If you've read a few ABIT IC7 and IS7 reviews the past few weeks, you'll probably know that the much cheaper Springdale based IS7 has been performing on par with the Canterwood based IS7. Considering the price difference between the two boards, the IS7 appears to be the smarter choice. How can that be, given that the Canterwood has Intel's Performance Acceleration Technology (PAT), but the Springdale does not? The answer can be found in the new "Game Accelerator" BIOS that ABIT released for the IS7 a few weeks ago.
I never did understand why such an optimization would be exclusive to a "mainstream" board, but late last week we got our hands on a BETA BIOS for the IC7 that contains the same optimizations as those found in the IS7.
What is the Game Accelerator?
It's called the Game Accelerator BIOS, but that isn't really accurate. The "Game Accelerator" is actually a feature found in the "Advanced Chipset Features". The rest of the BIOS is essentially unchanged otherwise. from ABIT's site:
"Users have a choice between "Auto", "Turbo", "Street racer" and "F1" so they can optimize their system performance according to their memory modules. The IC7-G will also come equipped with these new settings. With each setting, users can push their overall PC performance further and further. Those who select F1 in the BIOS settings are looking to get Formula 1 performance from their desktop PC, and so should be prepared to unleash raw computing power."
The way the optimizations work is exactly as described above. The Game Accelerator tweaks your memory, and as we already know, tweaked memory improves overall system performance. Basically, you'll want to run your CPU and memory synchronous with each other; i.e., 1:1. Depending on how solid your ram is, either you can the timings before hand, or set it to SPD. Afterwords, you set your ram to one of the four settings, Auto, Turbo, Street Racer or F1. I should point out that Street Racer and F1 may not work on all memory modules. I had a lot of difficulty getting our Corsair TWINX to behave at F1, and it only worked when I relaxed the timings to 2.5-3-3-7, which ended up performing close to 2-3-3-6 at Street Racer settings.
ABIT IC7 : Pentium 4 2.4C (12x200: 2.4GHz), 2 x 256MB Corsair TWINX PC3200 Ram, AiW ATi Radeon 9700 Pro, 80GB Western Digital, Windows XP SP1, ATi Catalyst 3.4
Test software will be:
Unreal Tournament 2003
Quake 3: Arena
Jedi Knight 2
Pre-Game Accelerator (referred to as IC7-Pre-GA in the graphs) scores were compiled in our ABIT IC7 review, so if you wanted more info on that, as well as on the IC7 itself, feel free to check it out.
SiSoft CPU Arithmetic Benchmark
SiSoft CPU Multimedia Benchmark
There's very little change in the CPU based numbers. The new BIOS targets the memory though, so let's check those out.
SiSoft Memory Benchmark
Here the differences are a lot more dramatic. Typically, faster memory will affect overall system performance, so let's look at some application benchmarks.
PC Mark 2002
CPU scores are close again, but the differences in memory performance illustrate the improvements made by ABIT's engineers.
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 is Better
Slight improvements in computation times. This reflects a similar trend we've seen with our memory reviews. As memory is tweaked, the time to compute decrease.
TMPGEnc MPEG Encoding
Video editing is a taxing chore, and we'll be testing the IC7 using TMPGEnc 2.512 to encode a 7.78MB, 1:30 movie trailer to a 23FPS MPG file. Note that lower scores are better.
Lower is Better
Much like PiFast, there isn't a huge difference but a second is a second.
Unreal Tournament 2003
Using the ...
Quake 3 Arena, 640x480
Jedi Knight 2, 640x480
In each case, there's an increase in performance as we switch between memory optimizations. The biggest winners are the Q3 engine games, but UT 2003 shows improvement as well.
3D Mark 2003 - Summary
3D Mark 2003 - CPU Tests
Nothing new here.
As we've seen, the Game Accelerator BIOS made a huge difference, for the better, in our benchmarks. I would imagine any quality sticks of ram can easily handle the Street Racer option, and for F1, you'll need something really good. Even if you don't own performance ram, the system ran fine at Turbo, using a pair of Crucial PC2700 sticks (though I was not able to run them at 400MHz). At Turbo settings, the performance was still better than Auto, so consider this a free performance boost.
CPU performance didn't really change dramatically, there's more to a fast system than dropping in a speedy CPU. Our BIOS was BETA, but the official version is . For you , the Game Accelerator BIOS is also official, and you should pick it up. We'll be presenting our IS7 review before the end of the month, and we'll be using this new BIOS.
If you got any comments, be sure to hit us up in our forums.