Yet again as we've seen on the other platforms, the UEFI BIOS interface on Z77 motherboards is one of the factors that separates the men from the boys. The competition sell models with very decent hardware offerings, but most if not all of them fail to reach the level of BIOS refinement that ASUS has offered since the P67 Sandy Bridge era even on the latter's entry level products.
There are two parts that make up a successful UEFI implementation –
- front end GUI that the user interacts with (usability factors like snappiness in navigation and helpful option labels)
- backend routines that keeps the system operational (overclocking fail watchdog, high speed memory initialization/retraining, RAID/Ethernet oprom loading and CPU microcode).
We appreciate the level of complexity that goes into building a quasi mini Operating System that fits into 32Mbit/64Mbit of flash rom, but the other Taiwanese manufacturers ought to take a page out of ASUS's playbook and have proper menu structures, naming of controls as well frequent updates to fix niggling compatibility issues.
We like the fact that ASUS's UEFI have the voltage and clock frequency/multiplier options on the same page with the more advanced memory and PWM tweaks hidden in submenus, with varying degrees of red highlighting the danger levels of the selected voltage.
If you are patient and have no life, you can even play around with the clock skews to squeeze out more MHz from your overclock.
DRAM timing controls are aplenty but we tend to use the provided memory presets which are values that the ROG engineers feel is optimal.
The PWM controls are verbose in numbers and we like to keep everything at max for best fidelity in overclocking.
We have mentioned about ASUS's polarizing AI Suite utility several times before in our previous reviews, with the main criticism being the size of the installation package (160MB+) which can be a showstopper when downloading over a slow Internet connection. That aside, the user interface is largely clean and unobtuse, with most tunables applied without any noticable delay or the need for operating system reboot.
A lot of overclockers we know prefer the minimalist GUI approach of Gigabyte's TweakLauncher or EVGA's E-Leet which are devoid of fancy graphic effects and excessive sensor polling that will affect benchmark scores.
To woo the gaming crowd, ASUS has included two Software QOS utilities (Network iControl and ROG GameFirst) for network gaming traffic prioritization. Not sure if its prudent to run both of them at the same time though.
The included ROG Mem TweakIt utility allows expert level adjustment of primary and secondary memory timings, and has a useful function to calculate the efficiency of your changes.
Another very cool feature is the Formula 1-ish mobile telemetry that is made possible by ROG Connect, allowing control and monitoring of BIOS settings remotely (i.e on another machine) without incurring any CPU interrupts.
Like most other Z77 boards, a Lucid Virtu MVP license is included in the package, allowing for the IGP to work in tandem with discreet GPU for Quick Sync and energy saving. Recent updates also add HyperFormance support for current games like Battlefield 3 and Diablo 3, and we will be testing out its touted benefits again in a later feature piece.
Even the Realtek audio control panel has a ROG skin.