Overclocking and Stress Testing: MSI K8N Neo Platinum

FSB Overclocking Results

With all the excellent options for overclocking, the MSI K8N Neo should be capable of excellent overclocking. Given the great overclocking results that we found in the review of the nForce3-250 Reference Board, we expected the K8N Neo would do even better with the expanded ranges on the K8N Neo. We weren't disappointed.

Front Side Bus Overclocking Testbed
Default Voltage
Processor: Athlon 64 3200+
CPU Voltage: 1.5V (default)
Cooling: AMD Stock Athlon 64 Heatsink/Fan
Power Supply: Antec TruePower 430W
Maximum OC:
(Standard Ratio)
246FSB x10
2460MHz (+23%)
Maximum FSB:
(Lower Ratio)
300FSB x 8 (BIOS Limited, Asynch Memory)
270FSB x 9 at 1:1 Memory

This late 3200+ achieved a new overclocking record on the K8N Neo Platinum at 246FSB, at the stock 10X multiplier and default voltage. This 23% overclock at stock multiplier is more like those that we are accustomed to seeing on Pentium 4. Dropping the multiplier, the highest FSB overclock that we could achieve was the BIOS limit of 300. We fully expect that the K8N can go much higher on FSB, but Clock Gen for the nForce3-150 from www.cpuid.com only partially works on the 250 chipset. The FSB portion of Clock Gen does not function correctly yet on the updated 250, so the BIOS limit is the current FSB limit.

We were also able to run OCZ DDR4400EL at a 1:1 ratio at a FSB of 270x9, or DDR540, which is near the limit of this CPU on this board. We tried to lower the ratio to 8, but we still could not achieve 1:1 memory performance at any speed higher than DDR540, as the board would automatically reset to stock speed if we selected a 1:1 setting above 270. Perhaps the overclock protection on this board needs to be a little less aggressive, because this memory is capable of performance at even higher speeds.

HyperTransport could be maintained at the 4X (800) setting up to a 260 to 265 FSB. Above this point to the BIOS maximum of 300FSB, we needed a 3X HT setting. There is clearly additional headroom with the higher HT of the 250 chipset, and it is likely that we can reach much higher FSB settings with a greater range of BIOS settings or a Clock Gen that fully supports the nF3-250 chipset.

Front Side Bus Stress Test Results:

As part of normal overclocking tests, a full range of stress tests and benchmarks were run to ensure the K8N Neo was stable at each overclocked FSB speed. This included Prime95 torture tests, and the addition of other tasks - data compression, various DX8 and DX9 games, and apps like Word and Excel - while Prime95 was running in the background. Finally, we ran our benchmark suite, which includes Veritest Winstone 2004 suite, Unreal Tournament 2003, SPECviewperf 7.1, and Aquamark 3. 246MHz was the highest overclock that we were able to achieve with the MSI while running these tests at default voltage, an astonishing performance with the Athlon 64.

Memory Stress Test Results:

The memory stress test is very basic, as it simply tests the ability of the K8N Neo Platinum to operate at its officially supported memory frequency (400MHz DDR) at the lowest supported memory timings that our Mushkin PC3500 Level 2 or OCZ PC3500 Platinum Ltd Modules will support. Memory stress testing was conducted by running RAM at 400MHz with 2 DIMM slots filled.

Stable DDR400 Timings - 2 DIMMs
(2/3 DIMMs populated)
Clock Speed: 200MHz
Timing Mode: N/A
CAS Latency: 2.0
Bank Interleave: N/A
RAS to CAS Delay: 2T
RAS Precharge: 5T
(10T for Best Performance)*
Precharge Delay: 2T
Command Rate: N/A

*Several memory tests have shown that memory performs fastest on the nVidia nForce chipsets at a TRas (RAS Precharge) settings in the 9 to 13 range. We ran our own Memory Bandwidth tests with memtest86 with TRas settings from 5 to 15 at a wide range of different memory speeds. The best bandwidth was consistently at 9 to 11 at every speed, with TRas 10 always in the best range at every speed. The performance improvement at TRas 10 was only 2% to 4% over TRas 5 and 6 depending on the speed, but the performance advantage was consistent across all tests. This will be shown in more detail in an upcoming Memory review. While benchmarks here were run at 2-2-2-5 for consistency with past results, future nForce benchmarks will be run at a TRas setting of 10.

The MSI K8N Neo was completely stable with 2 DIMMs at the most aggressive settings of 2-2-2-5 at default speed. Higher overclocks could be achieved with 1 DIMM compared to 2 DIMMs, but at default speed, 1 or 2 DIMMs were reliable at the same aggressive 2-2-2-5 timings.

Filling all three available memory slots is more strenuous on the memory subsystem than testing 2 DIMMs on a motherboard. We were very pleased to find that 3 DS DIMMs (1.5GB) of memory worked fine at timings almost the same as the aggressive timings we used for 2 DIMMs. This is the first Athlon 64 board we have tested that was completely stable with 3 DIMMs at DDR400.

Stable DDR400 Timings - 3 DIMMs
(3/3 DIMMs populated)
Clock Speed: 200MHz
Timing Mode: N/A
CAS Latency: 2.0
Bank Interleave: N/A
RAS to CAS Delay: 3T
RAS Precharge: 5T
Precharge Delay: 2T
Command Rate: N/A

Three DIMMs required 2-2-3-5 timings for stable operation, which is remarkably close to the most aggressive 2-2-2-5 timings available on the K8N Neo. You do need to be aware of one quirk in the MSI memory setup. If 3 DIMMs are installed with the memory speed set to AUTO, the board will down-clock the memory to DDR333 speed. To achieve DDR400 with 3 DIMMs, we had to move off Auto and specify DDR400 speed. However, DDR400 with 3 DIMMs worked very well in our tests, and was very stable, which is certainly a first for the Athlon 64.

Tech Support and RMA: MSI K8N Neo Platinum Standard Performance Test Configuration: 3200+ with ATI 9800 PRO


View All Comments

  • Starstream - Thursday, September 16, 2004 - link

    Well, I currently have an MSI board and, frankly, I would have to really have my arm twisted before I bought another. Zillions of issues with their support and documentation. I don't know...this is impressive. The "cross mount" memory slots are an interesting twist. Reply
  • ksherman - Sunday, August 22, 2004 - link

    this is probably a dump question, but here goes:
    since the 3200 OCs to the level of the 3800, does that mean i am essentially (if i can reach those speeds of course) getting a 3800 in term of performance? the 3800 are clocked at 2.4GHz, and the only real difference in the processors is the clock speed correct? so a $600+ card for around $200+ seemd like a good deal to me...
  • Klaasman - Saturday, May 8, 2004 - link

    When are these due to be available in the USA for purchase?? Reply
  • l3ored - Saturday, May 1, 2004 - link

    i'd really like to know weather the 300fsb outperformed the max oc, then i can make memory purchase decisions, perhaps a follow up review is in order? Reply
  • MadAd - Wednesday, April 28, 2004 - link

    Raid Questions: a) I run a fasttrack tx2000 with 4 IDE drives and am wondering would I be able to use the 2 IDE channels for raid 0+1 and get a SATA to IDE converter to run an optical drive or two?

    b) The last raid review at AT was Jun 2001. With new provison for raid in nf250 plus older high end boards offering variations of highpoint and promise on board plus sata raid vs ide becoming a factor, wouldnt this be a good time for another one?
  • AtaStrumf - Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - link

    Same as ATi X800Pro. Well, well don't we have a lot of 8's on the 6th. Too bad I got an exam on that very same day. Hope I get an 8 as well :) Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - link

    #19 -

    Several nF3-250 boards are expected at Anandtech in the next couple of weeks. They are starting to show up from many manufacturers.

    Also, VIA's update to the K8T800 Pro will launch on May 6.
  • hifisoftware - Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - link

    Very, very nice review.

    OC bench would not hurt, but otherwise OC is very well covered.

    I belive RAID was covered in the chipset review.

    One thing that I would've really liked is to know when other mobos are coming out. It would seem that even without overclocking this chipset should not be slower then previous. So maybe another motherboard is gogin to be a bit faster.

  • mikeymasta - Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - link

    Also how 'real' is the hardware raid on the nforce3?
    I mean can I setup a simple 2 hd based mirror raid have install FreeBSD 5.2.1 and expect it to see only 1 drive like 'true' hardware based raid or is this just software based crap that boil down to just extra IDE ports that only do so called 'raid' by software drivers?

    Personally if I was in charge of making standards I would make rule #1 of the standard of raid being that you cant put the word 'raid' on your software product unless its true hardware based raid!
    Bit like the true standard of PC133 ram where it couldn't be classed as 'PC133' memory unless it had a clearly printed label on it with letters 'PC133' for a start, (I remember anand pointing that out a long time ago)
  • AtaStrumf - Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - link

    Yep, we want OC benchies! Reply

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