Gaming Performance 2015

Our 2015 gaming results are still relatively new, but the issue of FCLK settings might play a big role here. At launch, the default setting for the communication buffer between the CPU and PCIe stack was 800 MHz, even though Intel suggested 1000 MHz, but this was because of firmware limitations from Intel. Since then, there is firmware to enable 1000 MHz, and most motherboard manufacturers have this - but it is unclear if the motherboard will default to 1000 MHz and it might vary from BIOS version to BIOS version. As we test at default settings, our numbers are only ever snapshots in time, but it leads to some interesting differences in discrete GPU performance.

Alien: Isolation

If first person survival mixed with horror is your sort of thing, then Alien: Isolation, based off of the Alien franchise, should be an interesting title. Developed by The Creative Assembly and released in October 2014, Alien: Isolation has won numerous awards from Game Of The Year to several top 10s/25s and Best Horror titles, ratcheting up over a million sales by February 2015. Alien: Isolation uses a custom built engine which includes dynamic sound effects and should be fully multi-core enabled.

For low end graphics, we test at 720p with Ultra settings, whereas for mid and high range graphics we bump this up to 1080p, taking the average frame rate as our marker with a scripted version of the built-in benchmark.

Alien: Isolation on AMD R7 240 DDR3 2GB ($70)

Alien: Isolation on NVIDIA GTX 770 2GB ($245)

Alien: Isolation on NVIDIA GTX 980 4GB ($560)

Total War: Attila

The Total War franchise moves on to Attila, another The Creative Assembly development, and is a stand-alone strategy title set in 395AD where the main story line lets the gamer take control of the leader of the Huns in order to conquer parts of the world. Graphically the game can render hundreds/thousands of units on screen at once, all with their individual actions and can put some of the big cards to task.

For low end graphics, we test at 720p with performance settings, recording the average frame rate. With mid and high range graphics, we test at 1080p with the quality setting. In both circumstances, unlimited video memory is enabled and the in-game scripted benchmark is used.

Total War: Attila on AMD R7 240 DDR3 2GB ($70)

Total War: Attila on NVIDIA GTX 770 2GB ($245)

Total War: Attila on NVIDIA GTX 980 4GB ($560)

Grand Theft Auto V

The highly anticipated iteration of the Grand Theft Auto franchise finally hit the shelves on April 14th 2015, with both AMD and NVIDIA in tow to help optimize the title. GTA doesn’t provide graphical presets, but opens up the options to users and extends the boundaries by pushing even the hardest systems to the limit using Rockstar’s Advanced Game Engine. Whether the user is flying high in the mountains with long draw distances or dealing with assorted trash in the city, when cranked up to maximum it creates stunning visuals but hard work for both the CPU and the GPU.

For our test we have scripted a version of the in-game benchmark, relying only on the final part which combines a flight scene along with an in-city drive-by followed by a tanker explosion. For low end systems we test at 720p on the lowest settings, whereas mid and high end graphics play at 1080p with very high settings across the board. We record both the average frame rate and the percentage of frames under 60 FPS (16.6ms).

Grand Theft Auto on AMD R7 240 DDR3 2GB ($70)

Grand Theft Auto on NVIDIA GTX 770 2GB ($245)

Grand Theft Auto on NVIDIA GTX 980 4GB ($560)

GRID: Autosport

No graphics tests are complete without some input from Codemasters and the EGO engine, which means for this round of testing we point towards GRID: Autosport, the next iteration in the GRID and racing genre. As with our previous racing testing, each update to the engine aims to add in effects, reflections, detail and realism, with Codemasters making ‘authenticity’ a main focal point for this version.

GRID’s benchmark mode is very flexible, and as a result we created a test race using a shortened version of the Red Bull Ring with twelve cars doing two laps. The car in focus starts last and is quite fast, but usually finishes second or third. For low end graphics we test at 1080p medium settings, whereas mid and high end graphics get the full 1080p maximum. Both the average and minimum frame rates are recorded.

GRID: Autosport on AMD R7 240 DDR3 2GB ($70)

GRID: Autosport on NVIDIA GTX 770 2GB ($245)

GRID: Autosport on NVIDIA GTX 980 4GB ($560)

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

The final title in our testing is another battle of system performance with the open world action-adventure title, Shadow of Mordor. Produced by Monolith using the LithTech Jupiter EX engine and numerous detail add-ons, SoM goes for detail and complexity to a large extent, despite having to be cut down from the original plans. The main story itself was written by the same writer as Red Dead Redemption, and it received Zero Punctuation’s Game of The Year in 2014.

For testing purposes, SoM gives a dynamic screen resolution setting, allowing us to render at high resolutions that are then scaled down to the monitor. As a result, we get several tests using the in-game benchmark. For low end graphics we examine at 720p with low settings, whereas mid and high end graphics get 1080p Ultra. The top graphics test is also redone at 3840x2160, also with Ultra settings, and we also test two cards at 4K where possible.

Shadow of Mordor on AMD R7 240 DDR3 2GB ($70)

Shadow of Mordor on NVIDIA GTX 770 2GB ($245)

Shadow of Mordor on NVIDIA GTX 770 2GB ($245)

Shadow of Mordor on NVIDIA GTX 980 4GB ($560)

Shadow of Mordor on NVIDIA GTX 980 4GB ($560)

CPU Performance, Short Form Conclusion


View All Comments

  • blahsaysblah - Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - link

    Asrock Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac has all the latest, no extra flush.
    - Intel i219-v LAN.
    - Realtek ALC1150 sound.
    - 2 Chassis Fan ports(not incl CPU)
    - Display Port 1.2, HDMI 2.0 w/4k@60(but not HDCP 2.2), HDMI 1.4(thats two HDMI ports)
    - full x4 M.2 on back of motherboard
    - one regular and one type C USB 3.1 ports
    - removed the AC Wifi+BT module before install so dont know about that.

    One ITX board with no extra stuff. (im ok w/o HDCP 2.2 as that requires an extra chip and who knows what driver issues will pop up). Only thing better would have been two M.2 ports.
  • KLC - Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - link

    Thanks, I'll look into that one. I'll probably post this same question in the forums. Reply
  • thebeansoldier - Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - link

    Yep I had the ol' q6600 as well and just upgraded to a 6600k with the Asrock z170 itx/ac last month. Tasks like Handbrake are so much quicker. Picked up a GTX 970 as well and couldn't be happier. Reply
  • Impulses - Thursday, April 14, 2016 - link

    This is a very solid choice, Asus Z170-A is worth considering but it might be a touch pricier or harder to find for minor differences. I had an MSI P97 and this SLI PLUS wasn't out when Skylake came out, so I changed it up to ASUS.

    I still think ASUS does a better job on the software end, my MSI P97 had certain quirks like not allowing speed control over all fan headers, but those are things they've worked on and fixed since back then.
  • Toshio - Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - link

    Guys you have both the comparison table AND the "Test Setup" specs table wrong. This MB doesn't have any SATA-Express ports. I was comparing this one with ASUS' Z170-A and saw you list the later with two LAN adapters which is also wrong.
    I've always liked your reviews and trusted the data w/o the needed to re-check specs in the manufacturer's website. I hope you get the time to fix this, thanks for the good work!
  • extide - Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - link

    Yeah the boards are all mixed up in that dropdown comparison table. It was all messed up in the previous motherboard review as well. They are usually good about this stuff, so I hope they fix it soon. Reply
  • Ian Cutress - Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - link

    I think one of my table html scripts screwed up. When I get to my PC I'll fix it :) Reply
  • extide - Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - link

    Thanks, Ian. Reply
  • MrShigura - Sunday, April 17, 2016 - link

    Still isn't fixed... Reply
  • extide - Wednesday, April 13, 2016 - link

    Yet again the motherboard comparison drop down is totally messed up. The specs shown do not match the motherboard selected in the dropdown. I mentioned this on the previous motherboard review as well. Please fix! Reply

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