Test Settings, Results And Final Analysis
As in previous tests, all motherboards were set up on an open-bed test case. All components, other than the motherboard, were the same in all of the tests.
Test System Configuration
|Sound||Integrated HD Audio|
|Network||Integrated Gigabit Networking|
|Synthetic Benchmarks And Settings|
|PCMark 8||Version: 2.5.419Work, Home, and Creative Benchmarks|
|SiSoftware Sandra||Version: 2015.01.21.15Memory Bandwidth|
|Crystal DiskMark 3.03||3.0.3 x64 Sequential Read|
|Unigine Heaven 4.0||Version 4.0, Built-in BenchmarkBasic: DirectX 9, Low Detail, 1280x720, 2xAA, No Tessellation|
Here are the test results, starting with PCMark8.
As we've seen before, the differences are small, although both of these ASRock boards are a little above average in all categories.
Once again, the ASRock boards both beat the average, but the differences are small.
Now, we see some different results. The ASRock tag team loses five out of the six tests. There's no obvious explanation for why the Pro4S wins one test by an almost 15-percent margin. I used the Intel NIC on both boards, and as the five-board roundup explained, I have modified the test environment. I have removed the factors beyond my control that are inherent to the speedtest.net LAN throughput test I was using last year. All of the boards, except for the MSI from the previous roundup, also use an Intel NIC. I did not load CFOSPEED or any other LAN utility on any board. I duplicate my test runs, so I'm inclined to simply crown a winner and move on.
Nothing to see here folks; move along—both of today's boards are slightly below the average on the DX9, and slightly above average in the DX11. You couldn't fit a cat's whisker between the scores, though (I have cats; I tried).
Now here's a pretty solid victory for ASRock. When we look at the previous roundup, we see that ASRock's power numbers were good there, too.
That Noctua cooler doesn't let any of these CPUs heat up. But here again, correlated with the lower power numbers, ASRock sweeps these tests with victories across the board, winning most by over 10 percent.
I could not justifiably criticize a builder for choosing either of these boards, although I might ask a cautionary question or two about something specific.
ASRock H170M Pro4S
This board costs $10 less than the H170M Pro4. Are the sacrifices worth the $10? That's a tough call, and it's really a matter of opinion. Fewer video-output options may be a big deal if you aren't planning to use a discrete graphics card, but if you install a graphics card, then another $10 may not strain your budget. I prefer the way the orange on the Pro4 pops, but that's also a matter of opinion. This is not a bad board, so I'd rather be criticized for praising it rather than have someone overlook it.
I prefer smaller systems, but when I decided that Scrooge (my previous "lab assistant") was not fast enough, this board was not my choice. Instead, I selected the MSI H170I Pro AC I has reviewed previously. The H170M-ITX/ac layout was uncomfortable, and I decided I may someday want to add an M.2 drive, which would not be possible on the H170M-ITX/ac if I wanted to keep the wireless network controller. Furthermore, I'd be limited to physically (and likely logically) smaller drives that are mSATA-only. The H170M-ITX/ac does not offer diagnostic LEDs of any kind, unlike the MSI offering. Although it's $20 cheaper, it wasn't worth it to give up features that I could see myself wanting later on. On the other hand, the H170M-ITX/ac saves you $20 and gives you another LAN port. If you need another LAN port, then that might be a great deal. If you want low power consumption and lower heat production, this may be the board for you—just be sure you don't also need a PCIe M.2 slot.
Once again, I think the H170 chipset should appeal to a great many builders. Although budget builders might feel limited to H110 or B150, the $30 to $50 difference to jump up to H170 buys a lot of future resistance in terms of the number and types of ports, and possibly another pair of RAM slots. Only users who need more robust support for multiple graphics cards, or for whom overclocking and tweaking are particularly important, will need to move all the way up to Z170. I've had the opportunity to present seven H170 boards now, and none of them has left me thinking, "Now why would anyone choose that?"