7-9-7 timings. Nvidia ForceWare 266.58 drivers will be used for 3D along with Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit SP1.
 
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