Abit AL8 945P Motherboard Review
The AL8's Software Complement
As we mentioned earlier, the AL8 sports a healthy collection of proprietary software to help make the most of it's feature set. The three main titles are ABIT BlackBox, ABIT FlashMenu and the ABIT uGuru utility which is comprised of ABIT EQ, OC Guru and Fan EQ.
The first title we'll talk about is ABIT BlackBox. This software is meant to profile the system and allow the user to enter diagnostic information for submission to ABIT should a problem arise. The concept is equated to an airliner's black box which records all critical information at the time of trouble. While the concept is good, the software seems like somewhat of an afterthought. When we ran the software's auto-detect feature, none of the fields were filled in automatically. Apparently, ABIT hasn't updated ABIT BlackBox to recognize the board it was bundled with.
ABIT FlashMenu is more straight forward and functioned as expected. The utility is a Windows based BIOS update tool that polls the ABIT website for the latest BIOS and can update the system automatically. The utility offers a one-step update for those who want the process to go quickly, with little interaction, while a step-by-step option is available for those who want more control over the process. ABIT FlashMenu also gives the option to back up the current BIOS and update from a file that has been manually downloaded from ABIT's website. In our tests, ABIT FlashMenu worked flawlessly, downloading the latest available BIOS and flashing the board without error.
ABIT uGuru is the most comprehensive of the three titles included with the AL8, offering a plethora of options for controlling a wide range of the board's features. The first component of ABIT uGuru is ABIT EQ. ABIT EQ is a system monitoring utility that reports clock speeds, fan speeds, voltages, and more. ABIT EQ offers extensive configuration options allowing the user to enable which functions are monitored, set thresholds, and even set the system to shutdown if any setting exceeds its specified values.
The second component of ABIT uGuru is OC Guru, ABIT's Windows based overclocking utility. OC Guru, like ABIT EQ, brings a lot of flexibility to the mix, providing options to adjust FSB, VCORE, DDR Voltages and more. OC Guru also comes with several preset modes for those who want a quick overclocking experience. The Normal Mode runs the board at the manufacturer's stock settings, in this case running the FSB at 204MHz as ABIT clocks the AL8 slightly more aggressively by default. Turbo Mode clocks the board more aggressively, while Quiet Mode reduces system speeds to help keep the product running quiet by sacrificing some performance in the process. Three User Modes are also included so the user has the option to set specific profiles based on the task at hand.
Fan EQ is a robust utility offering extensive control over the system's fans. The utility also comes with several modes such as Cool, Quiet, Normal and User Defined to help fit a wide range of options. The fans can be programmed with a High and Low cutoff, while the reference temperature can be adjusted from CPU, System, Average Temp and Highest Temp.
Wrapping up the ABIT uGuru's features is AutoDrive, a feature that allows overclocking profiles to be run based on the application that is loaded. So if you want to play Half-Life 2 with the CPU overclocked, AutoDrive can be configured to do this automatically. This can also be useful if the user wants to minimize noise and power consumption by setting the system to run in Quiet Mode, then assigning more aggressive modes to specific applications in AutoDrive.
Overall, ABIT uGuru is one of the more comprehensive tweaking utilities we've come across in a long time, delivering an excellent degree of control over how the system board is configured to operate.