It should be said that on the grand scale of everything, I’m relatively new to the world of performance hardware. Some of the guys on the team have been into PC hardware and modding since the late 1500s and a few even longer than that. I got my first PC when I was 18 (about 8 years ago now) and it took a couple of years before I became interested in modding and overclocking.
This post is all about what makes a classic overclocking motherboard, and I feel I ought to apologise at the outset to the old schoolers for not mentioning any classic Uberboards that date from before my day.
The first PC I ever built completely from scratch used an Asus P5W DH Deluxe Wi-Fi, a motherboard that won a Custom PC Approved award back in Issue 39’s (December 2006) labs test. I was keen to start learning how to overclock and wanted to get one that would allow me to satisfy my growing urge for tinkering with my CPU.
However, at the time I ordered all my kit, I didn’t have my copy of Custom PC to hand and couldn’t quite remember the suffix. I knew it was an Asus board with ‘P5’ in the title, so punched the digits into the eTailer website and searched away.
Two boards came up; the P5W DH Deluxe and the P5B Deluxe. Which one was it? I wanted to get it right, so investigated the specs a little. The P5W was based on Intel’s 975X chipset, while the P5B was based on Intel’s P965 chipset. Surely then the P5W DH with its higher end chipset was the one I wanted?
Wrong. It was the P5B that was the zomgwtf
overclocker. Sure, the P5W DH was okay and it got me started and lasted for a few years. But it got me thinking - why wasn’t the board with high-end chipset the better one? Despite the fact the 975X even had an ‘X’ for eXtreme, the Asus Commando and P5B with their P965 chipsets were the boards holding world records.
A couple of years later, the Asus P5K Pro was winner of the awards, kicking PCB ass and taking names. Yet again, there were more expensive motherboards out there, but none overclocked better, so that’s the one all the cool kids ordered. It's also the board that I used to build many high-end overclocked systems when I worked for Vadim computers.
You’d think that when motherboard manufacturers released their uber high-end motherboards that it would be those that were the overclocking kings. You'd think the £260 high-end model would overclock further than the £150 budget model, but as with the two examples listed above, that just often isn’t the case.
Having talked about this to various members of the team, we're still undecided as to why this is. Is there a degree of luck involved at the design stage, arising from choosing all the myriad components that make a motherboard? Is it because there are different design teams at most motherboard companies, and some are more accomplished than others? Or is there just a touch of magic involved when it comes to separating the great from the good?