Establishing a Golden Standard? ASUS Z87-EXPERT Motherboard Review

by Rob Williams on August 30, 2013 in Motherboards

ASUS’ golden Z87 mainstream lineup suggests that the company means to set the standard for motherboards, and we aim to find out how close it gets to doing so with a look at its Z87-EXPERT. It features a robust configuration – even including Thunderbolt – and of course, has seen a number of EFI and AiSuite III enhancements.

Performance Testing

From a performance perspective, we feel that motherboard benchmarking is useless. It’s the motherboard’s job to allow all of the installed hardware to operate at its full potential, so in theory, a $100 option shouldn’t be much (or any) slower than a $300 one. The differences in price instead comes down to the quality of the onboard components and other features.

So why do it at all? It’s because it’s important to make sure that the board we’re dealing with doesn’t lack in one particular area versus the rest. If board A performs 2% slower than board B in PCMark, for example, that’s of no concern to us – random benchmark variance is a fact of life. However, if one board consistently performs weaker than the rest, that’s worthy of note – it could suggest that weaker components have been used which do not allow the hardware to operate at its full potential.

Please bear this in mind when perusing our results. Just because a board under-performs in a single test, it doesn’t mean anything in regards to its quality as a whole. Our ultimate goal here is to make sure that each board we test performs as we’d expect across the gamut of scenarios we pit them against.

Because some motherboards auto-OC the CPU when certain options are chosen (XMP, for example), we force the Turbo ratios for our Core i7-4770K to reference settings: 39x/39x/38x/37x (1/2/3/4 cores).

 Intel LGA1150 Test System
ProcessorIntel Core i7-4770K – Quad-Core, 3.50GHz
MotherboardASUS Z87-EXPERT (BIOS: ‘1206’ 07/19/2013)
GIGABYTE Z87X-UD3H (BIOS: ‘F7’ 08/05/2013)
MemoryKingston HyperX Beast 2x8GB – DDR3-2133 11-12-11-31 @ 1.65v
GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti (GeForce 326.41 Driver)
StorageKingston HyperX 240GB SSD
Power SupplyCorsair HX850W
ChassisCorsair Obsidian 700D Full-Tower
CoolingNoctua NH-U14S Air Cooler
Et ceteraWindows 7 Professional 64-bit

Let’s get on with it!

BCLK ValuesResult

The BCLK matchup is as perfectly even as it could get.

General System Performance

To take a look at the “overall” performance of our PC configuration, we rely on dual Futuremark suites: PCMark 8 and 3DMark (2013).

PCMark 8 Suite ScoresHomeWorkCreative
ASUS Z87-EXPERT552553864333
GIGABYTE Z87X-UD3H538954034341
Higher results are better.
3DMark (2013)Ice StormCloud GateFire Storm
ASUS Z87-EXPERT472319834139827
GIGABYTE Z87X-UD3H439119747137622
3DMark results in points; higher is better.

Both boards perform just about evenly in the PCMark and 3DMark tests, as we’d expect, with a slight nod going to ASUS in the gaming test.

I/O Performance

To properly give the internal SATA 6Gbps a good workout, we turn to HD Tune and CrystalDiskMark.

HD Tune Pro 5MinimumAverageMaximumLatency
ASUS Z87-EXPERT308.5465.2438.10.038ms
GIGABYTE Z87X-UD3H183.5363.3294.70.070ms
Min/Avg/Max results in MB/s; higher is better. Latency results in ms; lower is better.
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2Read Seq.Read 4KWrite Seq.Write 4K
ASUS Z87-EXPERT514.341.83317.5160.2
GIGABYTE Z87X-UD3H506.830.92314.258.66
All results in MB/s.

Despite using the same Intel SATA chipset, ASUS’ board managed to give GIGABYTE’s a relative pummeling here. Write 4K speeds are worthy of note in the CDM test, and in each one of the HD Tune results, the ASUS clearly comes out ahead. Somehow, it even managed to shave a chunk off of the random access time.

Both sets of results proved to be so different that I ended up hooking up the GIGABYTE board again to make sure that I actually was using Intel’s port and not Marvell’s. Sure enough, things were fine – it’s just the performance that’s not.

Admittedly, the speeds are still good enough where real-world experiences are not going to be affected, but it’s still a little disconcerting to see the speeds fall so far back. Maybe this is the difference between a $160 and $240 motherboard?

Rendering & Image Manipulation

Writing files to disk or reading a website doesn’t do much to exercise our CPU, so for that, we turn to a few common scenarios – image editing, video rendering and 3D rendering – using a combination of Adobe, CyberLink and Autodesk products.

Adobe Lightroom 5.0Result
Results in seconds; lower is better.
CyberLink MediaEspressoResult
Results in seconds; lower is better.
Autodesk 3ds Max 2011Result
Results in seconds; lower is better.
Cinebench R11.5OpenGLCPU
ASUS Z87-EXPERT80.038.14
GIGABYTE Z87X-UD3H82.088.16
Higher results are better.

Interestingly, while GIGABYTE’s board fell quite a bit behind in the synthetic storage tests, its storage limitations held nothing back in these real-world tests. In these gruelling tests, it came ahead.

Sub-system Performance

For memory and CPU testing, we utilize SiSoftware’s Sandra 2013 (SP3a), and for Ethernet testing, we use iperf (or more appropriately, the Java-based jperf which utilizes it).

Sandra 2013 SP3aIntegerFloatMem Latency
ASUS Z87-EXPERT27.447 GB/s27.660 GB/s22.2 ns
GIGABYTE Z87X-UD3H27.491 GB/s27.556 GB/s22.0 ns
Int/Float/Cache results in GB/s; higher is better. Latency results in ns; lower is better.
Sandra 2013 SP3aArithmetic (Agg.)Multi-media (Agg.)
Higher is better.
Ethernet (iperf)50 Jobs (64KB)50 Jobs (1518KB)
ASUS Z87-EXPERT (Intel I217V)938942
GIGABYTE Z87X-UD3H (Intel I217V)936941
Results in Mbps; higher is better.

All checks out here – great results overall.

Rob Williams

Rob founded Techgage in 2005 to be an 'Advocate of the consumer', focusing on fair reviews and keeping people apprised of news in the tech world. Catering to both enthusiasts and businesses alike; from desktop gaming to professional workstations, and all the supporting software.

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