System Performance

Not all motherboards are created equal. On the face of it, they should all perform the same and differ only in the functionality they provide - however this is not the case. The obvious pointers are power consumption, but also the ability for the manufacturer to optimize USB speed, audio quality (based on audio codec), POST time and latency. This can come down to manufacturing process and prowess, so these are tested.

Power Consumption

Power consumption was tested on the system while in a single MSI GTX 770 Lightning GPU configuration with a wall meter connected to the OCZ 1250W power supply. This power supply is Gold rated, and as I am in the UK on a 230-240 V supply, leads to ~75% efficiency > 50W, and 90%+ efficiency at 250W, suitable for both idle and multi-GPU loading. This method of power reading allows us to compare the power management of the UEFI and the board to supply components with power under load, and includes typical PSU losses due to efficiency. These are the real world values that consumers may expect from a typical system (minus the monitor) using this motherboard.

While this method for power measurement may not be ideal, and you feel these numbers are not representative due to the high wattage power supply being used (we use the same PSU to remain consistent over a series of reviews, and the fact that some boards on our test bed get tested with three or four high powered GPUs), the important point to take away is the relationship between the numbers. These boards are all under the same conditions, and thus the differences between them should be easy to spot.

Power Consumption: Long Idle with GTX 770

Power Consumption: Idle with GTX 770

Power Consumption: OCCT Load with GTX 770

The MSI falls fairly mid-range on power consumption, but at the top-middle of the stack when run at full force.

Non-UEFI POST Time

Different motherboards have different POST sequences before an operating system is initialized. A lot of this is dependent on the board itself, and POST boot time is determined by the controllers on board (and the sequence of how those extras are organized). As part of our testing, we look at the POST Boot Time using a stopwatch. This is the time from pressing the ON button on the computer to when Windows 7 starts loading. (We discount Windows loading as it is highly variable given Windows specific features.) 

Windows 7 POST Time - Default

Windows 7 POST Time - Stripped

X99 has always been fairly odd with POST times, with only a few boards getting under 20 seconds. The MSI sits between that 20-25 boundary where most X99 boards seem to be.

Rightmark Audio Analyzer 6.2.5

Rightmark:AA indicates how well the sound system is built and isolated from electrical interference (either internally or externally). For this test we connect the Line Out to the Line In using a short six inch 3.5mm to 3.5mm high-quality jack, turn the OS speaker volume to 100%, and run the Rightmark default test suite at 192 kHz, 24-bit. The OS is tuned to 192 kHz/24-bit input and output, and the Line-In volume is adjusted until we have the best RMAA value in the mini-pretest. We look specifically at the Dynamic Range of the audio codec used on board, as well as the Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise.

Rightmark: AA, Dynamic Range, 24-bit / 192 kHz

Rightmark: AA, THD+N, 24-bit / 192 kHz

Despite the use of the ALC1150, the bundled Nahimic software and driver setup can not be switched off altogether. As a result we don't particularly get a clear reading on the core audio hardware performance.

USB Backup

For this benchmark, we transfer a set size of files from the SSD to the USB drive using DiskBench, which monitors the time taken to transfer. The files transferred are a 1.52 GB set of 2867 files across 320 folders – 95% of these files are small typical website files, and the rest (90% of the size) are small 30 second HD videos. In an update to pre-Z87 testing, we also run MaxCPU to load up one of the threads during the test which improves general performance up to 15% by causing all the internal pathways to run at full speed.

Due to the introduction of USB 3.1, as of June 2015 we are adjusting our test to use a dual mSATA USB 3.1 Type-C device which should be capable of saturating both USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 connections. We still use the same data set as before, but now use the new device. Results are shown as seconds taken to complete the data transfer.

USB 3.0 Copy Times

The VIA VL805 hub used for the rear panel USB 3.0 ports adds in overhead for our copy test. The fact that the Turbo mode gave a lower score is cause for concern as well.

USB 3.1 Copy Times

MSI's USB 3.1 speeds were at the back of our newer test on the X99 refresh boards, but only by a small margin.

DPC Latency

Deferred Procedure Call latency is a way in which Windows handles interrupt servicing. In order to wait for a processor to acknowledge the request, the system will queue all interrupt requests by priority. Critical interrupts will be handled as soon as possible, whereas lesser priority requests such as audio will be further down the line. If the audio device requires data, it will have to wait until the request is processed before the buffer is filled.

If the device drivers of higher priority components in a system are poorly implemented, this can cause delays in request scheduling and process time.  This can lead to an empty audio buffer and characteristic audible pauses, pops and clicks. The DPC latency checker measures how much time is taken processing DPCs from driver invocation. The lower the value will result in better audio transfer at smaller buffer sizes. Results are measured in microseconds.

DPC Latency

The last platform to get truly low DPC latency numbers on most of the boards was Z97, but X99 is close. Almost all the X99 motherboards we have tested get under 100 microseconds, and MSI seems to be understanding their results in this test over time.

Software CPU Performance, Short Form
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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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