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RGB LEDs
Whatever we might think of them, arrays of RGB LEDs have become central features of most every modern motherboard. We're long past the point where protesting the presence of these blinkenlights would be useful. They are well and truly ubiquitous, and they're not going away. If you can't stomach them, the answer is simple: turn them off. As reviewers, our main concern now is making sure motherboard makers are making RGB LEDs easy to configure and manage across a system. Given the ranges of color, animation, and synchronization available from modern RGB LEDs, the potential complexity of lighting management is daunting, and it's a major challenge for motherboard makers to rein in that complexity in software.

For its Z370 motherboards, Gigabyte has done some nips and tucks on the RGB Fusion software that manages the multi-zone lighting and strip headers scattered across the board. The fundamental RGB Fusion interface is now cleaner and more refined. Users get a choice between three modes: a Basic Mode that applies a given color or animation to every lighting zone on the motherboard, an Advanced Mode that lets owners apply different colors and animations to the board's four different lighting zones, and an Intelligent Mode that changes lighting in response to parameters like CPU temperature, CPU fan speed, or CPU load, to name just three such options.

Basic Mode contains eight presets, but only seven seemed usable in my testing. Static allows the user to set one color and brightness level for the entire board. Pulse gently illuminates and darkens the board in one color at one of three available speeds. Music blinks out a one-color light show in sync with any audio that's playing through the Gaming 8's outputs. Color Cycle takes the whole board through the standard rainbow sweep that defines RGB LED lighting for many. Flash blinks every LED on and off at one of three speeds. Double Flash unsurprisingly doubles the blink rate of Flash. Random, well, randomly illuminates each of the board's zones with different colors in an unpredictable swirl. The Wave function is disabled on the Gaming 7, so I'm not sure how it might look on this board.

The individually-controllable zones on the Gaming 7 are broken up as follows. The lights atop the I/O shield, the lights embedded in the power-delivery circuitry, and the diodes in the upper VRM heatsink comprise one zone. The LEDs in between the DIMM slots are another such zone. A third region comprises the LED light bar and the chipset heatsink. The fourth zone controls the lighting in each PCIe x16 slot shroud. Any zone can be assigned the Pulse, Static, Flash, Double Flash, or Color Cycle effects, or users can go hog-wild with a custom animation sequence of their own.

The Custom interface brings up an array of up to seven color stops. Users can define the transition speed between stops (anywhere from five to 30 seconds) and the duration the sequence spends on each stop (anywhere from one to 60 seconds). Each stop can have a color assigned to it, as well as a choice of Pulse, Static, or Flash animation settings. In this version of RGB Fusion, the minimum duration of each stop is now just one second, but transitions remain stuck at a five-second minimum. The transition between stops isn't quite smooth on the Gaming 7, either. Once the time set for each stop's duration expires, the board's RGB LED controller harshly drops light levels to near-zero and then gradually steps them up to the next stop's color and brightness over the amount of time specified for that stop's transition. If you want smooth rainbows of color, it's best to set each zone to the Color Cycle animation.

On top of those custom zones, the Gaming 7 boasts two RGBW strip headers that are compatible with both standard light strips and "digital LED strips," or strips with individually-controllable LEDs. The Gaming 7 can control standard RGB or RGBW strips using the same array of Custom settings I described for each lighting zone above. Individually-addressable strips can display those same custom settings, or builders can assign any of up to 12 distinct animation modes that Gigabyte bakes into RGB Fusion. I won't go into those modes here, but Gigabyte provides vivid demos of each one on this board's product page.

Unlike some competing motherboards I've used, Gigabyte also provides some rudimentary control over the Gaming 7's RGB LEDs in firmware. The UEFI lets builders choose solid-color lighting for the whole board, as well as the pulse, flash, and color cycle animations. The RGB Fusion Windows utility remains the best place to tweak RGB LEDs, but for those who'd rather just set and forget some basic lighting across the board, the firmware stands ready.

Overall, RGB Fusion isn't quite as tweakable as Asus' Aura software yet, but I didn't have any trouble finding a lighting arrangement I enjoyed. Folks who aren't down with the blinkenlights can always disable them for good in the firmware, and that's that.