Gigabyte GA-Z77MX-D3H BIOS

When a reviewer gets a board in, especially before release, it often comes with a preview BIOS that is not linked to a full retail BIOS.  So when it comes time to test the board, the reviewer has several options - test the BIOS the board came with, test the release BIOS, test the latest BIOS, or ask the manufacturer for their internal beta BIOS.  With each different version comes inherent stability changes, CPU microcode changes, or fixes to the system.  In the grand scheme of things, there are also two classes of user - OEM/pre-built users who may never touch or update a BIOS at all, or enthusiasts who don't mind getting their hands dirty.  Therefore it becomes quite a task for a motherboard reviewer to satisfy everyone in this regard.

With the Gigabyte GA-Z77MX-D3H, I was shipped with BIOS F5, however the earliest one available online was BIOS F9.  Using the Gigabyte @BIOS software to update the BIOS, it pulled F9 from the servers.  However, navigating to the website gave me access to BIOS F10, which is what I used for this review.  The F10 BIOS supposedly updates the board to accept Xeon E5-12xx processors, if that is your flavor.  Initially BIOS F5 went straight into advanced mode, but BIOS F10 jumps us into 3D BIOS mode on boot:

Gigabyte uses a semi-generic picture depending on the model you have, meaning that it may not display the correct or exact number of PCIe slots, but this is just a visual layer over all the settings that are specific to the board.  As a front screen, it does will in giving the CPU and memory speed, but I would have liked actual words stating the board model, the CPU model, and perhaps some temperatures, voltages and fan speeds.  Upon clicking any of the highlighted areas in the 3D BIOS screen, other menus pop up with options respective of that section (CPU brings up CPU speed offerings), as well as a side menu on the right:

The side menu contains more of what we want to know, and I think this would be better served on the main screen with the board affixed on the right hand side.  It shows temperatures, voltages, memory subtimings and fan speeds.

From the 3D BIOS screen, all the main areas are clickable for users who want to visualize what part of the board they are changing.  There are also options to modify the boot order, change the language and adjust the fan speed settings (more later).

By clicking Advanced, we move more into a menu system to which users of other BIOSes will feel more comfortable.  The first screen in Advanced is designated M.I.T (Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker[?]), and shows the BIOS version as well as important speeds of the CPU and memory.

Overclocking options in a Gigabyte BIOS are slightly haphazard.  Adjusting speeds of the CPU and memory are relatively straightforward in the Advanced Frequency Settings menu, however the voltages and LLC (Load Line Calibration) settings are a little trickier.

CPU voltage is kept in the MIT -> Advanced Voltage -> CPU Core Voltage Control menu, LLC settings are in the MIT -> Advanced Voltage -> 3D Power Control menu and DRAM voltages are kept in the MIT -> Advanced Voltage -> DRAM Voltage Control menu.  It seems a lot of hassle to adjust these in individual screens then go back and adjust the CPU/memory speeds or having to navigate back in case of a missed setting.  It would be more helpful to have many of the relevant options on one screen, nicely arranged into CPU / Memory / Power.  It should not be that hard to do.

Another feature worth mentioning about the BIOS is the fan controls, located in the MIT -> PC Health Status menu.

For a long time I have been a big critic of Gigabyte fan controls.  Over successive chipset generations, the implementation from Gigabyte does not even come close to that of its primary rival, especially when they implement it in a manner such as what they do on Z77.  The fan headers to which the user has control over can be used either in terms of a preset option (Silent, Turbo) or in a manual mode.  The manual mode offers settings in terms of 'PWM value / ºC', which for most users will have no meaning apart from 'more means more power to the fans'.  There is no opportunity in the BIOS to set a temperature slope, a minimum temperature barrier for fans to kick in or a maximum temperature to put fans on full.  In order to get higher praise from reviewers and users, it might be worth Gigabyte looking into different fan solutions for their products.

Software

Compared to other vendors, Gigabyte has not always been the best on the software front.  For the past few generations the main software has come in the form of EasyTune6, a pseudo all-in-one package for software needs in a system.  This includes overclocking, fan controls, voltage/temperature monitoring and relevant CPU and memory information.

I should point out that the ET6 software on the Install CD did not recognize one of the board or CPU, meaning that it did not offer a range of overclocks.  Using the automatic update system (the blue @ symbol at the top), an updated version of the software downloaded, but refused to update ET6.  In the end, I had to uninstall ET6, and then update with a fresh download from the Gigabyte website.

Apart from the overclock section, the auto tuning option is also available similar to the Z77X-UD3H.  In terms of fan controls, we again have the very limited array of options that Gigabyte offers.  Controllable fan headers are given a simple two value ramp selection, with a minimum temperature/fan speed and maximum temperature/fan speed.

Another element of the Gigabyte software is the 3D Power utility.  This is essentially a showcase bit of software, demonstrating that someone at Gigabyte can use a fancy set of 3D tools to make an interface that controls the power delivery settings.  Unfortunately, this software fails a little on two fronts.  Firstly, 99% of people will not use it, and secondly it is a little unstable to be used for overclockers.  Ideally, these settings should have been meshed in with EasyTune6 under another tab.  As 3D Power stands, it feels slow, laggy, and the animations are not exactly the smoothest.

@BIOS is the other mainstay of the Gigabyte suite, offering users and easy interface to probe online servers for BIOS updates.

Gigabyte GA-Z77MX-D3H Overview, Visual Inspection, Board Features Gigabyte GA-Z77MX-D3H In The Box, Overclocking
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  • Denithor - Thursday, May 24, 2012 - link

    First page, below the first picture:

    Due to the size of the board, we only the SATA ports from the chipset specification - this means two SATA 6 Gbps (white) and three SATA 3 Gbps (blue).


    This sentence makes no sense at all. You're missing a word or two or something.

    Fourth page:

    During video, the board is somewhat thwarted with it's bigger brother needing less power.


    http://www.its-not-its.info/

    And there's something else wrong with how that sentence reads, just not smooth at all.
    Reply
  • Kharadmon - Friday, May 25, 2012 - link

    Due to the size of the board, we only the SATA ports from the chipset specification - this means two SATA 6 Gbps (white) and three SATA 3 Gbps (blue).


    This sentence makes no sense at all. You're missing a word or two or something.


    It also appears to be missing a SATA-II port.
    Reply
  • FozzyofAus - Thursday, May 24, 2012 - link

    I realize it's in a different price category but any chance of a review of the Asrock uATX board? Reply
  • repoman27 - Thursday, May 24, 2012 - link

    "The F10 BIOS supposedly updates the board to accept Xeon E5-12xx processors"

    I think the LGA 1155 Xeons are actually E3's, not E5's.
    Reply
  • spikebike - Thursday, May 24, 2012 - link


    I checked the Gigabyte site and no mention of the Xeon E3.

    Can anyone confirm that if I buy one of these from Amazon and/or Newegg that I'll get a BIOS that will work with a Xeon E3-1230v2 or similar IVY bridge Xeon?

    I don't want to end up with a motherboard that is unbootable until I find another older lga1155 CPU to get it going.
    Reply
  • spikebike - Thursday, May 24, 2012 - link


    Note the CPU compatibility list does list numerous E3 Xeons, but all of the Sandy Bridge variety. No Ivy Bridge Xeons (version 2) are listed.
    Reply
  • tuxRoller - Friday, May 25, 2012 - link

    Are those even available yet? Reply
  • spikebike - Friday, May 25, 2012 - link

    Ya, newegg, amazon, provantage, ark.intel.com, etc. Reply
  • jtd871 - Friday, May 25, 2012 - link

    Anandtech / Ian:

    Thanks for the great reviews of Z77 boards. Looking forward to seeing more of them.

    +1 for including non-full-ATX form factors, as some tech sites don't even plan on covering them. I hope that there are some more uATX and mITX Z77 board reviews scheduled.
    Reply
  • Lazlo Panaflex - Friday, May 25, 2012 - link

    "I perhaps cannot see what the real voltage being applied to the CPU is unless I break out a DVM. It is also slightly devious to users who use the voltage value as a marker in reducing power usage. I hope that this will be changed in a future BIOS, but whether this change was malicious or not, it does raise questions as to what else Gigabyte may be changing from real values on the board to reported values."

    This is troubling. Ian - have you experienced this phenomenon on Gigabyte Z68 boards?
    Reply

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