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Test Settings

P67 Motherboard Roundup: Nine $150-200 Boards
By
Test System Configuration
CPUIntel Core i7-2600K LGA 1155
3.40-3.80 GHz, 8 MB L3 Cache
RAMKingston KHX2133C9D3T1K2/4GX (4 GB)
DDR3-2133 at DDR3-1600 CAS 7-7-7-21, 1.60 V
GraphicsNvidia GeForce GTX 580 1.5 GB
772MHz GPU, GDDR5-4008
Hard DriveWestern Digital WD1002FBYS 1 TB
7200 RPM, SATA 3Gb/s, 32 MB cache
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerOCZ-Z1000M 1000 W Modular, ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Gold
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsNvidia 263.09
ChipsetIntel INF 9.2.0.1019


Kingston’s HyperX 2133 allows us to evaluate each motherboard’s memory overclocking potential, at least within the limits of our CPU. For normal benchmarks, we used less aggressive DDR3-1600 CAS 7-7-7-21 settings.

Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 580 helps to shift the performance bottleneck away from graphics, putting more benchmark focus on each motherboard’s ability to manage Intel Turbo Boost and memory timings.

With efficiency approaching 90% through a wide range of loads, OCZ’s Z1000M optimized our power consumption tests.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Very High Quality, 4x AA
F1 2010V1.01, Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml
Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Just Cause 2Version 1.0.0.2, Built-In Benchmark "Concrete Jungle"
Test Set 1: Medium Details, No AA, 8x AF
Test Set 2: Highest Details, 8x AA, 16x AF
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call Of PripyatCall Of Pripyat Benchmark version, all options, HDAO
Test Set 1: High Preset, DX11 EFDL, High SSAO, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, DX11 EFDL, High SSAO, 4x MSAA
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion:9.0.2.25 x64
Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 min
Default format AAC
HandBrake 0.9.4Version 0.9.4, convert first .vob file from The Last Samurai (1 GB) to .mp4, High Profile
TMPGEnc 4.0 XPressVersion: 4.7.3.292
Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes)
Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9
DivX Codec 6.9.1Encoding mode: Insane Quality
Enhanced multithreading enabled using SSE4
Quarter-pixel search
Xvid 1.2.2Display encoding status = off
MainConcept Reference 1.6.1MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 KHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)
Productivity
Adobe Photoshop CS4Version: 11.0 x64, Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image
Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2010Version: 11.0 x64, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)
WinRAR 3.90Version x64 3.90, Dictionary = 4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
7-ZipVersion 9.20: Format=Zip, Compression=Ultra, Method=Deflate, Dictionary Size=32 KB, Word Size=128, Threads=8
Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.1.0, Benchmark Only
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.0.1.0 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware Sandra 2011Version 2011.1.17.25, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / MultiMedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
Display all 95 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    Tamz_msc , January 10, 2011 4:25 AM
    Nice review.That ASUS came up with the highest CPU overclock wasn't surprising.
  • 0 Hide
    reprotected , January 10, 2011 4:27 AM
    I thought that the ECS looked pretty sick, and it did perform alright. But unfortunately, it wasn't the best.
  • 0 Hide
    rantsky , January 10, 2011 4:29 AM
    You guys rock! Thanks for the review!

    I'm just missing benchmarks like SATA/USB speeds etc. Please Tom's get those numbers for us!
  • 2 Hide
    Tamz_msc , January 10, 2011 4:30 AM
    When will we see an overclocking article on these CPUs?
  • 3 Hide
    rmse17 , January 10, 2011 4:31 AM
    Thanks for the prompt review of the boards! I would like to see any differences in quality of audio and networking components. For example, what chipsets are used for Audio in each board, how that affects sound quality. Same thing for network, which chipset is used for networking, and bandwidth benchmarks. If you guys make part 2 to the review, it would be nice to see those features, as I think that would be one more way these boards would differentiate themselves.
  • 0 Hide
    VVV850 , January 10, 2011 4:50 AM
    Would have been good to know the bios version for the tested motherboards. Sorry if I double posted.
  • 1 Hide
    flabbergasted , January 10, 2011 5:25 AM
    I'm going for the ASrock because I can use my socket 775 aftermarket cooler with it.
  • 0 Hide
    VVV850 , January 10, 2011 5:25 AM
    I was wrong. The BIOS version is posted.
  • -4 Hide
    stasdm , January 10, 2011 5:47 AM
    Do not see any board worth spending money on.

    1. SLI "support". Do not understand why end-user has to pay for mythical SLI "sertification" (all latest Intel chips support SLI by definition) and a SLI bridge coming with the board (at least 75% of end users would never need one). The bridge should come with NVIDIA cards (same as with AMD ones). Also, in x8/x8 PCIe configuration nearly all NVIDIA cards (exept for low-end ones) will loose at least 12% productivity - with top cards that is about $100 spent for nothing (AMD cards would not see that difference). So, If those cards are coming as SLI-"sertified" they have to be, in the worst case, equipped by NVIDIA NF200 chip (though, I would not recommend to by cards with this PCIe v.1.1 bridge). As even NVIDIA GF110 cards really need less than 1GB/s bandwidth (all other NVIDIA and AMD - less than 0.8GB/s)and secondary cards in SLI/CrossFire use no more than 1/4 of that, a normal PCIe v.2.0 switch (costing less than thrown away with x8/x8 SLI money) will nicely support three "Graphics only" x16 slots, fully-functional x8 slot and will provide bandwidth enough to support one PCIe v.2.0 x4 (or 4 x x1) slot(s)/device(s).

    2. Do not understand the author euphoria of mass use of Marvell "SATA 6G" chips. The PCIe x1 chip might not be "SATA 6G" by definision, as it woud newer be able to provide more than 470GB/s (which is far from the standard 600GB/s) - so, I'd recommend to denote tham as 3G+ or 6G-. As it is shown in the upper section, there is enough bandwidth for real 6G solution (PCIe x8 LSISAS 2008 or x4 LSISAS 2004). Yes, will be a bit more expensive, but do not see the reason to have a palliative solutions on $200+ mobos.

  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , January 10, 2011 6:37 AM
    I was hoping that the new Asus Sabertooth P67 would be included. Its new design really is leaving people wondering if the change is as good as they claim.
  • 0 Hide
    stasdm , January 10, 2011 7:12 AM
    To rmse17
    Do not think they use anything better than native southbridge or Realtec controller. Adding better chip will add some cents to the board cost. And, anyway, these boards are not positioned as "Hard gaimer" ones - more like low-middle class (though, with proper design LGA1155 boards may be exellent gaming boards.
  • 0 Hide
    Lutfij , January 10, 2011 7:18 AM
    oh, yeah, wheres the ROG boards?!?!?!
  • 0 Hide
    Vatharian , January 10, 2011 7:48 AM
    @Lutfij - they're over the price limit for this article.
    @stasdm - SLI - it's a trick nVidia pulls to make money from every mobo sold (with SLi support). Mythical or not, intel's PCHs DO NOT support SLi by default - they do not support SLi at all. It's all by means of nV's driver and BIOS-included string. Everything is supported by the fact that PCI-Express has enough bandwidth to sustain two cards - that wasn't exactly always possible with PCIe 1.0 lower bandwidth on previous-gen chipsets. About SATA 6G - most of the crowd won't utilize even half of the SATA ports at all. If they will, then probably they'll treat them only as additional sata ports with no regard to their speed. Enthusiasts will attach their SSDs to PCIe in extreme cases or at least to intel's own controller, which in turn handles SATA internally in PCH without using PCIe. External controllers are out of scope for 99% of the crowd, mind you. For example - show me PCIe based 4x SATA (or SAS, for availablity sake) controller with RAID 5 support below 300$. Any? Don't think so, save one crappy LSI. It's budget side, man. If you want top-of-the-line, get server board for storage and second, gaming, or performance rig, but that's not what's this article about.

    @Author - Thank you for great comparison. Too bad it ended on counting what does not work on the boards. It seems that atm intel and ASUS have the most mature and reliable products. However, I'd still wait for second-gen P67 boards (in Q2?), before upgrading. Still wondering what to do with my 1366 rig.
  • 0 Hide
    stasdm , January 10, 2011 8:30 AM
    @Vatharian
    1. As SLI is software only solution (BIOS string is just a trick), that is why it is by default supported by Intel (AMD too).
    2. Even PCIe 1.1 bandwidth is over the head to support four-way SLI/CroaaFire. They use a few administrative tools from 2.0 now - but that's all. The difference between AMD and NVIDIA is that for at least two generations already AMD uses standard PCIe protocol, but at 1/4 of the standard speed. NVIDIA used even slower speed at pre-GF110 chips (that's why they decided not to issue 512-cores NF100 cards - they would not be faster than "abridged" version), with non-stsndard "Graphics PCIe" protocol (Basically PCIe, but w/o parity control, using parity bits for data, w/o distributed clock support and some other "speed-up" tricks. On x8 bus their cards have to return to standard PCIe protocol and automatically loose the "no parity" part of the bandwidth.
  • 0 Hide
    stasdm , January 10, 2011 8:36 AM
    @Vatharian
    As for "budget mobos - carrent dual-core Atoms are enough for most non-heavy graphics tasks. To position LGA1155 processors along with them - to insult Intel engineers, created these chips. That's the hi-end product, improperly used.
  • -1 Hide
    belardo , January 10, 2011 9:11 AM
    Good article... But these are still 1st gen boards and at $150~200 for feature sets that's the same for an AMD Chipset board is not impressive. Obviously, the new CPUs are usually faster than AMD of course. Which helps to regulate AMD into the low-end ~ mid-range computer systems.

    Still not impressed with intel's locking down flexibility of their boards & CPUs. But that's intel for you. Sandy Bridge would be great for my video encoding... but it most likely not work for me... blah blah.


  • 1 Hide
    feeddagoat , January 10, 2011 9:36 AM
    A quick look at overclock results and tbh intel SB has killed the excitement of motherboards. After looking for features you want (even then they're all similar to a degree) all that's left is to match up the colour of your curtains.
  • 0 Hide
    aaron88_7 , January 10, 2011 9:50 AM
    The Deluxe version of that Asus board comes with a USB 3.0 drive bay, but I was a little confused as to why one would want that if their Case already has front faced USB 3.0 ports like the one I got does.

    I'll have to look at the connections again, but can you use that same cable to plug into the board on the inside or do those case USB 3.0 ports have to be connected to the rear of the board? Personally I think the drive bay including just 2 USB ports looks kind of lame and I'd much, much rather use the ports on my case....even if that means running a cable out the back of the case, (nobody looks at the back anyway).
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , January 10, 2011 9:59 AM
    Front-panel USB 3.0 header:


    First introduced by ASRock in response to a request by Tom's Hardware, using an Intel design according to ASRock's engineers.
  • 0 Hide
    Vatharian , January 10, 2011 10:03 AM
    @stasdm - Dual core Atoms are strangely rare. To be honest their performance is an insult considering the price you pay for them. For compact PC in ITX case, sure, but SFF is pricey, I'd say, comparable to far-faster normal microATX format. Also very simple, common situation: I want to use budget mobo, decent CPU (not the slowest one), and I'd like to have TV tuner card, some SB Audigy2 lying around, (or ASUS Xonar :p  ), still better than the dreaded Realtek. Maybe some used PCIe graphics, so my daughter can play Sims 3 without a problem. So there is a problem, because I do not know any not-SFF Atom board. It's either PCIe or PCI, and only single slot. If you want a typing machine, go buy used PC for 40$ or even less.
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