Gladiator BIOS and Overclocking
Foxconn designed this board for the overclocking crowd, so its BIOS better be fully featured. The Gladiator BIOS is Foxconn’s proprietary name for the tweaking controls section. Let’s take a look at the features Foxconn infused in their first overclocking BIOS.
In the main section of the overclocking section, there are CPU and board frequency settings in BIOS, as well as menus for move control. As with any competent overclocking motherboard, CPU Ratio (FSB Multiplier), CPU Clock (FSB), PCI Express and PCI frequencies can be altered far above or below any CPU’s maximum. Foxconn’s BIOS uses ratios to determine the CPU’s FSB speed in relation to the memory speed. If one has low rated memory, this can be a detriment to overclocking. The lowest ratio of FSB:RAM is 1:2. If you have a low multiplier CPU with a high initial FSB (current G0 Core 2 Duos) and only average memory, you might run out the memory way before the motherboard and CPU are ready to stop. Other motherboards allow RAM and FSB to run independently of each other, so they do not interfere with each other. We’ll discuss this concept with some numbers in a bit.
Foxconn has a special feature called OverClocks Gear. This can automatically overclock the entire system by up to 75%. This is a very unreliable method to overclock, as the board sets predetermined values that may only work for a handful of CPUs. This method is generally used by those who do not want the highest overclock by tweaking, or don’t know how to overclock. Foxconn has a BIOS recovery feature in case some settings don’t work, so we don’t see why even inexperienced users should use the auto-overclock feature. OverClocks Gear can also save 4 user defined configurations, which is great if one doesn’t always keep their CPU overclocked, or uses multiple CPUs on the same board. Other than Foxconn, only DFI has this feature.
The memory timings and voltage sections are very extensive. They allow the user to control almost every setting timing and voltage on the motherboard. Here are the voltage ranges for the Gladiator BIOS:
All these ranges are way above normal limits, so this is the area where one should be cautious when increasing values. For example, performance DDR2 RAM runs at about 2.2-2.3V, while the MARS can take RAM up to 3.365V, which could easily annihilate the memory chips in a fraction of a second. Likewise, you need some hefty cooling on the CPU to run it at the maximum 1.600V, especially with the new 45nm CPUS that default at ~1.100V.
We used a Core 2 Duo E6550 with 2GB OCZ PC2-6400 rated 4-4-4-12 at 1.9V. As you can see, our CPU is high FSB (333MHz), low multiplier (7x), and our memory is rated at “only” 400MHz (800MHz DDR2). This is a very potent setup actually, especially when overclocked. We could have run into issues with Foxconn’s ratio setup, but the memory was compliant enough to max out the CPU. The DDR2-800 overclocked to 503MHz, while the CPU could only reach 480MHz. For some the memory may not be enough, and it will reduce the potential of your CPU. You’d need either a motherboard that runs FSB and memory clocks async, or faster memory. Fortunately for us, this didn’t happen.
To max out the motherboard, we had to change memory because the board could clock beyond what our OCZ could. We used 1GB of Corsair PC2-1066 (533MHz) which tops out at around 560MHz. The Foxconn board hit a massive 538MHz, 3MHz less than the ASUS P5K Deluxe, the best overclocking board we’ve tested thus far. This should be more than enough for any Core 2 CPU today.