BIOS and Software
UEFI BIOS came out on Gigabyte boards just under a year ago in November 2011. The ability to use a mouse and keyboard as well as a much more straightforward interface is what brought the UEFI BIOS to the masses. The first cut for Gigabyte was okay, but the mousing and animations were stuttery and not all that smooth overall. In addition, some fields had to be clicked, and an enter on the keyboard was ignored when a mouse click was necessary. This made for an experience which was, ultimately, a bit of a mixed bag. Their latest version for Z77 has been cleaned up a bit, but some of the keyboard incompatibilities are still present, and it's still not as smooth as we'd like, but it's still very usable, just not perfect yet.
As usual, all of those advanced options are still available to the power user, and Gigabyte even offers a 3rd option: the 3D BIOS. The picture on the left is the first page in the manual overclocking tree. A 3D illustration of the motherboard appears, and you can click on each component to get status information and change settings. 3D BIOS offers a way to control your system through a "shortcut" in a visually-appealing GUI. Gigabyte bundles several software apps with their motherboard that all help maintain and manipulate preferences to configure the board exactly how you want. We looked at a few of these programs in our review of the Gigabyte GA-X79-UD3. Below we cover the 3D power utility, EasyTune 6, and LAN Optimizer.
3D Power Utility
One of Gigabyte's unique features is the 3D Power system. It is an all-digital PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) controller array to control power to and from the most important components on the board: CPU, graphics, and memory. It allows precise manipulation of the voltages to these components for not only the best overclocking experience, but consistent, clean voltage that can extend the life of your components.Through the 3D power utility, you can monitor these voltages and make adjustments as necessary. It's a very useful utility when it comes to perfecting an overclocking profile to get the most performance for the least power, with minimal risk to the hardware. This is certainly an advanced feature, but those who can take advantage surely will appreciate it.
Easy Tune 6 offers the user a graphical interface to manipulate almost every system setting outside of the BIOS. You can both monitor and alter voltages and frequencies to obtain the best possible system configuration. One big advantage this tool provides is a method for overclocking the graphics card, which cannot be done througth the BIOS. Even a small OC to the video card can provide those extra frames you need to beat the competition. The settings are fairly straight forward, although we'd like it if the software could communicate with the BIOS to append the settings without having to restart, which would be a huge time-saver. Easy Tune 6 also offers some auto-overclocking features which we'll detail in the Overclocking section in a bit.
Easy Tune 6 also allows for "smart" power adjustment, as well as hardware monitoring and basic fan control. The fan controller allows for a linear fan curve with high and low temperatures to adjust how quickly (or slowly) the fan speed will ramp.
The LAN Optimizer allows the user to manipulate their network connection and prioritize processes to get the most bandwidth. Large downloads can get a smaller quota than say HD media streaming or online gaming, both of which require a stable, uninterrupted connection. A number of program "triggers" can be set so that when you fire up Steam, your NIC will let everything else know that your game has the utmost priority.
GIGABYTE Tweak Launcher
Tweak Launcher is yet another system settings editor. It provides access to RAM timing values and motherboard voltages through a simple interface in Windows. You can create multiple timing profiles for different situations and load them without having to go to the BIOS each time you want to change something. Finding a stable overclock is much quicker this way.