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 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 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 ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme Conclusion
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  • Flunk - Thursday, April 7, 2016 - link

    At that price point you really should be considering an X99-platform system. You're scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to diminishing returns. Reply
  • xthetenth - Thursday, April 7, 2016 - link

    This board does make sense for people who need a set of high end features that precludes any other boards, but that's few and far between. Reply
  • dsumanik - Friday, April 8, 2016 - link

    Lot of talking up the gigabyte 4 way SLI, which was never even tested... As a reviewer wouldn't you wonder if it even works? Curious about the performance? Isn't that the whole reason for this website? To see how the latest and greatest tech performs? Anyways 500 bucks. Nah. Reply
  • jameskatt - Saturday, May 14, 2016 - link

    That is the whole point. ASUS makes this motherboard for the few and far between. Reply
  • Ubercake - Thursday, April 7, 2016 - link

    I was thinking that same thing. Why are motherboards going up so much in cost when the Processors have taken over most if not all of what used to be the Northbridge functions?

    If anything the motherboards should be worth less than they were before because for the most part, they aren't providing as much functionality. Granted, some have better voltage control and over-clocking capability, but that shouldn't add much to the cost comparatively. And this isn't the enthusiast lineup either. Not sure what these companies expect.
    Reply
  • willis936 - Thursday, April 7, 2016 - link

    You don't want to see the BOM of a $500 non server board. Reply
  • jasonelmore - Thursday, April 7, 2016 - link

    your paying for the software on most of this high dollar hardware stuff. i know you are probably no interested in that stuff, but asus see's it differently. their magins will always be more than Asrock, so they have to differentiate somehow.

    Medical equipment is notoriously overpriced for what it is, but it uses custom software that nobody else makes, so they can get away with jacking up the price 2000% over the bill of materials.
    Reply
  • close - Friday, April 8, 2016 - link

    Medical business is a different animal. The standards and certifications they have to meet/pass means even the basic functions must be implemented in a different (more expensive) way. Things that are acceptable on a consumer product might be totally unacceptable on a medical one where a BSOD might actually involve a death ;).

    The NB functions were integrated into the CPU but then again motherboards didn't always have 2 NICs, WiFi, tricked up audio, bundled OC panels, etc. And don't forget about the 80/20 rule. You get 80% or results with 20% of the cost but then hang on to your sit because the cherry on top comes at a price. Optimizing the board layout and traces costs and if you want it you'll have to dish out the $500. It's always been the same, the closer you get to the top the quicker the costs pile up.

    I for one would never buy ROG again. Half of the stuff it offers is just wasted on me and I considered most features to be overkill and wasteful. I realized that after I started using (or not using) them. But then again there's always a market for this so why not? :)
    Reply
  • jameskatt - Saturday, May 14, 2016 - link

    If you want the best quality product, then you will pay for it. That is true of any product. The best ones generally take more work to create. It is not simply the cost of the goods to create it. The labor costs can be very high. If you are satisfied with lower quality, then so be it. But there are some who simply want the best and are willing to pay for it. A $500 motherboard is nothing compared to the $25,000+ cost of a high end PC which may include a $2000 CPU, $1200 GPU, $1000 SSD, $8000 data storage system, $5000 professional monitor, etc. Reply
  • chlamchowder - Thursday, April 7, 2016 - link

    The processors that work with Z170 have a newer architecture and better performance per-core, while X99 can support processors with more cores (and tons of memory), but generally less per-core performance.

    It depends on what you need. Gaming, for example, still has trouble scaling even to four cores and can benefit quite a bit from more per-core performance. That said, spending $500 on a motherboard (X99 or Z170) is something I'll never understand.
    Reply

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