How We Test High-End Z97 Motherboards
|Test System Configuration|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-4790K (Haswell): 4.0-4.4GHz, 8MB Shared L3 Cache, LGA 1150|
|CPU Cooler||Thermalright MUX-120 w/Zalman ZM-STG1 Paste|
|RAM||Patriot Viper 3 PV316G240C1K (16GB) at DDR3-1600 C9 DefaultsCorsair CMY32GX3M4A2800C12R (32GB) at XMP-2800 C12 Timings|
|Graphics||PowerColor PCS+ AXR9 290X 4GBD5-PPDHE: 1050MHz GPU, 4GB GDDR5-5400|
|Hard Drive||Samsung 840 Pro MZ-7PD256, 256GB SSD|
|Sound||Integrated HD Audio|
|Network||Integrated Gigabit Networking|
|Power||Corsair AX860i: ATX12V v2.3, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Platinum|
|OS||Microsoft Windows 8 Professional RTM x64|
|Graphics||AMD Catalyst 14.4|
|Chipset||Intel INF 10.0.13|
A motherboard manufacturer provided our new Core i7-4790K test CPU in hopes that it would really push the overclocking envelope of its motherboard. Unfortunately, that processor's die required more voltage to achieve similar frequencies compared to its -4770K predecessor, killing any chance of us increasing clock rate at safe and sane voltage levels.
Corsair’s Vengeance DDR3-2800 lets us test the DRAM overclocking capabilities of each motherboard with all four slots filled. It unfortunately defaults to DDR3-1333, and default mode lets us disable Turbo Boost cheats that many firms employ when XMP is enabled.
Patriot supplied a different set of 8GB modules for a former review that defaults to a more performance-friendly DDR3-1600 CAS 9. The 32GB kit magically transforms into Patriot’s 16GB dual-channel part number PV316G240C1K by simply removing two of its modules.
PowerColor’s overclocked PCS+ AXR9 290X provides all the performance we need to extract maximum performance from the rest of the platform.
|Battlefield 4||Version 188.8.131.52, DirectX 11, 100-sec. Fraps "Tashgar" Test Set 1: Medium Quality Preset, No AA, 4x AF, SSAO Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 4x MSAA, 16x AF, HBAO|
|Grid 2||Version 184.108.40.20679, Direct X 11, Built-in Benchmark Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 8x MSAA|
|Arma 3||Version 1.08.113494, 30-Sec. Fraps "Infantry Showcase" Test Set 1: Standard Preset, No AA, Standard AF Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, 8x FSAA, Ultra AF|
|Far Cry 3||V. 1.04, DirectX 11, 50-sec. Fraps "Amanaki Outpost" Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA, Standard ATC, SSAO Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 4x MSAA, Enhanced ATC, HDAO|
|Adobe Creative Suite|
|Adobe After Effects CC||Version 220.127.116.114: Create Video which includes 3 Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously|
|Adobe Photoshop CC||Version 14.0 x64: Filter 15.7MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates|
|Adobe Premiere Pro CC||Version 7.0.0 (342), 6.61GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality|
|iTunes||Version 18.104.22.168 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format|
|LAME MP3||Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160Kb/s)|
|HandBrake CLI||Version: 0.99: Video from Canon Eos 7D (1920x1080, 25 FPS) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds Audio: PCM-S16, 48,000Hz, Two-Channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)|
|TotalCode Studio 2.5||Version: 22.214.171.12477: 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, 224Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV|
|ABBYY FineReader||Version 10.0.102.95: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages|
|Adobe Acrobat 11||Version 126.96.36.1999: Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encryption|
|Autodesk 3ds Max 2013||Version 15.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080|
|Blender||Version: 2.68A, Cycles Engine, Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, 1920x1080, 8x Anti-Aliasing, Render THG.blend frame 1|
|Visual Studio 2010||Version 10.0, Compile Google Chrome, Scripted|
|WinZip||Version 18.0 Pro: THG-Workload (1.3GB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"|
|WinRAR||Version 5.0: THG-Workload (1.3GB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"|
|7-Zip||Version 9.30 alpha (64-bit): THG-Workload (1.3GB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"|
|Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings|
|3DMark 11||Version: 188.8.131.52, Benchmark Only|
|3DMark Professional||Version: 184.108.40.206 (64-bit), Fire Strike Benchmark|
|PCMark 8||Version: 1.0.0 x64, Full Test|
|SiSoftware Sandra||Version 2014.02.20.10, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Multimedia / Cryptography, Memory Bandwidth Benchmarks|
This needs a follow-up with x16x16 PEX vs x8x8 native vs x16x16 LGA2011 and, hopefully, x8x8x8x8 PEX vs x16x8x8x8 native on LGA2011.
If you really can afford 3 GPUs, you should really be starting with X99. For Z97, full-size ATX boards are kind of a waste due to the limit on available PCIe lanes, unless you want just 1 GPU and a bunch of other 1-2-lane expansion boards. I would have preferred seeing what you can get in a uATX (or possibly mITX) solution for the same budget in a package that's arguably a better fit to cater to the SLI/CF crowd and easier to fit in a case.
That one MSI board...I hope that price isn't accurate, that they're currently out of stock or something else is going on, as in, it's being shipped from S. Korea...