The launch of Haswell processors Intel has been accompanied by the arrival of a new platform. Exit motherboards equipped with the LGA1155 socket, the Haswell processors use the new LGA1150.
To control these cards, Intel offers a new line of chipsets , headed the Z87, high-end chipset which is the only legally permitted - and if one has adequate CPU - overclocking. A notion which could also change, we talked in our news management of the multiplier on a platform at ASRock H87 , enough to undermine this totally artificial segmentation introduced by Intel which also extends to management PCIe Gen3 chipset lines, since it was only in the presence of a Z87 that 16 lines can be assigned to more than one port.
The Z87 remains in line with previous chipsets from Intel, but with some minor differences nonetheless. Side storage, mixing two SATA ports 6 Gb / s ports and four 3Gb / s is over: we finally get six ports 6 Gb / s. The number of USB 3.0 managed by the chipset also requires ports from four to six.
Please note there there's a subtlety, however, is what Intel calls I / O Port Flexibility: 2 ports SATA 6 Gb / s and 2 USB ports 3.0 share resources with PCI-Express lines. Intel states that the total number of PCIe, SATA 6Gb / s and USB 3.0 up to 18, 6 + 6 + 6, which means that only 2 PCI-Express lines are no longer functional when using all ports additional.
Also note that unlike previous generations engraved in 65nm, Intel is past for its southbridge to 32nm resulting in a small decline in consumption, although desktop side it will be quite negligible.
Integrated voltage regulator
The motherboard perspective, changes in Southbridge are far from the main. Indeed, the arrival of the new socket is not completely free: Intel offers with its Haswell processors a drastic simplification of the power system. There or six different voltages were previously provided by the motherboard, now there is more than one, the VCCIN to 1.8V which is issued.
This does not mean that the entire chip operates at this voltage, Haswell integrates a voltage regulator that will transform this basic tension in different voltages for different plans power of the chip. The northbridge part has a separate voltage map cache for example, as the cores.
Of course, it is always possible to modify these voltages via the BIOS of the motherboard, even if suddenly they are no longer the latter which directly apply the settings (sometimes somewhat "in their own way" according to manufacturers), but the processor that receives the commands from the motherboard. This theoretically allows to simplify the overclocking procedures and get a little more homogeneous overclocking experience from one model to another and also from one brand to another. We will see in practice that this is indeed the case.
In addition to the user experience, this involves design changes in motherboards that do not have to provide separate phases depending tensions. Now all phases that we see around a processor only VCCIN fueling tension. What clarify the features on the number of phases of the cards, often mixed in different ways by manufacturers!
These can however be different, always, the quality of the said phases, a topic we covered in depth in a previous article we refer to this page and this page for an explanation of how, multiplication and types used.
Before looking in detail the cards we tested, recall our criterion of choice: we looked at the first models Builders ranges offering two PCI Express x8 ports. This gives us five mid-range models:
- ASRock Z87 Extreme3
- Asus Z87-A
- Gigabyte GA-Z87X-D3H
- MSI Z87-G45 Gaming
- MSI Z87-G55
You may remember that in our last tests, we pointed to a practice dishonorable Asus holding to automatically overclock the processors K. In practice, it is an overclocking "subtle" which brings all Turbo coefficients (1/2/3/4 active cores) on the ratio of an active heart. Clearly, fully loaded with four cores on a Core i7 4770K, we are left with a processor 3.9 GHz instead of 3.7 for example.
We believe that enabling this option, and overclock a processor without informing the user n is not the role of a board and takes over the will of the marketing services of builders arrived to differentiate, including and especially in the benchmarks that we can see in some articles. The reality that bothers course builders is that the motherboard has absolutely no role in the performance in normal use.
The original BIOS our Asus card activated by default this option systematically, this is not the case the last BIOS with a different behavior, but not necessarily better.
Obviously the problem when a manufacturer launches such an option - Asus has launched under the name Asus MultiCore Enhancement - is that after a while the competition eventually mimic, shouting loudly that all this n ' is not their fault but that of the competitor who started it. Result if Asus was only one to offer this option to Z77, Z87 on all motherboards have an equivalent setting that allows overclocking this, except that it is not always active, or, more insidiously, not necessarily in all the situations. We return to the subtleties of this operation in the description of each of the BIOS.
However, even for manufacturers who leave the default inactive options in the BIOS public, we must not be naive. Some manufacturers provide BIOS "different" to the press or these options can be enabled automatically by default. The goal is of course to appear at best in news articles, playing on the fact that all the testers are not necessarily aware of the practice, or does not disapprove.
Obviously, we have disabled when necessary these options the tests you will see on the following pages and can only regret this war, unnecessary and backward-looking, we require manufacturers overwhelmed by the evolution of the PC market.
finally, note that the new generations of processors / Intel chipsets are often the opportunity for manufacturers to deploy new. The lack of finishing small bugs, as we shall see, at some builders experience is far from perfectly oiled!