Review: BIOS 1.1 saves the day
Six weeks ago we presented you the new MSI P45 Platinum here, and we thought we can do the benches rather quick. While testing the BIOS we found several strange defaults and some bugs, but we are always in intensive contact with MSI to fix all the issues we find. The folks from MSI in Holland are very very supportive.
Some of the bugs are still present, MSI did not manage to fix some settings and what's worse it was not able to improve oc-capabilities since the release. Last Monday we saw the BIOS 1.1 on their site, the date of June 16th is of course misleading, because last week it was not available. The sad thing is, we were not informed about it. Re-running oc-test is a bit time-consuming and of course delayed this review again.
As usual MSI uses an AMI BIOS. The new thing is, it's 4MB big. This is of course quite disappointing, because MSI still did not manage to build in a flash-tool. Also the Live-Update Tool MSI is providing leaves much to be desired. As long as you use any beta-BIOS it does not detect it and will not give you any opportunity to update.
On the AMI website you will find the AMI Windows Flash-Tool, which showed us something amazing. The BIOS is actually only 1MB, but it seems to be mirrored 4 times, because the flash-tool was writing the same areas four times. The 4MB is needed for future BIOS upgrades to EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) and MSI is already providing EFI for some of its motherboards.
Besides some awkward settings, for example: COM1 2F8, which is still present in the V1.1 BIOS the most annoying thing is that the "Greenpower" feature is disabled. We got in quite a fight with MSI because we think, if you do advertisments all over computer magazines and websites with their "DrMOS" marketing then you should also enable that option. The guys in Holland understood our point of view, but it seems the Chinese don't know what their marketing department is doing, so we got an unusual reply from them, saying they are afraid that users may use low quality memory and this may result in instability.
Our argument is, if you go for a board which will set you back €140/$200 you will not put in crappy memory. Also Greenpower consists of three settings for CPU, MCH and memory. Most power-saving is done by disabling some phases of the VRM for the CPU, so disabling only the memory portion wouldn't have hurt power-consumption considerably.
We have decided to enable that feature during testing and it worked fine. Not enabling it costs lots of energy, so we urge you to enable it and ignore any statement MSI put out, as long as you don't use noname memory. MSI put a new feature in called "Memory-Z" which gives you all the SPD readings. Many vendors do that already but they put the results in the settings screen. MSI decided to give them an extra page, so you have to jump forward and backwards to apply the readings manually which is also not an elegant way to do things.
We found some rather insane voltage values inside the BIOS, which you should never ever apply:
MCH voltage settings up to 2.6V, do not set it higher than 1.60V, click for bigger screenshot.
Memory voltages up to 3.3V, the highest rated memories do only take 2.3V, with extra cooling you can get up to 2.5V on certain modules. If you don't use nitrogen for memory cooling, don't even think of applying 3V. Click for bigger screenshot.
Frontsidebus Termination Voltage VTT, never ever apply more than 1.40V, apply 1.40V only when using water-cooling. It's recommended to stay at 1.20V because higher voltages increase interference and thus decrease stability. Click for bigger screenshot.
With the V1.0 BIOS overclocking was nearly a complete failure. We could only manage 485MHz FSB, because our CPU is one of the first off the shelves and behaves quite stubbornly when OC is applied.
The V1.1 BIOS lets gets us to 530MHz stable. Some months ago that would have been an impressive result, but meanwhile some boards go up to 600MHz. We are not sure if this a the limit of our CPU, but testing with an new Intel E8500 sample did not improve the score.
The board is not an overclocker's dream, we were stuck at about 4.3GHz, 4.4GHz was never stable.
The board seems to have a limit around 1100MHz. At least with our DDR2 modules even with 2.30V applied we could not get to 1200MHz for stable operation.
We have to state that we always recalculate the bench results to nominal frequencies. Most vendors do an overclock to their products, maybe to get more bench points, but we nullify such attempts. MSI most of the time overclocks and we don't like that. Some settings we reduced intentionally inside the BIOS, for example we used FSB 474 to get 475.