ASUS ROG STRIX Z370-I Gaming Motherboard Review

ASUS dominates the mini-ITX market with its various "I" series motherboards. It proved that going to a smaller form factor didn’t mean compromising on performance, only expandability. Even then, ASUS has mitigated a lot of those limitations as well. Does the ASUS ROG STRIX Z370-I Gaming motherboard live up to its predecessors.

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UEFI BIOS

ASUS uses a single American Megatrends Inc. UEFI BIOS ROM with the ROG STRIX Z370-I Gaming. It supports the following features and management standards: UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI3.0, SM BIOS 3.0 ACPI 6.0, Multi-language BIOS, ASUS EZ Flash 3, CrashFree BIOS 3, F11 EZ Tuning Wizard, F6 Qfan Control, F3 My Favorites, Last Modified log, F12 PrintScreen, and ASUS DRAM SPD (Serial Presence Detect) memory information. Version 0427 was used for all benchmarks and screenshots. Version 0606 was used for all subsystem testing. Versions 0427 and 0606 were used for overclocking. Kyle used the older BIOS revisions while I used 0606 exclusively during overclocking.

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While it is remains largely unchanged for the last couple of years, ASUS’ UEFI BIOS remains king in the market place as far as I am concerned. Again, from a functionality standpoint, all motherboard manufacturers accomplish the same thing regarding their BIOS interfaces. In part, this is because there is an underlying reference code provided by the CPU manufacturer. So, all motherboards have virtually all the same available settings. In cases where one motherboard may have specific setting and another one doesn’t it is because that motherboard manufacturer has elected to hide that setting so that it is not available to the end-user. Typically, higher-end motherboards such as those in the Republic of Gamers brand will have almost all the values available for manipulation by the end-user. Of course, this can be a double-edged sword. However, ROG motherboards are designed for enthusiasts and overclockers. This is why ASUS offers preset 5 GHz profiles, memory training menus and so on.

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Most retail channel motherboard offerings from ASUS, have the same BIOS interface. The main differences color which matches up to specific brands within the ASUS product stack. TUF series motherboards get one color, standard retail channel motherboards get one, and ROG motherboards get read and black or red and gray. ROG motherboards provide memory tuning options that the standard motherboards do not. Occasionally, fan control features will be featured on TUF and ROG lines and not the standard retail channel motherboards. Despite the Uber enthusiast nature of the Republic of Gamers brand, ASUS continues to offer the EZ mode on ROG motherboards. I suspect this is not used very often. However, I could be wrong on that point as it’s speculation on my part. That said, while I have no particular use for it, the EZ mode is brilliant in that it manages to distill a lot of information in a concise and easy to understand manner on a single screen. There are no submenus, there are no hidden items, and no categories that collapse or expand. Most of what is presented here is information alone. Although, there are a few adjustable settings here. A multitude of wizards are provided for performing certain tasks such as setting up a RAID array for storage. ASUS provides shortcut keys for going into the advanced mode and other tests as well. These are documented in the UEFI itself.

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So, if all motherboard manufacturers do pretty much the same thing how can ASUS’ UEFI BIOS be better than its competitions? There is a simple somewhat long-winded answer for that. The short version is that it comes down to the user experience provided by the ASUS UEFI. This comes from ASUS offering a multitude of methods for inputting settings and changing values. Most manufacturers give you a single input method or perhaps two. In most cases, manufacturer gives you one way to change a setting but offers or rather requires seven different input methods for the entire UEFI BIOS. Specifically, input methods for one category or one submenu may not work in another. I’ve always found that lack of consistency rather annoying. With the ASUS UEFI, you can be the inconsistent one and things work perfectly. On any given setting you can hit enter and see a list of available choices and scroll through them. The plus and minus keys will increment or decrement values. You can also type the value in directly whether it is alphabetical or numerical. Predictive text functionality allows the system to finish a setting as you type it. It’s even good despite spelling errors are simply getting the value wrong. If you’re inputting a number and that number isn’t supported, it will round to the nearest value that is supported. This consistency and plethora of options for inputting values is the key reason why the interface is easy to work with.

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ASUS differentiates itself from the competition in a number of other ways. It is just as fast and comfortable to manipulate the bias with the keyboard as it is a mouse. This is not always the case with other manufacturers. Some BIOS interfaces are designed in a way that makes using the mouse difficult at best and frustrating at worst. Although, other manufacturers are improving in this area don’t always get it right. ASUS has nailed this from day one. ASUS relies on far fewer submenus than its competitors. Many motherboard manufacturers will make you traverse two or three menus just to find one or two settings that would have fit perfectly to menus higher.

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ASUS fan control is second to none. Everything you can do in software aside from renaming headers or header labels, can be done in the BIOS. PWM and DC modes are available as our preset profiles for fan tuning. Automated tuning is also available from within the BIOS. Fan control by temperature is also supported. You can change the temperature source for fan control profiles as well. All fan headers have virtually the same level of control is any others. Another way ASUS separates itself from the pack is through it’s built in utilities. This includes an SSD secure erase feature, SPD information reader, graphics card information, PCI-Express lane map (slots only), and tool tips for the most important settings. My only real criticism of the ASUS UEFI BIOS is the total lack of RGB LED control from within. I’ve even have RGB LEDs on the motherboard you should be able to control them from the hardware.