Test Bed

As per our testing policy, we take a high-end CPU suitable for the motherboard that was released during the socket’s initial launch, and equip the system with a suitable amount of memory running at the processor maximum supported frequency. This is also typically run at JEDEC subtimings where possible. It is noted that some users are not keen on this policy, stating that sometimes the maximum supported frequency is quite low, or faster memory is available at a similar price, or that the JEDEC speeds can be prohibitive for performance. While these comments make sense, ultimately very few users apply memory profiles (either XMP or other) as they require interaction with the BIOS, and most users will fall back on JEDEC supported speeds - this includes home users as well as industry who might want to shave off a cent or two from the cost or stay within the margins set by the manufacturer. Where possible, we will extend out testing to include faster memory modules either at the same time as the review or a later date.

Test Setup
Processor AMD Ryzen 7 1700, 65W, $300,
8 Cores, 16 Threads, 3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo)
Motherboard Biostar X370GTN
Cooling Thermaltake Floe Riing RGB 360
Power Supply Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 1200W Gold PSU
Memory 2x16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2400
Video Card ASUS GTX 980 STRIX (1178/1279 Boost)
Hard Drive Crucial MX300 1TB
Case Open Test Bed
Operating System Windows 10 Pro

Readers of our motherboard review section will have noted the trend in modern motherboards to implement a form of MultiCore Enhancement / Acceleration / Turbo (read our report here) on their motherboards. This does several things, including better benchmark results at stock settings (not entirely needed if overclocking is an end-user goal) at the expense of heat and temperature. It also gives, in essence, an automatic overclock which may be against what the user wants. Our testing methodology is ‘out-of-the-box’, with the latest public BIOS installed and XMP enabled, and thus subject to the whims of this feature. It is ultimately up to the motherboard manufacturer to take this risk – and manufacturers taking risks in the setup is something they do on every product (think C-state settings, USB priority, DPC Latency / monitoring priority, overriding memory sub-timings at JEDEC). Processor speed change is part of that risk, and ultimately if no overclocking is planned, some motherboards will affect how fast that shiny new processor goes and can be an important factor in the system build.

Many thanks to...

Thank you to ASUS for providing us with GTX 980 Strix GPUs. At the time of release, the STRIX brand from ASUS was aimed at silent running, or to use the marketing term: '0dB Silent Gaming'. This enables the card to disable the fans when the GPU is dealing with low loads well within temperature specifications. These cards equip the GTX 980 silicon with ASUS' Direct CU II cooler and 10-phase digital VRMs, aimed at high-efficiency conversion. Along with the card, ASUS bundles GPU Tweak software for overclocking and streaming assistance.

The GTX 980 uses NVIDIA's GM204 silicon die, built upon their Maxwell architecture. This die is 5.2 billion transistors for a die size of 298 mm2, built on TMSC's 28nm process. A GTX 980 uses the full GM204 core, with 2048 CUDA Cores and 64 ROPs with a 256-bit memory bus to GDDR5. The official power rating for the GTX 980 is 165W.

The ASUS GTX 980 Strix 4GB (or the full name of STRIX-GTX980-DC2OC-4GD5) runs a reasonable overclock over a reference GTX 980 card, with frequencies in the range of 1178-1279 MHz. The memory runs at stock, in this case 7010 MHz. Video outputs include three DisplayPort connectors, one HDMI 2.0 connector and a DVI-I.

Further Reading: AnandTech's NVIDIA GTX 980 Review

Thank you to Crucial for providing us with MX200/MX300 SSDs. Crucial stepped up to the plate as our benchmark list grows larger with newer benchmarks and titles, and the 1TB units are strong performers. The MX200s are based on Marvell's 88SS9189 controller and using Micron's 16nm 128Gbit MLC flash, these are 7mm high, 2.5-inch drives rated for 100K random read IOPs and 555/500 MB/s sequential read and write speeds. The 1TB models we are using here support TCG Opal 2.0 and IEEE-1667 (eDrive) encryption and have a 320TB rated endurance with a three-year warranty.

Further Reading: AnandTech's Crucial MX200 (250 GB, 500 GB & 1TB) Review

Thank you to Corsair for providing us with Vengeance LPX DDR4 Memory

Corsair kindly sent a set of their Vengeance LPX low profile, high-performance memory. The heatsink is made of pure aluminum to help remove heat from the sticks and has an eight-layer PCB. The heatsink is a low profile design to help fit in spaces where there may not be room for a tall heat spreader; think a SFF case or using a large heatsink.

Benchmark Overview

For our testing, depending on the product, we attempt to tailor the presentation of our global benchmark suite down into what users who would buy this hardware might actually want to run. For CPUs, our full test suite is typically used to gather data and all the results are placed into Bench, our benchmark database for users that want to look at non-typical benchmarks or legacy data. For motherboards, we run our short form CPU tests and our system benchmark tests which focus on non-typical and non-obvious performance metrics that are the focal point for specific groups of users.

The benchmarks fall into several areas:

Short Form CPU

Our short form testing script uses a straight run through of a mixture of known apps or workloads, and requires about four hours. These are typically the CPU tests we run in our motherboard suite, to identify any performance anomalies.

CPU Short Form Benchmarks
Three Dimensional Particle Movement v2.1 (3DPM) 3DPM is a self-penned benchmark, derived from my academic research years looking at particle movement parallelism. The coding for this tool was rough, but emulates the real world in being non-CompSci trained code for a scientific endeavor. The code is unoptimized, but the test uses OpenMP to move particles around a field using one of six 3D movement algorithms in turn, each of which is found in the academic literature. 
The second version of this benchmark is similar to the first, however it has been re-written in VS2012 with one major difference: the code has been written to address the issue of false sharing. If data required by multiple threads, say four, is in the same cache line, the software cannot read the cache line once and split the data to each thread - instead it will read four times in a serial fashion. The new software splits the data to new cache lines so reads can be parallelized and stalls minimized.
WinRAR 5.4 WinRAR is a compression based software to reduce file size at the expense of CPU cycles. We use the version that has been a stable part of our benchmark database through 2015, and run the default settings on a 1.52GB directory containing over 2800 files representing a small website with around thirty half-minute videos. We take the average of several runs in this instance.
POV-Ray 3.7.1 b4 POV-Ray is a common ray-tracing tool used to generate realistic looking scenes. We've used POV-Ray in its various guises over the years as a good benchmark for performance, as well as a tool on the march to ray-tracing limited immersive environments. We use the built-in multithreaded benchmark.
HandBrake v1.0.2 HandBrake is a freeware video conversion tool. We use the tool in to process two different videos into x264 in an MP4 container - first a 'low quality' two-hour video at 640x388 resolution to x264, then a 'high quality' ten-minute video at 4320x3840, and finally the second video again but into HEVC. The low-quality video scales at lower performance hardware, whereas the buffers required for high-quality tests can stretch even the biggest processors. At current, this is a CPU only test.
7-Zip 9.2 7-Zip is a freeware compression/decompression tool that is widely deployed across the world. We run the included benchmark tool using a 50MB library and take the average of a set of fixed-time results.
DigiCortex v1.20 The newest benchmark in our suite is DigiCortex, a simulation of biologically plausible neural network circuits, and simulates the activity of neurons and synapses. DigiCortex relies heavily on a mix of DRAM speed and computational throughput, indicating that systems which apply memory profiles properly should benefit and those that play fast and loose with overclocking settings might get some extra speed up.

System Benchmarks

Our system benchmarks are designed to probe motherboard controller performance, particularly any additional USB controllers or the audio controller. As general platform tests we have DPC Latency measurements and system boot time, which can be difficult to optimize for on the board design and manufacturing level.

System Benchmarks
Power Consumption One of the primary differences between different motherboards is power consumption. Aside from the base defaults that every motherboard needs, things like power delivery, controller choice, routing and firmware can all contribute to how much power a system can draw. This increases for features such as PLX chips and multi-gigabit ethernet.
Non-UEFI POST Time The POST sequence of the motherboard becomes before loading the OS, and involves pre-testing of onboard controllers, the CPU, the DRAM and everything else to ensure base stability. The number of controllers, as well as firmware optimizations, affect the POST time a lot. We test the BIOS defaults as well as attempt a stripped POST.
Rightmark Audio Analyzer 6.2.5 Testing onboard audio is difficult, especially with the numerous amount of post-processing packages now being bundled with hardware. Nonetheless, manufacturers put time and effort into offering a 'cleaner' sound that is loud and of a high quality. RMAA, with version 6.2.5 (newer versions have issues), under the right settings can be used to test the signal-to-noise ratio, signal crossover, and harmonic distortion with noise.
USB Backup USB ports can come from a variety of sources: chipsets, controllers or hubs. More often than not, the design of the traces can lead to direct impacts on USB performance as well as firmware level choices relating to signal integrity on the motherboard.
DPC Latency Another element is deferred procedure call latency, or the ability to handle interrupt servicing. Depending on the motherboard firmware and controller selection, some motherboards handle these interrupts quicker than others. A poor result could lead to delays in performance, or for example with audio, a delayed request can manifest in distinctly audible pauses, pops or clicks.
BIOS And Software System Performance
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  • wolfemane - Monday, October 23, 2017 - link

    Thanks for getting to these little units! The AM4 itx has been a fairly limited product. With gigabyte, asrock, and biostar being the only ones to have boards out. I know Asus was releasing boards today (but haven’t seen them for sale yet).

    Would be nice to see a more in depth look at the power delivery system on these boards. I’ve been using the gigabyte board and it has unbelievable bad voltage control. With cpu voltage set to 1.325v for a 3.85ghz OC, and a low offset I expected no more than .5v over. But I see voltage bounce to 1.58v using HWMonitor. And temps are beyond scary on the vrm’s. Even with a fan directly blowing air over the vrm’s HWMonitor reports ~120c under full load at the mentioned voltage.

    I’ve also been a little disappointed in rear I/o availability across the boards, and the Asus boards look to be the worst. I’m also quite surprised to see the lack of the new usb 3.1 gen 2 motherboard connector on any of these boards.
  • DanNeely - Monday, October 23, 2017 - link

    Yikes! That much deviation sounds like a defect - hopefully just software and thus easily fixable - I'm surprised voltages that high haven't bricked anything. >1.5v is generally only safe with something cooling the chip below ambient temperatures.
  • wolfemane - Monday, October 23, 2017 - link

    I should have stayed that was with a 1700x.

    I’ve seen peaks of 1.68v. I’ve actually contacted gigabyte several times and have received no response back. Latest bios did nothing to bring this under control.

    I’ve actually sully contacted gigabyte a couple of times and have received no response. I was going to place an Rma on the board but I’ve ran across some posts on various forums who experience this issue as well. So I’m kinda suspecting it’s a problem with the board.

    HWMonitor has reported voltage max values upwards of 1.68v when I was trying to push 4.0ghz. That’s with a set value of 1.375v and the same low setting offset. After a week of testing and putting it through the works I wound up reverting back to default settings and then undervolting it... which strangely lead to slightly higher turbos and faster overall exporting times from premier (which I don’t understand).
  • DanNeely - Monday, October 23, 2017 - link

    The latter sounds like the stupidly high voltages were causing thermal protect circuity to intervene and drop your voltage/clocks briefly to prevent the CPU from cooking itself.
  • wolfemane - Monday, October 23, 2017 - link

    Yes! That was the first thing I thought of as well. But when I went back to review the data I collected, cpu temps were all reporting below thermal maximums and verified using ryzen master software. Data collected from HWMonitor. I also didn’t see any cpu throttling when I ran aida64’s stress test. So either I’m reading the data incorrectly (which wouldn’t surprise me) or I’m just plain missing something (which would also not surprise me). Either way the system runs better at stock settings with under volt settings.

    Was hoping the Asus boards would be made available today. Would like to swap boards and do my own testing all over again to see what the results would be in comparison.
  • LeahFleming - Monday, October 23, 2017 - link

    I resigned my office-job and now I am getting paid £64 hourly. How? I work over internet! My old work was making me miserable, so I was forced to try something different, two years after...I can say my life is changed-completely for the better!

    Check it out what i do... http://cutt.us/EnRTV
  • Brother Ali - Thursday, October 26, 2017 - link

    I have the asrock itx B350 and a 1600. I have my voltage set to 1.375 in the bios. In HWMonitor its .384V-1.392V; stays at 1.392V consistently. If ASUS doesnt work out consider asrock, ive been very happy with it so far.
  • Samus - Monday, October 23, 2017 - link

    I don't get it. If you are going to build an ITX board, you are clearly going for a niche market where price isn't as sensitive to the potential buyer. So why cheap out on shit like an ALC892? To further exacerbate the problem, since it is ITX, it is inherently not upgradable since there is no room for expansion.

    This board is BIOdegradable. Asus and ASrock are doing a substantially better job at outfitting their boards with more premium components. You'd be a sucker to buy something like this for a system when you could get a premium board for 20% more.
  • lmcd - Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - link

    The BioStar was released prior to availability of the B350 chipset. The ASRock using the X370 chipset costs $150, a substantial amount more than this board.
  • sonny73n - Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - link

    In my years of building rigs, Gigabytes had the worst voltage control for the CPU. Moreover, their boards' bios and softwares were behind their competitions and weren't working too well. It seems they haven't improved in the last few years. My advice to anyone who plans to overclock - avoid Gigabytes.

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