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EPoX 8RDA+ - Overclocking

As everyone knows theory and practice can be two very different things and there is another expression which also might come to mind; "You can talk the talk but can you walk the walk?". It has happened more than once that you get negatively surprised after having stared at specifications and numbers when reality proves to be quite different. Overclocking is something that often needs to be analyzed through the different BIOS settings which exist since the days of the "jumper" are long since past. This isn't in any way wrong as most motherboards, which offer rich BIOS settings for optimizing of the system, can also be good overclockers. But it isn't always right and since overclocking has become such a large phenomenon in the PC market it seems to be an important aspect today. And this is of course another reason for us to look closer at overclocking, if not only to satisfy our own curiosity. ;)

EPoX 8RDA+ is in every aspect a motherboard for enthusiasts and already when we looked at the BIOS settings we saw that EPoX really want to give the users good opportunities to overclock. There is however a couple of things which EPoX missed in our opinion but we already wrote about that in the BIOS section of the review.

To a great extent we direct ourselves, during the overclocking tests, to FSB-overclocking. During pure CPU overclocking you can for most of the time trust the settings of the BIOS for CPU voltage but it also greatly depends on which processor you get.
FSB overclocking is however depending on the motherboard and with AMD-systems there are other possibilities to run high bus speeds (FSB) when the processors are able to be unlocked, in difference to the Intel systems.

Even if we to a great extent direct ourselves to achievable FSB frequency's at the overclocking tests we also have results from CPU overclocking where we push both the processor and the motherboard to the limit.

However we start with the FSB overclocking and during all overclocking tests we have used an AthlonXP 1700+ with Thoroughbred B-stepping (JUICB 0251). This CPU is like most T-Bred B-stepped CPU's unlocked from the factory which makes FSB overclocking much easier. We have seen many different repports about EPoX 8RDA+ and it's FSB overclocking which made our tests very interesting. It seems as if the nForce2 north bridge (SPP) varies greatly in quality and unfortunately we had undoubtedly gotten one of lesser quality.

With synchronized bus speeds between FSB and memory we managed to get the system stable at 192MHz FSB which isn't very impressive if you look at other reports on the web. We however are far from alone not reaching the wondrous 200MHz FSB limit. Even though many users have gotten FSB frequency's up to 210MHz+ without modifications.
During our inspection of the motherboard we saw that the north bridge was based on the A2 stepping which can add to the lesser overclocking potential as the A3 stepping is supposed to be a bit better. But probably there has been a great deal of bad luck rendering us unable to achieve higher FSB frequency's. It's too bad that luck makes such a big difference even with motherboards during overclocking, making the grades even harder to decide.

With asynchronous bus speeds (Memory = 83% of FSB) we managed much better and could press the motherboard up to 225MHz FSB which proves that the north bridge clearly gets relieved when the memory opperates at a lower bus speed than the processor. However we can affirm that it isn't due to the memory as it can manage over 230MHz on this motherboard with asynchronous frequency's.

The last test we did was a full feathered overclocking test where both the motherboard and the processor was pushed to their limit. With the help of a ThermalTake Volcano 7+ and 2.125v we managed to reach quite a respectable overclockning even on the test system's CPU.

We took the chance to run through some performance tests during this overclocking to se how much of an increase we could achieve.

AthlonXP 1700+ (1.46GHz) @ 2.2GHz (2.125v)
2 x 256MB Corsair TWINX3200 @ DDR384 (5-2-2-2)
GeForce 4 Ti4200 128MB @ 270/570Mhz

We see a clear increase of performance and this in spite of the video card which in 3Dmark2001 becomes a noticible bottleneck.

EPoX 8RDA+ isn't unfamilar with overclocking in any way. Just as we are used to when it comes to EPoX's products there are good overclocking possibilities and it isn't hard to see this in our results. If we begin with the negative parts the nForce2's north bridge lies behind a lot of these. First of all EPoX doesn't give the user any possibility to change the chipset voltage which could have increased the overclocking potential a great deal. There are however very few nForce2 motherboard on the market at this time that offers this feature. The voltage for the memory is also a bit low, 2.9v is more than what most nForce2 motherboards offer but we would gladly have seen possibilities up to 3.2v as in Chaintech 7NJS Zenith's case. The biggest problem otherwise is the nice but oh so inefficient chipset cooler which at high FSB-speeds gets very hot. An active cooler had been preferable and if you're going to invest in high FSB-speeds we think that this is something to take care of directly.

Except for these relatively small details there is yet great potential for overclocking with EPoX 8RDA+. If we begin with the FSB overclocking it is good enough, 192MHz was the roof we reached, but according to other reports on the web it seems to differ a great deal board to board, so higher frequency's are probably not impossible with some luck. The problem with high FSB frequency's seems to be the combination between memory bus and processor bus which holds back the motherboard to some extent. We recommend that you use synchronized speeds for optimum performance, but it doesn't harm to experiment.

During pure processor overclocking EPoX 8RDA+ is an outstanding card with the possibility for high voltages directly in the bios. During our final overclocking we increased the voltage up to 2.125v and this really was the limit of what is achievable when it comes to air cooling but we actually had no problems with high temperatures during our tests. If we had been limited to 1.85v as with most other motherboards the results would have been very different and it is a clear advantage to have such a high voltage for the processor, especially for those with efficient cooling.
EPoX 8RDA+ is one of the best nForce2 motherboards for overclocking but there are a few flaws which can be fixed.

Here the theoretical overclocking potential of the motherboard is valued through the use of practical tests.

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