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Motherboard peripheral performance — continued

Serial ATA performance

CrystalDiskMark Serial ATA performance (MB/s)
Sequential Random 4KB Random 4KB QD32
Read Write Read Write Read Write
MSI Z68A-GD80 505 416 25 88 306 151
Asus P8Z77-V 508 415 24 86 305 152
Asus P8Z77-V (ASMedia) 366 367 20 48 208 145
Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H 513 416 25
78 306
151
MSI Z77A-GD65 518 415 25 90 305 151
MSI Z77A-GD65 (ASMedia) 364 364 21 46 211 147
FileBench Serial ATA performance (MB/s)
Movie Mix
Read Write Read Write
MSI Z68A-GD80 340 433 213 238
Asus P8Z77-V 333 407 205 241
Asus P8Z77-V (ASMedia) 305 387 183 241
Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H 336 417 211 248
MSI Z77A-GD65 350 414 209 244
MSI Z77A-GD65 (ASMedia) 309 393 190 240

There are two lessons to be learned from our Serial ATA results. The Z77's SATA performance is pretty consistent from one board to the next. It's also notably faster than the auxiliary ASMedia solution found on the Asus and MSI mobos. Only use those auxiliary SATA ports as a last resort.

Ethernet performance

NTttcp Ethernet performance
Throughput (Mbps) CPU utilization (%)
MSI Z68A-GD80 942 3.2
Asus P8Z77-V 935 2.1
Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H 942 4.5
MSI Z77A-GD65 942 2.0
FileBench Ethernet performance (MB/s)
Movie Mix
Read Write Read Write
MSI Z68A-GD80 114 114 69 39
Asus P8Z77-V 115 113 71 39
Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H 115 112 77 44
MSI Z77A-GD65 114 113 71 39

FileBench works for network transfers, too. There isn't much difference in movie transfer speeds. However, the Atheros Gigabit Ethernet controller on the Gigabyte board offers better performance in the mixed tests. That's particularly notable because the Asus and MSI boards both use Intel GigE chips. The system at the other end of the CAT6 cable in these tests is also based on an Intel network controller.

There is a catch, of course. The Z77X-UD3H's CPU utilization is a little higher than the others in the NTttcp throughput test. I'd happily trade 2.5% of the Core i7-2600K's CPU resources for faster network transfer speeds.

PCI Express performance

HD Tune PCIe performance
CPU Chipset
Read (MB/s) CPU utilization (%) Read (MB/s) CPU utilization (%)
MSI Z68A-GD80 1303 7.2 1258 7.6
Asus P8Z77-V 1275 8.4 1276 7.3
Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H 1333 7.3 1262 7.9
MSI Z77A-GD65 1300 10.2 NA NA

Our RevoDrive PCIe SSD is insanely fast on all the boards. The MSI is the only one to push CPU utilization into double-digit territory, but we're only talking about a difference of a few percentage points versus the rest of the field.

Analog audio signal quality

RightMark Audio Analyzer audio quality: 24-bit/192kHz
Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD THD + Noise IMD + Noise Stereo Crosstalk IMD at 10kHz Overall score
MSI Z68A-GD80 4 4 4 5 3 4 5 5 4
Asus P8Z77-V 5 4 4 5 3 5 5 5 4
Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H 5 4 4 5 3 5 5 5 4
MSI Z77A-GD65 5 4 5 5 3 4 5 5 5

According to RMAA's loopback test, the MSI Z77A-GD65 has better overall analog signal quality than the others. The individual test results are pretty close, though. If you're really worried about analog signal quality, you're better off with a discrete sound card. If you're not, features like speaker virtualization and real-time encoding support may be more important to you than minute differences in frequency response or dynamic range.