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ABIT AN7 with µGuru ABIT AN7: ABIT squeezed more life out of the nForce 2 with some refinements and the µGuru.
Date: February 14, 2004
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The BIOS is where ABIT are usually King and the AN7 doesn't disappoint. Every option you could want is available here including a few extra's aimed to save time or aid the enthusiasts overclocking attempts. I don't want to go into every little detail because as per usual ABIT have packed in a hell of a lot here so let's take a look at the essentials and a few extra's.

ABIT's selection for the BIOS is the Phoenix Award BIOS which has served them very well in the past although I'm not personally too keen on the startup method/POST for this one. Upon starting up and on subsequent reboots you are presented with a bold and colourful screen, and if you wish to see the POST information you will need to hit TAB. DEL will get you into the BIOS setup screens and I don't believe their is a way to use the POST screen only. Softmenu is where the major items can be setup, such as the CPU parameters, AGP Frequencies, voltages etc. Speaking of voltages, not only can you adjust the voltages to some very unsafe levels allowing for a varied control and overclocking potential, but you can also control an extra voltage option in here for the Northbridge too!

You can also see in these screens the “Press F8 to Overclock on the Fly”, which basically allows you to set the parameters and use them instantly. This probably has limited actual use in everyday overclocking situations but could be useful to work out the absolute limit of your hardware without being restricted by such things as Windows stability … FSB Settings for the CPU are selectable and increase in 1MHz increments (although every 10-15 or so they skip one). I would have liked to have been able to type in a setting, just for that extra bit of laziness.

The PC Health Screen's house what you would expect along with a new item that is related to the µGuru, and this is the FanEQ Control. Think of this as basically an onboard Rheobus that coupled with the software for Windows can be temperature controlled or manually set, allowing you speed control of your fan's when connected to the motherboard headers. This does have one annoying bug at the moment in that if no fans are connected, even if the CPU Fan Fail Warning is disabled you will still be presented the two-tone warning siren upon first bootup.

The Advanced Chipset Features screen has a few gems as well. The CPU Thermal Throttling can be set to varying percentages, and to couple the FSB Spread Spectrum you can also adjust the AGP Spread Spectrum as well. It's in here that you also set the Memory Timings, which have a few presets that are reminiscent of ABIT's GAT technology for the P4 lineup. Naturally you can also do things manually with quite an extensive range on the 4 settings (CAS for instance goes all the way up to 11). But the best bit about this BIOS can be found right from the main screen, and its the ability to save BIOS setting profiles. Up to 5 can be set up and saved, then loaded with just a couple of buttons pushes. Great stuff when your pushing your hardware to the limit and you over do it, needing a CMOS reset to get you going again. No need to set everything up again, just select your last saved profile and away you go! Absolutely fantastic feature for the BIOS to have, and something we are seeing from more manufacturers of late in one form or another. ABIT have kept this feature simple which is a good thing to see.

Can you tell that I like this BIOS? I said it once and I will say it again. When it comes to options and features, ABIT make the best BIOS.

µGuru

µGuru is a new microprocessor designed by the ABIT Engineers for use only on ABIT motherboards. µGuru combines the ABIT Engineered features ABIT EQ, ABIT FanEQ, ABIT OC Guru, ABIT FlashMenu, ABIT AudioEQ and ABIT BlackBox into a user-friendly interface providing users the perfect environment with which to maximize performance and stability.

ABITEQ – The ABITEQ is ABIT's hardware monitoring program. The displayed info can be customized to a certain degree but for all intents and purposes the overall design is static. Even when small and with a screen resolution of 1600x1200 the program is offensively large. It will however display all the info you would need at a quick glance such as temperatures, fan speeds and voltages.

OC Guru – This program will allow you to perform on the fly overclocking from the comfort of windows. The design of the program is completely different from the ABITEQ, being very minimalist in looks and use. One strange thing I did find was that the program has 2 tabs. One is called Turbo which allows saving and editing of overclocks as well as displaying system info along with CPU FSB adjustment. The other tab, the F1 Mode is the same except that you can also adjust the Voltages for the CPU, Northbridge and Ram. The F1 Mode, being the same as Turbo mode but with a few extra tweaks makes the Turbo mode a waste of time. Being able to save profiles of overclocks is a very handy feature, but in my opinion ABIT's next version should drop the Turbo mode altogether and add support for hotkey switching between profiles as this will make it immensely more appealing and useful to the average enthusiast.

Flashmenu – Flashmenu has been around for a while and as the name suggests allows you to Flash your BIOS with just a few click from Windows. Once again it has a totally different feel and look to the other programs, being a garish blue. It is however functional (for the most part, see below), and is for those who don't use floppy disks anymore a good option. Unlike other flash programs from other manufactures Flashmenu can be set up to your own preferences for clearing CMOS etc, and you can even save your current BIOS.

AudioEQ – This is something that was only installed after I downloaded the latest updates, and either I missed the warning or their wasn't one, but AudioEQ is NOT for the AN7, which has Soundstorm support. AudioEQ is for use with the other µGuru motherboards and is a similar program to the Soundstorm control panel, allowing control of your audio presets, albeit no way near as feature filled as the Soundstorm. Again it looks different from the rest of the µGuru software.

FanEQ – The FanEQ is the second of the µGuru software suite that is new and will allow you to set temperature controlled thresholds for speeds of your CPU and NB fans which is a great feature to have. Four settings are available for each with the 4th being a user defined setting. It's also possible to disable the FanEQ settings from here as well as decide which reference temperature sensor to make adjustments to speed from. Think of it as an inbuilt temperature controlled Rheobus. Again the overall look of this program is different from the others.

BlackBox – Again another program that is separate from the others in this suite in looks and use, the BlackBox will allow you to record your system stats and errors to be emailed direct to ABIT for support.

Now all this µGuru stuff and its programs sounds fantastic in theory but all is not roses. All of the programs have a distinct and separate feel/appearance to them which for a software suite that's centered around the singular µGuru chip, you would think there would be some uniform presence. I also have had my share of issues caused mainly by µGuru.

First time I powered up the board I was greeted with a repeating high-low warning siren. Ok, so I have a problem, which was displayed for me on the 2 digit display. Problem was the error code given wasn't listed. In the BIOS I could find nothing wrong at all, and bear in mind at this point I am at the factory defaults. Temperatures, voltages, cable connections, everything was perfect. Yet still the siren. Now my hunch was that because I am using watercooling and an aftermarket Rheobus for fan control that the motherboard was complaining of a dead CPU fan, this despite the fact the CPU Fan Fail Warning was disabled.

If I remember correctly this is an issue that was present on the NF7-S at launch as well, which a new BIOS fixed. After continued fiddling and resetting the only way to stop the noise was to disconnect the speaker which would obviously prevent me from hearing any other warning tones. Let's just say installing Windows XP (which went without a hitch by the way) was noisy and irritating. It wasn't until I installed and opened the ABITEQ that it finally shut up. Now the ABITEQ is installed as part of the µGuru software along with other items, but I found that upon updating to the latest versions via the web that this time around a new program was available for installation; the ABIT AudioEQ program I dutifully installed this only to be told that the 'EQ Initial Failed' yet the Soundstorm control panel has no issues. It turns out that the AudioEQ is for Non-Soundstorm systems like the P4 and AMD64 setups.

At this point I checked for a new BIOS, just incase the little teething problems had perhaps been fixed. Sure enough a new BIOS existed although no mention of the issues I had, but let's install it anyway using the Flashmenu program which has been added to the µGuru software suite. Now bear in mind I had literally just updated all my software. Flashmenu is branded with the µGuru symbol. So why is my Flashmenu too old to do a live update from Windows? I don't use a floppy drive, have not done so for sometime, and I'll be damned if I was happy at the prospect of having to install one just for 2 minutes. Luckily the Flashmenu worked fine if I downloaded the BIOS manually and pointed it to the correct file. I was then greeted with the two-tone siren once more upon reboot which my wife found most amusing at 2am. Once again starting up the ABITEQ program killed the siren and left me with just the occasional beeping now and then. At this point I shut the system down and gave up for the night.

By morning I was fresh and ready for another try. I also found that my CPU temperature had risen by a few degrees and as MBM didn't work (read below) it wasn't until I started up the ABIT OC Guru I found out my default CPU Vcore was now 1.85v. Also of annoyance is that I use MBM or Speedfan to display temperatures. In fact, I use MBM in combination with Samurize to display temperatures right on my desktop. Ordinarily MBM would be updated to address new motherboards but apparently this won't happen for while. You have to understand just how deep this µGuru chip goes; it's a gateway to pretty much everything to do with the chipset. Since ABIT are not likely to give out the µGuru API info to third parties any time soon, the likes of MBM won't work (unless someone hacks it) since it's the µGuru chip that dishes out the info.

The µGuru has all the signs of being a very useful combination of software and hardware but it appears at this moment in time to have been rushed. I might be coloured by that damn siren but when you consider that each of the separate programs for the µGuru have the appearance of being designed by separate people and the fact you are restricted to using only the ABIT software for the most part, it's pretty disappointing overall. It has a lot of potential to be a great suite of programs but honestly, ABIT should take all of them back to the drawing board and integrate them into one µGuru program that can do everything. Basically a great idea that is currently flawed in its implementation.

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