Five Z87 Motherboards Under $220, Reviewed

Test Settings And Benchmarks

Test System Configuration
CPUIntel Core i7-4770K (Haswell): 3.5-3.9 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache, LGA 1150
CPU CoolerThermalright MUX-120 w/Zalman ZM-STG1 Paste
RAMG.Skill F3-17600CL9D-8GBXLD (8 GB) at DDR3-1600 C9 Defaults
G.Skill F3-3000C12D-8GTXDG (8 GB) at XMP-3000 C12 Timings
GraphicsAMD Radeon HD 7970 3 GB: 925 MHz GPU, GDDR5-5500
Hard DriveSamsung 840 Series MZ-7PD256, 256 GB SSD 
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerCorsair AX860i: ATX12V v2.3, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Platinum
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 8 Professional RTM x64
GraphicsAMD Catalyst 13.4
ChipsetIntel INF 9.4.0.1017


Many critics said this would never happen, but I was able to keep this Core i7-4770K sample well-under 100° Celsius at 4.7 GHz using nothing more than an ancient Thermalright MUX-120. Perhaps the cool room helped, or perhaps Thermalright rigged this particular sample by filling its heat pipes with unobtanium?

After trying every memory sample in the lab, the only set I found that defaulted to DDR3-1600 CAS 9 was an old pair of G.Skill’s DDR3-2200. Since some boards automatically turn on “Enhanced Turbo” when XMP is enabled, I avoided that technology in benchmarks.

The old RAM couldn’t push beyond the overclocking capabilities of the Shark Bay platform, though. For that we secured a new set of DDR3-3000 that, unfortunately, defaults to DDR3-1333 prior to enabling XMP.

Corsair warns that some power supplies won’t wake up from C7 suspend mode, and tells us that’s why it's disabled on many motherboards. I didn’t have time to test every power supply in the lab, so I took the company's advice as an opportunity. The AX860i is, after all, an 80 PLUS Platinum-rated part.

Due to tight scheduling and the need to provide additional hardware and software details, we skipped the individually-tested games and reserved benchmarks to our batch-process applications suite. Apparently, Chris sees me and the batch process for getting these stories done. ;)

Benchmark Settings
Adobe Creative Suite
Adobe After Effects CS6Version 11.0.0.378 x64: Create Video which includes 3 Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneosly
Adobe Photoshop CS6Version 13 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Adobe Premeire Pro CS6Version 6.0.0.0, 6.61 GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
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)
HandBrake CLIVersion: 0.98: Video from Canon Eos 7D (1920x1080, 25 FPS) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds
Audio: PCM-S16, 48,000 Hz, Two-Channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)
TotalCode Studio 2.5Version: 2.5.0.10677: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, Two-Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.95: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Acrobat XVersion 10.0.0.396: Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encryption
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012Version 14.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
BlenderVersion: 2.64a, Cycles Engine, Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, 1920x1080, 8x Anti-Aliasing, Render THG.blend frame 1
Visual Studio 2010Version 10.0, Compile Google Chrome, Scripted
File Compression
WinZipVersion 17.0 Pro: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.2: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.28: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.1.0, Benchmark Only
PCMark 7Version: 1.0.4 x64, System, Productivity, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks
SiSoftware SandraVersion Version 2013.01.19.11, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Cryptography, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
Create a new thread in the US Reviews comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
92 comments
    Your comment
  • Who did you get the CPU from? Given the Haswell launch article said they were unlikely to be able to hit 4.5GHz+, is this a cherry-picked chip from Intel?
    Could we see some MBs around the $130-$140 mark? They're the interesting ones IMO, and would toast most of these in terms of value.
    0
  • 930500 said:
    Who did you get the CPU from? Given the Haswell launch article said they were unlikely to be able to hit 4.5GHz+, is this a cherry-picked chip from Intel?
    Intel says it doesn't cherry-pick chips for reviewers...
    0
  • Thank you. I was looking forward for a review like this. I read some reviews and the o/c was varying from mobo to mobo lot. So if the same cpu was used, 4,3Ghz to 4,7Ghz is a lot of difference. Because if your cpu would o/c to 4,3Ghz most we would tell its a crap sample Haswell sucks on o/c etc etc, but if it was be able to clock to 4,7Ghz we would say its a nice sample.
    0
  • 930500 said:
    Who did you get the CPU from? Given the Haswell launch article said they were unlikely to be able to hit 4.5GHz+, is this a cherry-picked chip from Intel? Could we see some MBs around the $130-$140 mark? They're the interesting ones IMO, and would toast most of these in terms of value.

    Yes, the CPU comes from Intel. Almost certainly it was cherry-picked. But this is why we didn't rely on these CPUs for our launch coverage--it makes a lot more sense to go to a source with hundreds of boxed processors on the bench to get a real sense for what Haswell will do in the wild. At least for this round-up, the variable changing is the motherboard. So, we derive as much meaning as possible with a review sample that hits 4.7 GHz on one board and 4.5 GHz on another.
    6
  • Yeah - but if people think that their chip is going to hit 4.7 on a good board, then find they can't get 4.5, they can be upset.

    OTOH, the launch coverage said that was at 1.2V, while this is 1.3V, so I guess a few hundred MHz extra is reasonable.

    Lot more variation than on IB's review: http://media.bestofmicro.com/X/O/335580/original/image019.png
    0
  • Isn't there a flaw in the Z87 technology regarding sleep mode? Was it mentioned in the article? I didn't see it.
    0
  • do these board suffer from the rumoured usb3 sleep issue? or are they the fixed B3 steppings ?
    -1
  • 298920 said:
    Isn't there a flaw in the Z87 technology regarding sleep mode? Was it mentioned in the article? I didn't see it.
    Did you read the Haswell review? All current boards are affected, no future boards will be, there's nothing to update here, and the flaw is virtually meaningless.
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/core-i7-4770k-haswell-review,3521-9.html

    If you have one of the affected drives and can't be bothered to reconnect it when it goes offline, wait a couple weeks and buy a board from the new batch.

    The differences between boards in today's review are overclocking, power consumption, and onboard features. None of those things will change with the new PCH batch, and firmware updates should improve both batches equally.
    2
  • do these board suffer from the rumoured usb3 sleep issue? or are they the fixed B3 steppings ?
    -3
  • Hello,
    Can you guys please test 6 SSD in Raid 0 on these mobos ? this is the only Advantage of upgrading to a Haswell over ivy/sandy bridge.
    -3
  • 327653 said:
    Hello, Can you guys please test 6 SSD in Raid 0 on these mobos ? this is the only Advantage of upgrading to a Haswell over ivy/sandy bridge.


    Haswell does have another pair of USB3.0 ports... I agree though, it's kind of disappointing.
    0
  • I bought the MSI board. The features looked good to me for what I wanted. I was really looking at the ASRock boards until I found that they only have a 1 year warranty.

    Edit: ASRock has a 3 year warranty as I see now. Still happy with my choice when looking around the interwebz and seeing how people seem to really like the MSI board.
    0
  • ahh, the perfect review that I was looking for :)
    now only 2 things left to do:
    1. wait a few months to wait for the C2-revision to proliforate so that I don't have weird USB3.0 annoyance
    2. wait for a review on the high-end: z87 delux, sniper, M-power max, ROG extreme etc. just to see whether it's worth the price difference (at least to me )

    UPDATE:
    well, was hoping for slightly more out of MSI's gaming board, but it seems it can't fully satisfy the overclocker in me. still a damn nice board though. all in all it looks like once again ASUS and ASrock come out as the top players for this range. looking forward to seeing if a ROG Extreme is what I ultimately need/want :D
    0
  • Richland APUs were released and not a single article about it... Can you at least attempt to conceal the Intel bias on this site?
    -8
  • 327653 said:
    Can you guys please test 6 SSD in Raid 0 on these mobos ? this is the only Advantage of upgrading to a Haswell over ivy/sandy bridge.

    Since Haswell uses the same DMI2.0 bus between the CPU and chipset, total IO performance is capped to ~2GB/s... the equivalent of 4x USB3 ports or 3x SATA3 or one x4 PCIe 2.0 device.

    From what I read, the z77 and z87 chipsets are interchangeable - a motherboard manufacturer could pair z77 with Haswell or z87 with SB/IB if they wanted to. The main thing that prevented Intel from reusing LGA1155 is FIVR.
    2
  • 195632 said:
    Richland APUs were released and not a single article about it... Can you at least attempt to conceal the Intel bias on this site?

    This is simply not true. Desktop Richland has not yet launched. Desktop Richland drops into FM2, just like Trinity. So, when it does launch, we can revisit the FM2 market to see if there's a reason for another round-up. In the meantime here's a round-up of motherboards that'll support Richland: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/socket-fm2-motherboard-review,3337.html. Hope you enjoy!
    Chris
    1
  • 327653 said:
    Hello, Can you guys please test 6 SSD in Raid 0 on these mobos ? this is the only Advantage of upgrading to a Haswell over ivy/sandy bridge.
    Check InvalidError's valid answer, this is also mentioned in the article. 6-way RAID 0 might be useful for HDD's (I'd go RAID 10), but SSD's will simply overwhelm the DMI.

    But most users (even in the enthusiast market) don't do that anyway. There are very few "storage enthusiasts" in the general "performance enthusiast" market. And for most of us, having more than two SATA 6Gb/s ports simply means our storage drives won't use up the SATA 6Gb/s port needed for our system drive.

    I'd still like to see our storage guy add this controller to his next big article :)
    0
  • I agree with BigMack70; the new CPUs offer meaningless differences in actual use, but the motherboards certainly do, especially with their additional SATA 6Gb/s ports.
    It seems to me Asus teased something about a driver that would visually identify the location of sound sources on screen with [one of] their Z87 boards. Can you shed any light on this?
    0
  • 134065 said:
    This is simply not true. Desktop Richland has not yet launched. Desktop Richland drops into FM2, just like Trinity. So, when it does launch, we can revisit the FM2 market to see if there's a reason for another round-up. In the meantime here's a round-up of motherboards that'll support Richland: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/socket-fm2-motherboard-review,3337.html. Hope you enjoy! Chris


    I don't know who dropped the ball but the launch of Richland was today. It is available for sale on multiple retail sites including Newegg, Aria, and Microcenter.
    0
  • 195632 said:
    Richland APUs were released and not a single article about it... Can you at least attempt to conceal the Intel bias on this site?

    I didn't answer this earlier because I'm not a CPU editor. But since you're going on about bias, listen up: This was a motherboard review. Your comment has nothing to do with the topic, unless you can show me a new chipset upon which I can justify a roundup. Otherwise, the motherboard roundup you're requesting was published 8 months ago...http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/socket-fm2-motherboard-review,3337.html

    Now, if we can find a group of guys with a high interest in an FM2 update, that would create a market for the new motherboard article. Does anyone else want to chime in with their opinions on an FM2 update?
    0