Articles: Mainboards

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BIOS Features

We have covered the BIOS capabilities of ASUS’s LGA1150 mainboards in our earlier reviews. This time around we have a micro-ATX model, but its BIOS is almost the same except for the color scheme. So let’s just browse through its pages and recollect its features.

As before, the BIOS interface opens in the simplified EZ Mode by default. It provides basic system information and allows to choose a power-saving or high-performance operation mode. You can also specify the order of boot devices by simply moving them with your mouse. After setting up the fans and the system date and time, you can apply XMP profiles to memory modules and check out information about the connected storage devices. The F7 key is used to switch from EZ Mode to Advanced Mode whereas the F3 key lets you quickly go to any of the most frequently used BIOS sections.

You can switch from EZ to Advanced Mode or press F3 every time you enter the BIOS (by the way, this hot button works in the other BIOS sections as well), yet it may be easier to make the BIOS open in Advanced Mode by default. In this case, you will see the familiar Main section where you can read some basic system information, change the interface language and set up date and time. User and admin passwords can be specified in its Security subsection. The Main section is not the first on the list as it is now behind the new My Favorites section. As its name suggests, it helps collect all frequently used BIOS options in one place. The section is empty by default, only containing information about how to add or remove options with your mouse or keyboard. There are some limitations. You can’t add certain sections and subsections and even individual options which contain submenus. The list of options displayed upon your pressing the F3 key has no such limitations and you can edit it in the same way by removing and adding entries. So, you have to use both the My Favorites section and the quick access menu, which is not very convenient. Moreover, like other sections, My Favorites cannot be set as the start BIOS screen.

Most of the overclocking-related options are collected in the Ai Tweaker section. It has become even larger than before, including more info parameters at the beginning, more cache frequency multipliers in the middle, and more voltage-related options at the end of the section. Moreover, you don’t even see all of the options because they are set up by the mainboard automatically. But as soon as you get down to manual setting-up, you will find a lot of previously hidden parameters.

For example, if you change the Ai Overclock Tuner option to XMP (to automatically apply your memory subsystem parameters) or to Manual, there will appear options to change the base clock rate and control the frequency multipliers of the CPU. The voltages can be set higher or lower than the default level. The current values are conveniently shown right next to the adjustment options. The CPU voltage can now be changed in three different ways: by fixing it at a certain level, by adding or subtracting a certain value (offset mode) and in adaptive mode. We discussed the differences between these three ways in our ASUS Z87-K review.

Some of the setup options are available in individual subsections in order not to clutter the main section. There is a separate page for memory timings. Using the scrollbar, you can see all the timings set up by the mainboard for the two memory channels. You can adjust just some of them, leaving the others at their defaults.

There are quite a lot of options related to power supply and the digital power system called DIGI+. You can control ASUS’s exclusive power-saving technologies right here, in the BIOS. One of them allows changing the number of active phases in the CPU voltage regulator depending on load. CPU Load Line Calibration can now be not only enabled or disabled but also set to a certain level (it helps counteract the voltage drop occurring on the CPU under load).

ASUS mainboards offer a lot of CPU Power Management options with some exclusive technologies. You can set up a number of parameters of the CPU-integrated voltage regulator to increase the response time and lower the power consumption in idle mode.

The Ai Tweaker section ends here but we still haven’t found a group of very important settings that control CPU power-saving technologies. That’s a typical downside of many mainboards from many brands because all of them use AMI BIOS for their UEFI BIOS implementations. And AMI BIOS has some questionable interface solutions.

The options of the Advanced section should be familiar to you and their names are self-descriptive. They are related to the chipset and additional controllers. You can also enable Intel Rapid Start and Intel Smart Connect here.

The CPU Configuration subsection reports you basic information about the CPU and allows to control some CPU-related technologies like virtualization. Still we don’t see any of Intel’s CPU power-saving features because they are placed on a separate page called CPU Power Management Configuration. There are only three options here by default because CPU C States is set at Auto and the rest of the options are hidden. We changed CPU C States to Enabled to show you how many there are. They can affect the computer’s idle power draw, so you may want to specify them manually instead of letting the mainboard do that.

The Monitor section is where you can check out the current temperatures, voltages and fan speeds. You can select a speed regulation mode for any of the fans supported by the mainboard: Standard, Silent, Turbo or max speed. Or you can set them up manually, too.

Many modern mainboard have lost the ability to regulate 3-pin CPU cooler fans, but ASUS's recent models can do that.

System startup options can be found in the Boot section. It’s here that you can change the start mode from EZ to Advanced. While setting the mainboard up for the first time, you may want to disable the Fast Boot parameter to make it easier to enter the BIOS interface. Next goes the Tools section. The integrated BIOS update tool called EZ Flash 2 is perhaps the handiest and most functional among the utilities of its kind. The support for NTFS partitions is only implemented in the BIOS update tools from ASUS and Intel as yet. Unfortunately, the option of saving the current BIOS prior to updating it has been removed altogether. ASUS mainboards allow you to store and load up to eight profiles with full BIOS settings. Each profile can be given a descriptive name. BIOS profiles can be shared by saving and loading them from external disks. The profiles do not save the option of turning the startup picture off.

Like on mainboards from many other brands, we can now see the information written into the memory modules' SPD unit, including XMP profiles. It is not handy that we find it in the Tools section because memory timings are adjusted in a different part of the BIOS interface.

In the center right of the screen, above the list of active hotkeys, there are two buttons: Quick Note and Last Modified.

The former lets you write down some notes for yourself and the latter shows a list of your last changes which is retained even after you reboot your computer. So you can always check out which BIOS changes you made the last time. You don’t even have to enter the BIOS interface for that as the Save to USB option lets you save that list on an external drive.

Similar to the Last Modified feature, the popup BIOS Setting Change window is also very handy, showing the list of changes to be applied. It provides an easy way to control your changes before applying them. This window also makes it easy to compare the current settings with what is written in the BIOS profiles. By loading a profile you will see all of its differences from the current settings in the BIOS Setting Change window that opens up.

Summing it up, ASUS’s EFI BIOS only called for a correction of certain errors and the new version is indeed better than before. Some changes are not significant like the enhanced functionality of the previously useless EZ Mode. Others are more important, like the new My Favorites section, the opportunity to write down notes and edit the list of frequently accessed BIOS options you can open up by pressing F3. The Last Modified feature will come in handy, too. The popup window BIOS Setting Change is also useful, showing a list of BIOS changes to be applied. It is also good that ASUS mainboards have regained their ability to regulate 3-pin CPU fans.

Some errors persist, though. For example, ASUS mainboards do not save your turning off the startup picture in BIOS profiles. The important power-related options of the CPU Power Management Configuration page would be more appropriate in the Ai Tweaker section. The My Favorite page has limitations about what options you can add to it and cannot be used as the start page. EPU Power Saving Mode which is responsible for ASUS’s exclusive power-saving technologies has lost its setup flexibility. You could select the required level of power savings but now you can only turn it on or off.

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