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Iwill MPX2 Motherboard review


 

Is the MPX2 designed for overclockers?

 

Iwill publicly aim their new dual-AMD motherboard at 'workstation' through to 'entry-level server' markets . . . but:

Anyone with two brain-cells - or Athlon's - to rub together will see from the specification & our comments alongside that the MPX2 was designed to appeal to those wishing to squeeze every last MHz from their CPU's:

Chipset AMD 768/762 'B2'-step southbridge: USB v1.1 works
PCI-slots 2 x 64-bit/66MHz; 4 x 32-bit/33MHz No PCI-latency adjust/INT assignment
Clock-generator ICS 94225AF 100-250MHz in 1MHz soft-BIOS steps
Dividers 1:3 [100MHz FSB] & 1:4 [133FSB] only Jumper-set: not a '333' platform
CPU's & Multipliers [officially] AMD MP dual; MP, XP, & Morgan Duron single CPU in primary socket Works dual with uncut L5 XP's; [limited] multiplier adjust for MP's in BIOS
AGP AGP Pro, 4x, & 2x Largest cards fit
Socket 462 waterblock-friendly [large] mount-holes; limited room along lug-axis Alpha 8045 [80mm sq.] does not fit; maximum fansinks 68mm along lugs
VIO jumper-settings for +5% & +10% Over-volting of DDR to 2.75v
Power [1] EPS12V or ATX 2.03: at least 200W RMS +3.3v/+5v combined recommended Dual-mode sockets: ATX 20-pin & 8-pin plugs do not latch in place
Power [2] 3-phase to CPU's Mosfets under 'L'-shaped heatsink
DDR 4 x slots: max 3 x 1Gb + 1 x 0.5Gb Registered unregistered DDR works: max 2 x 1Gb
Onboard 2 x ATA 100 IDE, floppy, front USB 1.1; IRDA  
Backplane 2 x USB v 1.1; 2 x serial, LPT, 2 x PS2 onboard USB
Size 292 x 305mm: ATX-E; 4 rows mount-holes very deep: will not fit many or most midi-cases
BIOS Award/Phoenix 2Mb: versions tested a) MPX20509.bin; b) MPX20523.bin c) mpx21206.bin BIOS-Saviour RD1-LPC2 fits/works

The MPX2's Overclocking tools:  

A

 clockgenerator 'support' for FSB frequency adjust in 1MHz steps from 100>132 & 133>250MHz

BIOS
B

 multiplier adjustment from 5.5>15x in 0.5x steps

BIOS
C

 vcore adjustment up to 1.85v in 0.025v steps

BIOS
D

 I/3 [100FSB] & 1/4 [133FSB] FSB/PCI dividers

jumper
E

 VIO [+3.3v & +2.5v] motherboard voltage adjustment - +5% & +10%

jumper

Of the above; C & E are there to stabilise things [given adequate cooling] when pushing CPU's & DDR to or over their comfortable limits.

The others look like a huge luxury of choices, don't they? . . . 100>250MHz . . . 5.5>15 multipliers . . . .  . . but it all comes down to the PCI-buses: if kept within the usual limits of +10% of standard . . 

X  [PCI-bus] = A x D = 33.3>37 MHz [32-bit] - or 60-74MHz [64-bit]
 . . . So the MPX2 reality of the big number: CPU-frequency . . . 
Z  [CPU-frequency] = A x B = (X/D) x B = (33.3>37/D) x B
D1 (jumpered to 100FSB)x B = 100>111 x (multiplier[s] available)
D2 (jumpered to 133FSB)x B = 133>148 x (multiplier[s] available) 

 . . so all that these dreary numbers & symbols demonstrate is that the overclocking potential of any data-critical system based on the MPX2 is crucially multiplier-bound. 

If Iwill enable the advertised adjustment of CPU multipliers in 0.5x steps [= 66MHz steps at standard FSB], then even data-critical systems can perhaps indulge in a little quiet 'clocking.

How many MPX2 multipliers? 

Iwill's first publicly released BIOS' [dated 12th June 2002] allows no multiplier adjustment at all for those with Athlon MP CPU's or L1-unlocked XP's.

The beta BIOS before this [dated 23rd May 2002] allowed very limited multiplier adjustment, with the multipliers available strangely inconsistent from MP model to model: our pair of 1.2GHz MP's had a choice of the whole-number 7x, 9x [default], & 11x; while a pair of '1800+' MP's was reported to have a choice between 11x & 11.5x [default] only.

Since the MPX2 is multiplier-bound [as a 'clocking server-board], we would recommend waiting to see if Iwill can sort out the MPX2's BIOS before buying: it's a not entirely trivial problem for Iwill, since the recent extension of Athlon multipliers to 15x uses an extra L10 'bridge' to sort the pairs. 

If Iwill are unable to provide working multiplier-adjust; the MPX2 is less desirable as a serious work-platform [with a bit of safe tweaking allowed]; but will remain a good 'clocking platform.

MPX2 Dividers:

Using a VICS/Ioss RD2 Pro PCI Bus analyser - its readout of PCI-bus speed is to the mid-left of the picture below - we confirmed the MPX2 has only the 1:4 divider from 133MHz on up. This device links by cable to a special PCI-card with an onboard processor, crystal, & Cypress bus control PLD, so gives an independent hardware reading of PCI-bus frequency. 

As you see; at 137MHz FSB, the 32-bit PCI-bus is at 34.2MHz & the 64-bit bus at 68.4MHz:

This table shows how things might pan out on the MPX2 for a pair of MP CPU's being kept 24/7 stable at around 1200 MHz; with the user maximising memory bandwidth by increasing the FSB-frequency:

multiplier speed FSB Divider 32-bit/33MHz PCI 64-bit/66 PCI PCI-spec %
12 1200 100 1:3 33.3 66.7 +0
11.5 1207 105 1:3 35 70 +5
11 1199 109 1:3 36.3 72.7 +9
10.5 1197 114 1:3 38 76 +14
10 1200 120 1:3 40 80 +20
9.5 1197 126 1:3 42 84 +26
9 1188 132 1:3 44 88 +32
9 1200 133 1:4 33.3 66.7 +0
8.5 1198.5 141 1:4 35.25 70.5 +6
8 1200 150 1:4 37.5 75 +12.5
7.5 1200 160 1:4 40 80 +20
7 1197 171 1:4 42.75 85.5 +28
6.5 1202.5 185 1:4 46.25 92.5 +39
6 1200 200 1:4 50 100 +50
5.5 1199 218 1:4 54.5 109 +63.5

The obvious problem with the MPX2 is that it's missing one vital tool: a 1:5 [or even a 1:6] divider. With these, the table might read . . . . 

multiplier speed fsb divider 32-bit/33MHz 64-bit/66MHz PCI-spec %
7.5 1200 160 1:5 32 64 -4
7 1197 171 1:5 34.2 68.4 +2.5
6.5 1202.5 185 1:6 30.8 61.6 -7.5
6 1200 200 1:6 33.3 66.7 +0
5.5 1199 218 1:6 36.3 72.7 +9

Without dividers higher than 1:4, a serious workstation or entry-level server based on the MPX2 is limited by sanity & data-security to an absolute maximum FSB below 150Mhz - it simply doesn't matter whether or not the thing will run at FSB's higher than this.

Balls-out overclockers, & users of low-end machines with known-durable IDE hard disks [with no valuable data on 'em] might amuse themselves with trying for FSB's of 160MHz or greater; but the markets Iwill publicly target for the MPX2 have at most 17Mhz of the advertised '133>250' to play with.

We found the MPX2 to be an easy 'clocker up to the low 170'sMHz FSB - at 167FSB, as you see, the PCI-bus is at 41.7MHz:

Does the XP work?

Yes, unlocked XP's work fine, & are recognised & work as MP's.

We have read an unconfirmed report that 'L5-locked' XP's will work SMP after a warm reboot - or a restart from the OS if they've already registered as MP's: the knack is to cold-boot, then immediately before the first POST screen to do a hard reboot [ie press the 'reset' button]

Otherwise, on a normal cold boot, only the primary CPU will be recognised [as an XP].

 

Wottle she do then?

The MPX2 is a superb overclocking motherboard: stable, simple, & with fine-grained adjustment through combinations of the 1MHz FSB-stepping, & [theoretically] the 0.5x multiplier adjustments.

Our 'workstation' system - with 2 x '1700+' XP's - ran easily up to 155MHz, & is 24/7 stable at 11x 149FSB [1639MHz]:

Our 'server' system - with 2 x 1.2GHz MP's - settled down to a dull, dreary, responsible, 24/7 stable overclock of 11x 137FSB [1507MHz].

We stripped out one system [the 'server' - funnily enough] down to a 64-bit/66MHz SCSI-HBA in a 32-bit slot controlling a single 10K rpm U3W SCSI-HD - we knew this card would tolerate PCI-speeds up to to 78MHz.

This system ran Windows 2000 with every appearance of stability at 167MHz FSB; where we took a range of benchmarks. It continued to run calmly up into the low 170's; but would not run stably at 175MHz FSB. We didn't max out the VIO &/or vcore settings to press on further.

There seems no reason to doubt that a dedicated overclockers' MPX2, with active cooling, could attempt 200MHz FSB.

This performance is without rival among MPX-chipset motherboards, & is a tribute to Iwill's skill in design, careful selection of quality components, & quality-control in manufacture.

'stable' is a vague & overused term: we have made available for download encrypted certificates issued through use of 'CPU Stability Test v5' for some speeds we hold to be 24/7 stable. Interestingly, our 'workstation' system - certified 'stable' at 150MHz, would not complete the 'Sciencemark_MP' benchmark at this speed - though it would do so repeatedly at 149FSB/1639MHz. You may have higher - or lower - standards for stability & will very properly treat our opinions with care.
If you overdo things through the soft-BIOS so the MPX2 will not POST, an undocumented escape to force standard [133MHz] FSB is to hold down the 'insert' key while powering-on. This avoids having to clear the CMOS.

copyright Stephen Hoar  and Graham Demaline June 2002 for www.burningissues.net - all rights reserved

 

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