ASUS’s CPU Level Up is a tool that allows for quick and easy CPU overclocking simply by enabling the feature in the board's BIOS. There are three different levels of CPU performance, each giving a little extra speed. Basically all you have to do is enter the BIOS, select your desired CPU Level Up speed and the system will reset and your overclocking work is done. The result is a boost from stock speed (Turbo enabled) of 3900Mhz to an instant 4250Mhz with no effort whatsoever.
The system was rock stable while using the CPU Level Up feature and we were able to run stress tests without any issue at up to 4.25Ghz. For reference load Vcore was at 1.283v for the auto OC above 4Ghz.
Manual overclocking was a bit of an adventure on a brand new board and a brand new platform. The basics were the same but add quad channel memory, straps, and overclockable BCLK and you have a bit of a different beast when compared to regular Sandy Bridge processors.
As per usual, we started with a CPU overclock, left the RAM at stock, and shot directly for the overclocker’s holy grail of 5Ghz. 5Ghz was reasonably easy to achieve on Sandy Bridge so it should have a good goal for SB-E right? After some time (a lot more time than SB) we were able to achieve the 5Ghz we were after but we have to admit the RIVE BIOS was a little daunting at first. It simply wasn’t as simple as setting 100 x 50 and adjusting Vcore. You have to tweak a number of other settings and voltages as well.
By Gradually reducing Vcore to the lowest stable point we ended up at 1.40v set in the BIOS and LLC at Ultra High giving load Vcore of 1.46v measured with a digital multimeter.
After finding that point of CPU stability, the next step is always to maximize the memory overclocks. First we tried our 4 x 2GB sticks of Corsair XMS3-2000 9-9-9 memory. From previous testing we knew that this wasn’t the best overclocking kit and on Sandy Bridge it ran only a little better than its stock speeds. However to our surprise (and with a LOT of tweaking) we managed to get the same kit in quad channel to over 2500Mhz at 10-11-10, far exceeding what was possible with a 2600K. We did have to push the IMC a bit with 1.35v VTT and 1.3v VCCSA but it is important to note that ASUS has included a secondary VTT that you can keep lower (300mv lower recommended) to help to avoid damaging the IMC. In the end the optimal overclock for this particular CPU and memory combo was 38 x 131.6 for 5002Mhz and 2508Mhz on the memory.
The 8GB kit was by no means optimized for SB-E since it is a year old so some users will breathe a sigh of relief that they may not have to purchase all new memory if upgrading. To put that theory to the test we tried a number of different older DDR3 kits and are pleased to report we did not have a single issue with any of the memory pictured on the Test Setup page. We can even go as far to say that you can mix and match memory to some extent but keeping chip types consistent is recommend.
Next up we threw 32GB of the brand new Corsair Vengeance 1866 9-10-9 1.5v memory into the RIVE to see how well the huge amount of memory would overclock. These kits are speced for 16GB layouts so we were optimistic to even see stock speeds when adding an extra 16GB.
The memory uses Micron 43nm die chips and is rated for 1.5v so we had an idea it would clock reasonably well at low voltages and after a bit of work and tireless tweaking of timings we ended up with a very nice overclock of 1945Mhz at 9-10-9 while remaining at 5Ghz - not bad for 32GB! We also only needed 1.5v on the memory and 1.25v VTT / 1.20v VCCSA to max out the kit so this is a great low voltage option for 24/7 operation. What do you need all of this memory for you ask? Stay tuned for the “Why Do I Want 32GB of Memory?” section.
Worried about the max multi limit on the K-series SB-E chip? Don’t worry too much since the RIVE brought us to 160 BCLK with minimal effort on the X and the K will likely be similar. BCLK at 155 or above bumps up to the 166 strap and if you have a limited multi this will give you all the headroom you need for overclocking. We should add however that it is too early to know for sure if this is an indication of how other CPUs will behave when it comes to BCLK.
We ran the RIVE for a week using the 5Ghz overclock and we are happy to report that we did not see any issues with stability. We did run into a cold boot issue once but we have been unable to duplicate that thus far so it could be a one off issue or an auto mem timing adjusting too tightly.
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