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Gigabyte GA-F2A88XM-D3H: BIOS Interface

You may be disappointed when you enter the BIOS of the Gigabyte GA-F2A88XM-D3H for the first time because it lacks the new Dashboard mode with unprecedented visual customization flexibility. This mainboard sports Gigabyte’s classic UEFI DualBIOS (even without the 3D mode which used to be available with the company's Socket FM2 products but wasn't much popular).

As opposed to other BIOS implementations where fine-tuning and overclocking options are mostly collected all together in a single large BIOS section, Gigabyte puts them into several BIOS pages. There are separate subsections related to the CPU, memory subsystem and voltages, each subsection being split up further into multiple pages. This interface design lets you easily see all the options in a single screen. You don’t have to look up the necessary parameter in a long scrollable list. The downside is that moving between the numerous subsections and pages may be troublesome and you can easily skip over some group of settings.

The Advanced Frequency Settings subsection is about clock rates and frequency multipliers. A number of informational parameters will let you know the outcome of your changes.

CPU-related technologies, power-saving modes and frequency multiplier settings belong to the Advanced CPU Core Settings.

The memory subsystem is set up in a similar way. The clock rate is specified in one screen, and the latencies, in another. You can set the same or different timings for the two memory channels.

The voltages subsection contains but a few options in a single page. You can only increase but not decrease voltages, yet low-voltage DDR3 SDRAM can be used since the bottom value is 1.2 volts. As on the ASUS mainboard, you can choose the level of counteraction to the voltage drop on the processor and integrated North Bridge at high loads.

The PC Health Status subsection reports current voltages, temperatures and fan speeds. The two system fan connectors can lower the speed of 3-pin fans whereas the CPU one lacks this capability.

Similar to the old Standard CMOS Features, the System Information section contains basic information about your computer. You can change your date, time and BIOS interface language here. In the BIOS Features section you can set up your boot device order, disable the startup picture, accelerate the startup procedure, enable a special Windows 8 boot mode, and define access passwords. The Peripherals section allows you to control the mainboard's peripheral devices and onboard controllers. The Power Management section contains a standard set of power-related options.

The Save & Exit section is where you can apply your changes, exit without saving or load default BIOS settings. You can also manage BIOS profiles from here. The mainboard stores up to eight BIOS profiles which can be given descriptive names. The profiles can be saved to external disks or loaded from them. A unique feature of Gigabyte mainboards, the current BIOS settings are saved automatically after the mainboard starts up successfully - even the total number of successful starts is recorded. Thus, you can get back to a working BIOS profile even though you have not explicitly saved it.

We should remind you of the integrated firmware update tool called Q-Flash. It is evoked by pressing F8 in the BIOS interface or the End key while starting up. As opposed to such tools on ASRock and ASUS mainboards, Q-Flash allows to save the current firmware version prior to updating.

We have a vast experience dealing with Gigabyte mainboards, so we thought we knew everything about their BIOS. However, we still come across new features from time to time. This time around, we found out that the classic BIOS interface offered a list of frequently used BIOS pages, too. You can see it by pressing the undocumented F11 key. As opposed to the similar list in the Dashboard mode, it is not editable.

Summing everything up, the Gigabyte GA-F2A88XM-D3H doesn’t offer the customizable Dashboard mode, yet the classic BIOS interface provides the same options. However, there are no automatic processor overclocking feature and no predefined memory overclock profiles as we have with Gigabyte's LGA1150 products. It offers fewer voltage tweaking options than the ASUS mainboard and doesn’t allow to lower voltages. It can’t even regulate 3-pin CPU fans as most other Gigabyte mainboards do. Overall, we feel a little disappointed with the BIOS capabilities of the GA-F2A88XM-D3H.

Testbed and Methods

We performed all our tests on a testbed built out of the following components:

  • Mainboards:
    • ASUS A88XM-Plus rev. 1.02 (Socket FM2+, AMD A88X, BIOS 1302)
    • Gigabyte GA-F2A88XM-D3H rev. 3.0 (Socket FM2+, AMD A88X, BIOS F6c)
  • CPU: AMD A10-7850K (3.7-4.0 GHz, 4 cores (2 modules), Kaveri, 28 nm, 95 W, Socket FM2+)
  • DDR3 SDRAM: 4x8GB G.SKILL TridentX F3-2133C9Q-32GTX (2133 MHz, 9-11-11-31-2N, 1.6 volts)
  • Graphics card: integrated graphics core AMD Radeon R7 (GCN 1.1, Spectre, 28nm, 720 MHz, 8 clusters, 512 shaders)
  • Disk subsystem: Crucial m4 SSD (CT256M4SSD2, 256 GB, SATA 6 Gbit/s)
  • Cooling system: Noctua NH-D14
  • Thermal interface: ARCTIC MX-2
  • PSU: Enhance EPS-1280GA 800 W
  • Computer case: Antec Skeleton

We used Microsoft Windows 8.1 Enterprise 64-bit (Microsoft Windows version 6.3 build 9600) and the AMD Catalyst 14.4 drivers.

We refreshed our test configuration by installing all of the latest updates for our Microsoft Windows 8.1 Enterprise 64-bit, but its build and version numbers remained the same. We did not want to use a discrete graphics card because the new Kaveri processors feature an advanced integrated graphics core. We only had some doubts about the cooling system. Few users will buy a CPU cooler that would be more expensive than the mainboard, but the Noctua NH-D14 is far from new, yet still highly efficient. We didn’t purchase it especially for our tests, so we guess that users who upgrade to the Socket FM2+ platform might use an old and high-performance cooler on it, too. We also preferred that cooling system because we didn’t want to limit the frequency potential of the new processors (which is not particularly high to start with) by installing a low-performance cooler.

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