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Firmware and Windows software
Gigabyte's current mainstream firmware isn't much changed from the one that debuted aboard the X99-Designare EX and Aorus Z270X-Gaming 5. The company has stripped out the vast majority of fluff from its firmware in favor of a refreshingly straightforward interface that exposes most of what tweakers want to see and little else. If you'd like to learn more about it, you can read the firmware sections of those reviews for more info. We'll be doing just a brief recap here.

Invoking the Gaming 8's firmware at start-up will drop users straight into the MIT screen, where settings for CPU frequency, memory frequency and timings, and voltage live. I've enjoyed how easy it is to get in, do what's needed, and get out of the firmware thanks to the front-and-center presentation of MIT, even if Gigabyte hasn't taken my suggestion to rename some of its voltage-control modes using industry-standard terms.

Some of Gigabyte's default choices in the Gaming 8's firmware remain frustrating. The company leaves Intel's Speed Shift feature disabled by default, and our experience shows that it stealthily applies an all-core overclock to the CPU it's hosting. To curtail this behavior, one would need to manually set the proper Turbo multipliers for each cores-active state—not the easiest thing to do when Intel doesn't publicize the Turbo tables for its CPUs. There's no simple "on" or "off" switch for this automatic overclock as there is in competing motherboards, nor does Gigabyte's firmware ever disclose that such a setting is in effect.

I've never approved of this kind of stealth overclocking, and I wish Gigabyte would stop doing it. This practice might lead to improved performance in benchmarks for the uninitiated, but it can also unduly stress cooling hardware and components when builders aren't expecting it. Give builders the option, sure, but don't make it the default.

I'm not sure whether I simply missed this feature in earlier Gigabyte firmwares or whether it's a new addition in recent updates, but the company offers users choose mouse sensitivities in the BIOS tab of the Gaming 8's settings. Crank the sensitivity up to 3X, and the low-speed sensitivity problem goes away entirely. Sure, the pointer gets a bit twitchier with higher pointer speeds, but it's easy to compensate for that extra sensitivity when the firmware isn't ignoring mouse movement entirely or registering it intermittently. I can be a bit more cautious with my mouse movements in exchange for those movements being consistently recognized.

In Windows, Gigabyte builders still have to rely on two separate utilities to control every feature the motherboard exposes: System Information Viewer and Easy Tune. System Information Viewer offers a quick overview of thestatus of a system, as its name suggests, but its primary purpose in life is fan control. Builders can choose from several pre-baked global fan profiles or set individual fan curves in the Advanced tab. We'll talk more about this board's fan-control features in a moment.

Easy Tune is Gigabyte's Windows-based overclocking software. Here, builders can set a couple of pre-baked overclocking profiles, and they can also tweak a variety of manual parameters for overclocking the CPU and memory. Easy Tune is straightforward enough to use, but the settings one can change in it are still affected by the state of the board's firmware. I've found Easy Tune useful for a quick look at temperatures, voltages, and clock speeds, but I've always preferred to do my tweaking in Gigabyte's firmware itself. The only essential overclocking feature in Easy Tune is Gigabyte's Windows-based automatic overclocking utility.

Fan control
One of our biggest nitpicks for motherboards in the past few years has been their ability to detect and control any common type of fan. Some boards do fine with PWM fans and fall flat on their faces with voltage-controlled (or three-pin) fans. Others cheap out and only include three-pin fans. Getting true plug-and-play fan control no matter what types of spinners one installs is a luxury that sets better motherboards apart.

For its part, Gigabyte has made universal fan compatibility a headlining feature of its Aorus motherboards. The Smart Fan 5 branding on the Gaming 8 means that each of its six system fan headers can automatically sense the type of fan that's plugged in and control them. Two of the board's headers can detect liquid-cooling pumps, as well. The only necessary user intervention is if a builder wants to configure fan curves of their own, and that requires diving into the Smart Fan 5 interface.

Builders can set up custom fan control settings on Aorus boards through the firmware or the System Information Viewer utility in Windows. The firmware fan control interface gives builders access to practically every tweaking parameter available from the Gaming 8. Each of the board's fans has a five-point speed curve to tweak, and Gigabyte offers two prebaked curves (normal and silent) per fan header.

The firmware also lets owners choose the input one of several temperature sensors to control fan speed. Instead of relying on just one motherboard temperature sensor in an indeterminate location, the Gaming 8's headers can respond to changes in CPU temperatures, chipset temperature, and VRM temperatures, among other inputs. Overall, Gigabyte's latest firmware fan control interface is excellent, and it almost negates the need for Windows software entirely.

 The only thing the firmware can't do is detect the speed ranges of system fans. One has to venture into the Smart Fan 5 Advanced tab of the System Information Viewer utility to do that. System Information Viewer offers a clean and modern fan-control interface, and its calibration routine works well enough. Curiously, though, this interface is missing the ability to manage the variety of temperature inputs that the firmware version of Smart Fan 5 affords. Competitors' Windows software condenses these features into one interface, so Gigabyte's software team still has some work to do on System Information Viewer to make it as convenient.