GIGABYTE Z97X-UD5H Review: Choose Your Storage Optionby Ian Cutress on May 14, 2014 9:00 AM EST
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GIGABYTE Z97X-UD5H BIOS
For Z97, the graphical BIOS ecosystem (either UEFI or EFI) has the opportunity for incremental updates. This might be fully fledged adjustments graphically, the addition of new features or the results of the engineers internally flexing some talent. For GIGABYTE, the Z97 BIOS in general uses the same topology from Z87 – a high definition mode on top of the classic mode from Z77. The main difference is the use of a ‘Startup Guide’ akin to an easy mode when you first enter the BIOS:
The options in the startup guide include Fast Boot options, Boot Sequence adjustment, SATA adjustment, security, start-up options (which mode to start in) and basic time adjustment. Unfortunately I have to become highly critical to this easy mode: if I had no idea what system I was dealing with and I moved into this BIOS, the only thing I now know about the system is that it is a GIGABYTE system. There is nothing on the front page about the CPU, the Motherboard, the speed settings, the temperatures or the BIOS revision. It is only because I have used GIGABYTE BIOSes before that I understand that pressing F2 will adjust to one of the other modes that will tell me this information. This menu uses a discordant amount of blank space for not very detailed icons and is not particularly that helpful as a startup guide beyond boot sequencing. One look at the Integrated SATA Controller icon gives me no idea what options are behind it, and for those new to the build-your-own desktop PC ecosystem, ‘Integrated SATA Controller’ means almost nothing. How about the word ‘Storage Options’?
When a user clicks one of the icons the other options fade away and others take its place relating to the option chosen. Here the Integrated SATA Controller offers two options, enabling (one would wonder why it would need to be disabled in a startup guide) and the other is SATA Mode selection. Aside from the image above having text clipped, the information on the help description on the left does not correlate with the options on the right. Aside from being slightly unreadable (grey text on grey/black background), there are no options for hot-plug status as mentioned, and the text says this option only covers chipset ports. Chances that a new user would know which are or are not the chipset ports is anyone’s guess, however this is a graphical BIOS and the opportunity to put in a basic image to identify the relevant ports is missed.
The Start-up Options tab gives the four modes which a user can set for future booting: the Startup Guide, Smart Tweak Mode/HD and Classic Mode. Note that when a BIOS is flashed to a later version, this option has to be reset. Unfortunately there is nothing GIGABYTE can do about this. However, the Smart Tweak and Classic modes are those that we saw on Z87, the first being a full 1920x1080 HD platform that shows all the information we need:
Unfortunately taking screenshots on my 1440p monitor cuts off some of the bottom of the BIOS, but it does show fully on a 1440p monitor. The information at the bottom and around the sides is just what we need in a BIOS – model names, frequencies, CPU installed, memory installed, memory speeds, temperatures, voltages, fan speeds, the whole lot. While I still have a mild dislike of the color scheme (I find it hard to focus on relevant data when quick glancing), the menus themselves are slightly rearranged better than on Z87.
Shown above we have the Frequency Tab, which splits into the frequencies for overclocking, and the Advanced CPU Core Settings. In this menu users can apply frequency overclocks on the CPU, the IGP and enable XMP. The Advanced CPU Core Settings menu opens up the options into more detail including turbo rations, power limits and C-states:
Similarly moving to the Memory main tab gives the advanced memory options, with a further tab for sub-timings:
The third tab relates to the advanced voltage options. Users of the Classic Mode in previous GIGABYTE BIOSes will notice that these three main tabs in Smart Mode mimic the main OC options from Classic Mode. This is an important level of integration, allowing users that are more accustomed to the older design to get up to speed on the new design because the two are laid out the same.
The voltage tabs are split into power settings (load line calibrations and thermal protections), CPU core voltages (VCore, VRIN, RING voltage, VCCSA), Chipset voltages and DRAM voltages. One point to note is the text overflow issue in English shown above – some options are too many characters for the designated spaces to hold, and yet there is plenty of blank space to the side unused.
The Miscellaneous tab offers a couple of the more obscure settings as well as PC Health, including the fan controls. For another generation GIGABYTE is giving BIOS fan controls as a function of PWM value/ºC. This is an unexplained metric in the BIOS (making it harder to understand from a user experience perspective), but I will try here.
Each fan header on the motherboard can apply a power from 0 to 255 to a fan. The fan will speed up according to the power profile of the fan (e.g. nothing until 10% power, then linear increase – this is determined by the fan design, not the motherboard). The fan power is not a direct linear correlation relationship to the fan speed, however the gradient of the power increase can be controlled in the BIOS. Thus a choice of 0.75 PWM value/ºC will increase the power of the fan by 0.75 units every degree Celsius that the CPU increases.
Given the leaps and bounds that other motherboard manufacturers have made on the fan front in the BIOS, as well as GIGABYTE’s own efforts on fan controls in the OS, I was hoping that the BIOS fan control would have been improved for Z97, however it is the same method as previous generations.
The Home screen is what GIGABYTE wants the HD BIOS to actually jump in to, which it did back with Z87. Here we have a group of overclock options such as BCLK, Clock Ratio, DRAM Multiplier and voltages. Almost everything most overclockers will need! The next tab along the line is labeled ‘Standard’ and offers options such as display output and SATA options. The ‘Your Name 1/2/3/4’ menus are the custom menus that allow users to pull options from other menus and place them into a custom menu. This was also introduced with Z87, however I think the menus GIGABYTE offers here will cater for almost everyone.
Updating the BIOS while in the BIOS uses GIGABYTE’s Q-Flash interface. Attach a drive to the USB 2.0 port with the BIOS file in the root drive to ensure compatibility and ease of use.
The other mode in the BIOS is classic mode.
We have gone through Classic mode in many reviews before [1,2,3,4,5] so I will not dwell on it here, but Classic mode tends to be the go-to option for many enthusiast overclockers. I feel this is because (a) it has been part of the GIGABYTE ecosystem for a number of years and they are used to it, and (b) due to the differing contrast it is a lot easier to read. It also happens to have a lot of the peripheral options:
For a full visual outlook of the BIOS we tested, see the gallery below.
With the new graphical BIOS there are many different ways a motherboard company can adjust the BIOS to be more interactive, but sometimes the graphically simpler interfaces are the easiest to use. There has to be the right leap from old to new for everyone to change.
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The_Assimilator - Thursday, May 15, 2014 - linkA: By that argument every chipset ever made should still support ISA.
B: The Flex IO diagram on this very page specifically states "Total of 14 USB2 ports". I'm reading that as being a constant entirely independent of the number of USB 3.0 ports, but if you have any literature to contradict that, I'd be appreciative if you could link it.
repoman27 - Thursday, May 15, 2014 - linkNot sure I follow your logic. USB is probably the most used feature of a modern chipset (I suppose SATA probably gives it a run for its money though). Take a look at any USB 3.0 connector and you'll find 5 contacts which correspond to the SuperSpeed transmit and receive signaling pairs and ground, and then 4 more that carry the USB 2.0 signal and Vbus. This is how USB 3.0 achieves SuperSpeed while maintaining backwards compatibility, and the signals all need to come from somewhere.
Intel hasn't posted datasheets for the 9 series chipsets yet, but there really isn't a heck of a lot of difference between them and the 8 series (in fact they're all currently listed in ARK under the "Products (Formerly Lynx Point)" heading). In the 8 series datasheet [ http://www.intel.com/content/dam/www/public/us/en/... ], however, Intel states: "xHCI USB controller provides support for up to 14 USB ports, of which six can be configured as SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports." Intel also includes this additional note: "Some USB 3.0 motherboard down devices do not require support for USB 2.0 speed and it is possible to route only the SuperSpeed signals, as allowed by the USB 3.0 specification. In this special case, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 signals will not need to be paired together, thereby allowing support for more than 14 USB connections."
Interestingly, although the PCH package only provides connections for 14 USB 2.0 signals, those signals can come from either the newer xHCI or the two legacy EHCI controllers which are still present on the chip.
DanNeely - Thursday, May 15, 2014 - linkAm I correctly understanding that as saying that by routing the signals separately you could create a USB3 only port that's not back compatible with USB 1/2?
repoman27 - Thursday, May 15, 2014 - linkYou're not allowed to do that according to the USB 3.0 Specification, but let's say you had an on board card reader that had a SuperSpeed USB interface, then you wouldn't necessarily be required to route a USB 2.0 signal to it as well and could use that signal for something else instead.
repoman27 - Thursday, May 15, 2014 - linkIf all the high speed signaling ports were Flex I/O ports, everyone who purchased a PC or motherboard based on that platform would be paying for an insanely large PCIe 2.0 switch with 18 downstream lanes/ports, an 18-port xHCI, and an 18-port SATA 6Gb/s controller plus 18 separate muxes to steer the desired signals to each port. I'm sure Intel would be happy to sell all that to the OEMs instead of just letting them use discrete controllers, but I seriously doubt it would end up lowering the BOM cost any. Flex I/O is just a way to keep the PCH package size down by steering features to a reduced number of balls. I'd rather be able to actually utilize all of the controllers I'm paying for.
Not all of the chipsets offer 14 USB ports, and not all of the available USB ports are necessarily routed to external connectors or headers on the logic board. Some of them are used to connect devices on the motherboard itself or other embedded features. Also, since this many ports have been available since the 5 Series, Intel can't exactly regress the feature set while AMD is still offering 14 USB ports.
KAlmquist - Thursday, May 15, 2014 - linkWith the current "Flex IO" design, Intel implemented 20 high speed controllers (8 PCIe, 6 SATA, and 6 USB 3.0), but only provided pinouts for 18 of them, meaning that two controllers sit unused. To provide full I/O flexibility, Intel would have to implement 54 controllers (18 of each type), 36 of which would be unused. It sounds like a waste of silicon to me.
gloinsir - Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - linkThe Rear IO abuses a Renesas USB 3.0 hub to one USB 3.0 port into four, bringing the total number of USB 3.0 ports the motherboard can handle to eight.
Oh the poor Renasus abuse.
celestialgrave - Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - linkI guess I don't really see the need for wifi built into my desktop motherboard. I'd rather have the dual NICs. But I guess I can see the advantage when it comes to building a computer for mom or grandma.
Ian Cutress - Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - linkIf you have a family, more often than not there is a central WiFi router in the house connecting to everyone. If the house/flat isn't all layed out in RJ-45, then if everyone has a computer it has to get the WiFi signal for connections. For example, I have my NAS connected via ethernet to the router, but the three systems in my office are all connected via WiFi, as well as the HTPC in the front room.
plopke - Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - linkI am still confused about what PCI-Express and M.2 supposed to be in the end for like a regular consumer? One time i read M.2 stuff and pice express will use the same protocl then other times i read articles like this that they wont work together , etc
Any change anyone has some googlde docs spreadsheet that show a table like
connecter type motherboard | protocol | protocol max speed | connecter type SSD | speed SSD | max theorictal performance | compatible