ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe Mini-ITX Motherboard Review
System Port Device Testing
Audio Subsystem Testing
Audio Playback Testing
Using a selection of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal music tracks and Windows Media Player, the audio subsystem playback performance was tested for playback accuracy and fidelity. Playback of the selected audio tracks was distortion free using a 5.1 speaker setup through the on-board analog audio ports.
Audio configuration on this board is a bit tricky because of its three shared analogue audio ports in the rear panel. To enable 5.1 audio mode for the ports, you must set the speaker mode in the Realtek app to 5.1 mode. However, you lose the ability to use the rear panel ports as audio input or microphone input ports. Further, I had to enable the DTS Connect functionality to hear audio from all speakers in my 5.1 setup (also found in the speaker section of the Realtek audio application). Once configured correctly, audio playback made for an enjoyable listening session with no distortion detected.
Speaker mode configuration
DTS Connect page
Microphone Port Testing
For testing the board's Microphone input port, a Labtec Desk Mic 524 microphone was used to capture a 30 second spoken phrase with the assistance of the Microsoft Sound Recorder application. The resulting audio file was saved to the desktop and played back using Windows Media Player
The recorded audio test resulted in clean audio pickup with no distortion or aberrant noise effects heard during playback of the recorded audio after adjusting the recording volume and Microphone Boost settings correctly. Audio pickup with almost inaudible with microphone recording volume set to less than 50 and Microphone Boost less than maximum (+30dB).
ATTO Disk Benchmark
To validate that the board’s device ports were functioning correctly, we connected an OCZ Vertex 3 90GB SATA III SSD to the system and ran the ATTO Disk Benchmark against the drive. ATTO was configured to test against transfer sizes from 0.5 to 8192 KB with Total Length set to 512 MB. The SSD selected for testing has a maximum read throughput of 550 MB/s and a write throughput of 500 MB/s on a SATA III port and a maximum read throughput of 280 MB/s and a write throughput of 260 MB/s on a SATA II port.
External device testing was done against the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports using conversion cables to connect the SSD. For USB 3.0 testing, an MSI-based USB 3.0 to SATA II adapter was used for ASUS-based Turbo mode testing and the Oyen Digital MiniPro™ eSATA / USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive enclosure (rated for SATA III transfer speeds) was used for ASUS-based UASP mode testing. The SSD was connected to the internal SATA II and SATA III ports as well. The SATA device ports were set to work in AHCI mode in order to optimize SSD device operation. All tests were run 3 times with the highest repeatable read and write scores recorded in MB/s values.
BOT modes explained
The ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe supports enhanced speed modes (BOT or Bulk-Only Transfer modes) for USB 3.0 attached devices. Enhanced operational modes are enabled via the USB 3.0 Boost applet from within the AI Suite II application. Turbo mode enhances the performance of any USB 3.0 device when activated through ASUS-specific software tweaks to the USB 3.0 drivers, most likely in driver internal timings and transfer operations. UASP also enhances drive operation to a greater extent but requires hardware supporting UASP transfers on both sides of the USB 3.0 cable. For a more detailed explanation on the differences between Turbo mode and UASP mode operation, see our explanation here.
According to various other testing sites, the real-world performance maximum of USB 2.0 peaks at 35-40MB/s (about 60% of its rated 60MB/s throughput and USB 3.0 peaks at 200-250MB/s on a SATA II based adapter and 250-325MB/s on a SATA III-based adapter. Note that USB 3.0 ports are rated for a maximum throughput of 650MB/s.
With BOT mode enabled on both the Oyen Digital and MSI USB 3.0 to SATA adapters, drive performance increased significantly with performance on the Intel Z77-based USB 3.0 ports seeing the best performance increase. The SATA III based Oyen Digital adapter pushes the performance limits of the USB 3.0 ports in UASP mode, pushing both read and writes towards the port's rated 650MB/s speed. On the Intel-based ports, performance begins to approach that of normal SATA III connections. For the SATA II based MSI adapter, turbo mode performance increases are not as dramatic as seen with the UASP mode device, but max out the SSD drive SATA II-based operating limits for both read and write speeds
All device ports operate within expected speed ranges for the USB 3.0 ports operating in Normal mode, the USB 2.0 port, and the eSATA port. Performance was best for the Oyen Digital adapter on the Intel Z77-based USB 3.0 ports because of its support for SATA II speeds. Both the MSI adapter and the eSATA port are limited to SATA II speeds because of design constraints in the adapter or the port.
The SSD dive performed as expected on the Intel Z77 SATA ports with device speeds hitting the drive limits when attached to either the SATA II and SATA III port.
SoftPerfect Research NetWorx Speed Test
In conjunction with Windows Performance Monitor, SoftPerfect Research NetWorx Speed Meter application was used to measure the upload and download performance of the motherboards integrated network controllers. Speed Meter was used to measure average network throughput in MB/s with Windows Performance Monitor used to measure average CPU utilization during the tests.
Intel GigE controller
For the wired network adapter, the testing consisted of copying two file sets from and to a remote system directly connected to the local system via a crossover cable. Use of a crossover cable eliminates the possibility of throughput loss due to router passage. The two file sets used consisted of a single 3 GB archive file and a folder containing 3 GB of audio files.
Note that that theoretical maximum throughput for a Gigabit Ethernet adapter is 125 MB/s (1.0 Gbps).
The Intel GigE controller performed within expectations, but none of speeds averages observed broke the 100MB/s speed barrier. The small file download speeds were the slowest, coming in at just under 80MB/s. The CPU utilization was within acceptable limits, staying below 15% for the duration of all testing.
Broadcom 802.11n wireless adapter
For the wireless network adapter, the testing consisted of copying two file sets from and to a remote system connected via router. The target system was connected to the router via a wired 1Gbps link to eliminate the possibility of throughput loss due to wireless transmission. The two file sets used consisted of a single 750 MB archive file and a folder containing 750 MB of audio files.
Note that that theoretical maximum throughput for a dual-channel 802.11n based wireless adapter is 37.50 MB/s (300 Mbps). However, real-world performance is normally much lower due to the massive overhead and packet loss inherent to a wireless-based system.
The Broadcom-based 802.11 adapter performed well, with average transfer speeds coming in just above or below 15MB/s. CPU utilization was good during uploads at under 5%, but came in at a higher than expected 12% during download testing.
Broadcom Bluetooth adapter
For the Bluetooth network adapter, the testing consisted of copying two file sets from and to a remote system directly connected via the Bluetooth link. The two file sets used consisted of a single 10 MB archive file and a folder containing 10 MB of audio files.
Note that that theoretical maximum throughput for a Bluetooth-based wireless adapter is 375 KB/s (3.0 Mbps). However, real-world performance is normally much lower due to the massive overhead and packet loss inherent to a wireless system.
The Broadcom adapter performed better operating in Bluetooth mode with performance keeping to an impressive 200KB/s average. CPU utilization was equally impressive, remaining at a scant 1% during all tests.
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