Motherboards are inherently complex, and a fair amount of testing is required before we can comfortably render a recommendation. There are lots of little pieces and plenty of things that can go wrong. That said, boards based on the same platform tend to offer near-identical performance. The CPU and GPU are largely responsible for defining a system's performance in applications and games, and the platform hub handles most of the I/O. The only exception tends to be the use of third-party peripheral controllers, but even then, different motherboards often use the very same chips, with predictable results.
Instead of making you scroll through a bunch of graphs and tables, we've cherry-picked a handful of results to put the P8Z77-I Deluxe's performance in perspective. You can still peruse the full suite of results on the following pages, but don't expect performance differences of more than a few percent. Here are a couple of examples of what I'm talking about:
When paired with the same CPU and memory, there's really no meaningful difference in application performance between the P8Z77-I Deluxe and comparable Z77-based Mini-ITX boards from ASRock and Zotac. We saw similarly, er, similar results throughout our test suite.
That said, we did measure bigger performance gaps when probing cold boot times. We tested with and without each board's "fast boot" options enabled, but we didn't go for the ultra-fast options that prevent users from getting into the firmware using a keyboard shortcut. The boards that offer a configurable window for firmware access, including the P8Z77-I Deluxe, were all set to a one-second delay.
The Deluxe is a little slower than the other boards when fast boot is enabled. We're only talking about differences of a few seconds in a hand-timed test, but I'm surprised that enabling the basic fast boot option doesn't speed up the Asus board at all.
We also test the performance of on-board peripherals like Ethernet, Serial ATA, and USB. The P8Z77-I Deluxe is mostly even with its peers on those fronts, but Asus has an ace up its sleeve: USB Boost software that can accelerate performance with several kinds of devices. Standard USB devices have access to a special Turbo mode, and those that support the SCSI-like USAP protocol can benefit from a special USAP mode tied to the auxiliary ASMedia controller. The Intel controller also supports USAP, but a special boost mode isn't needed in Windows 8, whose drivers natively support the feature.
Since we used Windows 8 and a USAP-compatible Thermaltake docking station for testing, we only played with the boost mode for the ASMedia controller. Here are some results from TR RoboBench, a new in-house test that uses Windows' multi-threaded robocopy command to copy two file sets: one made up of large movie files and another with a mix of movies, MP3s, images, and documents.
There are two important things to note. The Intel USB 3.0 controller shared by all the boards offers better performance, by default, than the ASMedia chip used by the Asus and ASRock mobos. However, the ASMedia chip gets a lot faster when USB Boost's USAP mode is enabled. This mode performs particularly well with random I/O, as you'll see if you dig deeper into our test results later in the review, but we think these sequential transfers—and particularly several at once—offer the more realistic usage scenario for USB storage.
Like performance, motherboard power consumption tends to be pretty consistent from one board to the next, at least within a given form factor. Differences of only a few watts aren't that meaningful for system cooling, and they're pretty much irrelevant as far as your electricity bill is concerned. Our power consumption tests do tell us something interesting about the P8Z77-I Deluxe and its fancy VRM riser, though.
Compared to the Zotac board, the Asus has higher power consumption at idle and while playing 1080p YouTube video. When under a more strenuous load that maxes out the CPU and GPU, the P8Z77-I Deluxe has the lowest power consumption of the lot. As expected, the stakes are low in terms of wattage, but the Deluxe seems to have more efficient power delivery when the going gets tough. That riser card isn't just for show.
So ends our look at the P8Z77-I Deluxe's crucial performance characteristics. If you'd like to see the rest of our test results and get into the nitty gritty of how the systems were configured, continue to the next page. Otherwise, you can skip ahead to the conclusion for our final thoughts on the board.
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