Foxconn's X48 based Black Ops motherboard arrived for testing yesterday morning and we got straight to work. Aimed at the extreme benchmarking enthusiast, the board was released earlier this year to Foxconn's own Quantum Force Scholars, a team of 20 or so benchmarking guru's sponsored by Foxconn to provide feedback and support for their upcoming products.

The motherboard bundle is the most comprehensive and out on a limb we have ever seen, providing air, water and dry ice cooling options for the Northbridge and also going so far as to provide 2 potentiometers for users who wish to apply voltage modifications to their equipment.That's not all, a plexiglass benchmarking 'table' is also bundled - all adding up to promote 'extreme use'.
The Black Ops is already in market at selected retailers priced at an expensive $400 or so (that's not a typo). Some will feel this is too much, though die hard overclocking fans seem to be willing to part with the dollars to obtain their fix of speed. Make no mistake, this motherboard is about drag racing, so is best used and reviewed by those of us who have extreme cooling possibilities at hand. However, the board is finding it's way into the hands of more 'regular' users also and some are finding initial setup a little challenging.
We have noticed users are complaining that high FSB speeds with the Wolfdale processors (In excess of 485 FSB) proving difficult to get fully stable so we decided to have a try ourselves. Needless to say, the BIOS has a very steep learning curve and certainly requires judicious amounts of time to master for full application stability. There are a number of potential improvements we have listed to help with the process of overclocking on this board and we are eager to pass our findings onwards to Foxconn's tech department. A full board review and details will follow, for now, we'll attach a few screenshots of our BIOS settings below and a quick Prime95 torture test run screenshot so that users can experiment with these settings at their own leisure.
Cellshock's 1866MHz 2x1GB kit was used our testing in the white colored memory slots. We used a Thermalright Ultra 120 CPU cooler for our E8500 processor and a 120mm fan to cool the Northbridge. Power for the rig was provided by an 'overkill' PCP&C 1200W PSU.
First up are the memory options, the board is setup very, very tight. Although the default settings are perfect for benchmarking saving the user a lot of time, for absolute stability in 100% CPU load tests we have to set most of them manually. We won't go into full details here but the screenshots below will give users who have the board an idea of some of the ranges we used for 8X500FSB stable.
There is obvious leeway in settings like tRFC to go tighter, we used an SPD default setting just to get the ball rolling here. tWR may need a setting of 24 for those of you who love longer runs of Prime. Command Per Clock is actually inactive on the 5/30 BIOS, although 2T is set, all operating system based software shows a 1N command rate which is also backed up by an Everest memory access latency of around 44.7ns.
Moving on, we get to the settings that have probably perplexed most users with this board, the ranges are not very intuitive as they stand - we prefer actual picoseconds scales for clock skews. Still, the settings are functional and a little poking around got us to the following combination of stable settings;
Using our 1GB modules Clock DLL settles between -1 and -2, Ctrl DLL between +1 and +2, while Command DLL prefers -2. These settings are module and board specific and will need individual tuning. If the settings are not within range the board will not boot from BIOS or will throw a dreaded BSOD during boot or stability testing. Clock skew theory application will be explained thoroughly in an upcoming article.
Finally we take a peek at the voltages used, of note here is the GTL settings which are in the region of 63% for the E8400/E8500 type processors (please note VTT is 1.26V real measured on the board when you set 1.35V in BIOS);
and finally a little fruit from all the labor thus far 8x500FSB stable; 

That's all for now, a full review of the Black Ops will follow up after the Gigabyte X48 DDR2 motherboard article which is due next. Happy overclocking!


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