Articles: Mainboards

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The Performance section is followed by the System section which allows to set up date and time, choose the interface language, set up passwords, change resolution, or switch back to the classic interface. You can find the rest of BIOS customization options here, too. Using the Background Wallpaper option, we replaced the default Nebula background with the Pitch Dark variant, but you can choose any other image you like and load it from a connected disk. The Startup Page option lets you choose any other BIOS page to use as the start one. For example, we can choose the Overclocking tab we’ve created ourselves. The Display Policy parameter refers to the default resolution whereas Working Environment allows switching between the new and classic BIOS interfaces.

The BIOS Features section contains system boot parameters. We can disable the startup picture, enable and set up the Fast Boot option to accelerate the boot-up process, and control other technologies like virtualization.

As expected from its name, the Peripheral section is about peripheral devices and additional mainboard controllers.

The Power Management section contains a standard set of options referring to power supply.

You can save your changes or load default settings in the Save & Exit section. Profiles with BIOS settings can be managed here, too. As usual, the mainboard can save and load up to eight profiles, each with a descriptive name you give it. The profiles can be stored on external disks. It is a unique feature of Gigabyte mainboards that the current settings are saved automatically when the mainboard passes the startup procedure successfully. It even keeps count of successful startups. Thus, you can easily roll back to a working profile even if you have not deliberately saved it.

The integrated Q-Flash utility is evoked by choosing an appropriate option in the menu or with the F8 key. It has become friendlier, reporting information about the current and new BIOS versions, but it still doesn’t support NTFS disks. The current firmware version is saved in the disk’s root folder rather than in any folder you choose.

Gigabyte’s BIOS version F6 beta has a new feature which allows updating firmware via the internet. So the whole update procedure may become as easy as on ASRock mainboards, saving you the trouble of downloading new BIOS versions manually and using USB drives.

Winding up our overview of Gigabyte’s UEFI DualBIOS, we want to point out a few usability features implemented in it. As we noted above, there is a crawling line at the bottom of the screen, showing tips and a list of active hotkeys. You don’t have to wait for the necessary piece of information to arrive, though. You can open up the whole list by pressing F1 or from the context menu evoked by a click with the right mouse button.

If you move your mouse pointer to an option, information about that option will appear above the crawling line. When an option is selected, pressing F1 shows the same help information as a popup window.

Some of the functional keys have the same purpose as before. For example, pressing F9 shows system information.

Frankly speaking, we are truly delighted at the capabilities of Gigabyte’s new UEFI DualBIOS. We’ve just never seen such an abundance of setup options. Recently, in our review of the ASUS P8Z77-M and Gigabyte GA-Z77M-D3H we compared the BIOS options offered by the two major mainboard makers and found them both to have all capabilities necessary for system tweaking and overclocking. However, the ASUS BIOS seemed to have a few more useful options. But now, comparing the updated EFI BIOS from ASUS (we examined it in our ASUS Z87-K review) with Gigabyte’s, the latter seems to be unquestionably better. Yes, ASUS mainboards have advantages of their own. For example, we like the BIOS Setting Change window which shows the list of current changes which are going to be applied. You can also write down notes and see the latest changes in the Last Modified list. The EPU Power Saving Mode has no counterpart on Gigabyte products. ASUS mainboards can also adjust voltage in adaptive mode, although it is hardly practical for Haswell CPUs, just like the offset mode. However, these are all the advantages that ASUS mainboards can boast now. In everything else, the new UEFI DualBIOS from Gigabyte is comparable to or better than ASUS EFI BIOS!

Gigabyte mainboards didn’t have automatic CPU overclocking features but now they have them together with the Memory Upgrade option which lets you choose an appropriate memory settings profile from a few suggested ones. The My Favorites section in the ASUS BIOS is limited in terms of what parameters you can add, and it can’t be set as the start one. The Gigabyte BIOS has no such limitations and offers as many as six customizable Home section pages, so you can in fact create your own BIOS layout to suit your particular needs. Any section and page can be set as the start one. You can change the background and display resolution, and there is an efficient help and hint system. The overall BIOS structure has remained the same, though, so you can easily master it. The names of sections and subsections and the positions of specific parameters are the same, too. There are just new options, the new Home section and the new visual style. Most importantly, you don’t have to use it if you don’t like it. Pressing the F2 key will switch the BIOS back to its classic interface, which you can use by default.

Gigabyte’s new UEFI DualBIOS is not without its downsides, of course. The most obvious problem is that all of the carefully customized pages of the Home section are going to disappear as soon as you update the firmware. This can be explained by the fact that a new BIOS version may have different names or functions of certain options. That’s why, for example, BIOS profiles you have saved stop to work after you update the BIOS, and you have to create them anew. However, the My Favorites page in the BIOS of ASUS mainboards stores all changes even after a firmware update, so it is actually possible. And even if it is not possible on Gigabyte mainboards, it would be nice to have a way to back them up on external disks. Another small inconvenience we’ve noticed is that you can’t always save your changes and exit the BIOS with the F10 key. When you are not in a top-level BIOS section or its subsection, but in a page of some deeper level, your changes may not be applied immediately. In this case, you get a warning that you have to go back to one of the higher-level BIOS pages.

Such problems are not as serious as we had with ASUS mainboards, though. We don’t even mean the persistent ones like the inability of ASUS mainboards to remember your disabling the startup picture in BIOS profiles, the hard-to-access CPU Power Management Configuration page, and the lack of speed regulation for 3-pin CPU fans. The biggest problem is that the ASUS Z87-K can turn out to work at a lower CPU clock rate than required at high loads. We thought we solved it by manually specifying standard CPU frequency multipliers and our benchmarks made us think that this problem wasn’t affecting the mainboard’s performance much, but we were wrong. The problem is more serious than we thought as we will explain shortly.

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