MSI Z77A-G45 Thunderbolt 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.
The audio playback was distortion free, making for an enjoyable listening experience.
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. However, volume of the recorded volume seemed muted on playback, requiring the use of Microphone Boost to increase pickup by a minimum of +20db and an increase in the input pickup volume.
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. 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 200-250MB/s (about 60-75% of its rated 350MB/s throughput).
USB 2.0 and 3.0 device performance fell within expectations. No surprises here.
The internal drive performance numbers also fell within expected ranges with the SATA III device reads coming in just under 30MB/s slower than the writes. Normally, the spread between read and write performance on SATA III ports is closer to 50MB/s.
For information on the MSI Z77A-G45 Thunderbolt's performance when using the integrated Thunderbolt device port, please see our reviews of the MSI Z77A-GD80 and the ASUS P8Z77-V Premium. Take note that the MSI Z77A-GD80 motherboard is designed using the same Thunderbolt implementation as that used on the Z77A-G45 Thunderbolt.
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.
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).
For both the small and large file transfer tests, performance fell within expectations. However, the controller was not able to break the 100MB/s barrier for sustained periods. During all tests, CPU utilization averaged below an impressive 10%.