NVIDIA nForce unleashes blistering system performance
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On opening the box , I found the Mainboard , User Manual , Floppy and Hard drive cable , Driver CD , USB 2 cable , Game port cable , and the IEEE 1394 2 port cable , there was unfortunately no SPD650 card . Installing the MB into my case was rather simple , and I was impressed by the simplicity of the user manual [very easy to understand] . The Nforce2 is an entirely new [not forgetting Nforce 1] platform , and getting to know it , took a while . One of the things to watch for is your cas timing in the bios , you can go faster but not slower , say if you go from cas 2.5 [your ram spec] to cas 3 , the system refuses to boot , go from cas 2.5 to 2 , no problems . So when increasing your FSB make sure that the cas timing has not backed off or no boot.
So other than a few new things to learn with this new board [chipset] , it actually turns out to be a very stable overclocking platform , my Xp1800T-bred requires less voltage on the 8RDA+ at 2ghz then on a KT400 MB [Epox 8K9A1] , 1.7volts VS 1.725v on the 8K9A1 . For the record let me state that the 8RDA+ scored so close to the 8K9A1 with PC2700 Samsung ram that the actual Sandra and 3Dmark2001 benchmarks were almost identical . I have purchased Kingston PC3200 ram with Winbond modules since then , so unfortunately no direct comparison can be made , but if you check out the 8K9A1 review , you will see that even with PC3200 ram the 8RDA+ is not that far ahead , in the benchmark results .
Bios Features: [8RDA2C10]
Let me just say that if you flash to the new BIOS [8RDA2C10] the features in the bios will change , and you will need to reset the bios after flashing . If you have been using the VIA chipsets for the last few years as I have then you will find most of the new features under ADVANCED CHIPSET FEATURES , Starting with SYSTEM PERFORMANCE > you can chose optimal , aggressive - turbo , or expert . Chose Expert if you wish to manually set up the bios settings . CPU INTERFACE > optimal - aggressive , Ive tried both , and after countless benchmarks , found no difference in performance .[overclockers , if your cpu is not stable try optimal ] MEM FREQUENCY> you have SPD , 50% to 100% to 200% and AUTO , for some strange reason my system will not boot if the ram is set bellow 100% , currently running AUTO . MEM TIMINGS > optimal - aggressive - turbo and expert , chose expert if you want to manually set the ram timing . Personally running , T-Ras -4 , T-Rcd -2 , T-Rp -2 , and Cas Latency -2 , or 4-2-2-2 . Something AMD users may not be familiar with is CPU THERMAL THROTTLING > Disabled - 87% to 12.5% , this function is for cooling your cpu when 100% cpu usage is not needed . If your cpu runs on the hot side , then this function might be worth playing with , for now Ive left it disabled . Changing from Advanced Chipset Features , we go to the last option in the main menu POWER BIOS FEATURES > CPU Voltage Regulator [1.4volts to 2.2volts] , AGP Voltage Regulator [1.5v ,1.6v , 1.7v , 1.8v ] DIMM Voltage Regulator (RAM) [2.5v , 2.63v , 2.77v , 2.9v ]
Well that's it , those are the new features in the Nforce2 bios you are going to have to get used to , and let me tell you , thats a lot more than Im used to , tweaking a plenty .
System specs: Epox 8RDA+ , 2x256 Kinston DDR400 , XT1800T-bred @ 2ghz 1.7volts , GF4ti4200 [64meg] , onboard sound , Win 2000 and Win98SE , Maxtor 40gig 740 ATA133 7200rpm , Seagate 20gig ATA100 7200rpm original drivers from CD .
Sandra 2003 : Win2000
System is at 200FSB ram is 4-2-2-2 , cpu 10 x 200FSB @ 1.7volts , first we will try the CPU Arithmetic Bench :
Next the CPU Multi media Bench :
And finally the MEM Bandwidth Bench:
Those results are not too shabby at all for a overclocked XP1800 , and the mem bandwidth scores finally bring AMD users to a level playing field with our Intel foe [friends] . Next lets see what sort of performance hit we take at 166FSB with the Mem Bandwidth .[ ram will remain at 400mhz DDR , cpu will be 12 x 166FSB for 2ghz ]
That's a massive loss of mem bandwidth , even though the ram is still running at 400mhz [4-2-2-2] . This is why AMD cpu's need a MB with 200mhz FSB as a default bus speed , it doesn't take an Genius to realize that with the XP cpu's , higher bus speed is a must . Even AMD is lagging behind , with the XP2800/2700 built to run at 166FSB . To keep up with the mem bandwidth advantage that the Intel boards have , 200mhz FSB is a MUST .
3Dmark2001SE : Win 98SE
First we will run 3Dmark at 166FSB with the ram at 400mhz [4-2-2-2] and the cpu @ 2ghz . Whoa , changing the 3D settings from Best image Quality to Best performance some how corrupted the MB drivers ?????????? [ don't ask me ]. Took me a while to work out what happened , instead of having the Nvidia 40.72 drivers I reloaded the 29.42 drivers not knowing what had gone wrong . So with the 29.42 drivers in win 98SE I got 11540 3Dmarks @ 200FSB 400mhz Mem , changing to 166FSB and 333mhz Mem [ cpu 12 x 166 = 2ghz] returned a 3Dmark score of 11275 , next I tried 166fsb and 400mhz Mem to see what performance I would get with the Mem out of sync , 3Dmark score = 11019 3Dmarks .[Mem @ 4-2-2-2 for all tests ] . As can be seen from the results , keeping the Memory in sync with the rest of the system gives better performance , as does running higher FSB , with the cpu remaining at the same speed .[ You have to love unlocked cpu's ].
The Nforce2 is relatively new , and has already gained a reasonable following from the performance [overclocking] community , and not without deserving such . The Epox 8RDA has proven to be a stable platform at 200mhz , becoming slightly unstable at 215mhz FSB and maxing out at 220mhz FSB for me , and hopefully with further bios revisions , the board will become even more stable at higher FSB speeds . A very good board , with lots of room around the socket , 4 holes for those large heatsinks or water blocks , and the ability to run up to 3 sticks of 400mhz DDR ram , as opposed to only 1 on the KT400 boards .
Now for what I don't like , why give us a AGP lock and not a PCI lock ?[Epox] , If Nvidia was serious about performance , why not 200mhz FSB as default , the location of the IDE connectors , there to low on the board , even for medium tower cases .I don't like the fact you cant back of your Cas Latency bellow what the ram is rated for [ no boot ] , the voltage settings to the ram should have been in tenths [2.5 , 2.6 , 2.7 etc ] , for better control over the voltage to the ram .
I cant stress enough the need for 200mhz FSB to be made a default bus speed , VIA should have given it to us on the KT400 , they didn't , so the only option is to go with the Nforce2 [other manufacturers are offering a PCI lock] which is a little more stable as a overclocking platform , and would seem to run rather happily at 200mhz FSB . I was impressed enough with the Epox 8RDA+ to put my money where my mouth is , and buy this board . How long I keep it depends on VIA and what they do to make the KT400A a true performance board .
I dare say that the Nforce3 may very well turn out to be a KT400A killer , for now the Nforce2 is only ever so slightly better than the KT400 , offering more tweaking options in the BIOS , and from what Ive experienced , a slightly more stable platform for overclocking , and onboard audio that most people can live with [I like the onboard audio as its rather good]. I give the Epox 8RDA+ , 8 out of 10 . Further Bios updates should help refine this MB into a serious overclocking tool , as did the bios updates for the 8K3A .
Ive tested 9 of these cpu's to date [ 4 brown week 41on my Epox 8K3A and 5 green on a 8K9A1 ] , all were unlocked on both boards , and all did 10.5 x 166FSB @ 1.48volts [1750mhz] All did 11 x 166FSB [1.83ghz] @ 1.6volts , 3 booted into windows at 12 x 166 @ 1.68volts , the other six posted at 1.68volts . [ All air cooled via Volcano 7+ ]
My XP1800T-bred came from the group of green ones , and runs stable at 10 x 200FSB @ 1.7volts on the 8RDA+ , Ive tried for 2100mhz but it seems to want too much voltage , the A-cores never did like going much over 2ghz in anyway . So if your looking for a good overclocking cpu at the moment , the XP1800T-bred is showing a lot of promise [ week 41 green is supposedly the best ]