I will be a limited here as I only have PC3200 memory, my 1:1 max was at 230 FSB (2.76GHz) and even with relaxed timings and more voltage I couldn't get past 250 FSB (3 GHz). Luckily, that is where many of the top end tests are run at anyway.
The ABIT AI7 overclocked nicely using the standard bios "Softmenu" that we all know and love. I tried using the included Win32 software utility for Overclocking, ABIT OC Guru, with hit and miss results. Sometimes it would properly Overclock the CPU/FSB on the fly applying the appropriate voltages I set etc, and other times it would not take effect. There were times when the motherboard just rebooted as I clicked "apply" on the Utility.
Usually when the motherboard rebooted, it did so with the values that I had applied within the ABIT OC Guru utility. Due to this, and the fact that I am comfortable with the BIOS method, I continued to use the Softmenu for Overclocking.
ABIT has included on the motherboard a digital readout telling you where it is in the boot stage, and supposedly giving you error codes to help interrupt issues. This is akin to MSI's LED's on the back panel, but a little easier to read (as long as you have a see though side panel that is). Of course, the error code that I received when it failed to boot from a try at 260 FSB was not listed in the manual.
Let's take a look at what is inside the test rig for this review:
ABIT AI7 Motherboard
1GB (2x512 in Dual DDR Mode) OCZ PC3200
Intel Pentium 4 2.4c (800MHz FSB)
ATI Radeon 9600xt 128mb
Hitachi Deskstar (IBM Deskstar renamed) 80GB, 8MB buffer, 7200 RPM, SATA Drive
Samsung PUMA80 80GB, 8MB buffer, 7200 RPM, ATA-100
Windows XP SP1 and Pre-SP2 hotfixes
ATI Catalyst 3.9
All tests are run three times and results are then divided by 3 (unless otherwise noted). VL's testing suite includes the following:
SiSoft Sandra 2004
TMPGEnc (AVI to MPEG2 encoding)
Unreal Tournament 2003
Business Winstone 2004
I will be comparing the ABIT AI7 to the previously reviewed ASUS P4C800-E Deluxe, a very nice high end Canterwood chipset.
SiSoft Sandra 2004
Although a synthetic benchmark, it's a popular one, freely available if you wish to make comparison benchmarks. We will be testing the CPU, MMX, and memory speeds at stock 2.4GHz speeds as well as 3.0GHz overclocked speed.
The results are nothing short of shocking, the Springdale chipset is outperforming the Canterwood in almost every category, with the Multimedia benchmark the most drastic of the results.
A good indicator of CPU/Motherboard performance is PiFast version 4.3, by Xavier Gourdon. We used a computation of 10000000 digits of Pi, Chudnovsky method, 1024 K FFT, and no disk memory. Note that lower scores are better, and times are in seconds.
Lower times are better
This is an interesting chart, the AI7 scores a full 3.5 sec's faster than the P4C800-E at standard clock speeds, once overclocked. However, the ASUS motherboard is over 1 second faster. I would have to contribute the slower overclocked time on the AI7 to my memory timings, they had to be relaxed to get a stable 3.0 GHz clock.