|ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe/WD mini-ITX Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Wednesday, 14 November 2012|
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Mini ITX Bundled Software
Poring over hardware details is fun and all, but much of the functionality of a modern motherboard depends on its software, whether it's intrinsic like a fancy BIOS or Windows-based applications and utilities. ASUS efforts in this regard have been evolving over the years and the current version of their AI Suite II software merits a multi-page review in its own right. AI Suite II is actually a collection of separate utilities controlled by a common GUI. You select the utility you're interested in via a popup menu from the main utility window, and you can select which items appear in the menu from this screen. Briefly, they are:
TurboV Evo is an automatic performance and overclocking tool comprising detailed controls for CPU, memory, and power circuitry. I used this feature to create my overclocking profile as I'll explain in a later section.
EPU is a power-saving feature. You can select various tradeoffs between performance and power-saving, and the utility even purports to show the milligrams of CO2 emissions you've saved. As a side note, it's interesting to watch the real-time readout of "Current CPU Power" at the lower right of this screen. When overclocked, I saw CPU power readings as low as 4.31 watts idling at the Windows desktop and as high as 99.99 watts running a stress test. Bear in mind that the AI Suite II implementation of this feature goes beyond what the EPU setting in the BIOS can do.
The Probe II panel shows the voltage and temperature of various components, as well as fan speeds. You can set alert thresholds for all of these and the utility will warn you if an alert threshold is triggered.
You can set the WiFi Engine to either "Client Mode", where it simply operates to connect your system to the internet, or "AP Mode", in which you can share a hardwired internet connection with WiFi, making your system a WiFi router.
USB Charger+ and AI Charger+ are intelligent USB charging utilities; extensions to ASUS' original AI Charger, which only worked with Apple devices. Which devices these features work with and which ports they use vary. It's a little complex but ASUS provided a handy chart:
*Charging must begin before the board enters the S5 state.
AI Charger+ implements the USB consortium's Battery Charging 1.1 standard. Previously the official current limit for a USB port was 500 milliamps, and various motherboard vendors came up with their own 1500ma schemes. BC 1.1 formalizes this so that up to 1800 ma can be drawn from a dedicated port (with no data flow), 1500ma in low speed mode, and 900ma in high speed mode. USB Charger Plus is a USB charging solution you can configure for ASUS, Apple, Kindle, or "other" tablets and devices. You can configure this feature to charge connected devices even when the computer is asleep or turned off.
Network iControl lets you prioritize packets and save specific configurations. You can arrange a list of running, network-accessing programs to assign the priority each one has on your network bandwidth. For example, online gamers can give higher priority to packets for a game; alternatively, if you're streaming video content, you'd want to give higher priority to your player application.
There are still a few more AI Suit II items to cover in the next section.