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BIOS Functionality

When the board is powered on, you will see a startup image for a short period of time. It makes absolutely no sense to try and disable it, because there won’t be any useful information there anyway.

It is pretty convenient to have a list of hot keys right in front of you, because you can access the BIOS by pressing F2 instead of the traditional Del key. The startup “Main” screen serves mostly informational purposes reporting different basic data about the system.

If you move on to the “Configuration” section you will see a list of sub-sections in it.

Let’s dwell on the functionality and features of the section called “Fan Control & Real-Time Monitoring”. First of all I would like to point out that besides a standard set including the CPU and system temperatures, the mainboard also allows monitoring a number of additional temperatures. There are no diodes in the memory modules that we use in our testbed that is why the memory temperature is calculated approximately. Moreover, this parameter is pretty useless because DDR3 memory gets barely warm. However, it is sometimes vitally important to know how high the processor voltage regulator temperature is.

Moreover, absolutely all monitoring parameters can be adjusted. For example, we can change the fan function (processor, intake, exhaust, etc.), minimal allowed rotation speed rate in rotations per minute, min and max fan rotation speed in percents. The monitored temperatures can also be adjusted with the same precision and detail. We can set maximum temperature when a warning will be issued, a temperature when the fan will speed up to its maximum, fan sensitivity and response time to temperature changes.

For user convenience the developers try to keep all overclocking-related settings in one specific section. In the BIOS of Intel mainboards they are all scattered over several section, but most of them can be found in the “Performance” page. Using three-column layout we get the nominal parameter values, the current ones and the expected ones after the changes apply.

There is a new parameter called “Overclocking Assistant”, which does help a lot during processor and memory overclocking. At first we set it to “1.00x Profiles” or “1.25x Profiles”. In the latter case we will be overclocking with the base clock frequency increased from 100 to 125 MHz. After that we select the desired processor and memory frequencies from the list and the board will automatically adjust all other settings necessary to have the system run in desired conditions.

A significant advantage of this approach compared with the automatic overclocking systems on other manufacturers’ mainboards is its flexibility. This overclocking is, in fact, semi-automatic: we are not forced to stay within certain limits set by someone else, but select the necessary settings on our own, and can do this for the CPU as well as memory. Moreover, “Overclocking Assistant” is not just a list of preset overclocking profiles, but indeed an assistant. It gives you hints about the best option settings, but it also can be disabled at any time leaving all adjusted parameters where they are. After that you can manually fine-tune your system to your liking.

However, there are also a few not so successful changes. Now you can only enable the counteraction to the processor Vcore drop under heavy load only if the processor core voltage is at a fixed value. If we intend to add a little bit t the nominal Vcore setting to keep all power-saving technologies up and running, this setting won’t be available to us.

Work with the memory sub-system is arranged in a very similar manner. We can use the preset X.M.P. profiles if the modules support them, and then make the necessary corrections manually. The biggest problem with this approach is that you will have to set absolutely all parameters on your own if you select the “Manual” mode: even if you had to adjust only the voltage, frequency or one of the timings.

“Security” section now allows you to set a password for the hard drive. To prevent unauthorized access the board will ask for your password every time you boot the OS.

Some changes have also been made to the “Power” section: it now has “Processor Power Efficiency Policy” parameter that allows selecting one of the three possible operation modes. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to detect any difference in power consumption between “High Performance” and “Balanced” modes.

The only BIOS section on Intel mainboards that we have never had any problems with is “Boot”. On the contrary, it has always been known for extensive functionality in configuring the system start-up settings.

The “Exit” section allows saving up to five BIOS settings profiles. Each may be assigned a memorable descriptive name. You can also erase the unwanted profiles – a useful option, which is often omitted by other mainboard makers.

It is a paradox, but Intel mainboards designed by the initiator of the transition to UEFI BIOS are the only ones from a large mainboard maker that still don’t have a convenient graphics interface as well as mouse support. We do notice some definite improvements: extended functionality in the “Fan Control & Real-Time Monitoring” section, new and very convenient “Overclocking Assistant” parameter, but all these innovations arrive very slowly. BIOS interface still remains one of the weaknesses of the Intel mainboards. All overclocking and fine-tuning options are formally there, but the BIOS is very inconvenient to work with, because all key settings are spread out over multiple sections and require a lot of additional and unnecessary actions from the user.

 
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