Gaming Benchmarks

Metro2033

Our first analysis is with the perennial reviewers’ favorite, Metro2033.  It occurs in a lot of reviews for a couple of reasons – it has a very easy to use benchmark GUI that anyone can use, and it is often very GPU limited, at least in single GPU mode.  Metro2033 is a strenuous DX11 benchmark that can challenge most systems that try to run it at any high-end settings.  Developed by 4A Games and released in March 2010, we use the inbuilt DirectX 11 Frontline benchmark to test the hardware at 1440p with full graphical settings.  Results are given as the average frame rate from a second batch of 4 runs, as Metro has a tendency to inflate the scores for the first batch by up to 5%.

Metro 2033 - One 7970, 1440p, Max Settings

Metro 2033 1 GPU 2 GPU 3 GPU
AMD
NVIDIA  

Dirt 3

Dirt 3 is a rallying video game and the third in the Dirt series of the Colin McRae Rally series, developed and published by Codemasters.  Dirt 3 also falls under the list of ‘games with a handy benchmark mode’.  In previous testing, Dirt 3 has always seemed to love cores, memory, GPUs, PCIe lane bandwidth, everything.  The small issue with Dirt 3 is that depending on the benchmark mode tested, the benchmark launcher is not indicative of game play per se, citing numbers higher than actually observed.  Despite this, the benchmark mode also includes an element of uncertainty, by actually driving a race, rather than a predetermined sequence of events such as Metro 2033.  This in essence should make the benchmark more variable, but we take repeated in order to smooth this out.  Using the benchmark mode, Dirt 3 is run at 1440p with Ultra graphical settings.  Results are reported as the average frame rate across four runs.

Dirt 3 - One 7970, 1440p, Max Settings

Dirt 3 1 GPU 2 GPU 3 GPU
AMD
NVIDIA  

Civilization V

A game that has plagued my testing over the past twelve months is Civilization V.  Being on the older 12.3 Catalyst drivers were somewhat of a nightmare, giving no scaling, and as a result I dropped it from my test suite after only a couple of reviews.  With the later drivers used for this review, the situation has improved but only slightly, as you will see below.  Civilization V seems to run into a scaling bottleneck very early on, and any additional GPU allocation only causes worse performance.

Our Civilization V testing uses Ryan’s GPU benchmark test all wrapped up in a neat batch file.  We report the average frame rate of a 5 minute test.

Civilization V - One 7970, 1440p, Max Settings

Civilization V 1 GPU 2 GPU 3 GPU
AMD
NVIDIA  

Sleeping Dogs

While not necessarily a game on everybody’s lips, Sleeping Dogs is a strenuous game with a pretty hardcore benchmark that scales well with additional GPU power due to its SSAA implementation.  The team over at Adrenaline.com.br is supreme for making an easy to use benchmark GUI, allowing a numpty like me to charge ahead with a set of four 1440p runs with maximum graphical settings.

Sleeping Dogs - One 7970, 1440p, Max Settings

Sleeping Dogs 1 GPU 2 GPU 3 GPU
AMD
NVIDIA  

GPU Conclusions

The salient point in our testing is the fact that the MSI Z87 XPower is the first PLX motherboard we have tested on Z87.  This means that anything dual GPU and up is going to be affected, especially in our three-way tests when the XPower is running at X16/x8/x8 via the PLX.

The results are similar to what we saw with Z77:

- In single GPU mode, if the GPU is put into a PLX managed slot, we lose <0.5%  performance
- In dual GPU mode, there is essentially no difference to PLX/non-PLX
- In tri GPU mode, we see gains using the PLX – from 2-10% over non-PLX motherboards

Computation Benchmarks MSI Z87 XPower Conclusion
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  • jardows2 - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    Interesting to read about these high-end boards, but I would like to see someone build a high-end performing board without all the extra "features" that will never get used. 10 SATA ports? Really? If you are doing serious workstation computing and need that many hard drives in a RAID array, you are going to get a SAS RAID controller. If you are just using the computer as a storage server, you won't be spending $400 on the motherboard. All the USB 3.0 ports are going to collect dust for most users. I have several computers with multiple onboard USB ports that have never had anything connected. Add mediocre audio, combined with wireless add-on (practically worthless for such a high-end machine, especially when you have a high-end Ethernet controller on board) it seems like the manufacturers are subscribing to a "more is better" approach, when a "less is more" board, I think, would sell far more. Give me a motherboard with the graphics and overclocking performance that this board can offer, without all the extra stuff, and you will have a winner! Reply
  • 529th - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    Exactly! Well said. Reply
  • Optimalpc - Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - link

    ditto that, jardows2! Stick with what a lot of us want - Full x16 bandwidth for GPUs, Good digital Power. Better Audio, including good headphone AMP. Ability to support the fastest memory available. Overclocking with mature tools. Min 3-year warranty. Game Ports. High-end Ethernet controller (Killer). Quit wasting money and real estate on too many SATA ports, USB Ports, sub-par wireless, and crappy audio! I don't need 14 USB ports (or even 8). Hardwired to the network, why even add the cost of wireless at all, UNLESS you are providing the latest in 802.11 standards (ac)? Reply
  • jeffb98 - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    How's MSI when it comes to Linux? Do they test compatibility at all for at least Red Hat and SUSE enterprise targeted Linux distros? Would they look into/fix BIOS issues when it comes to Linux?

    I know Asus and Gigabyte tell you they don't do any Linux testing and support when it comes to their consumer motherboards even when there's clearly a Linux compatibility issue. I know most people "never had a problem" but that's most people who don't really do much and probably don't even need a high end board.
    Reply
  • nathanddrews - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    Quad-SLI/CF benchmarks? Seeing as this board caters to people that actually do that kind of thing. Reply
  • IanCutress - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    My fourth 7970 is in the process of being RMA'ed.

    Ian
    Reply
  • nathanddrews - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    D'oh! Sorry to hear that.

    I was about ready to pull the trigger on a 780, but now that the 7990 is only $699 (and with improved drivers), I'm thinking of getting on of those instead given the potential of getting a second in a year or so. Thoughts?
    Reply
  • yasamoka - Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - link

    Quad-SLi / CF does not always scale too well. Plus you're more likely to hit a CPU bottleneck if you're running any single monitor resolution and hovering above 60FPS with a target of 120FPS.

    Plus, this: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-7990...

    Not recommended except if you water-cool for the heat issues. But then you get left with the other issues. Quad uses AFR + SFR so the microstutter fix is not going to be difficult as it already exists for dual GPU SFR. Quad is similar in that respect as each 2 GPUs use SFR and the groups of 2 GPUs use AFR.
    Reply
  • nathanddrews - Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - link

    My current setup does most games maxed at 1920x1200@96Hz (at 96fps), but I'm looking to do over 120Hz (at 120fps) with a new 120Hz Lightboost LCD or try out some of the overclockable 1440/1600p displays. My FW900 is going to die someday and I need to be ready. :| Reply
  • rpg1966 - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    OK, this is probably a dumb question - but as implied on the first page, if this board has an additional 2 sockets of space between the port cluster and the PCIe sockets, won't you need a case that is specifically designed for such a long (tall?) motherboard? Reply

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