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ASUS M4A79 Deluxe Motherboard

New design, but nearly the same features.

April 28, 2009



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Overclocking

Testbeds:

  • CPU: AMD Phenom X4 9550
  • RAM: 2 x Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4 (2GB, DDR2-800, 5-5-5-15-2T)
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 (SATA, 7200rpm)
  • Graphics card: ATI Radeon HD3870, 512 MB GDDR4
  • PSU: AcBel ATX-550CA-AB8FB
  • OS: Windows XP SP2 32-bit, Catalyst 8.5, latest chipset drivers

Benchmarks:

  • WinRAR 3.70
  • XviD 1.0.2 (29.08.2004)
  • Doom 3 (v1.0.1282)
  • FarCry (v1.1.3.1337)
  • Unreal Tournament 2004 (v3339)

To assess performance we measure time required to archive a 297MB set of 277 files of various types and convert a 636MB MPEG2 video using XviD; we also measure frames per second in game demos run at 640x480, 800x600, 1024x768 and 1600x1200 (DOOM3 - built-in demo, FarCry - Regulator second run, Unreal Tournament 2004 - ONS_dria). Note that if a motherboard has no integrated graphics, performance tests are only used to check for serious layout or BIOS flaws and can be reduced to minimum. Vice versa, performance tests are indicative for motherboards with integrated graphics. And if a certain motherboard review lacks certain details, we might add respective test results to make up for it.

To assess capabilities of a motherboard and its BIOS, we overclock test CPUs (which ones depends on board's market segment) to a stable maximum with the help of Zalman CNPS9700 cooler. At that we use all motherboard features, like CPU core voltage adjustments and, if needed, bus multiplier and clock adjustments. At that, if changing a certain option (e.g. reducing Hyper-Transport clock) doesn't improve overclocking, the multiplier is left default. For RAM we select a clock rate typical for this class of modules by adjusting its multiplier. The stability of an overclocked machine is assessed in Windows XP with the help of AMD OverDrive stability test (all tests are run for 5 minutes). Note that since overclocking potential somewhat varies from one board to another, we are not focused on finding board's exact overclocking potential accurate to 1MHz. We just try to find out if a board hampers in CPU overclocking (due to insufficient voltage stabilizer power, etc.) and see how it performs in atypical modes, including automatic BIOS recovery in cases of overclocking issues (not requiring CMOS reset) and such.


Overclocking settings in BIOS Availability Notes (adjustment range)
Memory timings + AI Clock Skew settings for each phase
Memory frequency + DDR2-667 and higher
HT bus frequency (multiplier) +  
CPU reference frequency + 200-600 MHz
CPU multiplier + Cores and CPU NB
CPUVoltage + 0.80-1.70V (CPU)
0.80-1.69V (CPU NB)
2.5-2.8V (CPUVDDA)
Memory voltage + 1.80-2.50V
Chipset voltage + 1.10-1.40V (for NB)
1.80-2.00V (for the NB 1.8V line)
1.20-1.35V (for SB)
1.20-1.50V (for HT bus)

Adjustment ranges of CPU multiplier and voltage, as well as HT bus in BIOS, depend on a given processor. We publish results for our Phenom X4 9550. We used BIOS 1002 dated 24.02.2009.

All necessary settings are available, including individual control of multipliers and voltages for CPU cores and NB (memory controller) as well as AI Clock Skew (a very useful option for overclocking memory). Besides, you can save profiles both to CMOS and to an external medium. Default settings are restored after a failed overclocking attempt -- this system works like a clock. Just press the reset button and a computer will start up with standard parameters. BIOS will roll back to users settings specified prior to the freeze.


CPU CPU Clock, MHz Reference clock (multiplier), MHz Core voltage (according to BIOS), V CPU NB bus frequency (multiplier), MHz Notes
Phenom X4 9550 (2.2 GHz) 2750 250 (x11) 1.30 2000 (x8) Increased reference clock and reduced CPU NB multiplier
Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition (2.5 GHz) 2987 206 (x14.5) 1.50 2060 (x10) Increased CPU multiplier (ACC OFF)
3162 204 (x15.5) 1.52 2040 (x10) Increased CPU multiplier (ACC +2%)
Phenom II X4 940 (3.0 GHz) 3838 202 (x19) 1.52 2424 (x12) Increased multipliers (CPU core and CPU NB)

Overclocking processors with an unlocked multiplier yields practically the same results as in the previous model. But overclocking processors with an increased reference clock is unexpectedly limited by BIOS: the minimal memory multiplier corresponds to DDR2-667, so when you raise reference clock, memory frequency quickly grows above the nominal 800 MHz. As we already noted, even if a processor supports DDR2-1066, when you overclock it by raising the reference clock, it makes sense to use DDR2-800 mode. Otherwise, CPU overclocking will most certainly be lower than possible, which is usually not compensated by increased memory bandwidth. AI Clock Skew adjustments may partially improve the situation. However, (1) finding stable memory parameters is not always easy, and (2) an additional memory multiplier in BIOS would have been a great feature for such a motherboard. Perhaps this option will be added in future.

And the initiative to disable raising voltages with a jumper (which must be set to the default position before the first startup) can be welcome only by some PC manufacturers that seal up PC enclosures and don't want their users to play with overclocking within the warranty period. Otherwise it's just a nuisance -- after you install a processor and run the system for the first time you have to switch it off and rearrange the jumper to proceed to overclocking. By the way, a user has to at least read about it in the manual, because BIOS will alway show the full range of voltages, while the actual value remains on the standard level, until the jumper is properly installed.

Performance and power saving

We compared our product under review with the previous model on the same chipset -- ASUS M3A79-T Deluxe.


Test ASUS M3A79-T Deluxe ASUS M4A79 Deluxe
Archiving with WinRAR, min:sec 1:32 1:32
MPEG4 (XviD) encoding, min:sec 4:37 4:35
Unreal Tournament 2004 (High@1024x768), fps 60.3 60.0
FarCry (High@1024x768), fps 144.0 138.3
FarCry (Highest@1600x1200), fps 142.8 137.0
DOOM III (High@1024x768), fps 165.9 165.5
DOOM III (Highest@1600x1200), fps 160.2 158.3

The previous model could already boast of a finetuned BIOS at the time of its tests, while BIOS for M4A79 Deluxe is still in debugging (judging by the frequency of new versions). That may be the explanation for the insignificant lag in game tests.

Power consumption (entire system unit)


Phenom X4 9550 (Cool'n'Quiet OFF) ASUS M3A79-T Deluxe ASUS M4A79 Deluxe
Text editing, W 80 89
Playing FarCry, W 113-130 118-130

It's a minimal difference, but the new model is still formally at a disadvantage. However, this motherboard comes with a EPU utility that allows to switch between power saving modes. It will help conserve power not only by reducing clock rates and voltages of a CPU and graphics card, stopping drives after a specified period of time (depends on a profile), and reducing fan speed, but also by using some peculiarities of the board circuit design.



In our case, the idle system consumes 65 W in the economic profile. It's a good result. However, it reduced the CPU clock rate to 1 GHz. So a similar result can be achieved with Cool'n'Quiet. When a performance profile was chosen, all frequencies were preserved at a maximum level. But the system consumed 77 W, a tad less than in the mode without any power saving techniques. And when we worked under maximum load, power consumption was on the old level.

Conclusions

We can only note that this motherboard is just as attractive to users as the previous model from ASUS with this chipset. Perhaps it's a bit more interesting owing to its better integrated audio. In other respects, it has both pros and cons, too insignificant to affect your choice. The real popularity will be dictated by its prices and availability in stores.


The motherboard provided by the manufacturer.

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Article navigation:

Page 1: Introduction, design, features

Page 2: Overclocking, performance, power



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