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.
Overall System: Windows 7 Boot Time & PCMark Vantage
It might not seem obvious, but motherboards play a huge role in the amount of time it takes to boot up and reach a usable OS desktop. While the time it takes to go from the Windows boot logo to a usable desktop will be about the same across each board, the number of components included (chipsets, RAID controllers, et cetera) can greatly impact the amount of time it takes to go from a cold boot to the Windows boot screen.
To see which board can boot into Windows the fastest, we take advantage of our Acronis restore image, and once all of the drivers are installed and the PC is rebooted at least twice, we get down to testing. To do that, we leave the PC turned off for at least a minute, and with stopwatches in hand, begin recording the time as soon as the power button is pressed. We record the total time it takes to reach a usable Windows desktop.
Remember when PCs that boot up in 60 seconds seemed impressive? Here, both ASUS and MSI inched towards the 20 second mark, while Intel fell quite a bit behind (not that 27 seconds is a “poor” time, per se).
Futuremark’s no stranger to most enthusiasts, as its benchmarking software has been considered a de facto standard for about as long as it’s been fun to benchmark. While its 3DMark software is undoubtedly the company’s most popular offering, PCMark is a great tool for summing up the performance of a PC with gaming being a minor focus rather than a major one.
PCMark 7 runs a total of nine “suites” that test a PC across scenarios that most people can relate to, such as gaming, video encoding, image editing and so forth. The processor is heavily stressed throughout most of these, with the graphics, I/O and memory also playing significant roles.
If you are interested in learning a bit more about how each result is computed, you can download the whitepaper from our servers here (700KB PDF).
MSI’s board impresses here, coming just ahead of ASUS’ P8Z77-V. Intel, as we’ll see become a theme, falls just behind both.