abit AG8 - Page 6

..:: AG8 System BIOS ::..

ABIT motherboards are well known for offering some of the most useful, and in some cases excessive BIOS options available. On previous motherboards, we’ve seen countless tweaks that could be applied to the memory frequency, and timings that could stump a seasoned builder. With the launch of their uGuru chip not all that long ago, ABIT stepped up to the plate with yet another incredibly useful, and powerful tool to add to their high-end products. The ABIT AG8 is the second motherboard from ABIT that we have used with uGuru, so we’ll again be covering the options available in depth for you. The uGuru section of the BIOS is where you’ll end up doing 90% or more of your BIOS work, so we’re going to steer clear of most of the remaining menus that we’ve seen over…and over…and over before. The AG8 BIOS is identical to that offered by the AA8-DuraMAX minus one or two small changes.

When you initially enter into the BIOS, the first menu that will be highlighted is that of the uGuru Utility. When you enter into this menu, you’ll find a rather different layout that your typical BIOS setup, along with a far more throughout listing of controls and options. The first menu we’ll cover here is that of OC Guru. If you didn’t happen to pick it up from the name, this is where all of the overclocking related tweaks can be found and tinkered with.

Starting off from the top, we have the External Clock setting, which we had set to exactly 200MHz for our testing. The default FSB is overclocked slightly to 204MHz. This is typical of high-end motherboards from the likes of ABIT and others. Below this, we have the Multiplier which most of you won’t ever be able to utilize, the Reset Strap setting which is dependent on the processor you’re using, the DRAM frequency, and finally the PCI Clock. As far as voltage adjustments go, the AG8 follows right in line with all of the classic ABIT performance boards. The AG8 offers a huge range of voltages for both the processor and DRAM, as well as the Northbridge voltage which has been rumored to be the primary contributor to the overclocking limits.

The second component that makes up the uGuru BIOS menu is that of ABIT EQ. This is the control and monitoring portion of the BIOS that tweak freaks such as myself love to deal with. ABIT has allowed for an impressive level of tweaking fan speeds, voltages, temperature shutdowns, and more within the various submenus. There are four such submenus, all of which are self explanatory simply by their names. We have Temperature Monitoring, Voltage Monitoring, Fan Speed Monitoring, and finally FanEQ Control. The only menu here which might seem new is the FanEQ Control, though a similar option was included on some older ABIT boards.

The Temperature Monitoring submenu allows for adjustment of the various beep and shutdown temperatures for the system. In the image above of this submenu, we see the default settings as provided by ABIT. As you can see, the user has complete control over the temperature at which the system will emit beeps to warn the user of impending disaster, as well as control over temperatures at which the system will shut down. Obviously, most users would want to lower some of these shutdown temperatures for safety sake. I did happen to decide to test out whether or not these settings would cause system shutdown by accidentally forgetting to plug in the fan power connection, and disabling fan monitoring. Sure enough, after a few seconds of operation the beeps began, followed by a complete system shut down.

The Voltage Monitoring submenu basically does exactly the same this as above, although now we’re dealing with a wider variety of items being monitored. With this submenu, ABIT has pre-programmed the system with the acceptable voltage ranges for each of the various components. The user can adjust whether or not the system will emit beeps if any of these voltages fall out of spec, or rise far above what they should be running at. The user can also tell the system to shutdown completely if any of the various voltages goes out of spec. As you can see from the image above, all of our voltages were running strong, so gladly we weren’t able to run any tests on these items.

Next up, we have both of the fan related submenus. First off, the Fan Speed Monitoring submenu monitors the system fan RPM readings, and in case of a low reading with either emits a beep notification to the user, or in dire situations shut down the system completely. We had a little fun and did indeed manage to get the system to shutdown like a charm if the fan RPM suddenly went to low, i.e. imitating a dying / dead fan. The FanEQ submenu allows for control over the system fan speeds. These speeds are controlled by various internal temperature readings. The CPU fan can be set at low as 30% speed all the way to 100% in hotter conditions. The Northbridge fan can be set from 8.0V to 12.0V, and is also controlled by the system temperature. All of these options have been extensively tested here, and they work perfectly, much to the delight of my ears.

Lastly, we have the Advanced Chipset Features menu that is located within the original BIOS. This menu holds the memory timing tweaks, with the CAS, Precharge, RAS to CAS, and RAS Precharge available for tweaking. Each of these comes with the standard settings one would expect for a DDR implementation. We also have the Integrated Peripherals menu, but I think we all know that this is simply the menu that houses the controls for onboard devices such as LAN, Audio, and IEEE1394.

With the latest incarnation of temperature controlled fans, among other things that ABIT has added with their uGuru chip, these new motherboards go great lengths to offer the end user a perfect match between cooling performance and noise levels. I for one am sick of listening to high speed fan when I’m simply doing some work in Word or Windows. I need the speed to keep things cool during gaming, but otherwise it was a big annoyance. With these new four-pin fans, life is becoming much nicer. The uGuru section of the AG8‘s BIOS also offers plenty of overclocking tweaks as well, so overclocking this beast should be a cakewalk. The only problem you’ll encounter overclocking wise is how far the board will let you go.

..:: AG8 Overclocking ::..

Our overclocking experiences with the AG8 were quite similar to those results we obtained previously with the AA8-DuraMAX. The AG8, however, wasn’t able to go quite as high as was the AA8-DuraMAX, peaking out at roughly 247MHz with complete system stability. This is once again a far cry from the 1.20GHz marks we were hitting with i875P and i865PE motherboards in past reviews. Once we passed a FSB setting of 247MHz, we found that the system would begin to randomly crash, and soon after, simply wouldn’t boot or would display a corrupted video signal. Because the PCI-Express frequency floats along with the FSB, as the FSB is raised so is the PCI-Express frequency. This can cause all sorts of trouble…but manufacturers have found problems with locking the PCI-Express frequency as well. This overclocking lock is going to make it a tough market for performance oriented manufacturers. Currently, boards are being marketed with Northbridge voltage adjustment options to help with this problem, but this will only add 10MHz or so to the FSB capability. As always, don’t buy into marketing, wait and see what the real deal is before you spend your green.