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Performance highlights
So, here's the deal with motherboards and system performance. They don't have much of an impact. In the past few years especially, we've seen less and less difference between the application and peripheral performance of new mobos. The CPU and GPU largely define how well applications and games will run on a given machine, and whether there's an SSD involved affects overall responsiveness. With more I/O moving to shared platform hubs, the gaps in our peripheral performance tests have also narrowed substantially.

Sometimes, there are exceptions—particularly good or bad implementations whose performance stands out from the pack. The only way to find these deviations from the norm is to run each board through an exhaustive test suite. We did that with the Z77IA-E53 and didn't find too many surprises. Our full collection of results is detailed later in the review, but first, let's look at the highlights.

As expected, our application and gaming metrics show little difference between the Z77IA-E53 and its peers.

Boot time is another matter, however. We tested each board with and without its fast-boot option enabled.

While not the fastest-booting board we've tested, the MSI beats some of its rivals by a few seconds. The other takeaway from these numbers is, wow, Windows 8 sure boots quickly from an SSD.

The results of our peripheral tests are largely similar to what we saw in the application and gaming tests: a lot of graphs with bars all about the same length. That said, there are meaningful differences in USB 3.0 performance. Our RoboBench tests, which read and write files using eight simultaneous threads via Windows' built-in robocopy command, provide some insight on real-world transfer speeds.

Asus' P8Z77-I Deluxe has special USB Boost software that accelerates transfers with certain hardware combinations. And it works, improving RoboBench throughput by noticeable margins. MSI doesn't have comparable software for the Z77IA-E53, whose USB transfer rates are much lower.

Our USB testing is conducted with a wicked-fast Samsung SSD that's well-equipped to handle multiple simultaneous transfers. You may see smaller gains with slower mechanical storage.

Power consumption
There's usually some variance in power consumption between different mobos, so we measured power draw at the wall socket with our test system at idle, playing 1080p YouTube video, and under a full load combining Cinebench rendering with the Unigine Heaven demo.

The Z77IA-E53 consumed a little less power than the competition in our first two tests and turned in a middle-of-the-pack performance in the final one. MSI seems to have come up with a reasonably power-efficient board overall. Don't read too much into small differences in power consumption, though. A few watts aren't going to make a big difference for your utility bill or your cooling config.

That's it for our performance highlights. If you've seen enough test results, feel free to skip ahead to the conclusion for our final thoughts on the board. Otherwise, flip to the next page for the full motherboard specs, details on our system configuration, and all of our benchmark data.