MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming Conclusion

On the back of the Z77A-GD65 Gaming that we reviewed late into the Z77 lifespan, the Z87 take at the GD65 level is clearly an evolution on the concept.  The features that MSI could not introduce due to time constraints / platform limitations are all put into place for Haswell CPUs.

A motherboard manufacturer at every price point has a linear scale with which to play – on the one hand they can offer the base chipset features and then increase the number of ports in each area, or they can add in a ‘knock-out’ feature (or two) that they can advertise over other motherboards in a similar price segment.  The Z87-GD65 Gaming is pretty much in the latter segment, with the dragon styling and Qualcomm Atheros Killer network port (rather than a Realtek or an Intel).

Aside from the Killer NIC, we get Audio Boost which is MSI’s interpretation of the Realtek ALC1150 specifications, using headphone amplifiers for high impedance headsets and filter caps to improve signals.  OC Genie gets an upgrade, now featuring two levels of overclock, and both the BIOS and software get an overhaul.  The BIOS offers explanations for the options it now shows as well as Hardware Monitor and BIOS Explorer to improve fan controls and hardware detection respectively.

On the performance side of the spectrum, the MSI enables MultiCore Turbo as per standard and actually seems rather efficient from our testing.  Unfortunately the DPC is a little higher than I would have liked by default (it seems Haswell DPC > Ivy Bridge DPC on the whole so far), and our dynamic range audio tests are a few dBA away from some of the other ALC1150 implementations.  In the early BIOSes we have had trouble adjusting VRIN voltage for overclocks (this may be updated in a public BIOS), and users might be confused that the mouse and keyboard do not wake the machine up from sleep by default – you have to press the power button.

Overclock wise all seemed well from the MSI, with both OC Genie settings giving mid-range overclocks at reasonable temperatures, though the system still lacks an extreme overclock setting.  Manually we were able to push our CPU to 4.6 GHz easily enough, and 4.7 GHz at a push as we hit 92C at load.

The sticking point will be whether users will want a motherboard with more of everything (SATA, USB 3.0), or that one ‘Killer’ feature.  For a gamer, features like OC Genie and a Killer NIC on the MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming will be worth strong consideration.

Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H Conclusion ASRock Z87 Extreme6/AC Conclusion - Silver Award
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  • ShieTar - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Is there a special reason not to test the POST times and DPC latency of the Gigabyte Board? Its power consumption is quiet impressive, and whatever design measures have been used to achieve it do not seem to negatively affect the overall performance. So it would be interesting to complete the picture with the two measurements which are missing. Reply
  • IanCutress - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    DPC Latency on the Gigabyte during testing was jumping around a fair bit, hitting 800+, though that is more likely due to the early BIOS revision. I need to run the POST test (as the results are strangely missing from my database) as well as the DPC test on a newer BIOS. Since I started testing almost every manufacturer has released newer BIOSes (as is always the way coming up to a launch) and I really have to lay the hammer down as testing a whole new BIOS takes a good 30 hours or so start to finish, so when I'm locked in that's it. That in a way does give an unfair advantage to the board I test last, but there's not a lot else I can do. I am still getting emails of BIOS updates for these boards as of yesterday.

    Ian
    Reply
  • tribbles - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Am I wrong in thinking that Gigabyte hasn't been doing well in the DPC Latency Test since Z77? If so, that's kind of surprising, since Gigabyte seems to be a "go-to" brand for digital audio workstation builders. Reply
  • IanCutress - Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - link

    I retested the UD3H on the F5 (public) BIOS, and it scored 164. The two next boards I have in for review got 160 and 157, which points fingers to the DPC on Haswell being 150+ regardless of motherboard. This might be a fundamental issue. Reply
  • Timur Born - Saturday, July 27, 2013 - link

    Run Prime95 (or turn off CPU power features) while measuring DPC latencies to see how much CPU power saving features affect DPCs. Reply
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  • Rick83 - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Maybe a bad choice to use two different ways of graphing the Rightmark results.
    Being consistent with regard to cutting off the irrelevant bit of the graph makes it a much easier read.
    Now it appears at first glance as though the Gigabyte board is much better in THD+N, simply because the differences were so minuscule in the dynamic range bit.

    On another note: Shouldn't it be more interesting to use a standardized input instead of the input of the board? In the current protocol a good output could be handicapped by a bad input, and conversely. For most users the output is much more important than the input, so it might be better to test it independently? I would recommend using a USB soundcard as an easy means of doing this test on the same machine, without changing the setup protocol too much.

    And finally - I seem to remember Rightmark results for earlier reviews - it would be interesting to have those (or maybe a reference soundcard?) as comparison in the same graph. After all, for DPC you maintain a large cross-platform table as well.

    Nice thorough initial review, those nitpicks withstanding.
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Unfortunately I can't adjust the engine to represent from 0 for negative values, I don't have access to the low level options. I forwarded it on as an issue.

    I'd love to use a standardized input with RMAA. I guess it would be good to get a sound card with an input that supercedes the output of the motherboard and put it through that way, and hopefully there won't be a driver conflict along the line. I'll see what I can do to get in the hardware for that, although many soundcards are designed more for output and the input dynamic range/distortion might be the limiting factor as is the case on motherboards. Something like the Xonar Essence STX has a 118 dBA input with -113 dBA THD+N which might be a good starting point.

    Our RMAA testing for Z87 has changed a little from Z77 to make it more of an efficiency test rather than an out-the-box test as audio is such a varied playing field. RMAA is very sensitive to certain windows settings and volumes for example such that with the right combination it was very easy to show A>B or B>A depending on how the OS felt it should be set up. The new testing regimen for RMAA should iron out those issues but the results are not exactly comparable to Z77 for that reason. There are so many wrong ways to set up RMAA it can be difficult (and a learning experience) to get it right.

    Ian
    Reply
  • popej - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Nice to see you are planning steps in right direction. Using reference card for measurements is a proper solution. Be aware, that separate card add complications to the test, for example you will have to take care about ground loops and signal level matching. Professional card with balanced input could help a lot. Reply

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