X79 Motherboard Roundup: ASRock, ASUS, Gigabyte
UEFI Comparison and Overclocking
Gigabyte has finally followed suit with the rest of the competition with a true UEFI BIOS, even offering different “modes” for differently-experienced users. Gigabyte’s so-called 3D BIOS has a 3D Mode and an Advanced Mode; the former gives you a “3D” image of the motherboard so you can click various sections of the picture to adjust those settings. The latter lets you navigate the other areas of the BIOS with a mouse and keyboard.
In both modes, unfortunately, the results are disappointing. Gigabyte’s 3D BIOS is slow, janky, and confusing. There are a few items items that seem to warrant a double-click, but for some reason the mouse does nothing, and you have to use the old PU/PD buttons to navigate; in other cases, the mouse works just fine. That means that either the design is poor or the execution is at fault,t but neither is acceptable. We also noticed that the F10 command doesn’t work (it doesn’t save the settings), leading to several frustrating reboots before we figured it out.
For as long as it took Gigabyte to build a UEFI, we were initially excited to dig in to the 3D BIOS and all the other overclocking tools such as the OC button on the back panel. Unfortunately, the 3D BIOS seems unfinished.
ASUS’ UEFI BIOS, on the other hand, was excellent even before the tweaks the company added to the latest version for the X79 motherboards; now it’s superb. There’s no noticeable mouse or keyboard lag; the response time to commands is as zippy as you’d expect in the OS environment.
EZ Mode displays plenty of needed information (although we don’t really need the large clock display taking up so much screen real estate) and has handy shortcuts to additional frequently-used features. Advanced mode is a tweaker’s paradise, as everything is adjustable, down to individual fan speeds and voltages.
ASRock’s UEFI isn’t as flashy as ASUS’, but it performs just as well. There are just 7 areas to work in (Main, OC Tweaker, Advanced, H/W Monitor, Boot, Security, and Exit). although you can open the “System Browser”, which is basically just an overhead shot of the board with areas you can hover over and click to adjust--not unlike Gigabyte’s 3D Mode. Overall, ASRock provides a clean, easy-to-use environment, but there is still plenty to work with in terms of adjusting settings.
We left the voltages alone and pushed our systems simply by finding an optimal balance between the base clock and CPU ratio. On air cooling, the Gigabyte X79-UD5 hit the highest stable clock at 4.3GHz. The ASRock X79 Extreme 6/GB posted the second-best clock at 4.24GHz, and both ASUS boards topped out at 4.18GHz.
The variance between the boards is notable; however, virtually every aspect of these motherboards is adjustable (especially the ASUS boards), so with some patience and a lot of time and tweaking, we believe each board in our roundup has even more headroom to work with than we found.