Chaintech VNF3-250: Overclocking and Stress Testing

FSB Overclocking Results

Front Side Bus Overclocking Testbed
Default Voltage
Processor: Athlon 64 3200+
2.0GHz
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)
275FSB x 8 at 1:1 Memory

The benefit of the working PCI/AGP lock on the nForce3-250 chipset is obvious. This late 3200+ reached the same 246-248 overclock that we have seen on other nF3-250 motherboards with this late 3200+. This 23% overclock at stock multiplier is more like those that we are accustomed to seeing on Pentium 4.

The Maximum FSB test deserves a bit of explanation. Our goal here was to find the highest FSB that we could achieve in synchronous mode (or 1:1) with a single DDR550 DIMM that has reached DDR570 (285FSB setting) on a Pentium 4 test platform with an Intel ES processor and unlocked multipliers. Since it is not possible to test everything in a roundup, we did not test asynchronous operation, which would be running the memory at a lower speed than the bus. Asynchronous mode is possible on all 5 of these motherboards, and it may be possible to achieve even higher FSB settings by removing memory speed as a limitation.

With a single DIMM of OCZ DDR4400EL, the best FSB that we could achieve at a 1:1 ratio was a stable 275 or DDR550, at a ratio of 8. HyperTransport could be maintained at the 4X (800 setting) up to a 260 to 265 FSB setting. Above this point to the maximum of 275FSB at 1:1, we needed a 3X HT setting.

Memory Stress Test Results:

The memory stress test measures the ability of the Chaintech VNF3-250 to operate at its officially supported memory frequency (400MHz DDR), at the best performing 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. However, please keep in mind that Socket 754 is single-channel and will still operate at top speed with just one DIMM.

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: 10T
(10T for Best Performance)*
Precharge Delay: 2T
Command Rate: N/A

*Several memory tests have shown that memory performs fastest on the nVidia nForce and VIA K8T800 chipsets at a TRas (RAS Precharge) setting 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 memory bandwidth 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. Since best performance was achieved at 2-2-2-10 timings, all Athlon 64 benchmarks were run at a TRas setting of 10.

The Chaintech VNF3-250 was completely stable with 2 DIMMs at the best performing settings of 2-2-2-10 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 2-2-2-10 timings. Filling all three available memory slots is more strenuous on the memory subsystem than testing 2 DIMMs on a motherboard.

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: 2T
RAS Precharge: 10T
Precharge Delay: 2T
Command Rate: N/A

We were very pleased to find that 3 DS DIMMs (1.5GB) of memory worked fine at the same aggressive timings we used for 2 DIMMs. Even though Chaintech does not recommend running 3 double-sided DIMMs in the VNF3-250, we found the 3 DIMMs worked with complete stability. In fact, this is the first Athlon 64 board we have tested that could run three DS DIMMs at 2-2-2 timings. Most Athlon 64 cannot even run 3 DIMMs, though we are seeing a few nF3-250 boards that can handle 3 DIMMs without a problem.

Chaintech VNF3-250: Features and Layout Epox 8KDA3+: Features and Layout
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  • karlreading - Monday, August 30, 2004 - link

    i braught the chaintech vnf3-250 based on the review it recieved at AT and TBPH its a cracking motherboard, plus it easily gets my 2ghz a64-3200+ to 2.4 ghz and lets you run 1ghz HT if u running the cpu stock, something whic supposidly only the nf3 ultra let u do.all in all a very fast, very reliable, very overclockerbul motherboard which i have NMO regrets about buying :) Reply
  • lem79 - Friday, August 6, 2004 - link

    I have the Epox 8KDA3+ here with an Athlon64 2800+, runs nice, except for one quirk, which Anandtech failed to mention here (they probably didn't even know)..

    Cool'n'Quiet only works on this board when _one_ DIMM slot is in use (that is, DIMM1). If there's RAM in DIMM2 and DIMM3 slots, Cool'n'Quiet gets disabled by the BIOS (July revision, earlier BIOS images leave it enabled, but Cool'n'Quiet activation causes system instability and lockups). Epox themselves told me that this was the case.

    I think the review needs updating..
    Reply
  • operator - Sunday, June 6, 2004 - link

    I have the same question as #25. with a small addition.

    when will the msi k8n or the epox board be available in Canada?
    Reply
  • Zebo - Wednesday, June 2, 2004 - link

    This is a very good review Wesley, thanks. I really like how you went into detail with memory and boards FSB capabilites for the clockers out here.:) Looks like the Chaintech is the board for me. Cheap and a real performer. It's really to bad nVidia failed to have a decent sound solution though. Reply
  • Sk0t - Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - link

    Nice review.... BUT Im unable to understand why the Epox 8KDA3+ was awarded gold, and MSI K8n Neo Platinum only awarded silver ?

    Epox pros over MSI:
    6th pci-slot
    Slightly better overclocking

    MSI pros over Epox:
    Firewire
    3 working dimm sockets (at 400mhz)
    Slightly better layout (dimm-sockets)
    Supports Cool&Quiet*

    *Since the review seems to completly ignore cool&quiet (unless i missed it?) I will stick to my current rule of thumb, that only Asus & MSI fully supports this feature

    Did I miss some wonderfull feature on the Epox ? or was slightly better overclocking considered more important than features & layout ?
    Reply
  • gmenfan - Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - link

    Does anyone know when the MSI K8N Neo will be available? Thanks. Reply
  • mbf - Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - link

    Nice review! I just have one question; how can there be boards *without* ECC support, when the A64 has the memory controller on-die and it *inherently* supports unbuffered ECC memory? I'm especially thinking of the Epox and MSI boards, since they interest me the most (hardware firewall et al).

    Actually, I wrote to MSI (US) about this and was told that indeed ECC is supported and the "non-ECC" statement on the product spec page was erroneous. The page was immediately updated (http://www.msicomputer.com/product/p_spec.asp?mode... However, only the US site has been updated, and neither the manual (PDF) nor the BIOS available from the MSI Taiwan site state ECC support. Neither do the manual or BIOS for the Epox board.

    As ECC support is pretty important to me having had some bitter experiences with regular memory, I was wondering if some kind person at Anandtech might be persuaded to throw in a stick of unbuffered ECC memory into either the K8N Neo or the Epox 8KDA3 and let me know if the memory is detected as such? I'd really appreciate the effort!

    I know the ASUS K8N-E Deluxe (http://www.asus.com.tw/products/mb/socket754/k8n-e... states ECC support, but it's anyone's guess when that board will be out, since they cannot even make their mind up if the board is to be shown on their home page or not (right now it is, tomorrow it may not).
    Reply
  • l3ored - Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - link

    price is mentioned as a component in electing the epox as the gold winner, so whats the current street price? Reply
  • SilverRyu - Monday, May 31, 2004 - link

    Do you think shuttle will make a 250Gb or K8T800Pro XPC? Reply
  • cnq - Monday, May 31, 2004 - link

    Wesley,

    Nice writeup...
    A question about overclocking: you tested at 1:1 ratios, meaning you didn't really find the bounds of the FSB/HTT so much as you found the bounds of the PC4400 RAM that you used. If you had dropped the RAM ratio, do you have any indication which boards could have topped 300 MHz? I am of course thinking of your great AK89 Max review from a few weeks back, where you made waves by showing FSB/HTT speeds of 347 MHz. Will you have time to do similar tests on these new boards? (Or, for that matter, can I ask why you didn't do similar tests on these new boards? Is it merely because ClockGen hasn't yet been ported to NF250?)

    I'd also like to second the suggestion made by posting #1 (he mentions aceshardware.com. techreport.com has also chimed in with recent articles on the subject. Not surprisingly, their conclusion is to just avoid cheap Realtek products if you want good CPU utilization. And sudhian.com found great ethernet performance with low CPU overhead from the NF250-GB chip's embedded controller.)
    Reply

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