Is it EFI or not? Gigabyte’s Hybrid EFI BIOS explained

There has been much confusion over the true nature of the so-called Hybrid EFI technology built into Gigabyte’s 6-series motherboards, including the Z68X-UD3H-B3 we reviewed earlier this week. While preparing that review, we fired off several questions to the company asking about its EFI implementation. Initially, we were told that the boards did not implement EFI, and that drives larger than 2.2TB were supported via a software utility. As it turns out, that’s incorrect.

Contrary to what has been reported elsewhere, Gigabyte is not layering the same old text interface on top of a new EFI core. We asked specifically about such a configuration when we made our inquiries prior to the Z68 launch. After several emails back and forth, Gigabyte has provided additional clarification that explains the setup.

First things first: this is not an EFI BIOS (although, technically, EFI is more of a replacement for the BIOS than a specific kind of BIOS). Gigabyte’s 6-series motherboards still use an old-school Award BIOS. However, they incorporate an EFI bootloader to enable support for hard drives larger than 2.2TB. You’ll need a Gigabyte software utility to use the full capacity of those drives on older operating systems, but the app isn’t required for Windows 7 x64, which is the OS we expect most folks to be running with 6-series motherboards.

Native support for 3TB hard drives is one of EFI’s most important features, and this bootloader approach appears to deliver the goods without replacing the entire BIOS. Credit Gigabyte for coming up with a novel solution. However, the bootloader doesn’t address the larger problem of Gigabyte’s current BIOS interface being clunky and downright slow to load some screens.

Then there’s the matter of the BIOS’s fan speed controls, which are quite a bit more limited than what you get from Asus and MSI.

Interestingly, Gigabyte does have a native EFI implementation for motherboards based on Intel’s Q67 chipset. Intel requires EFI to be paired with this business-oriented member of the 6-series family. We’re in the process of updating our Z68 motherboard round-up to reflect the true nature of Gigabyte’s EFI support. This clarification doesn’t change our overall conclusions on the Z68X-UD3H-B3, however.

Comments closed
    • rhysl
    • 8 years ago

    Gosh Gigabyte.. hope this Q67 saves your ass!.. dissapointed so far.. my past 4 builds are gigabyte.. but not for much longer.!

    • deffox
    • 8 years ago

    Gigabyte’s lack of effort is why I’m the happy owner of a ASRock Extreme4 build. The last three computers I built used Gigabyte boards, but the lack of EFI eliminated them early in the comparisons this time.

      • Farting Bob
      • 8 years ago

      I went from gigabyte to ASUS and now the last 4 builds ive done have all had ASUS in them. Gigabyte hasnt made a class leading board for so long, and they need to fire the person who decided to get rid of the lego colour scheme.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 8 years ago

        A few of my friends always use Asus, and I’ve seen probably 4 different boards have weird ethernet issues. So I went MSI with my current build. Going strong for a week now.

    • FuturePastNow
    • 8 years ago

    Gigabyte needs to step up its act and give its customers a real EFI, and real fan speed controls.

      • mutarasector
      • 8 years ago

      On the AMD side, Gigabyte will offer a real-EFI like replacement for BIOS. Llano (and presumably Bulldozer/Zambezi) wi\chipsets will be going with CoreBoot to replace BIOS.

        • moshpit
        • 8 years ago

        Wrong about Coreboot being like EFI. It’s worse then BIOS for primitive interfaces. EFI allows rich graphical UI for bios interfacing, Coreboot allows no such thing. Coreboot is a step backwards, not forwards. Gimme full on Asus style uEFI + best UI implementation in the industry!

          • mutarasector
          • 8 years ago

          I think you’re missing the point. Coreboot (formerly known as ‘LinuxBoot’) was not intended to *be* simply a rich graphical UI BIOS replacement. It was designed to be a free/open BIOS replacement that is very fast loading, but >extensible< like EFI. This does not preclude it from providing a rich graphical UI like UEFI however. In fact, an EFI can _be_ a Coreboot payload. Coreboot does this by a mechanism allowing different ‘payloads’ , one of which can be a stand-alone ELF acting as a graphical ‘middleware’ UI (like an ‘extension’ in EFI-speak) for fine-tuning/tweaking motherboard hardware, which, in turn, can then hand-off the system to a boot loader. Presumably, vendors will probably go with SeaBIOS ‘BIOS emulation’ to load Windows or BSD (at least for formerly BIOS controlled mobo primitives) , but Coreboot can also load, or boot directly to other kernels. This allows mobo vendors a means to differentiate their offerings by means of OEM customized UI payloads, or offer VAR tailored systems.

          Coreboot can be more easily optimized/tailored than EFIs with closed lower level routines, and is smaller/faster executing than bloated UEFI because of its minimal hardware initialization, can use an APU’s processor cache to load and initialize DRAM controllers, doesn’t hang around/stay resident in memory after handing over control to a kernel. Not to mention if someone *really* wants EFI functionality, it is also possible to run EFI as a coreboot payload.

          Coreboot is not a ‘step backwards’ in any sense of the word, it is a step forward if anything. It provides for essentially the same functionality of EFI, albeit in an open, freely usable, and more tailorable manner that is not closed/proprietary.

          • mutarasector
          • 8 years ago

          Here’s a link to an interview with the father of Coreboot. It’s worthwhile reading, and covers Coreboot/LinuxBoot 10+ year history as an easily digestible overview which sort of fills in some gaps in the wikipedia article on coreboot:

          [url<]http://www.h-online.com/open/features/coreboot-in-the-future-746831.html[/url<]

    • thesmileman
    • 8 years ago

    I was hoping this was going to be a new type of article that is more technical and much longer about what EFI and BIOS and explain the fundamental differences between the two and how this new BIOS fit into that. I guess that would be a quick turn around from your recent poll about new types of articles.

    • dpaus
    • 8 years ago

    Are BIOS fan speed controls a feature of EFI?

      • bthylafh
      • 8 years ago

      It can be. It can be a feature of plain BIOS as well.

        • dpaus
        • 8 years ago

        Sorry; poorly worded question: are fan speed controls a [i<]requirement[/i<] for a 'BIOS' to call itself EFI? If not, why are they mentioned? I'm confused...

          • sweatshopking
          • 8 years ago

          No, they’re not. an EFI is just a different way of booting up and registering peripherals. It’s customizable, just like a bios, but unlike a bios, actually registers the parts as what they actually are.

          • Dissonance
          • 8 years ago

          They’re mentioned because that’s an existing issue with Gigabyte’s current BIOS implementation, as are the sluggish load speeds that plague some of the BIOS screens.

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