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MSI Z77A-GD55 Motherboard Review
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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.

I/O Performance: 7-zip & Ethernet

When hard drives densities measured in the megabytes or single-digit gigabytes, data compression became something that even the layman computer user took advantage of. In fact, even entire hard drives could be used in compressed mode to help increase the overall storage. Today, such methods aren’t required thanks to hard drives ranging in the thousands of gigabytes, but compression is still used on a regular basis by many people, either for storing a folder for backup, encoding music, converting a photo and et cetera. On servers, compression is often used to shrink mega-large log files.

For our compression testing, we enlist the help of 7-zip 9.20. We take a 772MB folder that consists of 39,236 highly-compressible files and archive it using an ‘Ultra’ level of compression using the ZIP algorithm. This results in an archive weighing in at about 137MB.

7-Zip

A span of one second doesn’t matter much when we’re dealing with a mere 20, so all boards here performed just about the same, but MSI has earned its place ahead of the others.

Ethernet Performance

To some, a LAN port is a LAN port, but for those who take networking seriously, there’s can be major differences between one chipset and another. While some may handle a 100GB transfer before slowing to a crawl, another might not even reach 20GB – and trust me, we’ve seen that sort of difference in our personal machines here.

Benchmarking Ethernet performance and getting reliable results is tough, and we in fact don’t believe there is a “perfect” methodology to it, as many variances can come into play from run to run. Plus, it’s difficult to replicate the kind of stress where a NIC might stall, because while the first five runs might be fine, it could be the sixth that decides to die out.

Our test server is my personal PC, featuring Intel’s Core i7-980X processor, 12GB of Kingston RAM, Windows 7 Ultimate x64 and also Intel’s server-grade I340 network card. A network card such as this is an important piece of the equation, as it’s in most regards “overkill”, meaning that it cannot become a bottleneck when testing on-board solutions.

To both stress-test and benchmark our network we use a cross-platform tool called “Iperf”, and for the sake of easier testing, opt to use a Java-based GUI front-end called JPerf. We run two different tests here, with one using 64KB sized packets (a standard test) and another using 1518KB packets (typical of HTTP transfers). Each of these tests opens up 50 connections between the client and server, simulating a true server-like workload.

Note: Performance is just half the equation where NICs are concerned. While one might out-perform another, that doesn’t tell us anything with regards to the predicted lifespan of a given model. Based on the personal experience of both myself and Jamie, we’ve been able to conclude that overall, Intel’s NICs are much more reliable over time.

JPerf 2.0.2

Non-Intel motherboard vendors have begun picking up Intel’s NICs en masse, but it’s still a little humorous that all three boards here use the same primary chipset. It’s no surprise, then, that all of the results are so close. Great performance all-around.


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