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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  • jasonelmore - Wednesday, December 30, 2015 - link

    take out the sound card then, and install a high end xonar one. it's removable.
  • edzieba - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - link

    m.2 is the glaring omission here for an ITX board. SFF PC's (the whole point of ITX) benefit more from m.2 than u.2, and m.2 to u.2 adapter boards are readily available. u.2 to m.2 adapters are not currently available (or even announced), and would introduce cable spaghetti due to the need for a power injector along with the actual adapter.
  • Great_Scott - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - link

    While an M.2 slot is a great idea and a strange omission, the sound solution is more glaring.

    WTH is a RealTek solution being used here? Given the price of the board, a XONAR-branded solution makes a lot more sense.
  • Vatharian - Wednesday, December 30, 2015 - link

    Xonar is a C-Media rebrand. Still I'd like it more. Or IDT+decent Wolfsons...
  • Flunk - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - link

    Missing M.2 does make this less attractive than some of the other offerings on the market. This is a surprising omission considering the Maximus VII Impact has one. I may be in the minority, but I can't see a reason for the onboard Wi-Fi, if you're building a high-priced gaming machine wired ethernet is a requirement. The LED and buttons on the back are pretty useless too. If you're running without a case they could be anywhere on the board and if you're running with a case you don't need the buttons.
  • ciparis - Tuesday, January 12, 2016 - link

    "if you're building a high-priced gaming machine wired ethernet is a requirement."

    An expensive gaming machine that lives in the living room (a big reason for going mini-ITX to begin with) might well have to rely on wifi. A good 802.11ac implementation is no slouch.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - link

    What's the power output limit for the USB3.1 C port? The new power delivery spec allows up to 5A at 5, 12, or 20V; but I find it unlikely that desktop systems would provide the maximum possible power; so what the port can output needs to be added to the review somewhere. (If for no other reason, the hardware to make 20V power would take up a decent amount of space.)
  • FelixDraconis - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - link

    This is totally not a big deal, as I can still extract useful information from your review.

    However, I found the text of it to be confusing and riddled with typos and grammatical errors. This seems like a good opportunity for you to improve in the coming year.

    All over the place you use the wrong word, as if you're relying on spell check and not reading what you write.

    For example:
    - The analogy of Senior/Sophomore/Freshman was baffling when applied to motherboards. Is this the age of the motherboard - that somehow a Freshman motherboard is newer (younger)? Or do Senior motherboards have more features? Interlacing this with a bunch of meaningless marketing terms makes it incomprehensible. You could have taken this text out and sorted the 100-Series list directly below by whatever buckets you were considering.
    - "Overal, the nature of Skylake makes our CPUs"... What 'nature' of Skylake? You don't specify. So, I have to decipher it and figure you mean 'Skylake as a whole'. This is redundant nonsense. Overall is also redundant. Also, Skylake IS the CPU. Just say 'Skylake gets 4.5 GHz'. Less is better.
    - "To read specifically about the Z170 chip/platform and the specifications therein, our deep dive into what it is can be found at this link." - This isn't wrong, but is so flowery that it feels like you're padding out the words. Just say "To read more about the Z170 chipset, our deep dive is here." (If you really want to say link, I understand, but most of the rest are junk words that confuse.) Also, the Z170 is the chipset. Not the chip or the platform.
    - "The overclocking methodology from ASUS comes in several formats." - I know what you're trying to say, but this is awkward. It's as if someone was running directly through google translate.
    - "For manual overclocks, based on the information gathered from previous testing, starts off at a nominal voltage" - Manual overclocks, based on previous testing, start off at a nominal voltage.

    I could go on, but that's your job! Hopefully this makes you sit back, go 'whoa', and then feel inspired to go on a studying rampage. :D

    Your words, more than anything, indicate to people your value. I mean that outside of reviews. You'll be writing resumes and blogs and who knows what else your whole life. Once you get the writing down, join us at Toastmasters for the public speaking. ;)
  • okashira - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - link

    Oh please, most of what you point out is a matter of opinion and personal preference only. The wording isn't perfect, but at least he's doing something of value... not toastmasters, ugh.
  • jasonelmore - Tuesday, December 29, 2015 - link

    these are tech geeks trying to be writers. Most writers in the tech blog business never obtained a college diploma. Even if they do have one, they probably majored in CIS or some standard business degree.

    Your right, it would not hurt for them to take a few Comp classes, if they are trying to be leaders in their field.

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