Articles: Mainboards

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Testbed Configuration

We performed all our tests on a testbed built with the following components:

  • Mainboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme11 (LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express, BIOS version P1.30);
  • Intel Core i5-3570K CPU (3.6-3.8 GHz, 4 cores, Ivy Bridge rev.E1, 22nm, 77 W, 1.05 V, LGA 1155);
  • 2 x 4 GB DDR3 SDRAM Corsair Vengeance CMZ16GX3M4X1866C9R (1866 MHz, 9-10-9-27 timings, 1.5 V voltage);
  • Gigabyte GV-T797OC-3GD (AMD Radeon HD 7970, Tahiti, 28 nm, 1000/5500 MHz, 384-bit GDDR5 3072 MB);
  • Crucial m4 SSD (CT256M4SSD2, 256 GB, SATA 6 Gbps);
  • Noctua NH-D14 CPU cooler;
  • ARCTIC MX-2 thermal interface;
  • Enhance EPS-1280GA PSU;
  • Open testbed built using Antec Skeleton system case.

We used Microsoft Windows 8 Enterprise 64 bit (Microsoft Windows, Version 6.2, Build 9200) operating system, Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility version, AMD Catalyst graphics card driver version 13.1.

You may notice that we’ve returned to using a Crucial m4 SSD in our testbed. It is in fact the same SSD as we had used until it ceased to be identified. The Crucial website offers rather odd recommendations on how to revive such dead SSDs. You need to connect power, wait for 20 minutes, turn it off for 30 seconds, and repeat the same a couple of times. The SSD may wake up then, and you must update its firmware immediately. It seems that the manufacturer doesn’t know the exact reason for that behavior of its SSDs, but the recommendations do help some users. So, we decided to try them, too, but we didn’t even have to. After lying idle for a few weeks, the SSD awoke as soon as we connected it, just as suddenly as it had gone dead despite having the latest firmware version (040H).

We had to replace the Crucial m4 (256 GB, SATA 6 Gbit/s) with a Kingston SSD Now V+ Series (128 GB, SATA 3 Gbit/s) for our review of the ASRock FM2A85X Extreme6 mainboard, noting that this change only provoked a performance hit in Adobe Photoshop CS6. It doesn’t mean that the two SSDs are identical in performance, though. For example, we do not install the OS and benchmarks every time we test a new mainboard. We just deploy a system disk image with a set-up OS and applications, so we only have to add drivers peculiar to the specific mainboard. And deploying the image to the Kingston SSD takes 25-27 minutes whereas the same process takes only 5-7 minutes with the Crucial.

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