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GIGABYTE Z87X-UD5H LGA1150 Motherboard Review

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
It's not a stretch to say that Haswell hasn't exactly been a huge hit amongst the enthusiast desktop crowd. While a solid offering in and of itself, it only offers a mild performance bump, overclocking capabilities that are merely equal to - if not worse - than Ivy Bridge, and higher operating temperatures when overvolted. Having said that, if you're building a system from scratch, and you have settled on this new LGA1150 platform, you're going to need to look for a new motherboard and the GIGABYTE Z87X-UD5H is a great place to start.

With a Z87 lineup that is 15 models deep, the $220 Z87X-UD5H is not obviously not the flagship part - that spot is occupied by the Sniper and OC models - but it does represent the upper-end of GIGABYTE's mainstream offerings. It features an all-digital 3D 16-phase power design, six USB 3.0 ports, two internal USB 3.0 headers, ten SATA 6Gb/s ports, three PCI-E x16 slots (x16/x8/x4), 2-way SLI and 2-way CrossFireX, two gigabit LAN ports, 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, voltage measurement points, POST code display, onboard BIOS switcher, ON/OFF Charge USB feature, Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header, and full complement of DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort outputs. However, this model doesn't have any of the niche distinguishing features that you might expect like Bluetooth, WiFi, Thunderbolt, or a mini PCI-E slot. Having said that, with the exception of a mini PCI-E slot on the ASRock Fatal1ty Z87 Professional, we really haven't seen any of these features on other Z87 motherboards in this price range.

Moving away from hardware for a bit, GIGABYTE have made some fairly sizeable changes in a few key areas. For starters, they have added an aesthetically-pleasing and user-friendly Dashboard Mode to their UEFI BIOS. It's not as stripped down as the 3D Mode that it replaces but it takes better advantage of high resolution displays, and it has a good deal of user customizations. They have also completely revamped their software suite, most drastically the EasyTune system management utility that allows users to tweak and monitor system clock speeds, voltages, temperatures, fan rotation, as well as enable automatic overclocking features. As you'll see in the coming pages, it's a really comprehensive, effective, and well-designed application.

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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
Specifications & Features

Specifications & Features



Before we get up-close and personal with Z78X-UD5H through pictures, testing, and analysis, let’s take a look at this motherboard's specifications, as per GIGABYTE's website.

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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, 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.

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Basically, this motherboard has more features than you shake a stick at, and we are quite keen on testing many of them. So keep reading if the Z78X-UD5H has captured your interest.
 
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MAC

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Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
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Location
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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging & Accessories


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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-UD5H'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-UD5H comes with a user manual, multilingual installation guidebook, driver and software DVD, GIGABYTE sticker, six SATA 6Gb/s cables, 2-way SLI bridde connector, colour-coded I/O shield, and a dual-port USB 3.0 front-panel bracket.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
A Closer Look at the Z87X-UD5H

A Closer Look at the Z87X-UD5H



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Above is a layout map of the Z87X-UD5H with labels of the keys parts of the motherboard. As we've come to expect from GIGABYTE, the overall layout is well thought 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 UD5H is based on the standard ATX form factor (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm / 12.0-in x 9.6-in), so no over-sized issues to worry about.


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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 an 12+2+2 phase power design for the CPU, so 12 phases 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. As you can see here, there is no heatpipe connecting the two heatsinks, but again that is not really an issue in this case.


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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 pie in the sky, 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 it's slightly problematic since you can accidentally hit the wrong button since they are 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 four 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

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,086
Location
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A Closer Look at the Z87X-UD5H pt.2

A Closer Look at the Z87X-UD5H 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 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 operated at full x16 speed when only one graphics card is installed. In 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 VIA VT6308P, which is a IEEE1394/FireWire controller. The Realtek ALC898 is an eight-channel High Definition Audio Codec that supports X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity and EAX® Advanced HD 5.0 technologies. There are also two Renesas uPD72021 USB 3.0 hub controllers for the six USB 3.0 ports on the I/O panel and as well one of the internal USB headers. The WGI210AT and WGI217V are both high quality Intel GbE LAN controllers. The NXP PTN3360DBS controller supplies the DisplayPort. The ASMedia ASM1442 controller is one of the two responsible for the HDMI and DVI ports. The ITE IT8728F is a Super I/O chip which is responsible for voltage and temperature monitoring. Last but not least is the ITE IT8892E chip which is an PCI-E x1 to PCI bridge controller responsible for the lone legacy PCI slot.


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The Z87X-UD5H has some undeniably impressive connectivity 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, DVI port, HDMI port, optical S/PDIF Out connector, another HDMI port, DisplayPort port, two Gigabit LAN ports, four 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

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
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 fans clips prevented the installation of our tall memory module in either of the two Channel A slots. 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 acceptable 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 connectors and 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.


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The ten 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

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown



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 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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In 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 is where you can fine tweak 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-meny 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 much more interested in the Classic Mode that we examine on the next page.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
BIOS Rundown pt.2

BIOS Rundown pt.2



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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
Included Software

Included Software



APP Center

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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

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
Included Software pt.2

Included Software pt.2



@BIOS

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.


TweakLauncher 2.0

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The GIGABYTE Tweak Launcher (GTL) utility was quietly first introduced for the company's Intel 7-series chipset motherboard. It is small and portable, and features a very simple UI design, unlike the most graphically intense one found in EasyTune6, and allows for easy on-the-fly manipulation of system frequencies and timings. Basically, it is a fantastic tool for overclocking from within Windows.
 
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