NVIDIA’s AutoTuning Feature and Conclusion
As I mentioned before, the NVIDIA AutoTuning feature is a bios feature (later to be included in a new version of the NVIDIA System Utility) that tells the motherboard to overclock the processor when the processor is the bottleneck on the system. This means that running Word won’t increase your processor speed any, but running Far Cry will. The feature also limits the amount of heat that the processor can generate while overclocking in this way, and so it prevents ‘death by fire’ so to speak.
The AutoTuning is enabled by selecting a percentage overclock, in our tests we used 5% because anything over that caused the system to lock up when the overclock occurred. This means that the bios would overclock the HyperTransport and internal buses by 5%: from 200 MHz to 210 MHz. This would thereby increase the core clock to 2520 MHz and increase the HT bus to 1050 MHz as well. Doing this we did see some performance gains in DivX and MP3 encoding, but none really in the Unreal Tournament game, which is mostly GPU limited, not CPU limited.
This feature definitely has some potential to do well in the market. It does have problems however, just like any overclocking feature we have seen. The fact that my system locked up my turning on a feature supplied by the motherboard, always looks bad to a non-enthusiast user. In our tests using the FX-53 processor, the best we could get was a 5% increase in frequency; at 6% and above, when the AutoTuning feature would come on during a benchmark or game, the system would lock and I’d have to reboot.
The idea behind only overclocking when you need it is interesting, but I wonder how many end users won’t just overclock the bus to its maximum and just leave the AutoTuning feature off. If it’s stable during the games, then it should be stable in the office apps too. However, if users are concerned about keeping the heat in their system low and noise levels down, this ‘only overclock when you need it’ feature may end up being a big deal in motherboards that come to market.
The performance of the three motherboards is right on par with each other in almost all the cases, as we would expect from any motherboard for the Athlon 64 line. It is the features of each board that will help them differentiate themselves from the competition, and all three boards are setting up to do just that. I again apologize for not having the time to get into the features and bios of each motherboard, but I will do so as soon as I can when I return from Taipei and Shanghai.