Having satisfied myself that the AI7 was stable and reliable under normal conditions I decided to see how well it overclocked. Overclocking isn’t something TrustedReviews usually spends a lot of time investigating but in this case the product warranted it.
With my trusty 2.4C primed and ready I initially dialled in a Front Side Bus frequency of 250MHz and booted Windows with no problems at all. From here it was a case of increasing the FSB in increments of 5MHz at a time, each with a quick run of HotCPU to test for stability, before I finally hit a ceiling at 275MHz. For the record that’s 3.3GHz at stock voltage and using the stock cooler.
I did increase the voltage to see if I could progress further but to no avail, not that I’m complaining. One thing that concerned me was that I had to run the FSB/memory at 1:1. I tried to set both 5:4 and 3:2 and in both cases the board failed to POST. A 1:1 ratio does obviously give better performance but not everybody has high quality Corsair memory available them like I did.
Considering I was able to coax such high frequencies from the installed Corsair memory it seems odd that I wasn’t able to get anywhere with the BIOS based Game Accelerator function. This is almost certainly due to the fact that the memory I used is optimised for high frequencies at relaxed timings rather than low latency performance.
A word of warning concerning the OC Guru application is that it doesn’t always work. The slider slides to the required frequency, the “apply” button pretends to apply, even CPUID reports that the selected FSB has been accepted, but both my benchmark results and the reported CPU temperatures proved that very often the FSB simply hadn’t budged. The only way I could be sure I was getting the FSB I wanted was to select it in the BIOS.
I’ve had this board on test for about a week now and in all honesty I’m thoroughly impressed. I should point out at this stage that I’m not one of the hoards of people who see the Abit name and swoon having had more than my share of problems with Abit motherboards in the past. However, the AI7 is aggressively priced, well thought out, fast out of the box and even faster when overclocked, and it overclocks to excess.
With its accompanying µGuru related apps and innovative BlackBox function the AI7 has something to offer users at every level of competence and most levels of bank balance, and it’s really quite a challenge to find anything worthwhile to moan about. My main gripe is probably with the OC Guru software, which clearly needs a few gremlins working out yet.
The only real reminders that this is a budget motherboard are the lack of an Intel Gigabit Ethernet adapter and advanced RAID options which are saved for the costlier AI7-G. But otherwise you may need to slap a sticker on the front of your PC to keep reminding yourself how little you paid for the motherboard.
With its new power circuit designed to cope with the demands of the recently launched Prescott, which by the way it runs quite happily, this is quite an exceptional piece of hardware that’s worthy of any shortlist.