Software Utilities and BIOS
When it comes to software utilities, Gigabyte has never been one to limit the number included. This approach is very common among Taiwanese motherboard manufacturers and is especially common among the major motherboard vendors who see competitors release a new feature and immediately try to replicate it.
Gigabyte includes @BIOS which is a BIOS update utility that can also be found generally integrated in to most of their other utilities. This enables the computer to check Gigabyte's servers for BIOS updates and easily update to the latest BIOS version for the board without the user mistakenly choosing the wrong one.
They also have a 3D Power Utility which allows the user to adjust voltages, frequencies, and power phase settings. The user can adjust the load line calibration and overvoltage protections inside of the OS. In addition, the user can adjust the CPU PWM frequency, VTT PWM frequency, IMC PWM frequency as well as both banks of memory's PWM frequencies. This utility also enables the user to enter the CPU phase control menu as well as the overcurrent and PWM thermal protections menus. Our opinion of the 3D Power utility is that it is simply too fragmented and sacrifices functionality for the sake of looking good. Overclockers do not care about fancy menus, they just want something that is quick, easy, and straightforward to use. A single, larger, page with all of these options would have been a much more useful utility than the current version. As a result, we found using the BIOS to be easier and faster.
The next utility that Gigabyte provides has many of the same qualities. With EasyTune 6, Gigabyte has essentially given the user the option to modify or monitor almost any setting that is in the BIOS by entering the advanced menu. The only problem is that the window size that Gigabyte has chosen for this menu is way too small to be effective. Gigabyte could easily solve this problem by simply allowing users to make the window bigger and overclock from the OS that way. The nice thing about EasyTune is that it enables the user to very easily and quickly get a 4.1, 4.3 or 4.5GHz OC. Which, honestly, is very convenient for most users looking for a stable overclock for daily use. However, professional and even amateur overclockers looking to push the limits of the CPU will without a doubt demand more than 4.5GHz.
Smart6, is a utility with multiple utilities built into it. These include Smart QuickBoot, Smart QuickBoost, Smart Recovery 2, Smart DualBIOS, Smart Recorder, and Smart Timelock. We found the Smart QuickBoot somewhat pointless since it is simply a checkbox to enable quick-boot or not. Smart QuickBoost is a cut down version of EasyTune 6 and Smart Recovery is Gigabyte's own recovery utility, although Windows 7 already has fairly sufficient backup/recovery tools. The Smart DualBIOS and Smart Recorder (a monitoring utility) both serve a convenient purpose. The Smart TimeLock, though, seems like an odd utility to include with a high-end motherboard as it allows the user to lock their system from use during certain times. In all honesty, it probably should not be included unless someone specifically wants it. We found the Smart 6 utility to almost be pointless as it copies the role of other applications that Gigabyte or Microsoft already provide. Normally, we would applaud an application that combines multiple applications together, but it does not quite do that since it only includes six, which are not even full-featured.
The final utility that Gigabyte includes with this board is the TouchBIOS which enables the user to manipulate parts of the BIOS from the OS. While this concept is admittedly very interesting, the likelihood that anyone will actually use the touch part is extremely unlikely. This is a utility that has the potential to be very useful but requires far too many clicks/touches in order to be more useful than simply going through the BIOS. We would have liked to, again, see a larger window with more options immediately visible along with sub tabs and drop down menus in order to view options concurrently. TouchBIOS simply feels like it was done without actually taking the user into consideration. We admit, though, this utility looks very touch friendly and should be useful to the few people who would prefer to use a touch interface to manipulate their BIOS.
Gigabyte opted to go for a Dual BIOS approach with their X79 motherboards. This is not in reference to having two different BIOS chips and two different BIOS files. This actually refers to the fact that there are two different BIOS. Both BIOS fall under the UEFI (which enables mouse and clicking in the BIOS among other things). One is a 3D BIOS and one is just a standard BIOS. The cool thing about the 3D BIOS is that it is actually just as functional as the traditional BIOS, but for someone who has been using traditional BIOS for a over a decade it is hard to change. However, for those new to system building, this is a great addition as it enables the user to see exactly what components/parts of the board are being affected. Honestly, it's a very innovative way of approaching BIOS design and is very user friendly to those unfamiliar with navigating a BIOS menu.
The standard BIOS is very rich when it comes overclocking features; enabling the user to manually set almost every single parameter imaginable because of the digital PWM and VRM. As a result of this, many options are only to be used when doing extreme overclocks. Other things we also liked about the BIOS were the manual memory timing and voltage settings. We had never seen the ability to set each single DIMM slot's timings or each bank of two DIMMs’ voltage. This enables each bank of two DIMMs to run at different voltages if necessary and enables a more stable voltage to each DIMM since one VRM controls only two DIMMs instead of four or more.
Other than that, the BIOS had standard options relating to the storage and onboard device controllers. Overall, we found the BIOS easy to navigate. One tip we have for users is that they can manually enter numbers into the BIOS settings rather than using +/-. Although, in some instances +/- must be used in order to be able to modify the entered settings. Also, if the user wishes to reset a setting to 'Auto', they can simply enter the value 0 and hit enter.
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