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Test Settings And Benchmarks

Six $160-220 Z77 Motherboards, Benchmarked And Reviewed
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Test System Configuration
CPUIntel Core i7-3770K (Ivy Bridge): 3.50 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache, LGA 1155
CPU CoolerThermalright MUX-120 w/Zalman ZM-STG1 Paste
RAMG.Skill F3-17600CL9Q-16GBXLD (16 GB), DDR3-2200 at DDR3-1600 CAS 9, 1.60 V
GraphicsNvidia GeForce GTX 580 1.5 GB
772 MHz GPU, GDDR5-4008
Main Hard DriveSamsung 470 Series 256 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD 
2nd Hard DriveMushkin Chronos Deluxe 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerSeasonic X760 SS-760KM, ATX12V v2.3, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Gold
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 296.10 WHQL
Virtu MVPVersion 2.1.110, GPU Virtualization, No HyperFormance, No Virtual Vsync
ChipsetIntel INF 9.3.0.1019


Thermalright’s quiet MUX-120
is powerful enough to handle all of our Ivy Bridge overclocking needs at 1.30 V CPU core. While more voltage would require more cooling, our engineering friends tell us that 1.30 V is a good practical limit for longevity.

While G.Skill’s F3-17600CL9Q-16GBXLD provides the default DDR3-1600 CAS 9 settings we want for benchmarks, it’s no longer fast enough to push the limits of today’s best memory controllers. The firm provided a set of its F3-2666C11Q-16GTXD Trident X DDR3-2666 specifically to extend our overclocking capabilities.

We continue to use Seasonic’s 80 PLUS Gold-rated X760 to provide overclocking stability and power-testing efficiency.

PCIe 3.0 gets set aside since this editor does not yet have a compatible card. Instead, Nvidia’s reference GeForce GTX 580 provides the 3D performance needed to test the gaming capabilities of these boards.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Battlefield 3Campaign Mode, "Going Hunting" 90-Seconds Fraps
Test Set 1: Medium Quality Defaults (No AA, 4x AF)
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Defaults (4x AA, 16x AF)
DiRT 3V1.01, Run with -benchmark example_benchmark.xml
Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Metro 2033Full Game, Built-In Benchmark, "Frontline" Scene
Test Set 1: DX11, High, AAA, 4x AF, No PhysX, No DoF
Test Set 2: DX11, Very High, 4x AA, 16x AF, No PhysX, DoF On
Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimUpdate 1.4.27, Celedon Aethirborn Level 6, 25 Seconds Fraps
Test Set 1: DX11, High Detail Defaults (8x AA, 8x AF)
Test Set 2: DX11, Ultra Detail Defaults (8x AA, 16x AF)
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 10.4.1.10 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format 
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
MediaEspresso 6.5Version 6.5.1210_33281: 1080i HDTV (449 MB) to iPad H.264, 1024x768
MediaConverter 7Version7.1.0.68: 1080i HDTV (449 MB) to iPad, SmartFit profile
Handbrake CLIVersion 0.95: "Big Buck Bunny" (720x480, 23.972 FPS) 5 Minutes, Audio: Dolby Digital, 48 000 Hz, Six-Channel, English, to Video: AVC Audio: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept ReferenceVersion: 2.2.0.5440: MPEG-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), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
Adobe Photoshop CS5Version 12.1 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012Version 14.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
WinZipVersion 15.5 Pro: THG-Workload (464 MB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.1: THG-Workload (464 MB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.22: THG-Workload (464 MB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.82: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Display all 95 comments.
Top Comments
  • 10 Hide
    HMSvictory , April 30, 2012 6:16 AM
    I am surprised that you guys did not include the Asus z77-V

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131820
  • 10 Hide
    Crashman , April 30, 2012 6:39 AM
    TekN9NeGreat review! At the end of day, it comes down to brand loyalty.
    I don't think the article stated anything like that. It comes down to the features you want and the cards you plan to use. In the MSI vs ASRock debate, it's x8-x4-x4 with all three slots in PCIe 3.0 mode, or x8-x8-x4 with x4 in PCIe 2.0 mode, and you're definitely wiser to pick between them based on WHAT you plan to use in the third slot.
    simone saysdo you mean nvidia and intel gets news during weekends not only news but featured articles?
    It's Monday here, and editorial has very little contact with news.
    HMSvictoryI am surprised that you guys did not include the Asus z77-Vhttp://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6813131820
    Tom's Hardware didn't "include" anything in the review. A couple boards were excluded based on price, and everything else was let in. The P8Z77-V Pro was the cheapest board Asus sent.
    rickrentswhy not with Pci-e 3.0?
    Editor had no PCIe 3.0 cards. And the reason he didn't get one yet is because it didn't matter. The only thing that really mattered in a single-GPU MOTHERBOARD comparison was to use the same card on all platforms.
    confish21One thing i was looking for was the part about asrock not having true "digital" PWM and going with an analog PWM. Does this really matter?
    Some digital voltage regulators have been garbage, take a look at a few of the older reviews to see this. Very few have been very good. And many more analog voltage regulators have been garbage, while many more analog voltage regulators have been very good. Quality of execution is more important than the underlying technology.

Other Comments
  • 8 Hide
    TekN9Ne , April 30, 2012 5:04 AM
    Great review! At the end of day, it comes down to brand loyalty.
  • -8 Hide
    Anonymous , April 30, 2012 5:18 AM
    do you mean nvidia and intel gets news during weekends not only news but featured articles?
  • 2 Hide
    yougotjaked , April 30, 2012 5:44 AM
    There's a typo on the last page. It says X77H2-A2X instead of Z77H2-A2X :p  It's on the second to last paragraph...
  • 10 Hide
    HMSvictory , April 30, 2012 6:16 AM
    I am surprised that you guys did not include the Asus z77-V

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131820
  • 4 Hide
    rickrents , April 30, 2012 6:27 AM
    why not with Pci-e 3.0?
  • 0 Hide
    confish21 , April 30, 2012 6:29 AM
    Nice article thank you!
  • 1 Hide
    confish21 , April 30, 2012 6:31 AM
    One thing i was looking for was the part about asrock not having true "digital" PWM and going with an analog PWM. Does this really matter?
  • 10 Hide
    Crashman , April 30, 2012 6:39 AM
    TekN9NeGreat review! At the end of day, it comes down to brand loyalty.
    I don't think the article stated anything like that. It comes down to the features you want and the cards you plan to use. In the MSI vs ASRock debate, it's x8-x4-x4 with all three slots in PCIe 3.0 mode, or x8-x8-x4 with x4 in PCIe 2.0 mode, and you're definitely wiser to pick between them based on WHAT you plan to use in the third slot.
    simone saysdo you mean nvidia and intel gets news during weekends not only news but featured articles?
    It's Monday here, and editorial has very little contact with news.
    HMSvictoryI am surprised that you guys did not include the Asus z77-Vhttp://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6813131820
    Tom's Hardware didn't "include" anything in the review. A couple boards were excluded based on price, and everything else was let in. The P8Z77-V Pro was the cheapest board Asus sent.
    rickrentswhy not with Pci-e 3.0?
    Editor had no PCIe 3.0 cards. And the reason he didn't get one yet is because it didn't matter. The only thing that really mattered in a single-GPU MOTHERBOARD comparison was to use the same card on all platforms.
    confish21One thing i was looking for was the part about asrock not having true "digital" PWM and going with an analog PWM. Does this really matter?
    Some digital voltage regulators have been garbage, take a look at a few of the older reviews to see this. Very few have been very good. And many more analog voltage regulators have been garbage, while many more analog voltage regulators have been very good. Quality of execution is more important than the underlying technology.

  • 2 Hide
    hellfire24 , April 30, 2012 7:05 AM
    UD3H seems to be an excellent value board.
  • 3 Hide
    HMSvictory , April 30, 2012 7:38 AM
    would it be possible to review the asus z77 and gigabyte ud5h in a future review.
  • 5 Hide
    tacoslave , April 30, 2012 7:42 AM
    this review needs crossfire/sli results
  • 9 Hide
    AlexIsAlex , April 30, 2012 8:42 AM
    Still no boot/post time comparison? With all performance scores being almost identical, I would have thought this could be a useful differentiator.
  • 1 Hide
    sosofm , April 30, 2012 8:50 AM
    Is good a test with PCIE 3.0 video card to see if is a real benefit compare to PCIE 2.0.
  • 2 Hide
    valuial , April 30, 2012 9:45 AM
    z77 sabertooth wanted !
  • -1 Hide
    jaquith , April 30, 2012 11:41 AM
    Thanks Thomas another Great Article! Don't like what I see, but I digress.

    Something's gotta be pooched with the ASUS P8Z77-V Pro BIOS (UEFI) -- hopefully. In the past the ASUS Pro line has been the meat & potatoes for my recommendations, and this is not the only review with similar performance numbers.

    Voltages, I am going to have a hard time recommending a vCore >1.2Xv, VCCSA and CPU VTT of 1.20v on the IB. I still need to see otherwise. From what I've seen the IB is more 'girlish' with voltages than the SB or SB-E, and there's little point having the fans spinning 'through' the case and creating high dBA with a high vCore. RAM (voltage), it goes back to my feelings that 1.50v DIMM was a bunch of Urban Myths especially since the SB-E and seemingly the IB can handle 1.65v DIMM RAM.

    Yeah, I noticed the XMP tried to set 1.25v VCCSA, or at least the set is encoded that way. Further, I don't wan to debate the OC until I get my hands on an IB, it should be any day now.

    Further, either the Engineers were dead wrong on the SB (1.50) or IB (1.65) they're wrong in both instances. I 'get' ultra fast kits (today) >DDR3-2133 e.g. DDR-2400 or faster are 1.65v kits, but only a few months ago IF 'I' recommended SB + 1.65v I'd have 20+ negative comments in the Forum. Seems counter intuitive step in DRAM voltage.

    Also, I am assuming you're testing the IB ES and I wonder how much of an impact that has in that the CPUID are geared towards the Retail. I remember all of the E5 (ES) problems and drops in performance compared to the Retail sisters.

    OC observation only, you seemed 'wimpish' with the SB-E compared to the IB - interesting?!
  • 0 Hide
    notsleep , April 30, 2012 12:02 PM
    i don't understand why the mobo don't have all sata6 and usb 3.0? i mean they're backwards compatible. why even include the old stuff? why not have 8 sata 6 and 8 usb 3.0 with 0 sata 3 and 0 usb 3.0? :?
  • 0 Hide
    spyfish , April 30, 2012 12:33 PM
    Good review, I read a similar review before i decided for MSI Z77A-GD65.

    A chose this board as it has a better Audio Chipset then the Competitors. This board comes with ALC898, while the other ones come with ALC892. Apparently ALC898 is far better than ALC892.

    So far i am quite happy with the board.

    Just 1 note, if overclocking do not disable "Power technologies", it will prevent overclocking. If i disabled the power saving features 1 by 1 i had no problems.
  • 0 Hide
    xtreme5 , April 30, 2012 12:37 PM
    like it good review!
  • 1 Hide
    Pezcore27 , April 30, 2012 1:13 PM
    Just curious as to what made you pick the GA-Z77X-UD3H for $160 over the GA-Z77X-UD5H for $189? Is there not that much difference between the 2 boards?
  • 0 Hide
    CaedenV , April 30, 2012 1:42 PM
    Fun mobo review as always!
    I have always loved ECS for cheap 'value' builds (in fact I am using a 6 year old ECS board in a little htpc I am throwing together, it doesn't do much, but it has never let me down either), it is wierd seeing them in the 'high end' market like this, and (unlike previous boards they have produced) it looks stunning!
    The first time I saw the gold on black look was with my ex3 gen3 board, which looked odd in pictures, but great in real life, and this new ECS board looks absolutely gorgeous in pics, so I am sure it looks great in real life as well.

    Still, at the end of the day I am not sure that I would go for ECS on a high end build, but it is good to see that they are getting somewhere.

    Also, it is good to see that ASRock is still doing OK now that they are no longer under the ASUS umbrella.

    As for the review: Why even do the program benchmarks? We all know that the mobo is merely for the feature set, parts cooling, and power management quality for OCing (and truth be told aesthetics as well), and has next to no bearing on how fast things get processed at any specific frequency. All that I personally care about is the feature set, OC ability, and subjective ease of use for the UEFI and keeping it updated, vs the overall cost of the board.
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