Legacy Bites Back
My sample from ASRock was on a very early 1.01 beta BIOS, so I upgraded it to 1.70. This version comes with some extra features which I will mention later. The original BIOS, should you have it, it worth updating - the early revisions were slightly unstable and would hang from place to place.
The other feature on the main screen is the Online Management Guard, or 'OMG'. The premise of this comes down to disabling the internet features of a motherboard for certain times of the day to restrict access for younger users. There are several easy ways for those users to disable it but - either by changing the system clock, or by going into the BIOS and changing it manually. There is as well the opportunity that using a WiFi dongle would get around this, as the BIOS can only control the network port on the motherboard.
In order to update the BIOS, ASRock have an option to flash from a USB stick whilst in the BIOS, nevertheless also a novel feature called Internet Flash. Part of their BIOS code contains networking protocols such that users who have a non-login wired internet connection can directly probe ASRock's servers and download the latest BIOS. My testbed setup uses an esoteric combination of WiFi and ICS, and in this way this was not applicable in my usage scenario. On the whole, it is a great feature to have in a BIOS, and I fully expect other motherboard manufacturers to copy this.
XFast RAM is a feature ASRock are using to help speed up certain features of the motherboard. ASRock recognize that users of Z77 motherboards can pick up memory very cheaply, so it would be common enough to see 16 GB of memory in a system. Even as an enthusiast, I have only ever seen my 16 GB system hit 8 GB a single time and that whilst playing a game and having 100s of internet tabs open then and there. In doing so ASRock have said that it would be worthwhile donating part of that memory into a RAMDisk, which acts as a fast store for temporary files.
Licensed from cFosSpeed, ASRock have included a software driven networking utility as part of their software bundle.
What has priority over the networking protocol
This utility allows users to decide what has priority over the networking protocol. Should a gamer ever decide that he or she needs to heavily download during playing online games, this can be managed here. Conversely, maybe VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) needs priority, or media streaming tools. XFast LAN as well allows for port management of the network, as then as traffic analysis and monitoring.
One feature in other words crying out for Windows 8 is the overhaul of USB protocols. When Windows 7 had first come out, USB 3.0 was however in its infancy, and the standard set of USB commands were available. This is even so true today with Intel's standard chipset drivers. One way of increasing USB throughput is to disregard latency, using Bulk Only Transfers. This is what XFast USB does - it overrides the USB driver in order to use its own commands. The stage above BOT is UASP, which will feature by default in Windows 8 with appropriate hardware. However for now, ASRock are giving XFast USB on a port-by-port basis, working on both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 for a single device at a time. In our testing, it at any rate speeds up the peak transfer rate, saving 20% time on our USB transfer test.
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