Tip: whenever you buy a pre-built PC, run some benchmarks to see if the performance numbers are comparable to similarly specced systems.
Long story short: for my PC they weren’t. Geekbench reported a far lower score than my Intel Core i5-12400 should be capable of, and Cinebench was even worse. As is often the case, the solution was on Reddit.
Turns out that Gigabyte motherboard in my Medion MD35244 came with a very old BIOS installed. One that severly limited the CPU performance of some Alder Lake CPUs. Gigabyte acknowledged this issue and released an update over a year ago. But that’s when I ran into an issue. My motherboard had a Medion BIOS, not a Gigabyte one.
BIOS updates are tricky. If anything goes wrong, your PC can be bricked, and you may need to replace the motherboard. To keep people from flashing the wrong file, some checks are performed. In this case, when I tried to install Gigabyte’s newer version, I’d get an “OemID Mismatch”. Basically, I could only install a BIOS that came from Medion. But their tech support made it very clear they were not going to provide one.
This Reddit post suggests booting FreeDOS and using a DOS-based tool to flash the BIOS. I spent hours trying to boot FreeDOS, but could not get it to work.
Luckily, this particular motherboard (B660M DS3H AX DDR4) has a little button labeled “Q-Flash Plus”. It provides a way to flash your BIOS, even without anything installed on the motherboard. This is helpful if your CPU is very new, and requires an update even before you build the system. My quess was that perhaps this would do fewer of those pesky checks, and I was right.
I’m not going to recommend that you do this, and if you do, please research the steps involved, and follow them to the letter. This is a potential footgun, so don’t blame me if it does not work.
In my case it worked flawlessly. I put the new BIOS on a USB stick (formatted FAT32), renamed it to “GIGABYTE.bin”, powered the computer down and pressed the “Q-Flash Plus” button. Ten minutes later, the PC booted into the new BIOS. No need to remove any components, as some guides suggest.
Obviously, this voids your warranty, but I don’t really mind. Doubling the performance is worth it to me. What bugs me is that Medion did not, in multiple emails I got from them, even once acknowledge the problem, or offer a solution. They must have shipped more than one of these machines, and it’s likely they all have this issue.
The very least Medion could do is provide an updated BIOS file. But even then, most owners won’t even know their system is underperforming. Time for a recall?