Articles: Mainboards

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Testbed Configuration

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

  • Intel DZ87KLT-75K mainboard (LGA1150, Intel Z87, BIOS version 0336);
  • Intel Core i5-4670K CPU (3.6-3.8 GHz, 4 cores, Haswell, 22nm, 84 W, LGA 1150);
  • 2 x 8 GB DDR3 SDRAM G.Skill TridentX F3-2133C9Q-32GTX (2133 MHz, 9-11-11-31-2N timings, 1.6 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);
  • Scythe Mugen 3 Revision B (SCMG-3100) CPU cooler;
  • ARCTIC MX-2 thermal interface;
  • Enhance EPS-1280GA 800 W 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 Device Software driver package version, AMD Catalyst 13.4 graphics card driver.

Working at Default Settings

When the mainboard starts up and shows you its boot picture, your speakers will emit the first notes of the corporate jingle. You can easily switch this annoying sound off, though. In the bottom left of the screen you are reminded of the active hotkeys. As a unique feature of Intel mainboards, you can edit that list. Mainboards from some other makers allow replacing the standard boot picture with a user-defined one, so you can take any image and write anything on it, including hotkey prompts. It is not easy, though, whereas the Boot section of the Intel Visual BIOS lets you select which prompts to show.

You can enter the BIOS interface by pressing F2. The F10 key will open a menu to choose an out-of-order boot device. F12 can be used for booting over the network. The Tab key is not listed. You cannot disable the boot picture, so you don't get any information about the startup procedure except for POST codes shown in the corner of the screen. The first thing we did was press the F7 button to update the firmware to the latest version.

Intel mainboards offer several ways to update their firmware. Windows users will probably prefer to run a self-extracting archive which reboots the computer and updates the BIOS automatically. The Iflash utility can be used to update from the DOS environment. There is a method for WinPE. There is also an integrated utility which is evoked by pressing F7 (you can also launch it from the BIOS interface). The current firmware is not saved by default (at least, we couldn't find this feature in the documentation).

It would be odd for an Intel mainboard to set an Intel processor up in a nonstandard way. So, our CPU works just as expected, lowering the frequency multiplier and voltage at low loads. Like with the other LGA1150 mainboards we have tested so far, it is possible to save more power in idle mode by manually turning on every power-saving option in the BIOS. There is only one problem we found out later during our power consumption tests. While running AVX-using LinX, mainboards normally consume 125 to 131 watts whereas the Intel DZ87KLT-75K needed only 116 watts. Like MSI mainboards, Intel’s are rather economical, yet this difference made us suspicious. It turned out that the frequency multiplier of our Intel Core i5-4670K processor would drop to x34 at high loads while it was supposed to be x36, hence the difference in power consumption. We wouldn’t mind it if the lower power draw didn’t come at the expense of performance.

It must be noted that LinX, a graphics shell for the Intel Linpack test, is too high a load - much higher than what we have in ordinary applications. On the other hand, our x264 FHD Benchmark v1.0.1 (64-bit), which can use the AVX2 instructions implemented in the Haswell series CPUs, would also occasionally make the frequency multiplier go down to x34, even though it is not as heavy as LinX. Fortunately, you can easily get rid of this effect by simply increasing the CPU’s power limits in the BIOS. We did this before our power consumption and performance tests.

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