GIGABYTE Z77N-WiFi 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 analogue audio ports.
Audio playback was distortion-free, making for an enjoyable listen experience. When using an audio setup with more than two channels, you may have to enabled the Speaker Fill setting within the Realtek HD Audio Manager to hear playback across all speakers.
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
Playback of the recorded audio was surprisingly good without Microphone Boost enabled. As long as the input volume for the Microphone port is set correctly (in testing, this was found to be around 50%), audio pickup is audible with no distortion detected and within the need for Microphone Boost.
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. An Oyen Digital MiniPro™ eSATA / USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive enclosure (rated for SATA III transfer speeds) was used for USB-based 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.
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 250-325MB/s on a SATA III-based adapter. Note that USB 3.0 ports are rated for a maximum throughput of 350MB/s.
Device port speeds averages for both read and write tests came in within expectations. Impressively enough, the USB 3.0 measured speeds meet or exceed that of the SSD on a SATA II port.
The SATA ports performed within expectations with the SATA III port speeds pushing the performance limits of the SSD.
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 motherboard's 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.
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 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).
Note that it was found that both of the onboard Realtek-based GigE controllers show similar performance in testing. The Realtek GigE controller performed as expected with the large file transfer speeds the most impressive, falling just under 100MB/s for uploads and at 104 MB/s for download. The small file transfer averages did not break the 90 MB/s mark. During both tests, measured CPU utilization remained under 10%.
Intel Centrino wireless adapter, 802.11n protocol
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 performance of the Intel Centrino-based 802.11n adapter was inconsistent at best. The connection speed plunged from its 300Mbps rate to 150Mbps for no apparent reason. The signal strength was strong between the board's antenna and the wireless router. Further this behavior was witnessed no matter the distance between the board antenna's and the router. Across the board, the adapter averaged a mere 7 MB/s transfer rate. That rate is about half of the expected speeds from a 300Mbps-based 802.11n adapter. The CPU utilization remained around the 5% mark during the runs.
Intel Centrino wireless adapter, Bluetooth protocol
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 an 802.11n 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-based system.
The Intel Centrino-based Bluetooth adapter performed well with average transfer speeds in most tests exceeding 200 KB/s. In all cases, CPU utilization remained low at an average of 2-3%.