ASUS ROG Maximus VII Hero Reviewccokeman - May 26, 2014
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ASUS ROG Maximus VII Hero Closer Look:
ASUS sets itself apart from the rest of the crowd in many ways with the software and hardware packages, but one of the best things the company has done over the past few generations has been the implementation of the Crash Free UEFI BIOS. Starting with the P67 chipset launch, the UEFI BIOS has been getting smoother and easier to use, with new features added as each new generation is released. New for the Z87 chipset and Haswell launch are some really cool features, such as a more in-depth EZ mode and a Last Modified tab that tracks changes as you work though the BIOS, presenting the user with a map to the options used to generate the performance settings or even just the mundane changes. You also get Quick Note to leave yourself messages in the BIOS or to list specific settings so you can remember them, F4 shortcuts menus for your favorites, SATA Port renaming, and what has to be one of the top additions to the ROG lineup: the ability to Secure Erase drives from within the Crash Free BIOS 3.
EZ Mode in the past was used when you really do not want or need to spend the time going through the advanced section of the BIOS. It can be daunting to the novice user, but the more adept can take advantage of the tuning abilities found in the Advanced section. All the basics are in place to set the boot order, EPU and fan profiles, and illustrate the hardware that is installed in the Maximus VII Hero. Here's where it gets interesting – ASUS has totally revamped the EZ Mode to deliver much of the functionality you get in the Advanced section of the BIOS all on a single page. Much like putting the AI Suite III 5-Way optimization tool in the BIOS.
In the top right section of the EZ Mode page is the EZ Tuning utility, which walks you through a series of easy-to-answer questions dealing with intended usage, cooling capabilities, storage configuration, and the estimated result from the changes. After the tool does its magic, you end up with a result based on your input. In this case, the EZ Tuning mode delivered an almost 4.6GHz speed using a 45 multiplier and 102.0 bclck.
Once you move into the Advanced mode, there are a total of eight tabs to explore, with the first section being My Favorites. Here is where you get some of the new tweaks to the Crash Free BIOS. You can build a series of shortcuts that allow you to jump straight to certain functionality. In this case, I put shortcuts in place for some quick and easy adjustments. You add shortcuts by pressing the F4 button and browsing for the items to add. Outside of the eight tabs are shortcuts across the top of the Advanced section to quickly execute the actions. You can set up hot keys for functions or access the EZ Tuning menu and Q-Fan tuning menu all with one mouse click. Quick Note allows you to leave yourself notes as to what may or may not work, or just simple reminders. Once you choose to exit the BIOS, you get a list of the items last changed.
The Main page option shows the system time, date, BIOS revision and build date, installed CPU and processor speed, memory capacity, system language, and security options including passwords. Not the section you will spend a lot of time in, but nevertheless a source of some valuable information and functionality.
The Advanced tab provides a way to manage much of the system functionality. The CPU configuration tab is used to modify the CPU operating parameters outside of the frequency and voltages. PCH Configuration is where you can enable or disable Intel's drive enhancements and PCIe assignments. Onboard device configuration is used to enable or disable onboard hardware. SATA Configuration is used to set up drive operating parameters, as well as showing the port availability. ROG Effects allow you to enable or disable the ROG Pulse, SupremeFX, and onboard lighting.
The Monitor section is just what the name implies. Under each category you can view the operating characteristics and current state of the pertinent voltages, the fan speeds, temperatures, and enable or disable the Q-Fan speed controls. Since Fan Xpert III manages things quite well, the latter should be left alone unless you are looking for full manual control. Lastly, Anti Surge support can be turned on or off in this section.
Boot: Under this section, Fast Boot can be turned on or off, SATA and USB ports can be enabled or disabled, and DirectKey functionality can be enabled to access the BIOS with Fast Boot enabled. Logo display at boot can be turned off so you can view the P.O.S.T. sequence. Wait for ERROR F1 messages can be turned off (I find this helpful when not running a fan off the CPU fan header), and the boot sequence can be set up here.
Tool: Outside the Extreme Tweaker section, this section is one of the most useful areas of ASUS' UEFI Crash Free BIOS. ASUS EZ Flash utility is a simple-to-use option for flashing the BIOS on ASUS motherboards that has yet to fail on me after years of use. A new feature for a new age in disk drives is the Secure Erase function, which gives you the ability to "secure erase" your drive to improve performance. When using this feature with my Corsair Force GT Drive, it showed as locked and needed a reboot to unlock the drive. After a reboot, the Secure Erase finished as planned. No longer do you have to work through several means to run a secure erase. ASUS OC Profile lets you save and/or load profiles from the BIOS save files or from a USB Flash drive. Coupled with the Last Modified tool, you can make sure you save those important changes. ROG OC Panel H-Key adjusts a finite number of options, including CPU core voltage and frequency.
The Extreme Tweaker section of the BIOS is where you will spend a good majority of your time if you are used to overclocking manually. This section provides all the CPU and DRAM specific settings to get the most from your hardware. Up front, ASUS has said the "auto" rules for the vast majority of settings are tuned well enough that no manipulation or adjustments are needed for most of the settings. In fac,t I used only the CPU vcore, CPU Ring voltage, DRAM Voltage, DRAM Frequency, CPU and Cache ratio, and the basic timings to reach a 4.7GHz overclock on the CPU I have. However, you have access to pretty much every option as far as voltages, Load Line Calibration, current limits, and overrides.
The top of this section shows the current state of the hardware. AI Overclock tuner can be set to Auto, Manual, or three preset speeds that mirror the vast majority of CPU capabilities on the market. DRAM Timing Control allows the end user to tune the timings of the installed modules for improved frequency margins or outright performance. GPU DIMM Post shows the installed DRAM modules' current frequency, as well as the installed discrete GPU type and PCIe Lane allocation. Digi+Power control is used to set and apply a value for LLC along with the current limits, phase controls, VRM Switching frequency, and more. Again, the auto rules are pretty good. Tweakers' Paradise lets you get a little more granular as far as power settings go. Towards the bottom of the page, we finally get to the voltages that can be tweaked.
ASUS' UEFI Crash Free BIOS is pretty much the gold standard by which all others are measured when it comes to usability right out of the box. I had no issues navigating through the BIOS with several different mice; the mouse clicks and selection works every time. One issue I did have with saving OC profiles was quickly fixed with a BIOS update to 0508, which should be available now on the ASUS Support site for the Maximus VII. ASUS' ongoing support is one thing many of you are aware of, but if not, the long term BIOS support is there for ASUS and especially the ROG series. In addition, ASUS has its own forum that encourages members to participate in the ROG Exchange process, which puts tried and tested BIOS settings packages out and available to try for all users. The ability to upload a BIOS from a file is key to this ability. If by chance you corrupt the BIOS, the end user can recover the BIOS in about two minutes using ASUS' USB BIOS Flashback procedure, easily squashing the fear of a permanently hosed up board due to a bad BIOS flash.