ASUS Z97-WS Motherboard Review
Integrated 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 using the audio test tracks was clear and distortion free using a 7.1 speaker setup through the on-board analogue audio ports.
Listening tests using the selected audio tracks were performed with a Razer Carcharias audio headset as well as a 5.1 speaker setup to exercise the subsystem's audio fidelity. There were no distortion issues using either setup with sound reproduction coming though clearly.
Microphone Port Testing
For testing the board's Microphone input port, the microphone from a Razer Carcharias audio headset 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.
Even though the recorded audio remained distortion-free at all levels, audio pickup came through muted until recording volume was set to a minimum of 75 and Microphone Boost was enabled with a +30dB setting.
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. The SSD was directly connected to the native SATA 3 ports. NGFF port testing was performed using an M.2 to SATA III device adapter mPCIe card. ATTO was configured to test against transfer sizes from 0.5 to 8192 KB with Total Length set to 512 MB and Queue Depth set to 10. 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 controller. The drive tests were repeated three times with the highest repeatable read and write speeds recorded.
As expected, the SSD performance was better on the Intel-controlled ports in comparison to the ASMedia-controlled ports with one exception - the Intel Z97-based M.2 port. The M.2 drive performance topped out at SATA II speeds with the OCZ drive. However, the transfer speed increased dramatically with another SSD drive plugged into the M.2 port adapter, giving credence to the theory that the M.2 controller may have compatibility issues with older Sandforce 2281-based drives. In the tests on the Intel Z97-controlled SATA and SATA Express ports, SSD performance pushed the performance limits of the drive. The ASMedia controller performance barely broke 400MB/s.
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.
The LanBench network benchmarking software was used to generate send and receive traffic between the local and remote systems over a five minute period with packet size set to 4096 and connection count set to 20. A LanBench server was set up on the remote system to generate or receive traffic for the tests performed. The upload and download tests were repeated three times with the highest repeatable average throughput and the lowest repeatable average CPU utilization percentage recorded.
Note that that theoretical maximum throughput for a Gigabit Ethernet adapter is 125 MB/s (1.0 Gbps).
Both Intel-controlled ports performed well with transfer rates averaging almost 120MB/s during upload and lagging by 10MB/s in download testing. The CPU utilization was the lowest I've seen from a network controller yet, with all averages and even spike load well below 5%.