by Rob Williams on August 3, 2012 in Intel Motherboards
If you’re looking for a good Z77 motherboard to pair up with that shiny Ivy Bridge CPU but don’t want to break the bank, MSI’s Z77A-GD55 is well worth a look. Despite its modest $165 price-tag, the GD55 offers a rich feature-set, looks good, has a robust EFI and even makes overclocking easy for those who don’t care for the manual route.
At Techgage, we strive to make sure our results are as accurate as possible. Our testing is rigorous and time-consuming, but we feel the effort is worth it. In an attempt to leave no question unanswered, this page contains not only our testbed specifications, but also a detailed look at how we conduct our testing.
If there is a bit of information that we’ve omitted, or you wish to offer thoughts or suggest changes, please feel free to shoot us an e-mail or post in our forums.
The table below lists the hardware for our current motherboard-testing machine. Each motherboard used for the sake of comparison is also listed here, along with its BIOS version.
||Intel Core i7-3770K – Quad-Core, 3.50GHz, Default Voltage
ASUS P8Z77-V DELUXE (BIOS: ‘1401’ 07/30/2012)
Intel DZ77GA-70K (BIOS: ‘0049’ 07/13/2012)
MSI Z77A-GD55 (BIOS: ‘1.5’ 07/17/2012)
Kingston HyperX Genesis 4x2GB – DDR3-1600 8-8-8-24 @ 1.65v
AMD Radeon HD 7850 1GB (Catalyst 12.7 Driver)
On-Board Creative X-Fi Audio
Corsair Force F160 160GB Solid-State Drive (OS Drive)
Kingston HyperX 240 Solid-State Drive (I/O Testing)
Corsair Obsidian 700D Full-Tower
Gateway XHD3000 30″
Corsair H70 Self-Contained Liquid Cooler
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
When preparing our testbeds for any type of performance testing, we follow these guidelines:
- No power-saving options are enabled in the motherboard’s BIOS.
- Internet is disabled.
- No virus scanner or firewall is installed.
- The OS is kept clean; no scrap files are left in between runs.
- Machine has proper airflow and the room temperature is 80°F (27°C) or less.
To aide with the goal of keeping accurate and repeatable results, we alter certain services in Windows 7 from starting up at boot. This is due to the fact that these services have the tendency to start up in the background without notice, potentially causing inaccurate test results. For example, disabling “Windows Search” turns off the OS’ indexing which can at times utilize the hard drive and memory more than we’d like.
The services we disable are:
- Windows Defender
- Windows Error Reporting Service
- Windows Event Log
- Windows Firewall
- Windows Search
- Windows Update
Our Windows 7 Desktop for Motherboard-Testing
To ease the tedium of setting up the OS for each round of benchmarking, we rely on Acronis True Image to restore a pre-setup copy of Windows 7 Professional x64. Prior to restoring this image and benchmarking, the OS SSD is securely erased, in order to restore it to like-new conditions. The same applies for our alternate SSD which is used for our I/O performance tests.
Real-World & Synthetic Benchmarks
To help us deliver a well-rounded set of test results for each board, we use a variety of real-world applications and synthetic benchmarks. Our real-world tests consists of 7-zip 9.20, Autodesk 3ds Max 2011, Adobe Lightroom 4.1, Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5 and Left 4 Dead 2. Our synthetics are Cinebench R11.5, HD Tune Pro 5.0, Iometer 1.1.0, Sandra 2012 SP4, PCMark 7 and 3DMark 11.
All tests are run twice over with the results averaged. If there is an unnatural variance between the first two runs, then we continue to run the test until we receive a result we believe to be accurate.
Actual BCLK (Base Clock) Values
A base clock (BCLK) is an innate frequency value used in conjunction with a multiplier to determine the stock speed of a processor. Defined by Intel, it’s up to the motherboard to provide the appropriate value, and for overclocking purposes it can be freely adjusted. But, the free nature of BCLK adjusting can also give vendors a creative method of making sure their motherboard performs just a bit better than the rest, and for that reason, we report on the actual BCLK value of each motherboard with the help of CPU-Z.
Unless there is a clear attempt at cheating, these values should be considered “fun facts” and not much else. Fluctuations of +/- 0.5MHz are not uncommon, and could be the result of features or adjustments in the BIOS or EFI, rather than be deliberately set.
I’m a little impressed that both the ASUS and MSI boards have a perfect base clock – you’d imagine that of all these three companies, it’d be Intel with that, but no cigar.
It’s important to note that current ASUS boards, by default, auto-overclock the processor. To prevent this and keep our comparisons valid, we’ve forced the appropriate Turbo multipliers on this board (39/39/38/37).