AMD Clock Throttling; What to Buy Now?

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Well, given the lack of hoopla at Computex about Via or SiS boards, probably can’t expect them real soon.

nforce is fall at best.

So that leaves you with AMD760 boards if you need to buy Real Soon. For right this moment, there seems to be two at least semi-reasonable candidates: the Epox 8K7A+ and the MSI K7Master.

(The A7M266 was left out because you need a soldering iron to make it overclocking-friendly; the FIC AD11 is only a four-layer board, and seems to have a few more problems overall than the 6-layer boards).

The problem is most reviewers who have looked at the Epox haven’t looked at the MSI board, and I’ve looked heavily at the MSI board, but not the Epox.

Nonetheless, after looking at reviews of the Epox along with user comments, I think I can make a reasonable comparison.

Both boards

Both boards appear to be reasonably reliable, stable platforms. The initial problems I had with the Master got traced down to very slightly marginal voltage. They went away with another .05V, and it’s been awfully good since then.

Looking at user comments about both boards in forums, there seems to be a lower level of reported difficulties than most other recent mobos (this can be said for AMD760 series mobos in general). Memory scores on the two boards (properly configured) appear to be just about the same.

The problems I’ve seen reported tend to be problems associated with the Via 686B Southbridge, which both mobos have. There can also be some AGP video problems caused by the AMD761 chipset, which are described here.

Most people, though, seem to be doing fine with the boards. However, it doesn’t seem like a whole lot of people have either board, yet.

Epox 8K7A+

Advantages

  • Seems to be a little faster than the Master (i.e. about 2%) with equal settings.
  • Cheaper than the Master.
  • Allows for higher voltage (2.1V), more overclocking controls.
  • Allows for higher FSBs.

    Disadvantage

    Multiplier must be set by jumper.

    MSI K7Master

    Advantage

  • All controls set in BIOS (but see below).

    Disadvantages

  • A little slower than the Epox
  • A little more expensive than the Epox.
  • Maximum voltage effectively 1.95V.
  • FSB limited by hardware to 150Mhz.

    You Call This Close?

    True, the MSI keeps losing to the Epox, but never by much.

    Even its one advantage is a mixed blessing. If you buy an Athlon with a low multiplier, you’ll probably
    have no problem, since you can push up multiplier and FSB around all you like, no problem.

    If you get the notion to set the multiplier lower than default, you got a problem. You can flash the BIOS, set any multiplier you like,
    and warm boot to your heart’s content, and it will stay there. Cold boot, and every multiplier below default vanishes. Only way you get them back is reflashing the BIOS.

    If you have a high-speed 100Mhz Athlon, don’t even think about buying the MSI. Go to the Epox.

    The Abit KG7?

    Seems like a bunch of people are awaiting it, though I’m not necessarily too sure why.

    The four memory slots are a plus if you need them, but as I pointed out today, to fill up those four slots, you’re going to need registered DDR.

    In theory, the KG7 is supposed to be able to get up to 178Mhz, but for most people, it might as well be 1178Mhz. Currently, the maximum PCI divisor is /4, which means you’d have to overclock your hard drives and other PCI devices by about 33%, and most don’t like that. If you don’t know about this, read this.

    I use the term “currently” because if you look inside the tech notes on the AMD761 BIOS settings, there’s one setting which provides for 66, 100 and 133Mhz FSB speeds. Not sure it’s the PCI divisor, but I think it is.

    There is one “reserved” setting left. If this is the PCI divisor, presumably that reserved setting could be used to provide a PCI divisor of /5, and that could give more people a better chance to run at 166Mhz or better.

    (No, changing the setting doesn’t work; it won’t change, already tried that with the Master.)

    Even if what I said is true, and gets implemented, getting above 166Mhz will still not be a stroll in the park, at least not with current RAM. In most cases, you’ll probably have to go down to CAS3 to take a shot at it.

    Recommendation?

    That depends on what’s important to you.

    If setting a jumper for the multiplier doesn’t faze you, the Epox nudges out the Master. If you’re a hobbyist who loves to tinker, I don’t doubt what you’ll choose.

    But more people than you think get very fazed about setting a jumper. I’m sure the unfazed will scorn the fazed, but then again, the Costco people scorn the Seven-Eleveners.

    If the thought of setting a multiplier jumper bothers you, you’re going to have to decide how much you’re willing to give up to not have to set that jumper. It’s not a huge sacrifice in this case, if you push both boards as far as they’ll go, maybe the Epox does 3%, maybe 4% better.

    One last caveat about the MSI; it does have a well-earned reputation of registering high temperatures. Dr. Joe is going to take it in for a checkup Wednesday to make sure the thermistor is delirious, not the mobo.

    If you find discussion of jumper trauma ludicrous, buy the Epox, unless you want to wait for the Abit.

    Email Ed

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