The New BIOS
Before we managed to do our tests on the new BIOS we had to flash the motherboard with the latest offering from Gigabyte. Thanks to DualBIOS and Q-Flash this is no longer a matter of DOS boot disks, only a simple floppy disk is required with the BIOS image loaded on, the rest is all done through the BIOS.
Once you enter BIOS, which is your standard press DEL key to enter BIOS routine, you then press the F8 key that loads the DualBIOS/Q-Flash utility. Once opened this control panel lets you arrange the DualBIOS redundancy options as well as flash the BIOS from the FDD image, all without needing any DOS boot disks. It can even be done without any Hard Disks attached. What would be nice is the option to do this from a flash drive or a flash memory card, however, Gigabyte hasn't advanced their DualBIOS technology this far yet.
Here you can see the actual control panel. To flash the BIOS you need to select Flash Main BIOS from Floppy. This will then search the floppy disk for the image file, once you select the file, BIOS checks to make sure that this BIOS is the right one for your board, when all is clear you are given the Yes or No option to flash the Main BIOS. Once you have flashed the BIOS you simply reset the PC and bingo, you now have the new BIOS installed on the board. While you can flash the Backup BIOS with the floppy image, it is recommended to make sure the current one is stable and works fine. Once you have verified this you can flash the backup BIOS with the latest file which will give you a much better restore point if your BIOS ever corrupts.
Now that this is complete, we will have a look at the new BIOS. Gigabyte has been hiding all the advanced options in its BIOS's, but you can still access them if you are an advanced user. Pressing the F1 key when in BIOS brings up the Advanced Chipset Features menu into the main window, as well as unlocking features under each of the existing sub menus.
In the picture above you can see on the left the BIOS screen before the F1 key is pressed, on the Right you see the BIOS after the F1 Key is pressed, note the appearance of the Advanced Chipset Features menu. While we are testing the new BIOS we aren't here to do a run down on each of the menu feature but skip to the all important one, the MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T) Menu where the Overclocking and optimisation features are held.
Under the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T) menu Gigabyte has placed all the overclocking options that one would expect. Gigabyte hasn't changed much in the way of overclocking except from allowing you to set the M.I.B.2 options manually, which wasn't available previously. When it came to testing this time we were somewhat happier with the results. Using the default BIOS that Gigabyte supplied last time FSB adjustments above 205MHz would cause the system to simply fail POST, the C.I.A.2 settings had to be disabled; selecting any of them would cause a failed post. When it came to C.I.A.2 settings we managed to have the PC run all settings without any problems, setting from Cruse all the way to maximum would allow the PC to POST and load Windows without any problems - stability tests were 100%, so Gigabyte has a top mark for this part.
As for the manual overclocking, this still has some work to do. As you can see from the image there is no PCI-E or PCI ratio locks, which poses the question, are they actually on? At the moment there are no programs that can accurately detect the PCI-E or PCI bus speed to determine this, Gigabyte did tell us that the PCI-E and PCI were locked, however, this does seem a bit suspect since our overclocking topped out at 247MHz. With other boards like the ASUS P5AD2 and the ABIT AA8, when setting divider locks speeds over 266MHz were achievable. Adding the feature in the BIOS and allowing the user to select the ratio locks would be a much better approach in our opinion.
Voltage tweaks are something that Gigabyte needs to address also. Even with the latest BIOS voltage options were still limited. CPU voltage goes to a Maximum of 1.6v. While this may seem okay for Prescott users, Gallatin users (P4 Extreme) will not be happy as this is the limit for them too. PCI-E Over-Volt runs to a maximum of +0.3v above standard, this translates to 1.8v which does come in with a lot of the boards these days. DIMM Over-Volt runs to the same max of 0.3v above default making a maximum of 2.1v for DDR-2 memory modules.
Overall on the overclocking we do see a fairly good improvement from the previous settings; however, we believe there is still room for improvement if Gigabyte want to be at the level ASUS and ABIT are at with their Intel 915 and 925 motherboards.
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