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

Gigabyte

Gigabyte is probably the manufacturer that has introduced the most innovation: it is finally offering a 'graphical' UEFI BIOS. We have covered the broad lines of this interface previously and now aim to look at it in more detail.


Described as a 3D BIOS, the interface displays an image of the motherboard (that can be rotated 90°, which is where the 3D comes from) with certain sections that can be selected. If you don’t do anything, these areas flash as if to invite you to place your cursor on them.





The first good idea, problem and surprise comes when you click on the processor to set the system and a window appears in the middle of the screen. We like the column on the right with the monitoring information but the problem is that some of the information is hidden. The happy surprise is that the window can be moved around, which, note, is a first in a BIOS! Once we got over this however, we were still left wondering why the window hadn’t been better placed. Otherwise, the number of options varies a great deal from one place to another. In the end, while the intentions aren’t bad, the implementation, though a little more extensive than Asus' EZ Mode, is lacking and you'll find yourself resorting to the advanced interface.







As with Asus previously, the font chosen by Gigabyte here is small and fine. Overall, the strong contrast between the background and the font does help, but we would like to see better in the future. The overclocking settings are grouped in the MIT tab as usual but Gigabyte has gone for too many sub-pages. The best example is with the voltages, split into three so as to fit in with the ‘3D' concept. While we can accept some marketing speak, when it has a negative impact on design we’re less inclined to be understanding!

This isn’t the only problem that we noted. Strangely, while clicking on an option brings up a menu, you have to double click to select the value. The double click wasn’t designed for this sort of usage. Another problem is that some options don’t display a menu and when you click on them nothing happens. This is the case with the voltages where you have to use the + and - buttons to move from Auto to Normal and then in the case of Vcore you go from 1.1 to 2.1V by steps of 0.05V. Sure you can also type in the value you want, but there’s nevertheless a clear lack of design forethought here. Another odd thing is that the page up and page down buttons work as + and - buttons, which isn’t very logical or practical.



The other options are standard. Overall Gigabyte has come up with a UEFI BIOS that is okay as a first venture into the domain but it nevertheless has a lot to do to catch up with the competition. Some of the design details would be simple to correct but having a dual 3D BIOS/Advanced mode needs either to be rethought to be of any use and to represent a real alternative or put to one side and be replaced with a more usable advanced interface.

MSI

To finish this secton let's move on to MSI, who have also brought out a new version of their BIOS, known as the ClickBIOS II.


Out with the flashing icons and clicks which only work every other time. This new BIOS is usable and once launched the BIOS even looks rather swish. As with all the other manufacturers (except Asus), the choice of font is regrettable. It's small here and in some cases poorly contrasted!









In practice, not everything works perfectly and the rather strange design choices quickly become apparent. For example, you have to double click every time to choose an option, then double click again to validate a menu. We insist on the point that design rules (and the rules of good taste!) dictate that the double click should never be used in this way! A lot of time is lost and it’s no consolation that the mouse scroll is supported! Overall MSI has grouped most options in Settings. Everything is there except overclocking. The middle column is rather narrow and you quickly find yourself wondering if all those big buttons were really necessary on what is a text interface in the middle.







The overclocking menu is also very much compressed, though all the necessary options are there, including the profile backup options. The lack of clear markings means that time is lost searching for the right option though we do like the menu allowing you to customise OC Genie! This allows you to force XMP recognition for example, or ask for more aggressive settings. Some control of automatic features is no bad thing.



The Eco menu is without any practical use – while lots of useful settings are hidden in the Settings sections, certain settings that will never be changed take up an entire tab. Things aren’t much better on the right with ‘Browser’ allowing you to boot on a special USB key (the Winki, which is prepared in Windows). The point of this in this day and age is limited. This is particularly a shame as some of the functions in the Utilities menu (HDD Backup and Live Update) still require the use of the Winki. The whole point of the UEFI is to remove the need to boot an alternative system! Thankfully you can flash the BIOS without the Winki. We’ll finish on the fact that the three buttons in the middle of the interface (Eco mode, Standard mode and OC Genie II) are clickable… though nothing happens when you do click.

While the MSI BIOS is far from perfect, it’s much more usable that it was before. It’s not the best designed BIOS out there and some strange choices have been made, which it has to be said do have their charm, but at the end of the day it works without too much fluff.

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