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ASUS Z97-DELUXE Motherboard Performance Review

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Overclocking the Z97-DELUXE

One potential problem for new owners is the sheer number of overclocking mechanisms ASUS provides. I count no fewer than six different ways to overclock (and I may have missed one):

  • Switches on the motherboard
  • EZ Tuning Wizard in the BIOS
  • Auto tuning in the BIOS
  • Manual tuning in the BIOS
  • Auto tuning using AI Suite 3
  • Manual tuning using AI Suite 3

Which should you select? It’s not an obvious choice, especially if you’re not an experienced overclocker. Heck, it’s not an obvious choice to me and I am an experienced overclocker! Basically, these six methods fall into one of three categories:

  1. Apply a fixed, pre-defined overclock: motherboard switches, EZ Tuning Wizard in the BIOS
  2. “Tune” an overclock by changing settings, running a stress test, and looping until the system crashes: Auto tuning in the BIOS or AI Suite 3
  3. Completely manual operation

If you’re a novice, first consider the switches on the motherboard. The Z97-DELUXE introduces a new switch that you should always set to On: asus_z97_deluxe_xmp_switch Setting the EZ XMP switch to “On” will tell the system to automatically use the XMP profile in your memory DIMMs (if they have one). This is the Intel-defined Extreme Memory Profile that the memory vendor guarantees the memory will run at, typically with faster clock speed and tighter timings than the defaults. Since your memory’s guaranteed to work with its built-in XMP profile, there’s no reason not to leave this switch on permanently– if your memory has no XMP profile, there’s no effect. Next on the motherboard is the TPU switch, which gained a second position in ASUS’ previous-generation Z87 motherboards. asus_z97_deluxe_tpu_switch Setting this switch to position 1 will apply a fixed, rather conservative, overclock to the CPU using multiplier adjustment. Setting it to position II will apply both BCLK/strap and multiplier adjustments. If you’re not looking to get the ultimate performance from your rig, the motherboard switches might be as far as you want to go. Really, everybody should use them, because free performance. But if you’re an enthusiast who really wants to see what your particular slice of Haswell goodness can really do, not just what ASUS is sure will work with all 4700K processors, you can take it a little further. I’m going to use the automated tuning feature built into the latest version of ASUS’ AI Suite Windows utility, and compare its results with the best I can do manually– which I already know from much previous testing! Here are the specs for the test system: CPU: Intel Core i7-4770K (Haswell) Memory: Kingston HyperX DDR3, 2x4GB, 2133mHz, 11-12-11-30 Cooler: Thermaltake Silver Arrow Video: NVIDIA GTX580 reference card Here are the settings that change with various overclocking techniques: I checked at stock (using the motherboard defaults), with the TPU switch set to position 1 and position 2; after an AI Suite 3 auto-tune, and my manual tune. In all cases the memory was running at its XMP spec as shown above.

Strap Power Phase Load Line Calibration 1 core 2 cores 3 cores 4 cores CPU Voltage Highest Clock
Stock 100mHz Optimized Level 2 39x 39x 39x 39x 1.27v 3900mHz
TPU 1 100Mhz Extreme Level 8 43x 43x 42x 41x 1.30v 4300mHz
TPU 2 125Mhz Extreme Level 8 34x 34x 34x 34x 1.17v 4250mHz
Auto Tune 100Mhz Extreme Level 8 44x 44x 43x 43x 1.31v 4400mHz
Manual Tune 100Mhz Extreme Level 8 45x 45x 45x 45x 1.35v 4500mHz

Now, what’s interesting here is that the settings for stock, TPU 1 and 2, and the settings reached by AI Suite’s “auto tune” feature are all identical to the settings I found when I tested the ASUS Z87 Deluxe Dual motherboard last year. That implies that ASUS has taken their various tuning and tweaking technologies about as far as they can go…for now.

This pre-release version of AI Suite 3 had its problems, though. Although the 5-Way Optimization process worked perfectly, AI Suite 3 showed incorrect values for the strap, multiplier, and final CPU speed, as well as always informing me that I had increased performance by “000%”.

asus_z97_deluxe_dip1_auto_tuning_report

Let’s see how the various settings perform in the next section.


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5 comments

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  1. RealNeil

    Very expensive buying into this platform. My Z87 board is looking good enough to me at the moment. I’ll wait for something drastic by way of new technology before I buy again.

  2. David Ramsey

    As I said in my review: “If you have a Z87 or even a Z77 based motherboard, there’s little compelling reason to upgrade.”

    About the only reason I could see jumping to a Z97 system is if you had a need for the SATA Express support.

  3. SH

    I have the Z97 Pro. Do I need to turn the switches on the motherboard off in order to use the Asus AI Suite auto tune feature?

  4. David Ramsey

    No. My understanding is that the switches are read at power-on by the BIOS, but if you’ve made subsequent modifications either manually or via ASUS’ auto-tune utilities, those will take precedence.

    1. SH

      Thank you for your reply, I always got an overclocking error whenever I tried to overclock using software with the switches on, I will be trying with the switches off and find out if I have a bad board or RAM. I’ll post my results.

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