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ASUS Z87-A Motherboard Review

Testing & Methodology

We’ve expanded our testing suite considerably since the X79 chipset release, and will continue to use the same methods for most of the motherboards and CPU’s we test. In the interests of thoroughness and accurate results, we run each test at least three times, and some tests more than that. We average the total of all the tests from each benchmark then report the average here.

The OS we use is Windows 7 Pro 64bit with all patches and updates applied. We also use the latest drivers available for the motherboard and any devices attached to the computer. We do not disable background tasks or tweak the OS or system in any way. We turn off drive indexing and daily defragging. We also turn off Prefetch and Superfetch. This is not an attempt to produce bigger benchmark numbers. Drive indexing and defragging can interfere with testing and produce confusing numbers. If a test were to be run while a drive was being indexed or defragged, and then the same test was later run when these processes were off, the two results would be contradictory and erroneous. As we cannot control when defragging and indexing occur precisely enough to guarantee that they won’t interfere with testing, we opt to disable the features entirely.

Prefetch tries to predict what users will load the next time they boot the machine by caching the relevant files and storing them for later use. We want to learn how the program runs without any of the files being cached, and we disable it so that each test run we do not have to clear pre-fetch to get accurate numbers. Lastly we disable Superfetch. Superfetch loads often-used programs into the memory. It is one of the reasons that Windows occupies so much memory. Vista fills the memory in an attempt to predict what users will load. Having one test run with files cached, and another test run with the files un-cached would result in inaccurate numbers. Again, since we can’t control its timings so precisely, it we turn it off. Because these four features can potentially interfere with benchmarking, and and are out of our control, we disable them. We do not disable anything else.

One thing to note is that we are revamping our testing method in order to better represent motherboard performance and offering to you guys the consumer. Also we want to make it an easier read for you without miles of endless charts. Please feel free to provide feedback on what you think as many benchmarks will be shuffled or removed completely.

 

Test Rig

Test Rig
Case Thermaltake Level 10 GT
CPU Intel Core i7-4770K
Motherboard ASUS Z87-A
Ram Gskill TridentX 2666MHz
CPU Cooler Swiftech H20-220 Edge
Hard Drive Western DIGItal Velociraptor 300GB
SSD Intel 510 series SATA III 120GB
Optical ASUS BD-ROM
GPU ASUS GTX680 Top
Additional Cards N/A
PSU Thermaltake Toughpower XT 1275W Platinum
Mouse Tt eSPORTS Black gaming mouse
Keyboard Tt eSPORTS Meka G1 mechanical gaming keyboard

 

Test Suite

We will use the following applications to test the performance of the Motherboard

Benchmarks
SuperPi Mod 1.5
Wprime 1.55
PCMark 7
3DMark 11
Cinebench R11.5
X264HD
Truecrypt 7.1
Unigine Heaven 4.0
Metro 2033
Batman Arkham City
Sniper Elite V2

 

Overclocking

The Z87 Platform is a totally different animal in terms of overclocking here. The Haswell Processor (4770K in this case) can run very hot when clocking which means you gotta have some good cooling if your pushing the limits. Luckily for us, we have access to everything up to LN2 to test with but in reality as most users reading this will never venture that far past liquid cooling we try to keep it rather pedestrian in comparison with a custom 240mm radiator liquid cooling setup. It has worked very well with SB, SB-E, IVB and so on, but we must say Haswell definitely put it to the test.

The easiest and most common way to raise the clockspeed for the CPU on a Kseries chip will be the multiplier. By simply tweaking CPU Vcore up a bit and upping the multiplier to 46, we got our comparison speed which this board did with relative ease. We were quite surprised that one of the most entry level boards could yield a fully stable high overclock within minutes of starting up. This is something that shows how ASUS optimizes not just the top end boards but the platform as a whole to ensure that all boards have the same capability, although it may take a bit more tuning or tweaking to reach such clocks on the more mainstream boards, as they are not out of the box tuned with profiles to easily set extreme clocks.

Memory is something that Haswell does very well and we can say with certainty that the Z87-A is no slouch, pulling our Patriot Viper 2400MHz speed up to 3000MHz while keeping timings very tight, which is quite a feat.

Important note: Overclocking can cause component failure.  Please exercise caution when attempting any level of overclock on system components.

Temperatures

The temperatures were recorded with RealTemp while running wPrime 1024 right before the end of the 5th run. The results were recorded carefully. After the results were recorded, we waited for 30 minutes before taking Idle temperature measurements. The results were as follows:

CPU Temperatures Temperature (Idle/Load)
ASUS Z87-A OC (4.6GHz) 33C/71C
ASUS Z87-A 30C/62C
Chipset Temperatures Temperature (Idle/Load)
ASUS Z87-A OC (4.6GHz) 36C/44C
ASUS Z87-A 30C/37C

The reason temps may look a little lower than seen elsewhere online is that wee are using a custom liquid cooling loop compliments of Swiftech which helps us reach an area of much higher headroom for overclocking and performance testing.

Power Consumption

Power_Consumption

The power consumption was tested while running Wprime 1024 for a few minutes at stock settings. The results were recorded carefully with a Kill-A-Watt power consumption measuring tool at the wall. After the results were recorded, we waited for yet another few minutes minutes before taking Idle power consumption measurements.

power consume

The power consumption is measured without a GPU installed but the iGPU loaded to see what the best representation of peak power consumption you can expect. Notice that it looks like some of the ASUS optimizations pay off here as this board even pulls less power than the Intel reference board which is very basic to begin with.

Performance Benchmarks

PCMark 7

pcm7

Here you can see that even on the entry model the deep level tuning is very good and nets great results from this board which is actually not far off from the top end Maximus boards while costing significantly less. 

3DMark 11

Discrete GPU

3d11X

Here you can see that once again the platform is virtually siilar with only a percent or two difference which means for anyone looking for a good gaming rig could definitely pull off a nice system at a great value.

SuperPi

superpi

The Maximus board gains a little ground here as the Z87-A simply does not have the tuning for such benchmarks in pace and therefore you lose a few percent here but all in all not a huge loss.

Wprime

wprime

WPrime is similar to Superpi, but is multi core aware and you can set the core count. We used 8 cores to take advantage of the 4770K’s HyperThreading ability. Here the Z87-A easily comes within a small percent of the top boards which shows even under ehavy workloads this board can do the job very well.

Cinebench R11.5

“CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer’s performance capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more. MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based). The resulting values among different operating systems are 100% comparable and therefore very useful with regard to purchasing decision-making. It can also be used as a marketing tool for hardware vendors or simply to compare hardware among colleagues or friends.”

 
 
CBR115 
Here you can see where the high-end rendering work can be done. There are some definite improvements on the x86 processing, but when looking at the OpenGL rendering, you see almost a 30% increase, which is very good and speaks highly for what the HD4600 is capable of.

X264HD

X264HD

Transcoding has become more popular now and the latest Sandy Bridge processor added support for AVX instruction for faster video transcoding. With that you can see that going from Ivy Bridge to Haswell can net you some very good gains, especially a 2FPS gain on 2 Pass. This tells us that overall optimizations to the new platform are present and working very well.

Truecrypt 7.1

truecrypt

TrueCrypt is a real world application that gives a good indication of the true performance of our latest processor. Here the new Core i7 4770K puts some definite room between itself and the outgoing 3770K with over a 22% performance increase, which means in the same time you can get a lot more work done.

Unigine Heaven 4.0

Unigine Heaven is a benchmark program based on Unigine Corp’s latest engine, Unigine. The engine features DirectX 11, Hardware tessellation, DirectCompute, and Shader Model 5.0. All of these new technologies combined with the ability to run each card through the same exact test means this benchmark should be in our arsenal for a long time.

Discrete GPU

heaven

Unigine Heaven on a discrete GTX 680 gains about a single FPS, probably just due to the expanded performance with the overclock. For the most part, however, recent platforms are so efficient that there simply is no bottleneck for current gen card models.

Metro 2033

metro2033

Once again, Metro 2033 shows that discrete GPU performance is relatively unaffected, simply due to the fact that there is already so much unused bandwidth available.

Batman Arkham City

Discrete GPU

Batman AC

Discrete GPU results once again hover without huge movement as the bandwidth is unsaturated for PCIe 3.0.

Sniper Elite V2

Discrete GPU

sniper elite V2

The overall trend here is the same as for the other discrete GPU results, with only slight differentiation depending on the specific board tuning.

Introduction - ASUS Z87-A When new chipset launches happen all of the attention is given to the big boys of the group or the high end behemoth that is the top clocking boards. All the while, there is a whole bunch of other boards that may not have all of the bells and whistles or the LN2 overclocking trickery, but are just as capable when being put to the test in a high end gaming rig. Many enthusiasts can be some what snobbish when it comes to hardware, us included. We want the biggest, the…

Review Overview

Performance - 9
Value - 9.5
Quality - 9
Features - 8.5
Innovation - 9.5

9.1

Summary : The Z87 -A board is a excellent accomplishment by the ASUS design team as it is super simple and while it may lack some bells and whistles it puts down some excellent performance at a great price point.

9
  • Peter

    Awesome board, just built a system with this exact board at my work for my work PC.

  • cri8tive08

    awesome asus I did everything to be in it to win it

  • Janos

    FANTASTIC article !
    I am just planning to buy Asus Z87-A Motherboard, and plan to use Windows 7 64bit as OS (I dont like and stay away form Windows 8). Will you be so kind to let me know, what Windows 7 x64 drivers are needed for the Z87-A, and where can I get them. And is it necessary to Update the BIOS, before OS installation ?.
    Thank you very much!

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