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GIGABYTE Z87X-UD4H Motherboard Review

MAC

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With the 14nm Broadwell K-series chips not expected until late 2014 or early 2015, the current LGA1150 platform is going to be hanging around for a while. Intel is expected to release some faster Haswell chips early next year, but we're probably talking about parts that are only clocked 100MHz higher than what's currently on the market. As a result, if you're in the market for an upgrade there is little reason to procrastinate at this point.

Back in August we reviewed the GIGABYTE Z87X-UD5H, and we came away impressed with its clean design, sleek new UEFI BIOS, overall feature set, impressive overclocking capabilities, and strong performance. Therefore, today we are going to be taking a look at another model in GIGABYTE's extensive Z87 motherboard lineup: the slightly more affordable $185 Z87X-UD4H. Compared to the aforementioned UD5H model, you will be saving around $35, but giving up one gigabit LAN port, one HDMI port, two SATA 6Gb/s ports, and the front USB 3.0 panel accessory output. On the plus side, you do gain a VGA port and two eSATA 6GB/s ports, both of which are lacking on the higher-end model.

In most other respects, the two models are very similar. The UD4H features an all-digital 3D 16-phase power design, three PCI-E x16 slots (x16/x8/x4), 2-way SLI and 2-way CrossFireX, six USB 3.0 ports, two internal USB 3.0 headers, 8-channel HD audio codec, a dual-mode UEFI BIOS with two physical BIOS chips, and a revamped software package. The neat additions are the distinctive red onboard power button (a great addition for a board priced under the $200 mark), voltage measurement points, POST code display, onboard BIOS switcher, ON/OFF Charge USB feature, Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header, and a full complement of VGA, DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort outputs.

On the software side, this model will allow us to revisit the new user-friendly Dashboard Mode in the updated UEFI BIOS, as well as the revamped software suite which is spearheaded by the comprehensive EasyTune utility that allows users to tweak and monitor system clock speeds, voltages, temperatures, fan rotation, as well as enable automatic overclocking features.

With so many similarities, let's see if the Z87X-UD4H can live up to the legacy of its higher-end siblings.

 
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MAC

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Specifications & Features

Specifications & Features



Before we get up-close and personal with Z78X-UD4H through pictures, testing, and analysis, let’s take a look at this motherboard's specifications, as per GIGABYTE's website.



As mentioned in the introduction, a few of the really noteworthy features are the distinctive red onboard power button, voltage measurement points, POST code display, onboard BIOS switcher, On/Off Charge 2 USB port, Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header, and full complement of DVI, VGA, HDMI, and DisplayPort outputs.

Below are some of the GIGABYTE-specific features that the company have built into this model, and which we will examine in the coming pages.


Basically, this motherboard has more features than your average consumer will ever taken advantage of, and we are quite keen on (re)testing as many of them as we can. As always, please keep reading if the Z78X-UD4H looks like a motherboard that you could envision building a system from.
 
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MAC

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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging & Accessories


Now that we have gone over the Z87X-UD4H's features and specifications, it is time to take a look at the packaging and the bundled accessories. Let's check it out:



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Compared to the X79 and Z77 series motherboards, GIGABYTE have completely changed their packaging's design aesthetic with the new Z87 series models. Instead of the traditional all-white colour scheme, GIGABYTE have moved over to a black design that more closely resembles the tone of their PCBs. As always, the Ultra Durable branding is very prominent, and you will find quite a bit of additional information regarding all of the Z87X-UD4H's specifications and interesting GIGABYTE-specific features on the back.


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Once you remove the outside packaging, you are greeted with an inner box that contains two separate sections, the top half holds the motherboard in an anti-static bag and the bottom half contains the accessories, software and documentation.



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When it comes to the accessories bundle, the Z87X-UD4H comes with a user manual, multilingual installation guidebook, driver and software DVD, GIGABYTE sticker, four SATA 6Gb/s cables, 2-way SLI bridde connector, and colour-coded I/O shield.
 
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MAC

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A Closer Look at the Z87X-UD4H

A Closer Look at the Z87X-UD4H



Above is a layout map of the Z87X-UD4H with labels of the keys parts of the motherboard. As we've come to expect from GIGABYTE, the overall layout is well though out and there are certainly no show stoppers from our point-of-view. All the numerous buttons, connectors, and ports are very easily accessible and free from possible obstruction.

There is also a good amount of spacing between two main mechanical PCI-E x16 slots, so there won’t be any issues fitting thick dual-slot graphics cards on this motherboard. It should be mentioned that the UD4H is based on the ATX form factor (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm / 12.0-in x 9.6-in), so there shouldn't be any issues when it comes to installing it into most standard cases.



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This motherboard features a total sixteen-phase power design consisting of Lower RDS(on) MOSFETs, 60A rated sealed ferrite-core chokes, and solid electrolytic capacitors. More precisely, it has been outfitted with a 16 phase power design for the CPU, so 12 phases are dedicated to the cores themselves, two for the System Agent (SA), and two phases for the integrated GPU.

While that might not sound like much compared to the huge phase numbers that we have seen in the past, it is still more than sufficient for any possible scenario. Specifically, this is an all-digital VRM design that GIGABYTE first outfitted their X79 lineup, and it allows for adjustable frequency/phase/voltage control via an International Rectifier PWM controller, all of which fall under their 3D Power marketing lingo.

When it comes to cooling, the MOSFET heatsinks are actually pretty bulky given the fact that the VRM really doesn't output much heat under normal or heavy overclocking scenarios. Nevertheless, there is a heatpipe connecting the two heatsinks, so the performance of the two units should be more than sufficient.


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The four DDR3 memory slots are fed by a standard 2-phase power design, and support overclocked memory frequencies up to DDR3-3000. While this might seem like a pie in the sky situation, given how insanely capable Haswell processors are at handling memory frequencies this is actually an easily attainable speed with the right memory kit.

The 24-pin ATX power connector is in its usual spot, and the onboard power button that GIGABYTE puts on many of their motherboards has moved up to the far-right corner of the motherboard. The onboard reset button and clear CMOS buttons are there too, and this positioning is slightly problematic since you can accidentally hit the wrong button due to them being so close together.

GIGABYTE have implemented a BIOS switch which allows users to choose which BIOS chip they are booting from, and thus they can manually activate the backup BIOS or simply switch between an ‘every day’ and overclocked ROM profile.

One of the unexpected standout features of this model is definitely the eight voltage measurement points, which are obviously indispensable for any overclocker.


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To the left of the aforementioned 24-pin ATX power connector is the internal front-panel USB 3.0 header, which can be used to supply up to two USB 3.0 ports to the front-panel of any compatible case, and is supplied by the Z87 chipset itself instead of a third-party controller. An improvement over previous years, GIGABYTE have finally started including helpful debug LED display on many of their mainstream and higher-end motherboards, such as on this model.

Another surprise is the OC-PEG, a SATA power connector that can be used in order to ensure that the PCI-E slots get all the power that they require for particularly power hungry CrossFire or SLI configurations.




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Here we get a good look at the adequately-sized chipset heatsink, which is held down by two metal screws. It is a little boring looking, but it does blend in nicely with the rest of the motherboard's matte black aesthetics. Cooling-wise there are no issues since the TDP of the Z87 Express chipset is only 4.1W.

Pictured above is the Marvell 88SE9230 PCI-E controller that supplies the two grey SATA 6Gb/s ports, which are RAID 0/1/10 capable. The six black ports are native SATA 6Gb/s and support RAID 0/1/5/10 courtesy of the Z87 chipset.
 
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MAC

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Location
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A Closer Look at the Z87X-UD4H pt.2

A Closer Look at the Z87X-UD4H pt.2



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The user friendly colour-coded front panel header is always a welcome addition, as is the second USB 3.0 header. The whole bottom of the motherboard is festooned with various ports, namely USB 2.0 and FireWire, but also a system fan header, TPM header and the slightly unusual addition of a COM port.


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Haswell processors support 16 PCI-E 3.0 lanes for graphics purposes. The first PCI-E x16 slot will operate at full x16 speed when only one graphics card is installed. In a dual graphics card configuration, the first and second PCI-E x16 slots will operate at the x8 speed (x8/x8). The bottom PCI-E x16 slot is supplied by the Z87 chipset and operates at x4, it also shares bandwidth with all the PCI-E x1 slots, so when in use the x1 slots will be deactivated. This model has been for certified for 2-way CrossFire and 2-way SLI.

As we have come to expect, the DualBIOS feature is still present in the form of – you guessed it – two individual BIOS chips, ensuring instant recovery in the case of an improper BIOS update or a particularly nasty virus. As mentioned above, you can also use the bios switch which allows users to choose which BIOS chip to boot from.




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Starting clockwise from top-left, we have the Realtek ALC898 is an eight-channel High Definition Audio Codec that supports X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity and EAX® Advanced HD 5.0 technologies. The WGI217V is a high quality Intel gigabit LAN controller. The Renesas uPD72021 USB 3.0 hub controller is for the internal USB 3.0 headers. The ASMedia ASM1442 controller is responsible for the HDMI and DVI ports. The NXP PTN3360DBS controller supplies the DisplayPort. The ITE IT8728F is a Super I/O chip which is responsible for voltage and temperature monitoring. Last but not least is theITE IT8892E chip which is an PCI-E x1 to PCI bridge controller responsible for the lone legacy PCI slot.


The Z87X-UD4H has some solid connectivity options on its rear I/O panel. Starting from left to right, we have a combo keyboard/mouse PS/2 port, two USB 3.0 ports, VGA port, DVI port, optical S/PDIF Out connector, HDMI port, DisplayPort port, two USB 3.0 ports, two eSATA 6Gb/s connectors, one Gigabit LAN port, two additional USB 3.0 ports, and the six audio jacks.


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There are no VRM components on the backside of the motherboard. There are also no push-pins to be found on this motherboard, metals screws are used to secure both the MOSFET and chipset heatsinks.
 
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MAC

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Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation


In the Hardware Installation section we examine how major components fit on the motherboard, and whether there are any serious issues that may affect installation and general functionality. Specifically, we are interested in determining whether there is adequate clearance in all critical areas.


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When installed in the East-West or North-South orientation, our Prolimatech Mega Shadow had no issues clearing the MOSFET heatsinks, and we don't foresee any obstacles with even the largest of coolers.


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In the traditional North-South orientation, we did however have a clearance issue with the memory modules since the fan clips prevented the installation of our tall memory modules in either of the two memory slots nearest to the CPU socket. The solution to this problem is either to use lower profile memory modules or to simply install the fan on the other side of the heatsink, thereby blowing hot air to the front of the case instead of the back. Naturally, this isn't an ideal solution.


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Thanks to the expansion slot layout, there is an adequate gap between the memory clips and the back of the graphics card, so there is no need to take out the GPU before installing/removing memory modules. The 24-pin ATX power connector and the 8-pin CPU power connector are both ideally placed, so that makes assembling and disassembling the system just a tad easier.




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This board will hold two dual-slot graphics cards without issue. The cards overhang the motherboard, but the edge-mounted SATA connectors and various headers are still easily accessible. It can even handle two triple-slot graphics if you don't mind losing access to the middle PCI-E x1 slot, the bottom x4 slot, and all the headers at the bottom of the board.


The eight 90-degree SATA ports are obviously accessible no matter how many graphics cards are installed or how long they are.


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The Prolimatech Mega Shadow's large mounting bracket installed perfectly, but it did come pretty close to a pin from one of the chokes mounted on the top-side of the motherboard.
 
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MAC

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Messages
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BIOS Rundown (Dashboard Mode)

BIOS Rundown (Dashboard Mode)


GIGABYTE really revamped their UEFI BIOS on their Z87-based motherboards. While the past versions found on both X79 and Z77 motherboards offered two distinct BIOS modes, gone is the simple 3D Mode that presented a mouse-friendly graphical user interface (GUI) for basic tasks, now replaced with the entirely new Dashboard Mode, while the Advanced Mode remains fundamentally unchanged but remained to Classic Mode.

You can switch between the two modes by pressing the F2 function key or by clicking on the desired mode in the shortcuts menu. Also, there is a Resolution Toggle mode that takes advantage of HD screen resolutions to display additional real-time CPU/Memory/System status information on either side of the interface. Regrettably, we couldn't demonstrate that since the monitor we were using features a 1680x1050 resolution, while 1080P and above is required to take advantage of this new feature. As you will see below, the Dashboard Mode offers a slightly more aesthetically pleasing interface and great usability thanks to the inclusion of both entry fields and horizontal sliders for most settings.



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The new Home section allows users to create their own custom home page, adding the menus and options they tend to use most frequently, as well as displaying whatever mix of system information they want. It basically gives users a fast, up-front access to basic settings of their choosing.


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The Frequency tab of Performance section is where you are greeted with all the essential system clock control options that a serious overclocker needs: base clock frequency, IGP frequency, CPU multiplier, and memory multiplier. The Advanced CPU Core Features sub-menu is where you can enable or disable the various CPU-specific settings like Turbo Boost, C1E, C-STATE, Thermal Monitor, and Enhanced SpeedStep (EIST). This is also where you can set the Turbo Boost ratios for each processor core and the Uncore ratio as well.


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The Memory tab is where you will find all the memory-related settings. Within this section you can select the memory multiplier, change the performance profile, monitor the memory voltage, and obviously tweak the memory timings.

Each memory channel has its own section, within which you can alter the primary and secondary timings. It had just about every memory setting that an enthusiast or overclocker will need to fine-tune their memory modules.


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The Voltage tab allows for tweaking of the primary and secondary system voltages. We wish there were more drop-down menus in this section. As it is, you can manually type in whatever you want, but that is not particularly useful when you don't know or don’t remember what the default voltages are.

The Advanced Power Settings sub-menu is particularly interesting for those who like to tweak since it allows a great deal of control over all elements of the VRM. We really liked the granular Load-Line Calibration (LLC) options for the CPU VRIN, since On or Off simply doesn’t cut it most of the time. By the way, as you will see in the coming pages, in the 3D Power tab in the EasyTune utility you can do a lot of this tweaking from within Windows itself.


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Compared to past BIOSes, this one actually has a pretty good PC Health Status section, at least when it comes to setting warnings. BIOS-based fan control has also improved, but the Smart Fan tab in EasyTune does have a little bit richer fan PWM functionality. The Miscellaneous tab is where you can select that data lane configuration for the PCI-E slots.


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As their name suggests, the CPU Status and Memory Status sub-menus reveal some very basic information about each component.


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The System Information section allows users to set the BIOS language, set an administrator password, enable or disable the Resolution Toggle or Classic Mode, as well as take a peak st some voltages and temperatures in the System Status sub-menu. The BIOS Features section is where you can select the boot device priority, enable/disable the full screen logo, select Windows 8 features, choose the Boot Mode, and enable/disable some Intel-specific features like CPU Virtualization.


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The Peripherals section is where you can enable or disable all of the various onboard devices (FireWire, GbE LAN, audio codec, USB 3.0, RAID, etc). This is also where you set SATA devices to IDE, AHCI, or RAID mode for each port, as well as configure the various SATA and Super IO features. The Power Management section contains the power management settings linked to the power-saving sleep modes.


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The Save & Exit section is pretty self-evident, however you can also save or load BIOS profiles from within this area. The Q-Flash Utility which is accessed via the F12 key. Since Q-Flash is built right into the BIOS and it can read files directly from a USB flash drive, BIOS flashing is a simple and quick procedure. Remember that your USB flash drive must be formatted in the FAT16/32 file system in order to be supported by Q-Flash, otherwise the utility won't allow you to update the bios or save the existing bios to a flash drive.

While an interesting take on a slightly more user-friendly BIOS layout, we are sure that fellow enthusiasts will be much more interested in the Classic Mode that we examine on the next page.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,087
Location
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BIOS Rundown (Classic Mode)

BIOS Rundown (Classic Mode)


The Dashboard Mode obviously does not have all the functionality of the Classic mode, but it is not meant to. It simply gives novice users an easy way to visualize and alter some of the most common settings. With that in mind, GIGABYTE have included the more conventional Classic Mode that we've seen on other recent GIGABYTE motherboards with UEFI BIOSes.


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In the UEFI BIOS, the MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) section has been broken down into six main sub-menus. This is where enthusiasts should expect to spend 99% of their BIOS time. First and foremost, we have M.I.T Current Status sub-menu which contains a convenient overview of all the system frequencies, memory sizes and timings.


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When you open the Advanced Frequency Settings sub-menu, you are greeted with all the essential system clock control options that a serious overclocker needs: base clock frequency, IGP frequency, CPU multiplier, and memory multiplier.

The Advanced CPU Core Features sub-menu is where you can enable or disable the various CPU-specific settings like Turbo Boost, C1E, C-STATE, Thermal Monitor, and Enhanced SpeedStep (EIST). This is also where you can set the Turbo Boost ratios for each processor core and the Uncore ratio as well.


Click on image to enlarge

As its name suggests, the Advanced Memory Settings section is where you will find all the memory-related settings. Within this section you can select the memory multiplier, change the performance profile, monitor the memory voltage, and obviously tweak the memory timings. Each memory channel has its own section, within which you can alter the primary and secondary timings. It had just about every memory setting that an enthusiast or overclocker will need to fine-tune their memory modules.


Click on image to enlarge

The Advanced Voltage Settings sub-menu is where you can fine tweak the new digital VRM or simply adjust the primary and secondary system voltages. We wish there were more drop-down menus in this section. As it is you can manually type in whatever you want, but that is not particularly useful when you don't know or don’t remember what the default voltages are.

The Advanced Power Settings section is particularly interesting for those who like to tweak since it allows a great deal of control over all elements of the VRM. We really liked the granular Load-Line Calibration (LLC) options for the CPU VRIN, since On or Off simply doesn’t cut it most of the time. By the way, as you will in the coming pages, with the 3D Power tab in the EasyTune utility you can do a lot of this tweaking from within Windows itself.


Click on image to enlarge

Compared to past BIOSes, this one actually has a pretty good PC Health Status section since it has readouts for most of the critical voltages and temperatures. BIOS-based fan control has also improved, but the Smart Fan tab in EasyTune does have a little bit richer fan PWM functionality.


Click on image to enlarge

The System Information section displays the motherboard model name, BIOS version, allows users to set the BIOS language, and set an administrator password.


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The BIOS Features section is where you can select the boot device priority, enable/disable the full screen logo, select Windows 8 features and Boot Mode as well.


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The Peripherals section is where you can enable or disable all of the various onboard devices (FireWire, GbE LAN, audio codec, USB 3.0, RAID, etc). This is also where you set SATA devices to IDE, AHCI, or RAID mode.


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The Power Management section contains the power management settings linked to the power-saving sleep modes. The Save & Exit section is pretty self-evident, however you can also save or load BIOS profiles from within this area.


This last screenshot is of the Q-Flash Utility which is accessed via the F12 key. Since Q-Flash is built right into the BIOS and it can read files directly from a USB flash drive, BIOS flashing is a simple and quick procedure. Remember that your USB flash drive must be formatted in the FAT16/32 file system in order to be supported by Q-Flash, otherwise the utility won't allow you to update the bios or save the existing bios to a flash drive.
 
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MAC

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Included Software

Included Software



APP Center


The APP Center utility is a new centralized hub for all the in-house utilities that GIGABYTE bundles with their motherboards. It permanently resides in the notification area/icon tray in the right corner of your screen. Not only does it give you one location from which to open or even uninstall all motherboard-related pieces of software, but it also feature a Live Update feature that lets you know if the there's a new version of the software available.


EasyTune

The EasyTune utility has been thoroughly overhauled with a sharp new look, a user-friendly tabbed interface, and more functionality that ever before. EasyTune is a system management utility that displays system clock speeds, voltages, temperatures, fan rotation but more importantly it allows users to manually or automatically overclock from within Windows.


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The System Information tab is pretty straightforward, it really just shows some very basic information regarding the system clocks and a few details about the CPU, memory, and motherboard. At the bottom of EasyTune is a quick glance area that remains static no matter what tab you're in, and it displays more useful information like voltage rails, fan speeds, and system temperatures.



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The Smart QuickBoost section is really the only one that's important. First, it contains the Quick Boost feature, which allows automatic overclocking at the touch of a button. Simply pick which of three Smart QuickBoost level that best suits your needs/courage, reboot the system, and voila! Overclock achieved. A relatively new feature is the Auto Tuning functionality will automatically overclock your system by going through various tweaking and stability testing phases. As you will see in our Overclocking Results section, we prefered the presets over this supposedly intelligent OC'ing feature. Last but not least is that Advanced sub-menu that allows you to set specific frequency, multiplier, voltage, and memory timing settings.



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In this new implementation Smart Fan has been revamped considerably to provide some actually useful functionality. There is auto-calibration feature, three standard presets, and an Advanced sub-menu where you can manually fix fan speed or have it vary based on temperatures.



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System Alert is as its name implies. Basically, you can set system temperature or fan speed limits, and if those thresholds are crossed you will be alerted.


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Another thing that distinguishes this version of EasyTune from previous ones is that addition of 3D Power, which used to be a separate application. The 3D Power utility has the same capabilities as the 3D Power section in the BIOS, and there is a lot of functionality here. Having said that, while PWM frequency, Load-Line Calibration (LLC), and phase control are all things that elite overclockers might tweak, these are all settings that the overwhelming majority of users will never ever have to use.



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As its name implies, the Hardware Monitor is where you can find readouts for most of the critical voltages and temperatures, as well as the fan rotation speed for all your system's fans.
 
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MAC

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Included Software pt.2

Included Software pt.2



@BIOS


If you don’t want to bother formatting a USB flash drive to FAT16/32 in order to use the Q-Flash feature in the BIOS, you can simply use the @BIOS utility to flash from within Windows.


EZ Setup


As its name clearly implies, Disk Mode Switch tool allows users to quickly and easily switch from the IDE, RAID and AHCI disk modes from within Windows, and more importantly, without having to modify or re-install the OS. This is particularly important for those who want to make use of Intel’s Smart Response Technology, since it requires AHCI mode. This leads us to the next utility. This particular utility also allows users to more easily install and enable the various Intel storage technologies like Intel Smart Response, Intel Rapid Start, and Intel Smart Connect. Instead of having to go through a somewhat complex procedure, this utility makes it a one-click process for each feature.


Smart Recovery 2


Smart Recovery 2 is kind of like Windows Restore/Apple Time Capsule function, where you can roll-back system settings to a previous working status. Users can select just about any day, week, or month to roll-back from, without having had to manually tell the program to create a backup flag.


Smart TimeLock


Smart TimeLock is a feature all kids will despise, as it allows parents the ability to schedule time limits for their children to use the PC. Parents can even make different usage time rules for weekdays and weekends.


USB Blocker


If you're building a computer that will be used in a public setting, or you simply don't trust your friends/roommates/family. Once you set up a password, USB Blocker will allow you to prevent certain devices from functioning when plugged into your system's USB ports. All you need to do is set a password in the utility and select which devices to block.
 
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