Test Bed and Setup

As per our testing policy, we take a high-end CPU suitable for the motherboard that was released during the socket’s initial launch, and we equip the system with a suitable amount of memory running at the processor maximum supported frequency. This is also typically run at JEDEC subtimings where possible. It is noted that some users are not keen on this policy, stating that sometimes the maximum supported frequency is quite low, or faster memory is available at a similar price, or that the JEDEC speeds can be prohibitive for performance. While these comments make sense, ultimately very few users apply memory profiles (either XMP or other) as they require interaction with the BIOS, and most users will fall back on JEDEC supported speeds - this includes home users as well as industry who might want to shave off a cent or two from the cost or stay within the margins set by the manufacturer. Where possible, we will extend out testing to include faster memory modules either at the same time as the review or a later date.

Test Setup
Processor Intel Core i7-5960X ES 
8 Cores, 16 Threads, 3.0 GHz (3.5 GHz Turbo)
Motherboards MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon
Cooling Cooler Master Nepton 140XL
Power Supply OCZ 1250W Gold ZX Series 
Corsair AX1200i Platinum PSU
Memory Corsair DDR4-2133 C15 4x8 GB 1.2V or 
G.Skill Ripjaws 4 DDR4-2133 C15 4x8 GB 1.2V
Memory Settings JEDEC @ 2133
Video Cards ASUS GTX 980 Strix 4GB 
MSI GTX 770 Lightning 2GB (1150/1202 Boost) 
ASUS R7 240 2GB
Hard Drive Crucial MX200 1TB
Optical Drive LG GH22NS50
Case Open Test Bed
Operating System Windows 7 64-bit SP1

Readers of our motherboard review section will have noted the trend in modern motherboards to implement a form of MultiCore Enhancement / Acceleration / Turbo (read our report here) on their motherboards. This does several things, including better benchmark results at stock settings (not entirely needed if overclocking is an end-user goal) at the expense of heat and temperature. It also gives an essence of an automatic overclock which may be against what the user wants. Our testing methodology is ‘out-of-the-box’, with the latest public BIOS installed and XMP enabled, and thus subject to the whims of this feature. It is ultimately up to the motherboard manufacturer to take this risk – and manufacturers taking risks in the setup is something they do on every product (think C-state settings, USB priority, DPC Latency / monitoring priority, overriding memory sub-timings at JEDEC). Processor speed change is part of that risk, and ultimately if no overclocking is planned, some motherboards will affect how fast that shiny new processor goes and can be an important factor in the system build.

For reference, on our testing BIOS, MCT was enabled by default.

Many thanks to...

We must thank the following companies for kindly providing hardware for our multiple test beds. Some of this hardware is not in this test bed specifically, but is used in other testing.

Thank you to AMD for providing us with the R9 290X 4GB GPUs. These are MSI branded 'Gaming' models, featuring MSI's Twin Frozr IV dual-fan cooler design and military class components. Bundled with the cards is MSI Afterburner for additional overclocking, as well as MSI's Gaming App for easy frequency tuning.

The R9 290X is a second generation GCN card from AMD, under the Hawaii XT codename, and uses their largest Sea Islands GPU die at 6.2 billion transistors at 438mm2 built at TSMC using a 28nm process. For the R9 290X, that means 2816 streaming processors with 64 ROPs using a 512-bit memory bus to GDDR5 (4GB in this case). The official power rating for the R9 290X is 250W.

The MSI R9 290X Gaming 4G runs the core at 1000 MHz to 1040 MHz depending on what mode it is in (Silent, Gaming or OC), and the memory at 5 GHz. Displays supported include one DisplayPort, one HDMI 1.4a, and two dual-link DVI-D connectors.

Further Reading: AnandTech's AMD R9 290X Review

Thank you to ASUS for providing us with GTX 980 Strix GPUs. At the time of release, the STRIX brand from ASUS was aimed at silent running, or to use the marketing term: '0dB Silent Gaming'. This enables the card to disable the fans when the GPU is dealing with low loads well within temperature specifications. These cards equip the GTX 980 silicon with ASUS' Direct CU II cooler and 10-phase digital VRMs, aimed at high-efficiency conversion. Along with the card, ASUS bundles GPU Tweak software for overclocking and streaming assistance.

The GTX 980 uses NVIDIA's GM204 silicon die, built upon their Maxwell architecture. This die is 5.2 billion transistors for a die size of 298 mm2, built on TMSC's 28nm process. A GTX 980 uses the full GM204 core, with 2048 CUDA Cores and 64 ROPs with a 256-bit memory bus to GDDR5. The official power rating for the GTX 980 is 165W.

The ASUS GTX 980 Strix 4GB (or the full name of STRIX-GTX980-DC2OC-4GD5) runs a reasonable overclock over a reference GTX 980 card, with frequencies in the range of 1178-1279 MHz. The memory runs at stock, in this case 7010 MHz. Video outputs include three DisplayPort connectors, one HDMI 2.0 connector and a DVI-I.

Further Reading: AnandTech's NVIDIA GTX 980 Review

Thank you to Cooler Master for providing us with Nepton 140XL CLCs. The Nepton 140XL is Cooler Master's largest 'single' space radiator liquid cooler, and combines with dual 140mm 'JetFlo' fans designed for high performance, from 0.7-3.5mm H2O static pressure. The pump is also designed to be faster, more efficient, and uses thicker pipes to assist cooling with a rated pump noise below 25 dBA. The Nepton 140XL comes with mounting support for all major sockets, as far back as FM1, AM2 and 775.

Further Reading: AnandTech's Cooler Master Nepton 140XL Review

Thank you to Corsair for providing us with an AX1200i PSU. The AX1200i was the first power supply to offer digital control and management via Corsair's Link system, but under the hood it commands a 1200W rating at 50C with 80 PLUS Platinum certification. This allows for a minimum 89-92% efficiency at 115V and 90-94% at 230V. The AX1200i is completely modular, running the larger 200mm design, with a dual ball bearing 140mm fan to assist high-performance use. The AX1200i is designed to be a workhorse, with up to 8 PCIe connectors for suitable four-way GPU setups. The AX1200i also comes with a Zero RPM mode for the fan, which due to the design allows the fan to be switched off when the power supply is under 30% load.

Further Reading: AnandTech's Corsair AX1500i Power Supply Review

Thank you to Crucial for providing us with MX200 SSDs. Crucial stepped up to the plate as our benchmark list grows larger with newer benchmarks and titles, and the 1TB MX200 units are strong performers. Based on Marvell's 88SS9189 controller and using Micron's 16nm 128Gbit MLC flash, these are 7mm high, 2.5-inch drives rated for 100K random read IOPs and 555/500 MB/s sequential read and write speeds. The 1TB models we are using here support TCG Opal 2.0 and IEEE-1667 (eDrive) encryption and have a 320TB rated endurance with a three-year warranty.

Further Reading: AnandTech's Crucial MX200 (250 GB, 500 GB & 1TB) Review

Thank you to G.Skill for providing us with memory. G.Skill has been a long-time supporter of AnandTech over the years, for testing beyond our CPU and motherboard memory reviews. We've reported on their high capacity and high-frequency kits, and every year at Computex G.Skill holds a world overclocking tournament with liquid nitrogen right on the show floor. One of the most recent deliveries from G.Skill was their 4x16 GB DDR4-3200 C14 Kit, which we are planning for an upcoming review.

Further Reading: AnandTech's Memory Scaling on Haswell Review, with G.Skill DDR3-3000

Thank you to Corsair for providing us with memory. Similarly, Corsair (along with PSUs) is also a long-time supporter of AnandTech. Being one of the first vendors with 16GB modules for DDR4 was a big deal, and now Corsair is re-implementing LEDs back on its memory after a long hiatus along with supporting specific projects such as ASUS ROG versions of the Dominator Platinum range. We're currently looking at our review pipeline to see when our next DRAM round-up will be, and Corsair is poised to participate.

Further Reading: AnandTech's Memory Scaling on Haswell-E Review

Board Features, Visual Inspection Benchmark Overview
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  • ddriver - Monday, February 6, 2017 - link

    Great more rainbows, cuz nothing spells "pro" like rainbows do. IMO people already know that RGB LEDs implies they can change color, so rainbows aren't really necessary, unless trying to appeal to a specific and fairly narrow market niche. Reply
  • tarqsharq - Monday, February 6, 2017 - link

    Are you guys looking to update your review GPU?

    A GTX980 is seriously falling behind the times and will bottleneck a CPU in many titles even at 1080p.
    Reply
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Monday, February 6, 2017 - link

    If a GTX 980 is a bottleneck for 1080p gaming, then I'm officially done with the PC Gaming Industry ... forever. Have fun playing games that look pretty and run crappy. Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Wednesday, February 8, 2017 - link

    Oh no! a 2014 GPU is a bottleneck in the newest games in 2017?!? WHO WOUDDA THUNK?!?

    The 980 is a good gaming chip, but for benchmarks like this, it's been long known that there are better parts for the job. 980ti/1070 should be the minimum.
    Reply
  • close - Monday, February 6, 2017 - link

    Since the gaming PC is the only area where PC sales aren't slumping that niche might not be so small. You'd be amazed how many people dream of having a gaming system with the typical gaudy computer case, mandatory transparent side-panel, as many LEDs splashed around in every little component, the RGB-er the merrier, hopefully any kind of custom watercooling loop to show fluorescent tubing on top of everything else.

    It even says "Gaming Pro", not "Pro".

    Ian, are you sure about the $0.002 per HDMI connector thingy?
    Reply
  • ddriver - Monday, February 6, 2017 - link

    I meant leprechauns doh :D Reply
  • 80-wattHamster - Tuesday, February 7, 2017 - link

    It's probably not far off. When you get to quantities in the tens of thousands and up, stuff like that gets CHEAP. It's not $0.002 in final cost; production time and resources aren't free. Having an HDMI connector vs. not probably ends up being a difference of $0.10 (+/- $0.05). Folks that know electronics manufacturing better than I, please correct. Reply
  • Murloc - Thursday, February 9, 2017 - link

    ddriver wasn't complaining about the RGB LEDs, but rather that to advertise them they put them in a rainbow configuration, he thinks that it should be obvious and so they shouldn't do it, unless they were trying to attract people who like rainbows.
    I don't agree with him, rainbow advertising material makes it clear that the LEDs are INDEPENDENTLY controlled.
    Reply
  • Flunk - Monday, February 6, 2017 - link

    I don't think I agree with you. I'd say the best feature of customizable RGB lighting is that you can turn it off or just pick a suitable colour scheme. That way it doesn't matter what you want, the board will still appeal. I'm not big for the gaudy crap (I once bought an Alienware m14x R2 because of the massive discount and ran it with only the keyboard lights on an set to white the whole time), but it doesn't really bother me if the LEDs are there as long as I can turn it off. The reason you're seeing these everywhere is that they don't add very much cost to the bill of materials. Reply
  • ddriver - Monday, February 6, 2017 - link

    I don't think you got my point. I don't have a problem with customizable RGB LEDs, I was just pointing out that the rainbow showcasing really ruins the "pro" looks of the product. Reply

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