Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H - BIOS

Gigabyte BIOSes have been a little up and down of late.  When every other manufacturer was displaying their graphical BIOS systems with P67 and Z68, Gigabyte still had a basic system reminiscent of the previous 10 years of BIOSes.  With X79 they introduced a graphical BIOS, termed '3D BIOS'.  This was essentially a perspective image coupled with a range of BIOS options.

Since then, we have the next iteration of this '3D BIOS Technology'.  From the outset, it looks shaper, sleeker and a refined version of the initial X79 launch.  Gigabyte says that their BIOS system is completely bespoke, written from the ground up rather than an interface on a licensed system like other competitors.  While this introduces a level of infancy to the system compared to others that have been using licensed back ends for a while, it should offer Gigabyte a wider range of maneuverability in terms of what fancy features they can offer.

In terms of design choices, Gigabyte have decided to use a generic outlay of most of the Z77 range with this screenshot - you will notice the PCIe layout is not the same.  However, this does not matter much - by moving the mouse over any of the components in the image (CPU, Power Delivery, and IO) will bring up an explanation of the part, and clicking will give a variety of options.  As a front screen, it would help if it stated the model of the motherboard being probed, the CPU, and the amount of memory.  Other vendors have voltages and fan speeds as well - by going through this sort of layout, Gigabyte have essentially boxed themselves out of providing this information without some serious design changes to be made.

The buttons at the bottom of this 3D BIOS screen offer some other choices - boot sequence, languages, fan controls, and a quick save and exit.  However, the 'Advanced' mode brings up the set of BIOS controls that allow for a greater choice and flexibility:

As a bonus compared to X79, this BIOS interface is a lot quicker.  Previously, in order to use the number pad to insert values, the user would have to press Num Lock, wait five seconds for it to initialize, and then values could be entered.  This time it works straight from the off.  Most options will allow users to click and select values as well.

For overclocking, our options are split over many menus (which could be seen as a little annoying).  For CPU and memory frequency settings, the 'Advanced Frequency Settings' option comes into play, which also allows modification of Turbo modes and power limits.  The more advanced memory settings, such as subtimings, can be modified in the Memory menu.  The 'fun' comes from the voltage settings screen, which has a different screen for CPU and Memory voltages, and then a third screen for customizing the digital power delivery options.  99.99% of users will never need the digital power delivery options though.

Fan controls come under the PC Health menu as per usual, and Gigabyte are still deciding to stick with an almost incomprehensible method of allowing users to customize their fan settings.  By offering options in 'PWM Value / ºC', the only thing the user will understand is 'more means more power'.  I would rather this actually had temperatures related to it, or some sort of in-BIOS graphing system to show what is actually happening.

In other Gigabyte BIOS related news, I had distinct trouble trying to get any G.Skill memory to boot on the shipping (F2) BIOS.  It would simply keep resetting the board.  In the end, I had to use some older Patriot memory to install a newer BIOS (F7) and then tried with the G.Skill again, with success.

Software

Gigabyte software takes a pinch of the old and a pinch of the new(ish).  As the backbone, we still have EasyTune6, the all-in-one overclocking and monitoring tool.  Although it looks weathered with age, with a decent upgrade (ET7?) it could be back on its feet.  It certainly needed it with the version that came on the disk with the motherboard:

The version as shipped could not read the CPU properly, or suggest overclocks for it.  I attempted to download the latest version from Gigabyte, only for it to be corrupt no matter where I downloaded it.  However, I would expect it to be fixed as soon as possible - I have seen screenshots from overclockers using versions that work, so no doubt that will filter down to the public through the download website.

EasyTune6 has its usual gamut of basic and advanced overclocking options, as well as a hardware monitor and a very basic fan control front end.  What is relatively new about ET6 is its auto-tuning feature.  The red button on the screen above releases Gigabyte's new tuning feature for Ivy Bridge systems:

After confirming you wish to proceed, it does a series of stability tests with CPU ratios and BCLKs.  It overall worked like a charm - I cannot fault it.  With my processor, it kept all the turbo modes, but gave the processor a 4.81 GHz overclock under single threaded performance, reducing to 4.59 GHz for multithreaded loads, all at 1.236 volts at load.  More about this in the overclocking section on the next page!

Gigabyte also bundle @BIOS with their motherboards, which allows the user to download and update the latest BIOS (or update from a file) from the operating system. 

Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H - Overview, Visual Inspection and Board Features Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H - In The Box, Overclocking
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  • Paapaa125 - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Article: "With a lot more controllers to initialise on board, the ASUS P8Z77-V Pro requires at default 20.47 seconds to reach the windows loading screen. By disabling controllers that aren't used, a time more like the ASRock could be achieved."

    Did you actually test this?

    And a suggestion: please test Intel DZ77BH-55K motherboard. It is the only board besides MSI to use the better ACL898 and Intel LAN chip but without other useless bulk (like secondary LAN etc). It seems to have superior BIOS to many others.
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Hi Paapaa125,

    I should have an Intel Z77 board inbound to test. I have about 5 others to test as well, and some ITX. Currently reviewing boards in my spare time, so please bear with me as I get through them all! :)

    Ian
    Reply
  • Paapaa125 - Wednesday, May 09, 2012 - link

    Great to hear that! And no need to rush, I can wait :) I hope you test these things:

    Boot time. Fan control settings. Power consumption. Lan speed/CPU util. Audio quality. And check if the Turbo Boost settings actually are identical. Otherwise the benchmark results are unbiased.

    I'm actually more interested in other features than pure computational speed and benchmark scores. The differences are usually insignificant, but the differences in other areas might be big.
    Reply
  • althaz - Wednesday, May 09, 2012 - link

    Somebody further down the thread posted a message that they configured their Asus 'board to POST much quicker than above.

    I second request for Intel board reviews! I am particularly interested in the DZ77GA70K as well as the 55K mentioned by Paapaa125. I've been hearing good things about the GA70K but I'm hesitant to commit without finding out about POST times and I'd also like to see if performance is the same between the 55K and 70K.
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Can you give us realistic power supply measurements? I am interested in building a fairly fast system that is pretty much always on. So the idle power needs to be as low as possible. I would use a smaller power supply that is at least 85% efficient @ 50 Watts. And no video card. With just one SSD and one optical drive. My best napkin-guess would be an idle power of 40-45 watts. Reply
  • Silenus - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    That's a fair guess for idle. The problem you will have is that ideally you will want a high efficiency supply that at idle is at least 20% loaded. For you 40-45 idle that means you would need a supply probably not more than 200 watts. It is hard to find a 80+ supply at those lower powers. You might consider a small form factor supply. This is just about fits your requirement:
    http://www.neweggbusiness.com/Product/Product.aspx...
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    That might be a good choice. I wonder if I would still be able to hit 4.3GHz with that supply. I would definitely keep it at stock volts. Reply
  • haakon_k - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    ..or try the 80+ gold alternative from seasonic, if you can find a shop that sells it, 300 or 350W - optionally modular.
    http://www.seasonic.com/product/pc_tfx.jsp
    Unfortunately without any PCIe 6 pin power connector, if you so should get tempted...
    Reply
  • Avalon - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Well that review went as expected. MSI underperformed, Asus was needlessly expensive, Gigabyte had memory issues, and Asrock OC'd with lower voltages. That;s mirrored my experiences in the past few years. Reply
  • goldie.lin - Tuesday, May 08, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the nice benchmarks, USB, SATA, LAN, Power Consumption, ...
    Especially, I appreciate the "DPC Latency" and "Boot Times" tests.
    It very useful and practical!!!
    Keep working, AnandTech.
    Reply

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