Computation Benchmarks

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 – better benchmark results at stock settings (not entirely needed if overclocking is an end-user goal), at the expense of heat and temperature, but also gives in essence 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, memory subtimings at JEDEC).  Processor speed change is part of that risk which is clearly visible, 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 purchase.

For reference, the MSI Z87 XPower does apply MCT when XMP is enabled.

Point Calculations - 3D Movement Algorithm Test

The algorithms in 3DPM employ both uniform random number generation or normal distribution random number generation, and vary in various amounts of trigonometric operations, conditional statements, generation and rejection, fused operations, etc.  The benchmark runs through six algorithms for a specified number of particles and steps, and calculates the speed of each algorithm, then sums them all for a final score.  This is an example of a real world situation that a computational scientist may find themselves in, rather than a pure synthetic benchmark.  The benchmark is also parallel between particles simulated, and we test the single thread performance as well as the multi-threaded performance.

3D Particle Movement Single Threaded3D Particle Movement MultiThreaded

While the MSI falls behind on our single threaded test, it does a reasonable job in multithreaded.

Compression - WinRAR 4.2

With 64-bit WinRAR, we compress the set of files used in the USB speed tests. WinRAR x64 3.93 attempts to use multithreading when possible, and provides as a good test for when a system has variable threaded load.  WinRAR 4.2 does this a lot better! If a system has multiple speeds to invoke at different loading, the switching between those speeds will determine how well the system will do.

WinRAR 4.2

Again, MSI does well, this time on a variable threaded test.

Image Manipulation - FastStone Image Viewer 4.2

FastStone Image Viewer is a free piece of software I have been using for quite a few years now.  It allows quick viewing of flat images, as well as resizing, changing color depth, adding simple text or simple filters.  It also has a bulk image conversion tool, which we use here.  The software currently operates only in single-thread mode, which should change in later versions of the software.  For this test, we convert a series of 170 files, of various resolutions, dimensions and types (of a total size of 163MB), all to the .gif format of 640x480 dimensions.

FastStone Image Viewer 4.2

FastStone rarely shows much variation between motherboards.

Video Conversion - Xilisoft Video Converter 7

With XVC, users can convert any type of normal video to any compatible format for smartphones, tablets and other devices.  By default, it uses all available threads on the system, and in the presence of appropriate graphics cards, can utilize CUDA for NVIDIA GPUs as well as AMD WinAPP for AMD GPUs.  For this test, we use a set of 33 HD videos, each lasting 30 seconds, and convert them from 1080p to an iPod H.264 video format using just the CPU.  The time taken to convert these videos gives us our result.

Xilisoft Video Converter 7

Rendering – PovRay 3.7

The Persistence of Vision RayTracer, or PovRay, is a freeware package for as the name suggests, ray tracing.  It is a pure renderer, rather than modeling software, but the latest beta version contains a handy benchmark for stressing all processing threads on a platform. We have been using this test in motherboard reviews to test memory stability at various CPU speeds to good effect – if it passes the test, the IMC in the CPU is stable for a given CPU speed.  As a CPU test, it runs for approximately 2-3 minutes on high end platforms.

PovRay 3.7 Multithreaded Benchmark

Video Conversion - x264 HD Benchmark

The x264 HD Benchmark uses a common HD encoding tool to process an HD MPEG2 source at 1280x720 at 3963 Kbps.  This test represents a standardized result which can be compared across other reviews, and is dependent on both CPU power and memory speed.  The benchmark performs a 2-pass encode, and the results shown are the average of each pass performed four times.

x264 HD Benchmark Pass 1x264 HD Benchmark Pass 2

There is a surprising leap in performace for x264 in the first pass.

Grid Solvers - Explicit Finite Difference

For any grid of regular nodes, the simplest way to calculate the next time step is to use the values of those around it.  This makes for easy mathematics and parallel simulation, as each node calculated is only dependent on the previous time step, not the nodes around it on the current calculated time step.  By choosing a regular grid, we reduce the levels of memory access required for irregular grids.  We test both 2D and 3D explicit finite difference simulations with 2n nodes in each dimension, using OpenMP as the threading operator in single precision.  The grid is isotropic and the boundary conditions are sinks.  Values are floating point, with memory cache sizes and speeds playing a part in the overall score.

Explicit Finite Difference Grid Solver (2D)Explicit Finite Difference Grid Solver (3D)

Grid Solvers - Implicit Finite Difference + Alternating Direction Implicit Method

The implicit method takes a different approach to the explicit method – instead of considering one unknown in the new time step to be calculated from known elements in the previous time step, we consider that an old point can influence several new points by way of simultaneous equations.  This adds to the complexity of the simulation – the grid of nodes is solved as a series of rows and columns rather than points, reducing the parallel nature of the simulation by a dimension and drastically increasing the memory requirements of each thread.  The upside, as noted above, is the less stringent stability rules related to time steps and grid spacing.  For this we simulate a 2D grid of 2n nodes in each dimension, using OpenMP in single precision.  Again our grid is isotropic with the boundaries acting as sinks. Values are floating point, with memory cache sizes and speeds playing a part in the overall score.

Implicit Finite Difference Grid Solver (2D)

Point Calculations - n-Body Simulation

When a series of heavy mass elements are in space, they interact with each other through the force of gravity.  Thus when a star cluster forms, the interaction of every large mass with every other large mass defines the speed at which these elements approach each other.  When dealing with millions and billions of stars on such a large scale, the movement of each of these stars can be simulated through the physical theorems that describe the interactions. The benchmark detects whether the processor is SSE2 or SSE4 capable, and implements the relative code.  We run a simulation of 10240 particles of equal mass - the output for this code is in terms of GFLOPs, and the result recorded was the peak GFLOPs value.

n-body Simulation via C++ AMP

System Benchmarks Gaming Benchmarks
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  • DanNeely - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    I'm wondering about the pair of USB2 ports on the back. The Z87 provides 6 USB3 ports; 4 are used by the pair of onboard headers, and all 8 back panel USB3 ports are ASmedia. This leaves 2 USB3 ports on the z87 idle, so why not route them to the back too instead of USB2. Reply
  • IanCutress - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    You are forgetting FlexIO (http://www.anandtech.com/show/6989/) - Z87 has 18 ports from the PCH. Most of them are fixed - four for USB 3.0, six for PCIe 2.0 and four for SATA 6 Gbps. This leaves two pairs of two - the first pair can be configured as USB 3.0 or PCIe 2.0, and the second pair can be configured as PCIe 2.0 or SATA 6 Gbps. The only limitation is a maximum of eight PCIe 2.0 lanes in total. MSI have decided to use four USB 3.0 here, eight PCIe 2.0 and six SATA 6 Gbps: 4 + 8 + 6 = 18, as shown in the Board Features :)

    Ian
    Reply
  • ionR19 - Sunday, August 10, 2014 - link

    there are 4 USB3 comming from the PCH and 8 from the hubs
    can you use all the 12 USB3 ports this way ?
    Reply
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  • KurtToni - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    Love my job, since I've been bringing in $82h… I sit at home, music playing while I work in front of my new iMac that I got now that I'm making it online. (Home more information)
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  • tech6 - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    In most home uses cases the bottleneck for performance is no longer the CPU but more likely to be the graphics card or hard disk. Thus spending a lot of money on on OC board is a waste of money better spent on an SSD or more GPU. I guess that manufacturers are betting that there will always be enough well funded fanbois who feel the need to brag about their OC numbers to make a buck on products such as these. Reply
  • IanCutress - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    Overclocking, at least competitive overclocking, has substantial investment in motherboard companies and is the the focus of peoples jobs, careers, and a sport-like industry. The website HWBot.org is a common database for overclock scores and leagues, and I have reported here at AnandTech about competitive overclocking events/venues. Manufacturers will always release boards for these people, though it's hard to justify it *just* for this crowd, and it has to be made for daily use as well. As a result you end up with a Halo board trying to cater for both crowds, as mentioned in the conclusion ;)

    Ian
    Reply
  • Slomo4shO - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    Why don't any of these board manufactures ever design a board capable of 3-way crossfire/SLI using PCIe 1, 4, and 7 slots? ASRock x79 boards are the only ones that seem to have this option currently... Reply
  • Infy2 - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    What does that plus (+) mean in the performance charts next to the system name? Reply
  • IanCutress - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    It means that the CPU was tested in a motherboard that enables MultiCore Turbo/Enhancement/Acceleration by default, like this one. It is starting to become the norm for motherboards from certain companies over a particular price point.

    Ian
    Reply

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