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Roundup: Z77 Express motherboards from AsRock, Asus, Gigabyte and MSI
by Guillaume Louel
Published on July 2, 2012

Software

The manufacturers deliver a certain number of utilities in Windows that allow users to manage their mobos better. We have had a good look at what's on offer.

ASRock

The ASRock software offer looks a lot like the offer we wrote about here a few months ago, though there has been one small innovation.


XFast LAN, a piece of software for prioritisation of network traffic based on cFos Speed (a paid application), is still included for example.


On the USB side, ASRock supplies another application, XFast USB. XFast USB allows you to accelerate USB transfer speeds by replacing, port by port, the default USB driver. You do have to remove and then reinsert a peripheral into the port the first time you plug the peripheral in but overall it functions simply and efficiently. ASRock also supplies an application which implements the USB Battery Charging spec, which means charging can run on 1.5A instead of the standard 500 mA (required for USB charging for certain pieces of hardware such as iPads and so on)


ATXTU is another somewhat mixed bag application. It groups several monitoring, fan control (the same as what’s on offer in the BIOS) and overclocking options which will require a reboot. There have however been two changes to the previous version. Firstly, the energy economy module, which was included previously, actually works this time! Secondly, ASRock now includes a RAMdisk application, Xfast RAM, which is a good idea!


ASRock still provides the sound utility, THX TruStudio Pro. To recap, this is a piece of software developed by Creative that allows you to apply a certain number of effects, the utility of which every user will be able to decide for themselves (multichannel to stereo conversion, improvement of dialogues, dynamically adjusted volume and so on). It must be activated online.


Let’s finish with the last application, Instant Boot. The concept behind Instant Boost is original to say the least, as it promises an instantaneous Windows boot. In fact, this is more of a trick than anything. When you turn your PC off, it forces Windows to restart completely then shuts down (either in RAM standby or sleep). When you restart your PC it will therefore come back to life on a freshly booted system (more or less). We don’t really see the point of it.

Asus


Most of the Asus software offer is grouped under AI Suite. Asus has progressed here, putting everything together and avoiding the need for multiple downloads on its site. Note however that two identical applications, AiCharger and USB Charger+, are included, which is strange. The AI Suite bundle is nevertheless very practical, a plus for Asus.

AI Suite appears as an application launch bar, with the applications launching on top. The problems with slowdowns on start-up that we remarked on previously have disappeared, with AI Suite very responsive on launch.




All the utilities included may be daunting for some and the repetitions aren’t limited to USB 3. There are two monitoring applications, which could be fused into one, as could TurboEvo and DigiVRM+. The excellent FanXpert is now in version 2 with an automatic detection of connected fans. The interface is still very user-friendly and allows you to set your fans in the form of a curve. While the repetitions are unnecessary, overall we're impressed.


The diagnostics tool still comes separately. Note that Asus has removed the Zynga add icon, which used to appear on the previous version, which is good!

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