Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H Software

With the launch of the Shark Bay platform, Gigabyte is also upping the game in terms of the software package.  The last iteration of their main program, EasyTune6, was looking very dated in comparison to the competition, as well as falling behind in terms of functionality, overclock options and fan controls.  With a new dawn comes a new day, and we get a new version of EasyTune to play with.

But first, let us turn attention to the driver and software disk itself.  This also gets a redesign, focusing on the new high contrast aesthetics which form the basis of the software:

On the left are the main areas of install – Chipset Drivers, Applications, information, and also a bundling of Google Chrome and Google Toolbar.  If we take a look at the chipset driver package above, we see that Gigabyte considers the installation of Norton Internet Security as a fundamental requirement to the smooth running of a PC.  As you may imagine, I am not fond of this being an automatic install option – for third party software I would rather it be opt-in rather than opt-out.  Note that companies like Norton may have an agreement with companies like Gigabyte – “put our free trials on your software disks and we’ll pay you”, which ultimately may bring the price of the motherboard down.  I have no evidence that this is actually the case, though I could imagine it occurring.

The default utilities install applies only to the Gigabyte products, such as EasyTune, @BIOS, EZ Setup, USB Blocker and On/Off Charge.  By switching through the menus, other software such as Intel’s RST, SCT and cFosSpeed (network management software) can be installed individually.

Gigabyte APP Center

The main entry point for the Gigabyte software is through the APP Center, which acts like other software we have seen in the past – a one-stop shop for all the programs at hand.  For testing I had an earlier version of the software which had issues installing EasyTune on Windows 7 straight off the CD, but Gigabyte have released updates since which are worth downloading.

Gigabyte Live Update

One feature that is creeping into most of the motherboard ranges is the ability for the software to auto-update, or check the home server for updates to drivers and to the BIOS.  Gigabyte’s answer is their version of Live Update, which scans and shows what needs to be installed:

Again, this was another piece of software in which I tested the beta release, and I did come across several issues (which may be updated).  Firstly it keeps showing Norton as an option, even when I deselected it from the disk.  Next is that the software does not show the size of each download – if I have to update audio drivers at a cost of 175 MB, I would like to know before clicking the download and update button.  I did have issues installing the newer version of EasyTune, but Gigabyte has told me this issue should be fixed with the latest edition of Live Update.

Gigabyte EasyTune

The new EasyTune is a much sleeker and optimized display than previous versions of EasyTune.  We are still going with the high contrast of blue on black for the UD3H, and when we enter the software the system information showcasing the motherboard in use, BIOS versions, CPU installed, CPU speeds and memory installed.

Overclocking happens in the Smart Quick Boost (SQB) menu, where we are offered four versions of overclock, a default setting, and an advanced mode for manual overclocks.

My main issue with SQB, like with the BIOS, is that if I select one of the preset overclocks, the software does not update with all the settings to which that option entails.  The CPU speed and multiplier ratios change, but our voltages stay the same, as shown in this next screen shot while we are under the Light SQB setting:

This is one issue which Gigabyte disagrees with me, such that they want the user to easily pull back to default if required.  Personally I would like a large amount of synergy between what is being shown on my screen and what is actually being applied to my system, as well as a link between software and BIOS such that whatever I set in EasyTune is automatically transferred into the BIOS as well.

Next up is the rapid improvement from Gigabyte in terms of fan controls.  On the face of it, we get much more option in terms of settings, with Gigabyte offering three fan control modes, and auto-calibrate option, and an advanced setting.

In the screenshot above, we see that the system has correctly polled my CPU fan and able to detect what RPM for what power is applied.  We then get a customizable graph with multiple vertices so a user can apply their own fan profile.  The only issue is the y-axis – it shows the wrong thing.  Instead of Fan RPM (what we should have via software algorithm interpolation), we get Fan Duty Cycle, which means the user has to do the mathematics in their head.  As shown by the fan test by the software, selecting between 0 and 20% with ‘Fan Duty Cycle’ does nothing to my RPM, but for whatever reason I still get it as a selectable area in the graph.  So close, but only half way there in terms of proper fan controls.

Gigabyte are also including a System Alert section to EasyTune, allowing users to set limits for temperatures and fan speeds such that the software can provide notifications if they go above various values.

The last part of EasyTune is the 3D Power menu, which offers features such as Load Line Calibration and CPU Phase control.  Voltages could also have been in this menu as well as the SQB Advanced menu.

Gigabyte @BIOS

The BIOS updating tool from Gigabyte keeps the same name, but gets a facelift for the 2010s.  @BIOS will probe various Gigabyte servers around the world for BIOS updates, download them and then install them.  We also get options to update from a file, saving to file, and an option to change the POST image on startup.

Gigabyte On/Off Charge 2

There are plenty of users wanting to charge devices via USB, and while the USB specifications allow for high current draw, this is usually kept low for data transfer.  For charging, a system can eliminate the data lanes and improve the current draw, as long as the USB port is built (and programmed) to do so.  This is where On/Off Charge comes in, detecting compatible devices and giving the option to quick charge.

Gigabyte Smart TimeLock

Got things to do, but cannot draw yourself away from the computer?  Or what if you want to limit the children from too much computer time?  Smart TimeLock is the answer for both of these situations; the admin user can set a maximum amount of allowable time for weekdays and weekends.

Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H BIOS Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H In The Box, Overclocking
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  • ShieTar - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Is there a special reason not to test the POST times and DPC latency of the Gigabyte Board? Its power consumption is quiet impressive, and whatever design measures have been used to achieve it do not seem to negatively affect the overall performance. So it would be interesting to complete the picture with the two measurements which are missing. Reply
  • IanCutress - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    DPC Latency on the Gigabyte during testing was jumping around a fair bit, hitting 800+, though that is more likely due to the early BIOS revision. I need to run the POST test (as the results are strangely missing from my database) as well as the DPC test on a newer BIOS. Since I started testing almost every manufacturer has released newer BIOSes (as is always the way coming up to a launch) and I really have to lay the hammer down as testing a whole new BIOS takes a good 30 hours or so start to finish, so when I'm locked in that's it. That in a way does give an unfair advantage to the board I test last, but there's not a lot else I can do. I am still getting emails of BIOS updates for these boards as of yesterday.

    Ian
    Reply
  • tribbles - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Am I wrong in thinking that Gigabyte hasn't been doing well in the DPC Latency Test since Z77? If so, that's kind of surprising, since Gigabyte seems to be a "go-to" brand for digital audio workstation builders. Reply
  • IanCutress - Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - link

    I retested the UD3H on the F5 (public) BIOS, and it scored 164. The two next boards I have in for review got 160 and 157, which points fingers to the DPC on Haswell being 150+ regardless of motherboard. This might be a fundamental issue. Reply
  • Timur Born - Saturday, July 27, 2013 - link

    Run Prime95 (or turn off CPU power features) while measuring DPC latencies to see how much CPU power saving features affect DPCs. Reply
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  • Rick83 - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Maybe a bad choice to use two different ways of graphing the Rightmark results.
    Being consistent with regard to cutting off the irrelevant bit of the graph makes it a much easier read.
    Now it appears at first glance as though the Gigabyte board is much better in THD+N, simply because the differences were so minuscule in the dynamic range bit.

    On another note: Shouldn't it be more interesting to use a standardized input instead of the input of the board? In the current protocol a good output could be handicapped by a bad input, and conversely. For most users the output is much more important than the input, so it might be better to test it independently? I would recommend using a USB soundcard as an easy means of doing this test on the same machine, without changing the setup protocol too much.

    And finally - I seem to remember Rightmark results for earlier reviews - it would be interesting to have those (or maybe a reference soundcard?) as comparison in the same graph. After all, for DPC you maintain a large cross-platform table as well.

    Nice thorough initial review, those nitpicks withstanding.
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Unfortunately I can't adjust the engine to represent from 0 for negative values, I don't have access to the low level options. I forwarded it on as an issue.

    I'd love to use a standardized input with RMAA. I guess it would be good to get a sound card with an input that supercedes the output of the motherboard and put it through that way, and hopefully there won't be a driver conflict along the line. I'll see what I can do to get in the hardware for that, although many soundcards are designed more for output and the input dynamic range/distortion might be the limiting factor as is the case on motherboards. Something like the Xonar Essence STX has a 118 dBA input with -113 dBA THD+N which might be a good starting point.

    Our RMAA testing for Z87 has changed a little from Z77 to make it more of an efficiency test rather than an out-the-box test as audio is such a varied playing field. RMAA is very sensitive to certain windows settings and volumes for example such that with the right combination it was very easy to show A>B or B>A depending on how the OS felt it should be set up. The new testing regimen for RMAA should iron out those issues but the results are not exactly comparable to Z77 for that reason. There are so many wrong ways to set up RMAA it can be difficult (and a learning experience) to get it right.

    Ian
    Reply
  • popej - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Nice to see you are planning steps in right direction. Using reference card for measurements is a proper solution. Be aware, that separate card add complications to the test, for example you will have to take care about ground loops and signal level matching. Professional card with balanced input could help a lot. Reply

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