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ECS Golden Board Z77H2-AX Z77 Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ECS

Board Port Device Testing

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, USB 3.0, and eSATA ports using conversion cables to connect the SSD. 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.

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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, USB 3.0 peaks at 200-250MB/s (about 60-75% of its rated 350MB/s throughput), and eSATA peaks at about 400-450MB/s (about 60-75% of its rated 700MB/s throughput).

The external performance numbers speak for themselves with the eSATA device ports performing very close to their respective real-world maximum throughput numbers. The exception was the USB based port performance. On the USB 2.0 ports, performance was upwards of 25% lower than expected, while the USB 3.0 port performance was about 10-15% below expectations.

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Performance was mixed with the internal SATA ports. The Intel Z77-based SATA ports performed outstandingly with read and write performance matching the upper performance limits of the SSD on both the SATA II and SATA III device ports. The ASMedia controlled SATA III device was a different story. While the SSD’s performance was well above SATA II numbers, the drive’s performance matched that of the eSATA device. This could stem from the fact that the chipset is dual-tasked with managing both the SATA and eSATA ports.

SoftPerfect Research NetWorx Speed Test

In conjunction with Windows Task Manager, 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 Task Manager used to measure CPU utilization during the tests.

Realtek 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 750 MB archive file and a folder containing 750 MB of audio files.

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As expected, the Realtek network controller well within expectations. During both tests, the average upload speed performance bested that of download with upload speed coming in at almost 25 MB/s faster during the large file transfer tests and 30 MB/s faster in the small file tests. In both tests, the average speed measurements fared well in comparison to the theoretical maximum throughput for gigabit Ethernet (125 MB/s). In most cases, the CPU utilization remained at or under 10% with the measured utilization seen during the small file upload tests averaging a bit higher at 15%.

Atheros 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 1GB 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.

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Even though the measured 3 to 4 MB/s average for the onboard 802.11n wireless adapter may seem much slower than the theoretical maximum of 18.57 MB/s (150 Mbps), it is well within expected speeds because of the massive overhead and packet loss that is inherent to a wireless-based system. In all cases, the measured CPU utilization held close to zero.

Atheros 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.

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The Bluetooth adapter performed well during the download tests with its speed averaging between 120 - 130 KB/s. While its maximum rated throughput is 375 KB/s (3.0 Mbps), Bluetooth-based connections suffer the same overhead and packet loss issues of their faster 802.11n brethren. Here, we saw the CPU utilization flat line at 0 during all tests.

November 9, 2012 | 10:30 PM - Posted by Operandi

50 Cent; your motherboard has arrived.

Seriously though, if ECS wants to go for the high-end motherboard market blinging it out in gold is not the way to go.

November 10, 2012 | 06:40 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

You really need to see it live to get the full effect.  I tend to like the read and black theme that ASUS ROG boards normal sport, but I would seriously consider putting this one in my system if the o/c performance was better...

November 12, 2012 | 04:52 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The black & gold is too over the top, should go down well with the chaps on the sub continent though.
I could be wrong but as far as I know there is no such thing as a SATA 6 cable. All generation cables are the same.

November 13, 2012 | 07:00 AM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

The SATA 6G cable terminology seems to be more of a corporate marketing-speak term, since you are correct that any SATA cable is capable of handling a SATA III drive/signal.  What I've noticed with the manfacturer-labeled "SATA III" cables is that those cables seem to be a bit thicker and more substantial than the SATA II labeled cables.

November 17, 2012 | 07:41 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The gold thing is silly and impractical. Proper colour coding of every port individually is saner.

As for "eSATA ports", I fail to see why. This is an interface that crashes boxes under almost any OS and is utterly obsoleted by USB3 and Thunderbolt by now.

I would much rather have seen a second gigabit RJ45.

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