Asus P8Z77 WS Reviewccokeman - October 18, 2012
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ASUS usually pulls together a pretty comprehensive suite of tools for use with its motherboards. Starting with the Intel Sandy Bridge socket 1155 launch, the interface of its popular AI Suite has seen significant improvements in form, as well as function. To start, this implementation has five functional areas, as well as the CPU Level Up function as a primary area. Under the Tool section is the majority of the functionality. Included here are TurboV EVO, Digi+Power Control, EPU, Fan Xpert 2, Probe II, Sensor Recorder, AI Charger+, USB Charger +, USB 3.0 Boost, Network iControl, and ASUS SSD Caching. Each of these specific tools are designed together with the rest of the suite. The CPU Level Up function is part of the TurboV Evo Tool and is ASUS' one-stop-shop overclocking utility — set the level of performance you want, agree to the changes, and the system does a quick test on the hardware and restarts the computer to set and run some stability tests on the overclock. The manual settings in TurboV Evo mimic much of what is found in the BIOS, from the core and memory voltages to the bclock and core clock multiplier adjustments that when applied do not require a reboot. ASUS' AI Suite II is fully functional across the product stack and is tailored to each board's hardware capabilities.
Digi+ Power Control has options to improve the overclocking margins by fine tuning the load line calibration, the CPU and DRAM voltage switching frequency, the CPU and DRAM current capability, and power phase control under the Digi+ Power control. An added feature here is the inclusion of the Smart CPU Power function that sets the processor power envelope to either 35 or 45 watts.
ASUS EPU system delivers measurable energy savings when used to its maximum capabilities. There are three different presets to choose from with each offering a more aggressive approach to energy management. Auto, High Performance, and Max Power saving modes each work around five different aspects of power management to deliver power savings on this board that is built for users who do not worry about power consumption, but rather raw MHz and high-end gaming. CO2 emissions reduced through the use of the profiles are shown on the right hand side of the application.
Fan Xpert 2 allows the end user to build and use a specific fan profile for each of the fans attached to the system either manually or through the new tuning feature. This new implementation has the ability to tune the fan profile automatically to give the end user the best of both worlds in terms of cooling capacity and noise. Part of the tuning process includes finding the maximum and minimum fan speeds and assigning a dynamically controlled profile that fits within the usable ranges of the fan. As a small part of the AI Suite, Fan Xpert 2 is incredibly flexible in how it manages the thermal load of the chassis or CPU by the profiles assigned. Higher fan speeds would equate to improved CPU overclocking by way of lower temperatures. With a total of six 4-pin PWM fan headers, this tool is especially useful in managing the airflow through the chassis or cooling solution.
The Probe II section of AI Suite is full of monitoring tools that provide the end user the ability to monitor the system from within the Windows environment with five different tools: Alert, Temperature, Fan, Preferences, and Alert Log. The first tab, Alert, allows the user to set alert levels for system voltages. The Temperature tab is where the alert levels for system temperatures are set. Under the Fan tab you have the same functionality, but with fan speed. The Preferences tab sets up how the alerts are displayed. The Alert Log shows when the alerts happened over a period of time, in log form.
Sensor Recorder is used to display the voltage and fan speeds over a period of time. This is in addition to the alert tracking. Voltages, Temperatures and fan speeds are all track-able items.
AI Charger+ and USB Charger+ are applications that allows the user to charge USB BC 1.1 compatible portable devices such as Android-based phones and tablets, Apple devices, and more up to three times faster than through a standard USB port. You can use this feature while the board is in various power states.
USB 3.0 Boost allows the user to improve the transfer speeds of attached USB devices by using several different protocols. By using an attached USB 3.0 external dock, you can see speeds close to the SATA 6Gb/s maximum transfer rates. Even USB 2.0 devices can see a boost in transfer speed using this feature. Delving further into the level of performance increases you can look for by using the USB 3.0 Boost feature, you can see the performance with and without the Turbo function enabled, using both the Intel and ASMedia controlled USB 3.0 ports. Using this functionality shows tangible gains in both read and write performance of the drive by using the USB 3.0 Boost feature. This will result in less time needed to transfer large files to and from the external drive mounted in the docking station. The left results are through the Intel controller while the right results are from the ASMedia controller.
ASUS SSD Caching allows the user to connect an SSD to boost up the response of a traditional hard drive. What makes ASUS' implementation so sweet is that you no longer need to set up a RAID array combining the small SSD and large spindle drive to use the feature. With Intel's IRST you have to build the RAID array and reload the OS to take advantage of the technology. ASUS solution does not require all the extra work. Simply connect the SSD to the Marvell-controlled SATA port and run thorough the steps to add the SSD to the system for an immediate boost in spindle drive performance. Using ASUS SSD caching utility you can add or subtract the cache drive to or from the system without an OS reinstallation. The results show that the spindle drive by itself sees a nice boost right off the bat.
Network iControl is a real time network bandwidth control application used to prioritize your network traffic for the most efficient use of the available bandwidth The application features a one click bandwidth control of running programs as well as a means to schedule program usage for optimized bandwidth.
Under the Update radio button, you can update the BIOS and change the boot logo that is currently displayed by the BIOS or in another saved BIOS. USB BIOS Flashback is a tool much like most of the AI Suite II utility that allows the user to back up the BIOS and then flash the backed up or downloaded BIOS to the motherboard. This can be accomplished with or without the CPU and DRAM installed. An almost foolproof means to recover the BIOS from a hard crash or bad flash.
Last are the System information and Settings tabs. The System information tab has three separate windows that list the Motherboard information CPU information and the DRAM SPD (Serial Presence Detect) settings of the installed modules. The Settings tab allows the end user to pick what items are shown on the AI Suite tool bar under "Application," while the actual configuration of the tool bar is managed under the "Bar" tab.
As a utility, AI Suite II is one of if not the best on the market in terms a flow and function, without the glitches that hamper the user experience on other boards.