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Review: MSI Z77A-G45 Thunderbolt

by Tarinder Sandhu on 21 January 2013, 15:30 3.5

Tags: MSI

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qabrqz

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Testing methodology

Comparison systems

Motherboard MSI Z77A-G45 TB Gigabyte Z77X-UP4 TH ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe
Motherboard BIOS 10.3 F9 1709
Chipset driver Intel Inf 9.3.0.1020 and IMEI 8.0.1399
Processor Intel Core i7-3770K
Memory G.Skill 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3
Memory timings 11-11-11-30-2T @ 2,133MHz
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
Graphics driver ForceWare 306.97
Disk drive Samsung 830 Series 256GB
Chassis Corsair Graphite 600T
Power supply Corsair AX750
Operating system Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit

CPU and memory benchmarks

PCMark 7
An all-encompassing test to evaluate system performance
HEXUS.PiFast
Our number-crunching benchmark stresses a single core by calculating Pi to 10m places
CINEBENCH 11.5 Using Cinebench's multi-CPU render, this cross-platform benchmark stresses all cores

GPU benchmarks

3DMark 11 b1.1 DX11, run with the performance preset
Aliens vs. Predator DX11, 1,920x1,080, very high-quality settings
CoD: Black Ops 2 DX9, 1,920x1,080, very high-quality settings

General benchmarks

Storage performance USB 3.0 read and write speed, SSD average read and write speed
Power consumption While idling and when running Cinebench and COD: BO2

Notes

Rather than provide semi-useless numbers from the default settings of a Core i7-3770K chip, we've run the MSI board with a mid-level overclock, which is something enthusiasts are likely to do. Spitting out all the data, the overclock has the following parameters:

State
CPU
Turbo
Memory
CPU voltage
DDR voltage
Base
3.5GHz
Up to 3.9GHz
1,600MHz
1.11V
1.5V
OC
4.4GHz
NA - 4.4GHz
2,133MHz
1.20V
1.6V

 

The overclock pushes all CPU cores to 4.4GHz and memory up to 2,133MHz. We add in a little extra voltage on both fronts, as well. We also run the two comparison boards with exactly the same parameters, to see how they fare when overclocked. The numbers provided in the graphs will let you determine whether it's worth pushing the board past basic settings for your particular kind of applications.

Overclocking to the max

We've then used exactly the same methodology to overclock the Core i7-3770K chip as with previously-reviewed Z77 boards. The toasty nature of an over-volted Ivy Bridge processor puts the onus more on the cooling than the smooth-as-silk power-delivery system of a motherboard. As such, with the same cooling in place, we managed to hit the same 4.7GHz/1.35V speeds achieved on other ASUS/Gigabyte boards. Repeating matters we've said ad nauseam, overclocking is more reliant on the quality of the chip than the power-related features of a motherboard.