Gigabyte P965-DS3 Motherboard Overclocking Review

Motherboards/Intel S775 by KeithSuppe @ 2007-07-29

The Gigabyte P965-DS3 is arguably the very best 965-based overclocking platform available. Today were dusting off a Rev.1 board which has been replaced by the DS3 Rev 2.0 and 3.3 models. While the board is technically obsolete she´s almost identical to her siblings and they even share many of the same BIOS versions. There are a large number of Rev 1.0 boards at the heart of many systems; this overclocking article is for them and anyone considering a Gigabyte P965-DS3.

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BIOS + EasyTune 5

Gigabyte BIOS Update Utility

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By far the best update utility I've used to date. BIOS versions can be flashed directly from an FTP server or downloaded to your PC and flashed from a bin file (I prefer the latter to minimize the number of things that can go wrong during the flash process). Asus has a similar feature, however; with Asus BIOS Update you cannot replace a current BIOS version with any previous BIOS version. Nor can you download a previous BIOS and flash from file. Expecting such features may seem trivial until you realize the role of the BIOS in the Enthusiast world. One only need look to motherboard makers themselves whom now invest substantial resources to host the latest drivers, BIOS versions and provide the software to access and utilize these files from the Desktop. These resources benefit both the End-User who is always looking for better performance and the motherboard maker whom can release products earlier knowing updates will follow. Examining the Award BIOS options I've concentrated on just two particular areas related to overclocking. First, PC Health.

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Most BIOS PC-Health screens are considered "passive" although most now have fan/temp monitoring and adjustment options. Whenever I install a new system or simply re-boot to BIOS this is the first screen I check to ensure system stability. Insofar as desktop versions of this software, in most cases these programs gather data from the same sources although the formula on which their based may vary. For those apprehensive about desktop freeware/shareware reliability, I won't try to convince you otherwise.

We've come a long way since thermistors were mounted in sockets when most CPU's lacked their own thermal protection. CIRCA socket-A motherboard makers had to rely on their own versions of overheat protection. Soltek gave us ABS and ABS II for Anti Burn Shield. As processors demanded and dissipated more wattage chip-makers began incorporating internal thermal diodes. Albeit to serve Thermal Throttling type functions or to protect the CPU internal thermal diodes gave us much more accurate data. With internal thermal diodes the industry took a large step forward only to take several steps back when it was discovered there were multiple internal diodes in some processors those at the hottest area of the core for shutdown and those feeding temperature software were located in much cooler regions of the die. Today if I were to chose which was more accurate, data displayed in BIOS or data accessed using programs such Core Temp. I would probably choose Core Temp. Beyond the PC-Health screen the only other screen we'll examine is Award's MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T)

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The screenshot above exemplifies the M.I.T. screen in it's "default" state. As is evident from the screenshot and thumbnails above there are just a few options for RAM, PCIe slot Graphics enhancement and a feature known as C.I.A.2. (CPU Intelligent Accelerator II) intended to replace manual overclocking by offering several options for the User to choose from (as is evident clicking on the thumbnail). More comprehensive then simply changing the FSB speed or increasing Vcore, the utility claims to make several adjustments to insure a stable overclock, so long as the hardware is capable of such changes. Next we access an advanced features screen by depressing Ctrl and F1 simultaneously which reveals an array of manual memory settings among other adjustments.

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The BIOS isn't simply a set of instructions for the hardware in your system, it is the catalyst by which we effect change between software and hardware. I found the P965-DS3 Rev. 1.0 BIOS to be troublesome. It's been reported she won't hold her manual timings and I found this out immediately upon booting the system up for the first time. I experienced power-down/on states repeatedly before it would take and any changes I made in the M.I.T. sections al reverted to n Auto state. For example simply attempting to manually adjust the memory to the 4.0+ divisor and run the CPU at 266FSB (for a memory speed of 1067MHz) failed.

Ultimately I tried five different memory brands to no avail and while I was able to get the Mushkin XP8500 to run at 1067MHz it wasn't stable even with a 266FSB. Increasing DDR2 voltage had no effect; the only solution was to try he 3.0 divisor or DDR2 800MHz speed. After trying all BIOS versions from F5 ~ F12 there was little difference and none of the anomalies were ever resolved completely. Inn the final analysis I was stuck at 425FSB which was stable, but I felt there must be more headroom. My E6400 has some serious potential and has clocked to 470FSB on the P5W DH, and ran through most benchmarks at default speed at 450FSB! Then I began experimenting with Gigabyte's Easy Tune, which gave me the title of this article.

EasyTune 5

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Gigabyte introduced EasyTune over seven years ago being the first board maker to bundle a Windows overclocking utility with their motherboards. As far back as the GA-6BX people were discovering the benefits of this utility, although most chose to overclock through the BIOS where they could make multiple changes ensuing stability. EasyTune has come along way as is evident in screenshot above and thumbnails below.

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Above we have the PC-Health feature displaying, Vcore, 3.3V, 12.0V and CPU VID. The thumbnails below represent fan speeds, warning indicators, temperatures for CPU and System. The most important aspect of the EasyTune utility for our purposes will be the Overclocking screen and in particular the Advanced Mode, seen below.

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The Current processor speed shown above is 3200MHz with the Original CPU speed being 2934MHz. In actuality both processor speeds shown were based on the same 8x400FSB setting, however; the Original processor speed slowed due to my lapse in forgetting to disable all C-State / P-State features, such as C1E, EIST and TM2. Overclocker's have an aversion to certain C-State / P-States many having an allergic reaction similar to Bee-Sting victims. Doctors only know this as "premature stoppage syndrome." Although these safety stop-gaps do serve a purpose and enabling the right feature will extend the life of your CPU, Overclocker’s see these as obstacle. There are ways you can still use these features and still enjoy a healthy overclock. For example try Disabling TM2, EIST and Enabling C1E. This will allow uninterrupted execution to 100% LOAD, and then reduce speed during "sleep" states. To summarize this section on EasyTune-5 this utility allowed me to take this system from a slightly nervous 425FSB to a rock-solid 430FSB and then 450FSB.

Next we examine our test system and methods ->
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Comment from Rutar @ 2007/07/29
I digg their bios update utility too.
Comment from Kougar @ 2007/07/30
Nice review of my board, I own the Rev 1 version. I would like to mention that no one should consider buying any 965P-DS3 unless it is the Rev 3.3 version, which ClubIt has long been selling for the same price as the other models. The Rev 2 added another much needed VRM module to the board to help provide CPU power. Three VRM regs alone is not enough for best results and vdroop. Rev 3.3 adds true FSB1333 support and changed some of the board trace layouts and cap placements to do so.

It is a little strange you had so much issue with your RAM using the F10 or later BIOS's, as I see you did set "Option 2" for the RAM DLL setting. I can say that the Rev1 DS3 did not give stable RAM voltages for me, any voltage setting over 2.1v was unstable with my Corsair ProMOS RAM. I tested the RAM again on a P35-DQ6, and it was stable at 2.15 and 2.2v settings, so clearly the DS3 cannot handle high voltage DDR2 well. Again is why I mention users should only look at Rev 3.3 boards, if not P35 boards instead. Also the DS3 would not support RAM clocked above 1100Mhz, however the DQ6 has no issues running the same Ballistix kit above even 1220MHz.

My top 24 hour Prime stable CPU overclock on the DS3 was 501 FSB x 7 = 3.5GHz, but nothing higher. Link (Sidenote, active NB cooling required) Dropping the CPU to a 6 multipler got the FSB over ~540FSB stable, but the board would finally throw in the towel a bit above that. Top OC required 1.475vCore to remain stable, compared to the 1.4375vCore my P35-DQ6 requires at the same exact overclock. It will also continue to overclock my E6300 to 3.8Ghz, but 540FSB is the absolute FSB ceiling of the P35-DQ6 at any CPU setting.
Comment from MakubeX @ 2007/07/30
The best thing is that the DS3 is dirt chap compared to other 695p OCing boards. However, at time I wouldn't get a 965p board, I would save up for a good P35, like the Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R or DS3P. Still reasonably cheap and are also very good overclockers; plus you got support for Penryn.