Is µGuru really that good?
With their AI7, ABIT polished off the trumpets and gave their latest excuse for a product release a good old fashioned fanfare. µGuru (microguru for those not up to speed with scientific parlance) is a set of technologies, hardware and software, that center around a good old fashioned microchip, imbuing a chosen motherboard with new superhero abilities.
Long champions of overclocking and the enthusiast scene, µGuru is a logical extension for ABIT, to allow them to stay one step ahead of the competition. On the hardware side, the Winbond produced µGuru chip provides extensive hardware monitoring, interfaces with the BIOS to allow extended control of its feature set and also allows software control of various board features, to allow you to tweak and monitor your motherboard from the operating system.
Some of the µGuru features have been around for ages in software, with tools like Motherboard Monitor giving a massive variety of motherboards good hardware monitoring, but some are the preserve of specialist tools that often support a small subset of motherboards or clock generation devices. These tools, to allow adjustment of clock speeds from your operating system, are few and far between, especially for older motherboards, and obviously aren't factory supported by any motherboard maker.
So along with software adjust of voltages and fan speeds (where supported), µGuru, at least on the software side, seeks to give factory support to the avid tweaker, letting he or she adjust board parameters to their hearts' content and not just monitor them from relative safety. Interactivity with the clock speeds and voltages on the motherboard, outside of the BIOS, is pretty new to most and ABIT seek to bring it to the masses. Getting your hands dirty like this can be a lot of fun.
There are obvious benefits to software adjust of fan speed, CPU speed and voltage, especially on boards that lock the peripheral busses. You can lower clock speed and voltage when your PC is doing light tasks, to minimise heat and conserve power; conversely you can crank things up to get maximum performance when playing the latest game or crunching out those SETI units. Indeed, semi interactive versions of this adjustment have been around for ages in schemes like PowerNow!, Speedstep and recently Cool & Quiet, the AMD power saving system with Athlon 64. It's the user control that appeals in this case.
Obviously the software needs to be competent, so ABIT need to produce userfriendly, yet powerful software to complement the capable hardware. You also need a suitable motherboard. AI7 provides that for ABIT on the Intel side of the fence, a µGuru variant of their tried and tested Springdale motherboard, IS7. On the AMD side, the obvious candidate for the augmentation is the NF7-S. A long standing enthusiasts' favourite with recent upgrade to NVIDIA's Ultra 400 SPP bridge stepping, it's as powerful an Socket A board as ABIT make.
So we know what drives AN7, µGuru and NF7-S combine to give ABIT a new excuse for a product. Let's see if anything has changed from the base NF7-S specification in the transition to AN7.