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BIOS Features

All modern mainboard BIOSes share basic code from AMI, so their functionality is often comparable. Sometimes they even have identical names for setup options. We've dealt with MSI’s BIOS in our earlier reviews. We checked out the new MSI Click BIOS 4 in our MSI Z87-G43 review, browsing through individual pages in its subsections. Later on, we found out that MSI’s Z87 MPOWER and Z87-GD65 GAMING had almost the same BIOS options, just represented in a differently designed interface. The MPOWER series uses a lot of yellow in its BIOS. MSI’s gaming models prefer red whereas regular products of the Classic series have a predominantly blue BIOS interface.

So the new MSI Click BIOS 4 has been revised since the older MSI Click BIOS II by removing or putting infrequently used sections out of sight. Instead, there’s more focus on the more important sections but, unfortunately, the start screen is still far from functional and inferior in this respect to what you have with mainboards from other brands.

The dropdown menu in the top right corner lets you choose an interface language. The OC Genie button on the left is for automatic system overclocking. You can also specify the order of boot devices by moving their icons with your mouse. The icons of currently active devices are highlighted. That's actually all you can do in the BIOS start screen. You have to move down into one of the main BIOS sections to do more. The current trend in BIOS design is to let the user customize the BIOS interface by grouping frequently used setup options. So it would be much better if the central part of the start BIOS screen showed user-defined options instead of the logotype. The start screen might at least offer the option of setting date and time without looking for these options deep in the BIOS sections.

The very first Settings section contains a number of subsections.

The System Status subsection is in fact the start screen you used to see when you entered the classic BIOS interface. It reports some basic system information and lets you set up date and time. There are several pages in the Advanced subsection. Here you can set up chipset-specific technologies like Intel Rapid Start and Intel Smart Connect. You can enable Windows 8 boot mode or speed up the startup procedure on the Windows 8 Configuration page. The Boot subsection is where you define the boot device order and some other boot-related settings. The old Security section is now available as a single page in the Settings subsection. Besides enabling passwords like on other mainboards, you can use a regular USB drive as your access key. It is a special feature of MSI products. The Save & Exit subsection might be removed altogether as it is almost fully duplicated with the hotkeys. However, when you hit F1 or click Hot Key with your mouse, you won’t see the Discard Changes option which is only available in the Save& Exit subsection. Instead, you will see options for viewing CPU and memory information (which might be replaced with the more advanced capabilities of the OC section) and for managing profiles via a USB drive.

The OC section contains a lot of options for fine-tuning and overclocking. A number of informational parameters report the current system status.

The new MSI Click BIOS 4 brings back the help system that disappeared in the earlier versions. When you select any of the BIOS parameters, you will get context-sensitive information about its purpose and value range in the panel on the right. Some of the numerous settings of the OC section are located on individual pages. For example, there is a special page for memory timings (which can be the same or different for each of the memory channels). A unique feature of MSI’s BIOS, the new DRAM Training Configuration subsection helps you reach higher memory clock rates. The DigitALL Power page contains settings pertaining to the digital CPU power system. We used to regret that we couldn't enable the CPU Phase Control option which controlled the dynamic management of active phases in the CPU power system as it only offered two values: Auto and Disabled. We had to set it at Auto and hope that the technology would work but now this option can also be set at Normal or Optimized.

The CPU Specifications and Memory-Z subsections are purely informational. The former provides some basic info about the installed CPU. You can go further and learn about technologies supported by it. In the same way, the Memory-Z subsection shows you information about your memory modules (taken from their SPD). It is these settings that the mainboard applies by default. The real capabilities of the memory modules are defined in their XMP profile and you can take a look at them, too. In the CPU Features subsection you control CPU frequency multipliers, power targets and various CPU-related technologies. This very important subsection goes last in our description, but you can access it easily since the subsections of the OC section are closed in a loop. You don’t have to scroll down to the bottommost parameters by pressing the Arrow Down key a lot of times. Just press the Arrow Up key once and you get right there.

The OC section used to include a page called M-Flash, but now it is one of the main sections in its own right. Here you can boot up using a BIOS image from a USB drive. You can also save the current firmware or update it. There are certain restrictions. BIOS images are saved in the drive’s root folder only. They must also be placed there for updating. There is no file manager of any kind. NTFS is not supported, so the drive must be formatted as FAT or FAT32. MSI's firmware update procedure has become somewhat more sophisticated recently. There used to be only one option suggesting that you choose a firmware file to update to. Now there is a second option that lets you update both BIOS and Intel Management Engine simultaneously.

The next section, OC Profile, used to be an individual page of the OC section, too. Now it is independent and can store up to six full profiles with BIOS settings. Settings can be saved to and loaded from external drives. The profiles are easy to deal with. For each profile, its creation date and time and the BIOS version it refers to are saved automatically. Profiles can be given descriptive names and, when necessary, deleted.

The BIOS interface didn’t make it immediately clear which profiles were already in use, but now occupied profile slots are indicated with profile names which can be conveniently long and detailed.

One of the most anticipated new features of MSI’s Click BIOS 4 is called OC Profile Preview. However, it cannot be used to compare any BIOS profiles. It only helps compare the current settings with a BIOS profile stored on a USB drive. That’s a downside as you have to load one profile into the BIOS and another to an external drive in order to compare them. The second downside is that the comparison is based on only six criteria: base clock rate, CPU frequency multiplier, CPU voltage, memory frequency, memory voltage, and frequency multiplier of the integrated graphics core. You won’t see any difference between the two profiles unless it affects these parameters. Moreover, OC Profile Preview doesn’t do any comparison at all, actually. It doesn’t use data written in the profile but compares the monitoring data recorded when the profile was saved to the external drive.

The Hardware Monitor section used to be hidden deep in the Settings section but now it is quite prominent. It has been redesigned, so instead of conventional text parameters we can see a chart that shows the correlation between the speed of the first CPU fan and CPU temperature. Yellow and green lines appear on the right and start crawling leftwards. Since the CPU temperature is shown to the right of the diagram in yellow and the speed of the CPU fan is shown in green, we can surmise that the diagram represents the two parameters visually. The Fan Control panel below the diagram allows you to set up how the selected fan's speed must vary depending on temperature. You can set the minimum and maximum temperatures and the corresponding speed of the fan by moving the sliders. Your changes are instantly reflected in the diagram. If you uncheck the Target Temperature checkbox, the dynamic fan regulation is disabled, so you can fix the speed at a certain constant level. The info panel at the bottom of the screen shows you the values of key system voltages.

Unfortunately, neither of the two CPU fan connectors can regulate 3-pin fans as the system fan connectors do. The BIOS interface doesn't have gaudy colors, but the traces of the previous BIOS screen left around the edges of the new window distract the eye. It would be better if the Hardware Monitor window opened in full-screen mode, completely covering the previous screen. It would also be useful if the user had an option to switch from the trendy graphical to conventional text-based interface.

Next goes the new Board Explorer section, which is analogous to the System Browser section of ASRock’s BIOS. It shows a rather accurate picture of the mainboard, so you can learn about its components by moving your mouse pointer over it. As in the Hardware Monitor section, the previous screen can be seen around the section window.

Our overall impression about the new MSI Click BIOS 4 is positive. The start screen doesn’t have the ECO section that used to duplicate CPU power saving options and doesn’t show current voltages. The Browser section was removed as it was rather useless and required installing the Winki 3 OS. Some programs were removed from the Utilities section, too. Instead, we have the more helpful M-Flash section for firmware updates and OC Profile for saving and loading BIOS profiles. The infrequently used Security section is transformed into a single page in the Settings section, just where it belongs. Context-sensitive help information about BIOS options is available. There is a new subsection DRAM Training Configuration and MSI's mainboards now offer the same CPU voltage tweaking options as mainboards from other brands. We mean they can adjust voltage in offset mode by adding/subtracting a certain value to/from the default one. The new Board Explorer section is hardly a valuable addition, but it does no harm, either.

Unfortunately, there are a few downsides that must be mentioned. The Hardware Monitor section was brought to the start screen from the depths of the BIOS interface, which is good. But the section itself is too sophisticated and unintuitive, so you have to spend some time figuring out what to do with its options. The start screen has meager functionality. There are no interface customization options. The OC Profile Preview feature for comparing BIOS profiles proves to be useless. And only MSI mainboards can’t regulate 3-pin CPU fans while all other manufacturers implement this functionality in their products.

 
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