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

Geoff Gasior
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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.

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