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ASUS Z97-DELUXE NFC & WLC Motherboard Review

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ASUS AI Suite 3

AI Suite 3 is the latest iteration of ASUS’ AI Suite utility. This was one of the first, if not the first, utility that allowed you to change things like the CPU multipliers and voltage directly from within Windows, without having to reboot the system, drop into the BIOS, make the changes, and boot again.

asus_z97_deluxe_ai_suite

A new feature this time is 5-Way Optimization. Invoking this feature– which I will do in the next section– optimizes CPU speed, fan operation, power savings, and the operation of ASUS’ Digi+ Power digital power system. That’s only four things, so what’s the fifth? The fifth is a feature called Turbo App, and it lets you denote specific apps that will run at higher performance with different audio schemes and network priorities. For example, you can keep the system running cool and slow with routine applications (you don’t need full power balancing your checkbook in Quicken), and automatically ramp up performance, adjust the audio, and set the networking to higher priority for online games. I do note, however, that Turbo App doesn’t automatically decide which apps to support, nor how to do so; you need to make these changes yourself for each application. In the screen shot below, I’m setting the performance for Internet Explorer.

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Adjusting the CPU performance on the fly is the responsibility of ASUS’ custom TPU chip…

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…and in AI Suite 3 you can tweak pretty much anything you can do in the BIOS:

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You can set the multipliers using for 1, 2, 3, or 4 loaded cores, together or separately, as well as adjust the CPU and CPU cache power by both voltage and wattage. Flipping to the next screen allows you to adjust the CPU strap.

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Once you’ve adjust the CPU performance, it’s time to drop into the power section to tweak ASUS’ Digi+ Power digital power system. Here you can set the power phase control, VRM switching frequency, load-line calibration, and specify the CPU thermal control and current capability. Cranking these power settings up will really roast your processor, so a good cooling system is a must, preferably a water cooler.

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Of course, if you’re going to be ramping up the CPU, you’re going to generate more heat, so the Fan Xpert screen should be your next stop. ASUS can adjust the speed of both 3-pin fans (by adjusting the voltage) and 4-pin fans (using pulse-width modulation), and the Z97-DELUXE motherboard will automatically determine which type of fan is plugged into each header. You can make quick adjustments by choosing the broad settings– Silent, Standard, Turbo, and Full Speed– at the bottom of this screen, or adjust the curves manually based on the reading of various temperature sensors. Aside from the temperature sensor built into the Haswell CPUs, this motherboard adds sensors on the voltage regulation modules, the Z97 Express chipset, the motherboard itself, and even has a separate plug for an optional extra temperature sensor you can put any place you want. While not as elaborate as the “Thermal Radar” ASUS equips its TUF series boards with, this is still a step beyond what most other vendors provide.

asus_z97_deluxe_ai_suite_epu

It’s not all about performance, of course, and ASUS also lets you set your system to use its power efficiently, and to automatically ramp down to a low-power mode when no activity is detected for a while.

In the next section I’ll discuss overclocking this motherboard, and let ASUS’ 5-Way Optimization loose to see what it can do.


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