ASUS recently sent us their ASUS Striker II Formula based on NVIDIA's 780i chipset. Raja will have a detailed look at the board along with his usual extreme overclocking results and our first NVIDIA BIOS guide in the near future. In the meantime, I have been using the board for upcoming articles on SLI/PCI Express 2.0 video performance and memory tuning for Vista 64.

One of the questions we have been asked repeatedly is what kind of FSB clocking rates can the new 780i chipset hit with the Yorkfield and Wolfdale processors. We will have Wolfdale results this weekend as our retail processors finally arrive tomorrow but for now we have a couple of interesting QX9650 results. We hooked up our Boreas cooler from CoolIT Systems, installed 8GB of OCZ's new PC2-6400 Reaper CL4, inserted two MSI 8800GTS-512 cards in SLI, and then decided to find the sweet spot when clocking this board under Vista 64 Ultimate. Although our QX9650 was happy running at a final (extremely stable) 468FSB rate, the performance was not up to par with ASUS's excellent X48 based Rampage Formula. The main reason being we had to really loosen up memory timings (5-5-4-12) with the 0901 BIOS to run in Sync mode at DDR2-936 plus we hit a strap setting that was hindering performance, basically a double whammy to system performance.

Not being ones that are really impressed with high FSB rates as they typically induce high memory controller latencies with reduced throughput, we decided to figure out the best performance on this board with our component selections. We did not have to go to far down the FSB ladder as 450FSB (1800 QDR) turned out to be the sweet spot with the QX9650 and our 8GB memory selection.

ASUS Striker II Formula - QX9650 at 10x450


ASUS Striker II Formula - QX9650 at 9x450


In our first screenshot, we able to hit 4.5GHz at a 10x450FSB setting that maxed out our CPU ceiling without going nuts with VCore. Our QX9650 is the runt of the litter and requires anywhere from 1.4250V to 1.4500V real voltage to hit 4.5GHz and remain stable. The problem is that running these voltages on the 45nm processors usually result in throttling conditions unless the CPU is kept chilled, even then, we have still noticed core 3 throttling or dropping out completely under heavy loads around 4.55GHz with our sample.

We had to set VCore to 1.525V in the BIOS to hit our 1.44V target range for stability on this board. Temperatures were not a problem with the Boreas cooler as idle temps were around 10C with load temps hitting 19C~23C. Our memory was run in Sync mode at DDR2-900 with 4-4-3-12 settings and tRD set to 6, resulting in very good memory throughput results and latency at 45.6ns, which is just slightly slower than our OCZ Flex9600 2GB results at 44.7ns in off-line testing.

We were impressed with these settings as they equaled or were just a couple of percent off our upcoming X48 results. However, knowing that tRD settings on this board can be improved at this FSB setting, we decided to fine tune the memory and tRD options to see if we could reduce latencies even further while keeping throughput at the same levels. We just could not reduce our tRD settings below six at 10x450. We have noticed the QX9650/780i or QX9650/X48 combinations behave a little differently when the CPU exceeds 4GHz as the stress on the memory controllers creates several problems when trying to setup the board with low tRD values, high FSB rates, and tight memory timings. Kris will be detailing out tRD (read delay) and how to properly setup the MCH in an article tomorrow that will explain in detail why FSB rates should not be used to justify if a board is good or not.

In the meantime, by reducing our processor multiplier to 9 while keeping a 450FSB for a final 4.05GHz setting (VCore dropped to 1.50V with 1.425V real), we were able to reduce tRD to 4 by slightly increasing our memory timings to 4-4-4-15. This also required us to increase tRC to 26 and tRFC to 48 for stability. Our end results are remarkable for an 8GB memory configuration with latencies dropping to 37.9ns while read rates dropped a percent but write and copy speeds were improved even though we had a 500MHz disparity in CPU speeds. Once again, we see that by adjusting tRD to improve chipset latencies and throughput that our memory performance can be affected dramatically at times.

What does this all mean in the real world, generally you can expect an improvement in memory sensitive applications up to a few percent (3%~7% on average). These improvements are usually important for benchmark results, but the bottom line is that you can properly tune a system for "best" performance without having to run excessive FSB/voltage rates, memory speeds, or spending additional money on low latency memory. We will have application performance benchmarks available in the mainboard review, but for now, we can equal the performance of the X48 chipset in most situations with the 780i when using a 45nm processor.

Does this mean the 780i is a better chipset, not really in our opinion, but if you have a need for SLI you will not be at a disadvantage when it comes to using a 45nm processor on a NVIDIA platform now. On a side note, our next blog update will show how well a $95 650i based board from ASRock competes with the $300 780i boards with the QX9650 and it also runs the QX9770 just fine, something we are having problems with the 780i boards doing correctly right now. However, to be fair, ASUS did provide a new BIOS this week for the Striker II board that has improved QX9770 stability greatly and NVIDIA did not qualify this chipset for the 1600FSB processors. In the meantime, ASUS did a wonderful job in updating the Striker series, we just need more time with it before coming to a final conclusion.

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  • belgarath406 - Wednesday, March 12, 2008 - link

    Hi Gary,
    Thanks for the great review, I bought my new system based on the hardware you used for this test setup, Asus striker ii formula, Inte QX9650 and 8Gb OCZ.

    I used to be an accomplished overclocker using TEC and water-cooling, but this was back in the day when getting an AMD K6-2 450 up to 570MHz was a great accomplishment.

    I have been unable to increase the FSB of the striker ii formula even by only 10MHz, it doesn't boot.
    If I up the multiplier, I can go up to 12x with just aircooling.

    Did you increase the voltages of the NB, SB, PCI-E and MEM to get it up to 450?

    Belgarath
    Reply
  • enigma1997 - Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - link

    This is only a preview mate (note it's a blog post), surely there will be a major article coming soon :) Reply
  • Johnbear007 - Monday, January 28, 2008 - link

    I unfortunately have to agree with previous comment ors. The articles have gotten worse the last year or so. They go ridiculously in depth in some areas, and skim the rest of the market. I really think that review more products would be nice rather than spending such an exhaustive effort on just a few. MORE roundups please, and MUCH more often.... Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - link

    Kris and I joined Gary back in October. After an initial tryout and settling in period, it has been decided that we will be tackling the motherboard reviews from 2 fronts. Gary will concentrate on the mainstream and budget solutions. While Kris and I will focus on some of the mid-range and top-end performance motherboards. This will help to balance the motherboard section.

    Only the top-end performance boards or those falling into the outstanding 'gem' category will get full depth guides etc. The rest of the board will be tackled in a standard review fashion.

    regards
    Raja
    Reply
  • FireTech - Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - link

    Thanks Gary & Raja for your responses.
    Looking forward to the full reviews guys but also liking these blog 'tasters' too.
    Reply
  • cheetah2k - Sunday, January 27, 2008 - link

    It would be nice to see a 780i board comparison, not just 1 780i Asus board pitted against intel X38 and X48 chipsets in the review.

    I personally own an XFX 780i board, and to be honest its simply awesome. I have achieved a stable overclock my Q6600 to 4.05Ghz at 1800Mhz QDR FSB, and at only 1.475v on CPU. I also run this in conjunction with 2 x XFX 8800GTX cards, 2Gb of OCZ PC2-9600 memory clocked at 1260Mhz, and 3dmark06 scores of just a little over 21k. I am using a coolit Freezone for CPU cooling.

    So pleae Anandtech, please give us a wholesome review, not just a skimmed off the top one.

    Thanks
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Monday, January 28, 2008 - link

    We will be comparing the ASUS 780i boards (two of them) , and the EVGA 780i (reference design, which by the way failed already) against a couple of the X38/X48 boards, P35, and 680i shortly. Kris and Raja are working on the roundup now. This was a blog post to indicate some early results with the QX9650. Reply
  • Giacomo - Thursday, January 31, 2008 - link

    This is great, I'll be waiting for the roundup. Just a side request: if you happen to put a HD3870 X2 card on those motherboards, could you briefly tell us the performance differences between "3870X2 on nForce" and "3870X2 on Intel" (maybe as a blog comment if not in the article itself), please?

    This is interesting, in my opinion, because I've seen that the greatest 3870X2 results have come from reviews like yours, in which the card has been used on nFORCE chipsets... How funny. I'd just like to have a feedback on this (yes, I'm building a new a system, I like the 3870HD, and I have to figure out which motherboard to choose, between a Rampage Formula and an eVGA 780i SLI...).

    Kind regards,
    Giacomo
    Reply
  • 4Linux - Sunday, January 27, 2008 - link

    Me thinks the reviewer might be getting to close to the reviewed. Reply
  • tziady - Tuesday, December 16, 2014 - link

    Hello;

    Great article. I am putting together a machine with similar specs. A bit on the old side, now a days, but I was wondering could one use a M.2 SSD card with this motherboard?

    Thanks,
    Tamer
    Reply

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