Gaming Performance 2015

Our 2015 gaming results for Z170 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 NVIDIA GTX 770 2GB ($245)

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 is 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 NVIDIA GTX 980 4GB ($560)

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

CPU Performance, Short Form ASUS Maximus VIII Impact Conclusion
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  • Gigaplex - Wednesday, December 30, 2015 - link

    I've got an Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe mITX motherboard. I've used the WiFi exactly zero times. And if I did need to use WiFi, there's always USB WiFi adapters.
  • Vatharian - Wednesday, December 30, 2015 - link

    Currently closest to what I want from the mini-ITX board are Asus P8H67-I Deluxe and P8H77-I for, but that's way into the past. Both of them are solid performers and fit their roles well - first is a candidate for really compact gaming rig and second is perfect for NAS builds. Currently I would let go DVI/VGA combo, add another pair of USB 3.0 ports, and add the frigging 5.1+mic/line ports. I'm using 7.1 audio and both line in and mic, and I have to use external card for it. And of course add m.2 Port.
  • Ninhalem - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - link

    I'm no longer looking for a motherboard that has M.2 but rather a board that uses U.2. If you want faster disk speeds with a M-ITX board, you need that U.2 port (because the PCI-E slot will be used by a beefy GPU). Also, plenty of reviews on Newegg for the Intel 750 run contrary to your statement that nobody uses and will use U.2.
  • Vatharian - Wednesday, December 30, 2015 - link

    This is basically the one and only drive that uses U.2, and I really suspect it will remain this way. Face it - it was dead before it has risen, and it's for the best.

    Still, the chipset and CPU has enough PCIe lanes to include pair of mini-pcie connectors, be it M.2 or plain connector, and there are and were widely available extenders for this port. U.2 Is very insecure, it's easy to knock to the side, and is prone to being ripped from the PCB. Commercially available cables are stiff, at least these I got my hands on, and actual choice for them is minimal, especially on the short side. It's been misengineered from the beginning. Quest for extending pci-e singnaling is on. So far the best solution from mechanical pov is probably thunderbold/display port cable, but amount of signal conversion it requires excludes it from internal use, and it also suffers from stiffiness.
  • Mr Perfect - Thursday, December 31, 2015 - link

    You should be fine with PCIe lanes. The GPU will use the 16 lanes coming from the CPU, leaving all of the lanes from the chipset available for I/O.
  • Gigaplex - Tuesday, January 5, 2016 - link

    As far as I can tell, the only difference between M.2 and U.2 is the form factor. Picking one over the other has no bearing on the PCIe slot for the GPU. You're welcome to put a U.2 adapter in the M.2 port if you wish.
  • amnesia0287 - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    Not when the M.2 slot is on the bottom of every other ITX board, which can be an actual issue because M.2 SSD get HOT.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - link

    If they used SODIMMs someone else would be flaming them for using a slower/lower capacity/more expensive memory type on a gaming board. It would let them put the U2 connector on the other side of the board, add one or two more USB headers and 4 more back panel USB ports. I think it's probably a worthwhile tradeoff; but I also know that the last 100 MHz of ram speed or tick of a timing value hasn't mattered since the memory starved P4 was retired. Ultimately I think it's an artifact of there not being any real competition in this market segment.
  • jasonelmore - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - link

    It has Optical out there bud.. If your wanting full 5.1 surround, buy a good receiver and run i through the optical, or HDMI.
  • Vatharian - Wednesday, December 30, 2015 - link

    I'm using analog 8 channel amplifier that has been happily playing music well before Chetnobyl catastrophe. Where should I put the optical in? In my case I'm alternating between some cheap 7.1 USB card and USB Xonar, but both suck.

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