Dual Intelligent Processors Revealed
Its a tough market alright. As popular as Asus' products are, they are still up against fearce competition from competitors such as Gigabyte and MSI. These days, factors such as price, aesthetics and reliability tend to be closely matched and so it is only sheer innovation that can maintain a particular brand's competitive edge. Today, we would like to show you something that could please a rather wide audience; the Asus Dual Intelligent Processors.
I know that some of you are thinking about a single word right now; gimmick. Well not quite as there is no cheating involved here and it is exactly what it claims to be. Asus have combined their previous EPU and Turbo (TPU) based technologies and rolled it into a single feature set labelled DIP.
Everyone likes diagrams and pictures and thankfully Asus have provided us with a lovely Venn diagram to illustrate the meaning of DIP.
Some of you may be wondering why these features are known as processors - its because they are. The power saving EPU revolves around a clever device that interacts directly with your processor to manipulate its frequencies, multipliers and voltages on the basis of system load. The same applies to the TPU, which features a direct link with the System Management BUS and the processor to allow for further enhanced system tweaking and power efficiency. As stated, these devices do not require processor intervention and although they work best with the included software, it is not necessarily required! While competitors might offer similar features, Asus' offering stands out from the rest by its AI and "hard wired" nature.
For those who can't help but wonder if you have heard of DIP previously, you probably have. It has indeed been mentioned before but today we have one of many boards to formally support the technology in our labs - the Asus P7H55M/USB3.
So what does DIP mean for end users? Read on.
AI Suite II
As said previously, to make the most of Asus DIP, you must install a piece of software known as AI Suite II. Here you will be able to access all features pertaining to the EPU and TPU. To start off, we will have a look at the EPU
The Asus EPU is a stand alone unit that aims to reduce power consumption under various circumstances. Without installing AI Suite, you have access to the "Lite" features, which actively enables/disables motherboard power phases and CPU frequency/voltage on the basis of system load. After all, the less components enabled, the greater the efficiency.
With AI Suite II, you gain access to a wider feature set as the table below shows.
For many, features such as HDD and Fan spin down may seem quite petty but when your wallet is as tight as ever, those pennies will count towards the day your energy bill arrives.
The Fan Xpert portion of EPU allows you to set a variety of fan speed profiles as well. The tool calibrates itself to determine the rotation frequencies of your fans at given percentages of duty speed. Unfortunately it didn't appear to work all that well with our low speed Noctua fan.
EPU offers three presets. Max Performance, Max Power Savings and Auto. It is also possible to customise those settings by changing the extent to which your system powers down HDDs, Fans and Monitors.
The program itself is intuitive and easy to use for novices. Furthermore, the application itself has a very low memory footprint. This is all great but does it really deliver?
The results are quite self explanatory really.
To break things down, we saw a 7-9% decrease in power consumption by enabling Active Power Phase Management. After installing AI Suite II and applying the "Maximum Performance" profile, we saw near identical results.
Next up, we found a further 2W (idle) and 20W (load) decrease in power consumption by enabling Maximum Power Savings. This was achieved by dropping CPU voltages from 0.88V to 0.80V and fixing the processors frequency to 1200MHz. Obviously this is of little use when running applications that need plenty of CPU grunt, but this is a great option for day to day system usage.
Finally, the Automatic profile function offered the best of both worlds. Under this mode, we were able to leverage the EPUs ability to further drop idle voltages, while enjoying a fully fledged processor once system load peaks.
There was a minor limitation in our testing procedure in that our Radeon HD 5670 graphics card was not of the Asus variety. If it were, the EPU would have also been able to reduce GPU power consumption as well.
Impressive stuff. Let's take a look at the TPU division of DIP.
Largely speaking, the TPU deals with performance enhancement. This is split up into a small handful of tools. On this page, we will discuss some of the TPUs key features.
Turbo Unlocker is a feature that offers a degree of Turbo Boost on processors that don't otherwise have it; this applies to both Intel and AMD processors. Processors which already have a form of Turbo receive extended gains as Turbo Unlocker can boost frequencies regardless of the number of processor cores in use.
The notion of energy savings haven't been thrown out of the window either as Turbo Unlocker will adjust the system multiplier of each CPU core to ensure that a fair compromise between power efficiency and performance is met.
This feature can be used with a far more substantial tool...
TurboV - Auto & Manual Tuning
For years, it has been a requirement to overclock manually in order to achieve sensible performance gains. This is because automated overclocking tools weren't very clever...until now.
Asus claims that the TurboV's Automated Tuning utilises Artificial Intelligence to achieve impressive results. As the software talks with the stand-alone TPU device, it has the brains to automatically adjust CPU BCLK, Multiplier, DRAM Ratios, Timings and Voltages. Furthermore, it is also possible to further tweak an overclock using the manual options.
This does sound rather clever, but what exactly will it do to our Core i3 530 processor.
After initiating the tool, the system powered down and shortly rebooted and returned to the Windows 7 operating system. Within a space of two minutes, the TPU had applied a configuration of 192BCLK * 20x and a reduced memory ratio to an effective frequency of DDR3-1536. For this, the tool had assigned a voltage of ~1.275V, which is very much in line with the requirement for this particular sample.
Auto vs Manual Overclocking
OK, so you have seen how far a sophisticated Auto Overclocking tool can push a Core i3 530 CPU but can a human do any better?
Unsurprisingly the answer is yes...but the final outcome isn't that much higher. Our P7H55M sample was capable of a stonking 207MHz BCLK but armed with a Noctua NH-U9B and a fairly early i3 sample, we found our sweetspot at around the 4.10GHz mark. This is just 6% higher than the automated (and effortless) overclock.
Now here lies the big question. Is the manual overclock significantly better?
AIDA64 Ultimate Edition
The new AIDA64 (Formerly Everest...and AIDA) Ultimate Edition features the same Queen, Photoworxx and ZLib tests, but they have been optimised somewhat. Lets take it for a spin...
Some significant gains are to be had across the board from the Turbo Auto Tune feature. Marginal gains are found by our extended tweaks.
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC.
The CPU arithmetic test ascertains the processor's capabilities in terms of numerical operations. Two subtests named Dhrystone and Whetstone are carried out respectively. This is not a measure of latency and thus higher is better.
The performance increases are reciprocated by the CPU Arithmetic test. Despite a further 160MHz increase in CPU frequency the gains aren't all that significant - Automated Overclock users may rejoice.
The CPU Multimedia Test focuses on CPU based operations that may occur during multimedia based tasks. The magnitude of the score depends on the processor's ability to handle Integer, Float and Double data types
A similar story is painted with the CPU Multimedia test. At 3.84GHz, the Core i3 530 is a very strong performer...at least as far as dual cores are concerned anyway.
PCMark Vantage is Futuremark's flagship "System Wide" benchmark. With a large focus on day to day operations, it's an excellent means of judging the capability of a computer as a whole.
The Auto and Manual overclocks are closer than ever with this particular system wide benchmark. Regardless, there are some significant gains to be had either way.
Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
3DMark Vantage is Futuremarks flagship gaming oriented benchmark at present and is considered to be a demanding one at that. Our tests were carried out under the "Performance" prefix.
A similar story is told here. Once again we are still surprised by the gains that an automated tool can offer.
Let's wrap this one up.
A number of hardware enthusiasts will argue that many of these features have been achievable for years. Those who know what they are doing can undervolt their processors for lower power consumption. They can manually overclock to their hearts content and manually adjust their fan speeds accordingly. However, this train of thought completely misses the point of Dual Intelligent Processors.
Innovation is at the very centre of a well developed product. While some of the features of DIP aren't strictly new, the quality of execution is very high.
The implementation of these devices have made the concept of power consumption and system tweaking considerably easier. The whole point of DIP is that you needn't worry about low power consumption modes on your system or spending days overclocking your processor for those £0 performance gains; that is unless you want to.
Yes, you could implement your own BIOS profiles for low demand computing but it won't do anywhere near a comprehensive job as the EPU. The feature is more like a dedicated device that offers a system wide and much more dynamic equivalent to Speedstep and Cool'N'Quiet. As said previously, when today's electricity costs up to 18p per kWh, every Watt counts.
There is no denying that manually overclocking will offer the best results. While your mileage may vary, our experience suggests that the TPU device can seemlessly take your processor within 5-10% of its "sweetspot" frequency, while a manual overclocking section will allow you to fine tune that overclock even further without having to access the BIOS. This is a real fly in the ointment for the "no pain, no gain" notion that is associated with system tweaking.
To conclude, Asus DIP consolidates a variety of Energy Saving and Performance Enhancing features into a single intuitive application. The technology offers near instant performance gains and clear cut reductions in power consumption, that will be greater exaggerated with a system with more fans, hard disk drives and monitors. Asus' R&D division can safely pat themselves on the back knowing full well that their hard work has produced a feature set that is in a league of its own.
- Effortless efficiency & performance gains
- Intuitive software application
- Will be found on almost all Asus boards
Thanks to Asus for the review today, you can discuss our thoughts in the forums.