Articles: Mainboards

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BIOS Capabilities

We took our first look at Intel's new Visual BIOS in our review of Intel's DZ77RE-75K and DZ77GA-70K mainboards. Then we also used it to review the Intel DZ77BH-55K model. Despite a number of downsides we could put up with, we were generally pleased with the Visual BIOS just because the earlier, classic BIOS interface of Intel mainboards had been too unfriendly and inconvenient. You could get used to the latter but without any positive emotions. The new version of Intel's Visual BIOS, as implemented on the DZ87KLT-75K mainboard, looks recognizable, yet has a number of changes. One of the most conspicuous ones is that you can’t get back to the classic BIOS interface anymore. Although inconvenient, it was a familiar interface many users had already got used to. Anyway, we don't want to be sad about it, so let's instead browse through the capabilities offered by the new Intel Visual BIOS.

As opposed to the start screens of other BIOSes, the Home section of Intel’s BIOS doesn’t look utterly useless. Besides providing some basic setup options, it lets you quickly access the most frequent settings for in-depth optimization in several ways. At the top of the screen there is a search field, which is a unique feature of Intel's BIOS the other manufacturers have not adopted as yet. The search feature is most helpful and works just like any other search engine, issuing relevant results as long as you enter search requests. So you can just enter the first few characters of your request and see the required option in the search results. Next goes a menu with icons we'll tell you about shortly. And lower yet, you can read general system information about the mainboard's model and BIOS version, the CPU's model name, the amount of system memory, the current date and time. Take note that the Update link next to the BIOS version lets you immediately update the firmware. By the way, mainboards from ASUS and Intel are the only ones to support NTFS disks for BIOS updates. Others work with FAT or FAT32 only. In the same way, the Change link next to the date and time allows you to quickly adjust these parameters.

The Boot Order window on the left shows a list of devices you can boot from. You can change their order by moving them with your mouse. If necessary, the Advanced button in this window will open an enhanced mode of the Visual BIOS interface to provide more boot-related options. The Overclocking Assistant window on the right is for increasing the clock rate of your CPU, integrated graphics core and memory by moving a slider. As you do so, the mainboard will automatically adjust such parameters as power limits, voltages, etc. On the Cooling tab, a similar slider lets you configure the correlation between the speed of the fans and the temperature. The Tuning, UEFI Apps and BIOS Update icons below will direct you to the corresponding features whereas the Profiles button is for saving, loading or deleting BIOS profiles. Each profile can be given a descriptive name. When you move your mouse pointer over a parameter, you will see context-sensitive information about its purpose. At the bottom of the window, there are hotkey prompts. The arrow at the right edge of the screen lets you move on to the next screen.

The left window shows you the connected peripheral devices. The central one provides monitoring data in graphical and numerical forms. And the right window outputs a list of drives and the ports they are connected to. The third start screen is purely informative and just tells you about your computer, so now we can get a closer look at the menu with icons in the top right corner of the screen. Clicking on the rightmost icon with a cross will exit the BIOS after saving or discarding your changes. The wrench icon opens a dropdown menu where you can launch a file manager, proceed to update the BIOS, launch EFI apps, make a screenshot or display information about the Visual BIOS and its developers. The icon with a picture of a man will load default BIOS settings or direct you to user-defined profiles. The star icon is Favorites, as in Internet Explorer. It is a list of frequently used BIOS options you can compile yourself by adding and removing options as necessary. The camera icon helps you make screenshots. This feature has long been available in other BIOSes, but the Intel Visual BIOS lets you capture not only the entire screen but also some fragment of it (selectable with a mouse or keyboard, just like in image editors).

The Advanced button is the only one to be textual rather than an icon because it is too important to miss. That's why we guess it would be appropriate to name it “Advanced Setup” as in the earlier versions of the Visual BIOS. That would make it different from the Advanced button in the start screen’s Boot Order field. Using the arrow on its right, you can see a full list of BIOS sections and go to the necessary one. Clicking on the Advanced button will lead you to the Main section of the enhanced mode or into the section you used last (if you have already done some setting-up before the Home section).

So, the Main section reports various information about your computer. You can set up the current date and time and also choose the first page to show upon your entering the BIOS interface. The menu in the top of the screen leads you back to the Home section or to any other section of the Visual BIOS Advanced mode. You can also use the arrows at the sides of the screen to move sequentially through the BIOS sections. By the way, when you press the Alt key, some letters will be highlighted in the names of the section, so you can quickly go to the necessary one by pressing Alt + the corresponding highlighted letter.

The Devices section is split up into several subsections where you can set up your USB devices, SATA drives, integrated GPU, additional controllers and expansion cards.

The redesigned Cooling section, on the contrary, lacks any subsections. Instead of numerous tabs with fan, voltage and temperature settings, we see just two windows. The left window outputs monitoring data in graphical and textual form whereas the right window shows details about the parameter you point at with your mouse (by default, it is the CPU fan setting). In the same way, by simply moving your mouse pointer about, you can set up any fan and specify the adjustment range and stepping for the voltages and temperatures.

The Performance section has been redesigned following the same principle. It used to be far from convenient, but now it is too unfamiliar. Having got rid of the numerous subsections too, it is split into two parts. The left part contains a kind of flowchart with system parameters and their interrelations whereas the right part reports basic system information.

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