System Performance

Not all motherboards are created equal. On the face of it, they should all perform the same and differ only in the functionality they provide - however this is not the case. The obvious pointers are power consumption, but also the ability for the manufacturer to optimize USB speed, audio quality (based on audio codec), POST time and latency. This can come down to manufacturing process and prowess, so these are tested.

Power Consumption

Power consumption was tested on the system while in a single MSI GTX 770 Lightning GPU configuration with a wall meter connected to the OCZ 1250W power supply. This power supply is Gold rated, and as I am in the UK on a 230-240 V supply, leads to ~75% efficiency > 50W, and 90%+ efficiency at 250W, suitable for both idle and multi-GPU loading. This method of power reading allows us to compare the power management of the UEFI and the board to supply components with power under load, and includes typical PSU losses due to efficiency. These are the real world values that consumers may expect from a typical system (minus the monitor) using this motherboard.

While this method for power measurement may not be ideal, and you feel these numbers are not representative due to the high wattage power supply being used (we use the same PSU to remain consistent over a series of reviews, and the fact that some boards on our test bed get tested with three or four high powered GPUs), the important point to take away is the relationship between the numbers. These boards are all under the same conditions, and thus the differences between them should be easy to spot.

Power Long Idle (w/GTX 770)

Power OS Idle (w/GTX 770)

Power OCCT (w/GTX 770)

The C7H170-M pulled in some good low numbers for idling and load, which should be expected for a smaller motherboard without too many controllers. The power delta from long idle to load was 86W, which is one of the best of all the 100-series systems we’ve tested.

Non UEFI POST Time

Different motherboards have different POST sequences before an operating system is initialized. A lot of this is dependent on the board itself, and POST boot time is determined by the controllers on board (and the sequence of how those extras are organized). As part of our testing, we look at the POST Boot Time using a stopwatch. This is the time from pressing the ON button on the computer to when Windows 7 starts loading. (We discount Windows loading as it is highly variable given Windows specific features.) 

Non UEFI POST Time

One drawback of systems outside of the normal big four vendors has historically been POST times, and the C7H170-M continues this trend, being over 30 seconds from power on to seeing Windows 7 being loaded. Cutting out the audio and network controllers for a stripped POST time reduced it to just under 30 seconds, but that is still twice as long as the best 100-series motherboards.

Rightmark Audio Analyzer 6.2.5

Rightmark:AA indicates how well the sound system is built and isolated from electrical interference (either internally or externally). For this test we connect the Line Out to the Line In using a short six inch 3.5mm to 3.5mm high-quality jack, turn the OS speaker volume to 100%, and run the Rightmark default test suite at 192 kHz, 24-bit. The OS is tuned to 192 kHz/24-bit input and output, and the Line-In volume is adjusted until we have the best RMAA value in the mini-pretest. We look specifically at the Dynamic Range of the audio codec used on board, as well as the Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise.

Rightmark Audio Analyzer 6.2.5: Dynamic Range

Rightmark Audio Analyzer 6.2.5: THD+N

Using the ALC1150 codec means that the C7H170-M should have some potential, although the board comes without most of the enhancements we typically see with souped up versions of the codec. Perhaps surprisingly we get the best THD+N result out of any codec we’ve ever tested on 100-series motherboards.

USB Backup

For this benchmark, we transfer a set size of files from the SSD to the USB drive using DiskBench, which monitors the time taken to transfer. The files transferred are a 1.52 GB set of 2867 files across 320 folders – 95% of these files are small typical website files, and the rest (90% of the size) are small 30 second HD videos. In an update to pre-Z87 testing, we also run MaxCPU to load up one of the threads during the test which improves general performance up to 15% by causing all the internal pathways to run at full speed.

Due to the introduction of USB 3.1, as of June 2015 we are adjusting our test to use a dual mSATA USB 3.1 Type-C device which should be capable of saturating both USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 connections. We still use the same data set as before, but now use the new device. Results are shown as seconds taken to complete the data transfer.

USB Copy Test, 2867 Files (1.52GB)

Using the default Intel drivers, the USB 3.0 ports for the C7H170-M gave our worst result so far. This may be down to some BIOS tuning which the other motherboard manufacturers have been doing for many years.

DPC Latency

Deferred Procedure Call latency is a way in which Windows handles interrupt servicing. In order to wait for a processor to acknowledge the request, the system will queue all interrupt requests by priority. Critical interrupts will be handled as soon as possible, whereas lesser priority requests such as audio will be further down the line. If the audio device requires data, it will have to wait until the request is processed before the buffer is filled.

If the device drivers of higher priority components in a system are poorly implemented, this can cause delays in request scheduling and process time.  This can lead to an empty audio buffer and characteristic audible pauses, pops and clicks. The DPC latency checker measures how much time is taken processing DPCs from driver invocation. The lower the value will result in better audio transfer at smaller buffer sizes. Results are measured in microseconds.

Deferred Procedure Call Latency

DPC Latency is still an odd discussion point on 100-series. We’ve seen ASUS get it right, MSI not too far behind but the others are playing catchup.

Supermicro C7H170-M Software Motherboard Processor Performance, Short Form
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  • Taristin - Thursday, March 17, 2016 - link

    Total War: Atilla shows the incorrect graph for performance with a GTX card. It shows the Alien Isolation score (Which is... significantly different!) Reply
  • yannigr2 - Thursday, March 17, 2016 - link

    Did I saw an Athlon 845 somewhere in there? Is a review incoming? Reply
  • Bad Bimr - Thursday, March 17, 2016 - link

    I miss the days of the cheap CPU with BIG TIME OC potential. My first foray in OCing was with the legendary Celeron 300A. That got me hooked. Next was the P3 600 and next came the P4 2.8 (Northwood) followed by the i7-920. Last year I bought a i7-4790k only to sell it when I came upon a thread on X-58 Xeon overclocking. Currently rocking a very conservative Xeon x5675 @ 4.15 Ghz (25x166) on stock voltage on air on all 6 cores with HT on. I have had it stable to 4.4 GHz but feel better with the lower voltage, plenty fast enough. Total cost for the x5675, $76 on eBay! I love cheap CPU overclocking. Reply
  • OrphanageExplosion - Friday, March 18, 2016 - link

    This is a remarkable article. Anandtech has overclocked a *really slow* Core i3 processor so that it's not as fast as the slowest consumer-level i3 and written a *15-page* piece on it?!

    Why didn't you just buy the Core i3 6100?

    The data elsewhere demonstrates why Intel never released a K i3 - it gives quad-like performance for gaming at 4.4GHz, where the i5 is king. The value argument is diluted a bit by the fact you will need a third party cooler though, while the i5 6500 is pretty awesome just with a stock HSF and some fast DDR4.

    I really, really hope that AMD targets this sector aggressively with Zen - it could be a game-changer.
    Reply
  • ReverendDC - Friday, March 18, 2016 - link

    The perfect explanation why AMD is needed in the CPU space as well. No competition = restrictions to force more purchases from a single vendor. Reply
  • Achaios - Friday, March 18, 2016 - link

    I was thinking, looking at the gaming benchmarks, that I am going to be stuck with the 4770k for maaaaaaannnnyyyy years to come. Reply
  • JoeyJoJo123 - Friday, March 18, 2016 - link

    I honestly think asking why an i3 K-series processor doesn't exist is an awful question.

    I think the real question here that everyone isn't asking is:
    "Why is Intel even selling non-K processors in anything but business grade (Xeon) CPUs?"

    Doing a 15 page investigation where you compare an awful starting point locked i3 sample (one that isn't even relevant to consumers), examining its overclocked results, and the results of a locked i5 sample, then concluding that yes, the lower grade processor indeed does have worse performance than an i5, that might be why they don't have a K-series i3, is both completely obvious yet misses the point entirely.

    Overclocking is a choice for the consumer. Whether or not the i3 part fully closes the gap with an i5 part is irrelevant, and if it doesn't close the gap, that's not a valid reason to then conclude that's why they don't sell K-series i3's. Overclocking gets me more performance than stock, and regardless of how big or small the overclock is, it should be up to the user to choose whether to overclock, not up to the manufacturer to dictate whether you can attempt to overclock at all (with non-K chips.)

    I still can't understand why people are trying to find logic in strategic marketing placement of Intel chips (ie: rationalizing it for Intel, exactly what their marketing department wants) when you should be asking "Why are you selling me a locked down chip? I should be free to run this at whatever level of performance I can muster, as after I purchase this product, it is wholly mine to use as I please"
    Reply
  • RobATiOyP - Sunday, March 20, 2016 - link

    From the OEM & Intel's point of view, having ppl add volts & frequency to their complicated processors, may well lead to unstable chips or non-functioning, which may be (attempted) to be returned under warranty. If you buy a 3GHz locked CPU they're not fleecing you by not letting it be run faster, like options you pay more for.

    What is more annoying to me, is how there are various instruction options, like encryption & virtualisation which they turn on/off for market segmentation.
    Reply
  • zodiacfml - Friday, March 18, 2016 - link

    Awesome. More care and effort was given here than I expected.
    Simply, Intel refuses to. Limiting higher frequencies to i5 and i7. The market Intel is limiting is gaming market. They might open it if AMD, miraculously, becomes competitive again.
    Reply
  • TheHolyLancer - Friday, March 18, 2016 - link

    honestly i think the author missed the fact that intel( and amd to a point ) prices their stuff no-linearly

    to jump from a pentium to i3 may only be 50 but to jump from i5 to i7k or the extreme (well soon? for the 2011 revamp?) costs a lot more

    i remember the i7 920 too and with an oc i had i7 965 extreme levels of performance for way way cheaper
    Reply

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