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ASUS TUF Z390 Pro Gaming ATX Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

UEFI Features

ASUS bundled the TUF Z390 Pro Gaming motherboard with the latest revision of their ASUS UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) implementation, a customized version of the AMI baseline UEFI BIOS replacement. The UEFI offers full keyboard and mouse support while using the BIOS pages. ASUS changed the way mouse right-click functions in their UEFI implementation with right-click having no impact on the screen. By default, the user sees the EZ mode screen when entering the UEFI. The Advanced mode screens accessible via the Exit/Advanced Mode button at the upper right corner of the screen or by hitting the F7 function key. Advanced mode screens can be set for the default user interface via the UEFI Boot menu as well.

As we've stated in previous reviews, the ASUS UEFI implementation remains among the best out there. The UEFI is very responsive to both keyboard and mouse input with almost no lag or questionable click-space evident anywhere. The UEFI is designed in an intuitive manner so that both novice and advance BIOS users can quickly find what they are looking for. The EZ Mode screen lays out everything in a highly readable format, while the Advanced Mode tabbed layout displays as you would expect from a traditional BIOS. ASUS also gives you the ability to taken screen captures from within the BIOS by pressing the F12 key with those screen-caps saved in a 1024x768 bitmap format to an attached USB device. From the Tools menu, ASUS houses their collection of of BIOS-related tools and applets, ranging from an UEFI-based updater (EZ Flash3) to their full UEFI profile load and save utility.

UEFI Notable Features

ASUS continues to revise and enhance their UEFI interface, exposing several new features specific to the Kaby Lake processor and Z270 board lines. Updated and notable features include the EZ Mode page, the Advanced mode My Favorites tab, Shortcut screen, a graphical fan tuning interface, a graphical EZ Tuning Wizard interface, foreign language display support, a Quick Note interface for adding persistent notes for later use, and a list of recent changes listed on the Save popup.

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EZ Mode page

The EZ Mode page presents information organized into sections in an easy-to-read manner for those users who do not want to be bothered with the labyrinth of the Advanced Mode settings. ASUS enhanced this interface with an animated background, making for an interested effect.

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My Favorites tab, populated

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My Favorites & Shortcut setup popup

The My Favorites tab houses user selected settings for access to these from a centralized location. To access, select the My Favorites tab from within the Advanced Mode interface. Note that if a menu or sub-menu is added to this page, all fields on that page will be added. The real strength in this My Favorites tab implementation comes with the ability to mix and match commonly used options in a central location, rather than having to hunt them down through multiple sub-levels of menus.

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Advanced mode, Advanced tab, CPU Configuration page continued

The Search page, accessed from a link at the top of the Advanced mode page or by pressing the F9 function key, displays all settings that match the entered search terms. This can save the user a huge amount of time, especially when trying to find that one key setting buried under numerous sub-menus within the UEFI.

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Q-Fan Tuning page

The Q-Fan Tuning page allows for graphical configuration of fan operation based on predefined threshold levels. The interface is similar in nature to the Windows-based Fan Xpert 4 fan configuration interface and is a nice touch in-lei of the text-based configuration approach. The Q-Fan Tuning page is accessed by clicking on the Manual Fan Tuning button within the EZ Mode page.

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Easy Tuning Wizard - OC Page

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Easy Tuning Wizard - RAID Page

The EZ Tuning Wizard can be accessed by hitting the F11 function key from within the EZ Mode page or from within the Advanced Mode interface. This wizard can be used to setup BIOS configured system performance optimization or drive RAID setup based on user selections made within the wizard interface.

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Tools tab, ASUS Overclocking Profile page

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Tools tab, ASUS Overclocking Profile page, Load / Save profile page

ASUS allows for storing up to eight UEFI profiles through the ASUS User Profiles page within the Tools tab in the Advanced mode interface. The saved profiles contain all user configured settings from the UEFI, and can be saved to or restored from any attached storage device.

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Advanced Mode, Tools tab, ASUS EZ Flash 3 page

The ASUS EZ Flash 3 utility was updated, allowing for BIOS update via an attached drive or through a network connection. When selecting the network update method, the utility launches a network connection wizard for getting the most up to date BIOS file from the ASUS servers.

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Ai Tweaker tab, Tweaker's Paradise page

To cater to the extreme overclockers, ASUS exposed many esoteric board settings not normally exposed to the end user and housed them in the Tweaker's Paradise menu. This menu contains voltage, timing, and bus settings for those of you trying to squeeze every last ounce of speed and stability out of you overclocked board. It contains settings for tweaking everything from CPU internal settings to PCI-Express bus related settings. Enjoy your time in the Tweaker's Paradise.

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Advanced Mode, Save & Reset popup

The Save & Reset page displays to the user a scrollable list of all UEFI changes made since the last save. Listed changes are not committed to BIOS memory until saved by the user. Note that the same list displays when the user chooses any of the save settings from the Exit page or the Last Modified option with Advanced Mode active.

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Advanced mode, Ai Tweaker tab

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Advanced mode, Ai Tweaker tab continued

The Ai Tweaker tab houses the settings controlling all board overclocking settings. The AVX Instruction Core Ratio Negative Offset setting allows the user to control the CPU core ratio when running programs using the AVX instruction set. This is to reduce processor heat since AVX processing is some of the most processor intensive operations.

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Advanced mode, Ai Tweaker tab

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Advanced mode, Ai Tweaker tab, Load CPU 5G OC Profile popup

ASUS included the ability to overclock your processor to 5.0GHz using the Load CPU 5G OC Profile link. According to documentation provided by ASUS, most of the Intel Intel K-type processors should be capable of reaching a 5.0GHz overclocked speed.

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Advanced mode, Ai Tweaker tab

Nested within the CPU voltage settings on the Ai Tweaker tab is a setting named BCLK Aware Adaptive Voltage that enables UEFI-enhanced voltage regulation based on the currently active base clock value.

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Advanced mode, Advanced tab, CPU Configuration page

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Advanced mode, Advanced tab, CPU Configuration page continued

The CPU Configuration page, accessed from a link within the Advanced tab, houses all CPU-internal settings. The SW Guard Extensions introduce the ability to create a protected pocket for critical applications using the SGX instruction set to give those applications greater protection from outside attack.

UEFI Walkthrough highlights - Advanced mode interface

Ai Tweaker tab

The M.I.T. tab houses various sub-tabs and settings for controlling motherboard performance settings. The other settings are logically divided up between the linked pages - DRAM Timing Control, DIGI+ VRM, Internal CPU Power Management, Tweaker's Paradise, and DRAM REF Voltage Control .

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Ai Tweaker tab tab

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Ai Tweaker tab, DRAM Timing Control page

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Ai Tweaker tab tab, DIGI+ VRM page

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Ai Tweaker tab tab, Internal CPU Power Management page

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Ai Tweaker tab, Advanced Voltage Settings, DRAM REF Voltage Control page

Main tab

The System Information tab displays board model and BIOS version information, as well as housing the language selection and system time and date settings.

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System Information tab

Advanced tab

The Advanced tab houses settings owithin linked sub-tabs for controlling the various subsystems and devices integrated into the motherboard, like the PCIe M.2 slots, SATA ports, USB slots, etc.

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Advanced tab

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Advanced tab, System Agent (SA) Configuration page

Boot tab

The Boot tab contains settings related to system initialization and boot, including the boot override settings. CSM (Compatibility Support Module) and Secure Boot settings can also be configured via the links at the bottom of the tab.

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Boot tab

Tool tab

The Tool tab houses all ASUS-specific customizations to the UEFI, logically grouped in the linked sub-pages. ASUS customizations include a BIOS flash utility, a UEFI profile load and save app, memory-based SPD information display, and the ability to enable/disable the ASUS Q-Installer functionality. The Q-Installer function automatically installs all board drivers and utilities without the need for a driver disk.

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Tool tab

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Tool tab, ASUS SPD Information

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