The next iteration of AI Suite
Asus has the best tweaking software for 8-series motherboards, and the latest version of AI Suite looks poised to retain that title for the 9-series generation. The interface is attractive, the layout is intuitive, and the range of options should be sufficient to satisfy the needs of newbies and seasoned enthusiasts alike.
AI Suite has several modules, including ones that cover overclocking, power delivery, and fan speed control. Adjustments can be made manually or through an optimization wizard that handles everything automatically.
The optimization routine's auto-overclocker slowly increases CPU clock speeds while testing stability along the way. This iterative auto-tuner is configurable, allowing users to set not only the target CPU frequency and temperature, but also how long the integrated stress test runs before a given configuration is deemed stable. The auto-tuner isn't limited to the CPU, either. It can also push memory speeds and overclock compatible graphics cards. Don't expect the Asus software to fiddle with GPU speeds on graphics cards from other vendors, though.
For those who prefer to make changes themselves, AI Suite is a pleasure to use. I'm particularly fond of how the overclocking module depicts the various CPU voltage options. The processor voltage can be set at a static level or configured in an adaptive mode with separate offset and Turbo elements. Changes to those variables are reflected in graphs to the left, providing a handy visual reference that even experienced enthusiasts should appreciate. AI Suite also does the math for you by displaying the effective CPU voltage produced by adaptive mode's combined inputs.
The tweaking utility doesn't replicate every tuning option available in the firmware, but it has pretty much all of the important ones, including a full complement of power settings. As one might expect, the fan controls are the business.
In addition to matching the options available in the firmware, the Fan Xpert software adds sliders that dictate how eagerly the spinners speed up and slow down in response to temperature changes. Lengthening these reaction times can minimize the audible fan oscillations that sometimes result from rapid temperature fluctuations. The same software fan controls are available for all the onboard headers, and similar options are provided for our test rig's Asus-branded GeForce GTX 680.
Turbo App is one of the few completely new components of the AI Suite software. This module allows individual applications to be associated with performance, audio, and networking profiles. The performance profiles are configured within AI Suite's tuning component, while the others are set in the audio driver and Turbo LAN utility, respectively. Turbo LAN is the Asus app charged with prioritizing local network traffic, by the way.
Asus also bundles the Z97-A with a bunch of homebrewed software that interacts with Android devices. It's hard to get excited about most of the apps, but Push Notice is kind of neat. This utility transmits alert messages if system temperatures, voltages, or fan speeds deviate from acceptable ranges. The thresholds are set within AI Suite, and the alerts can be pushed to one or more devices. Push Notice can also be configured to send messages when system variables return to normal.
Unfortunately, users are left powerless in the interim. The alerts are great, but they would be much more helpful if they included a prompt to shut down or hibernate the system in the face of a potential meltdown. As it stands, you'll have to switch to a Remote Desktop app or have physical access to the machine to deal with any problems.
While I'm making suggestions, it would be nice if Push Notice could be configured to send system monitoring details at regular intervals—or at the client's request. Robust remote monitoring has definite appeal for enthusiasts, especially ones with systems running on the ragged edge.
Speaking of which, let's move on to overclocking.