MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK Motherboard Preview
MSI continues to evolve their UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) with the X299 Gaming M7 ACK motherboard, dubbed Click BIOS 5. The UEFI offers full keyboard and mouse support while using the interface's pages with enhanced mouse navigation supported by right clicking the mouse - goes back to previous view if inside a settings pop-up or on a sub-menu page. MSI also includes a screen capture utility, which generates a 1024x768 BMP image saved to an attached USB drive upon clicking the F12 function key.
MSI UEFI is largely unchanged from its previous revisions (as seen on the Z170 and X99 motherboards). The UEFI remains very responsive to both keyboard and mouse input with settings logically grouped by function under named sections.
BIOS Notable Features
Most of the enhancements MSI made to the Click BIOS 5 UEFI for Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X are subtle, acting to refine the interface to better support the new processor and chipset features, such as AVX ratio tweaking and Mesh Architecture voltage support. Previous generation features remain intact like the EZ Mode interface, the Board Explorer interface, real-time change logs for the OC Profiles section and for the Save Changes window, and the Favorites menu.
EZ Mode Home page
The EZ Mode interface includes the ability to access information about the CPU, Memory, attached storage devices, and attached fans as well as real time device speed and temperature read-outs. Further, several On/Off settings are provided for configuring common user features, as well as easy access to the Game Boost and XMP functionality.
Advanced Mode Home page
The Home page layout gives easy access to common features for the end user. Game Boost and XMP buttons display in the upper left of the page so that a user can quickly enable the Game Boost overclocking engine or enact XMP memory settings without having to go into the OC section of the UEFI. Additionally, MSI provides a task bar to the upper right of the page containing quick links to the screen shot capture function, the Search page, the My Favorites page, and the Language settings page.
The Search page, accessed by clicking on the Magnifying Glass icon in the upper right of the Advanced Mode screen, allows for real-time keyword search across all UEFI screens. In the screenshot shown, all settings values matching the search word CPU are shown in the results. This makes finding deeply buried options within the UEFI a snap.
Hardware Monitor interface
The Hardware Monitor interface displays information about monitored hardware speeds, temperatures, and voltages, as well as allowing for configuration of system fans based on temperature thresholds. The graphical interface provided is very intuitive and easy to use. The Fan Control page displays by default after clicking on the Hardware Monitor in the Advanced Mode interface. It allows for graphical configuration of fan operation based on predefined threshold levels. The page offers an easy to user visualization with settings available for setting tiered fan speeds based on tied temperature thresholds, as well as temperature-based warning and fan fail warning configuration. The Fan Control page is accessed by clicking on the Fan Control link with the Hardware Monitor page (in Advanced Mode) or clicking the Fan Info link from the EZ Mode main page.
Board Explorer interface
The Board Explorer interface gives the user a graphical representation of the motherboard with zones showing in use ports and attached devices. The zones can be clicked on for an expanded view of integrated ports and devices with informational messaging provided where appropriate. This gives a bird's eye view of the board subsystems without having to crack the case.
My Favorites page (EZ Mode)
My Favorites page (Advanced Mode)
My Favorites page, Favorite 1 details page
The Favorites page can be accessed with a variety of methods - click on the Favorites button in the EZ Mode interface, or clicking the F3 key or Heart icon in the top menu from within the Advanced Mode interface. There are a total of five Favorites pages in which the user can store UEFI settings from any page, giving the ability to access frequently used settings from a single page.
My Favorites page, Favorites setting page, Default Homepage popup
The Favorite setting page contains an option for configuring the Default Home Page for the UEFI. Notice that you can set the UEFI default home page to a multitude of sections including one of the pages in the My Favorites section. The home page is the page that displays when the BIOS initializes. Setting this value to None causes the UEFI to load to the default home screen.
Favorites Assistant popup
Clicking the F2 key within the UEFI spawns the Favorites Assistant window. From this popup, the user can add new settings and sub-menus to one of the five Favorites pages. Note that if the F2 key is pressed from within a Favorite details page, the selected setting will be removed from the Favorite details page.
BIOS Log Review popup (EZ Mode)
In addition to the ability to track changes made during a UEFI session in the Save popup, MSI also added a BIOS change log to the EZ Mode interface. The change log can be accessed by clicking the BIOS Log Review button within the EZ Mode main page. This change log is a text-based interface detailing all proposed changes to be made if the UEFI is saved with both the original values and new values displayed.
EZ Mode, Save Overclocking Profile page
Advanced mode, OC Profile page
MSI allows for storing up to six different UEFI profiles through the OC Profile page accessed by clicking the OC Profile link within the Advanced Mode interface or by clicking the F8 or F9 function keys from within the EZ Mode or Advanced Mode interfaces. The saved profiles contain all user configured settings from the UEFI, and can be saved to or restored from any attached storage device. The F8/F9 Overclocking Profile pages have been further enhanced to display a summary of settings within the selected profile, as well as the current system settings.
Advanced mode, OC page, CPU turbo core settings
Advanced mode, OC page, CPU manual core settings
The OC page, accessed via the the OC link within the Advanced Mode interface, contains Expert-level CPU settings, including the Flex Ratio and Turbo ratio control settings. Introduced for the Kaby Lake processors is the CPU Ratio Offset When Running AVX setting, giving the user the ability to reduce 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. This setting is only available with the CPU Ratio Mode setting configured for Dynamic Mode operation.
Advanced mode, OC page, CPU voltage settings
Within the OC page is housed all the voltage settings, including that for the Skylake-X Mesh architecture voltage. The Mesh architecture voltage is set using the CPU Ring Voltage, CPU Ring Voltage Offset Mode, and CPU Ring Voltage offset settings.
Advanced mode, OC page, Advanced DRAM Configuration page
MSI did something very unique with the organization of the Advanced DRAM Configuration page (accessed via a link from the OC page from within the Advanced Mode interface). Instead of the normal scrolling list of settings and submenus common to this section on other boards, MSI organized the settings by type. The type headers act as retractable menus so that you can look at each set of memory settings individually instead of having to scroll through 50+ settings. It is a very innovative approach to this normally cluttered screen.
Advanced mode, Settings, Advanced, VROC Configuration page
For configuring the integrated Intel VROC functionality, MSI provided a page within the Advanced settings page under the Settings section. This page allows the user to configure specific PCIe x16 slots to participate in a VROC-enabled RAID group.