Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/6947/asus-maximus-v-gene-vs-gigabyte-g1sniper-m3-review



Competition between gaming mATX boards doesn’t get any tougher than this.  In the red corner, weighing in at $200 and from the Republic of Gamers’ range, we have the ASUS Maximus V Gene.  In the green corner, weighing in at $170 and providing the competition, we have the Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3.  Let’s get ready to review!

ASUS Maximus V Gene Overview

The ASUS MVG has a good heritage behind it – the Republic Of Gamers brand is now a definitive landmark in the motherboard arena, where from the least expensive to the extreme board we have consistency in terms of BIOS, software, optimizations and effort on behalf of the manufacturer.  In our testing it is clear to see why – the MVG performs very well across the board.

For the price of $200, we get a gaming motherboard with overclocking potential.  On board are the characteristic features of the ASUS ROG range – aside from the red and black livery, we get a mPCIe combo card for a WiFi card and half-height mSATA card, an Intel NIC, voltage read points, five fan headers, additional SATA 6 Gbps, additional USB 3.0, onboard power/reset buttons, and SupremeFX audio (an enhanced layout for the Realtek ALC898 codec).  In the software are the best fan controls ever placed on a motherboard with FanXpert II, alongside USB 3.0 Boost, ROG Connect, USB BIOS Flashback, and a BIOS that attempts to make every option under the sun available for a tweaker to go nuts.

Alongside all the hardware, users may want to head over to the ROG forums, which allow users with any ASUS motherboard to ask for assistance in setting up their hardware, or for enthusiasts to tackle each other head on in overclocking contests.  Users can also sign up for ROG Pro and take advantage of ROG Exchange so share settings or OC Knockout.  We reviewed ROG as a brand in 2012, and to date is the only ‘thing’ I have ever given an AnandTech Gold Award to.

Users who want a mATX Z77 board can take the Maximus V Gene and be happy that they made a good purchase.

Visual Inspection

The red and black livery, as with all ROG boards, shines through with the Maximus V Gene.  All high end motherboards, no matter what the market, have had a renaissance regarding attention to detail and color coordination, and I do like a good coordinated board.  The first comparison point made compared to the G1.Sniper M3 in this review is going to be the VRM heatsink.  The ASUS MVG uses a thick heatsink above and to the side of the socket, connected via a flat heatpipe.  It feels quite substantial, especially when up against the G1. Sniper M3 offering.

The socket area is actually at the minimum Intel recommended specifications, meaning that large coolers going left to right may have difficulty if you want to populate all the memory slots as well with anything other than a low profile kit.  The socket area has access to four fan headers for CPU fans – two 4-pins above the socket, another 4-pin to the bottom left of the socket, and one more beside the 24-pin ATX power connector.  The final fan header is a 4-pin on the bottom of the board.

Moving clockwise around the board, our memory slots feature the single sided latching mechanism used on most high end models in recent times – I find them sufficiently easier to use, although many users may just get the MVG and plug in memory once throughout its entire life.  Next to the memory slots are a series of voltage read points for users to solder on their own DMMs, and also right next to a GO_BUTTON, for one touch overclocks set in the BIOS.  Underneath this button are the ASUS Q-LEDs, for a quick reference as to what failed during a boot failure.

The 24-pin ATX power connector and USB 3.0 header follow next, and then onto the SATA ports.  As ASUS is using an extra ASMedia SATA 6 Gbps controller, we get a total of four SATA 6 Gbps ports in red, along with two SATA 3 Gbps ports in black.  That still leaves two SATA 3 Gbps ports from the chipset, one of which is used as an eSATA on the rear IO, and the other is for the mPCIe combo card as a half-height mSATA.  Beneath the SATA ports is a two-digit debug LED display, along with a pair of power/reset buttons onboard.

Along the bottom of the board, aside from the power/reset buttons are our front panel headers, two USB 2.0 headers, a TB_Header (if you invest in the ASUS Thunderbolt add-in card), a SPDIF header, and the SupremeFX III audio solution.

We covered the SupremeFX IV audio package on the Maximus V Formula, which differs by virtue of a headphone amplifier on the IV version, as well as few additional tweaks.

The PCIe layout is indicative of ASUS pointing at dual GPU setups, with two PCIe 3.0 x16 ports (x8/x8 in dual GPU), followed by an open ended PCIe 2.0 x4 if needed.

On the rear we have our Clear_CMOS button, a mini-PCIe combo card (for a dual WiFi card and space for an mSATA drive), an ROG Connect button, four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 from an ASMedia controller, an eSATA 3 Gbps port, HDMI, DisplayPort, SPDIF Output, two USB 3.0 from the chipset, Intel NIC, and audio outputs.  The white port on the USB 2.0 set is for ROG Connect (via the included cable) and USB BIOS Flashback, a handy tool for BIOS flashing without a CPU, RAM or GPU installed.

Board Features

ASUS Maximus V Gene
Price Link
Size mATX
CPU Interface LGA-1155
Chipset Intel Z77
Memory Slots Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 32 GB
Up to Dual Channel, 1066-3000 MHz
Video Outputs HDMI
DisplayPort
Onboard LAN Intel
Onboard Audio SupremeFX III (Realtek ALC898)
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16/-, x8/x8)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x4
Onboard SATA/RAID 2 x SATA 6 Gbps (Chipset), RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
2 x SATA 6 Gbps (ASMedia), RAID 0, 1
2 x SATA 3 Gbps (Chipset), RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
1 x eSATA 3 Gbps (Chipset)
USB 4 x USB 3.0 (Chipset) [2 back panel,. 2 onboard]
2 x USB 3.0 (ASMedia) [2 back panel]
8 x USB 2.0 (Chipset) [4 back panel, 4 onboard]
Onboard 4 x SATA 6 Gbps
2 x SATA 3 Gbps
1 x USB 3.0
2 x USB 2.0
Power/Reset Buttons
Two-Digit Debug
5 x Fan Headers
mPCIe Combo Card
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX Power Connector
1 x 8-pin CPU Power Connector
Fan Headers 2 x CPU (4-pin)
3 x CHA (4-pin)
IO Panel 1 x Clear_CMOS Button
mPCIe Combo Card
1 x ROG Connect Button
4 x USB 2.0
- Including ROG Connect + Flashback
2 x USB 3.0 (Chipset)
2 x USB 3.0 (ASMedia)
1 x eSATA 3 Gbps
HDMI
DisplayPort
SPDIF Output
Audio Jacks
Warranty Period 3 Years + ASUS Premium Service
Product Page Link

Compared to the G1.Sniper M3, the ASUS comes away with a lot of hardware in its favor – the extra USB 3.0 ports, extra SATA 6 Gbps ports, an Intel NIC, power/reset buttons, a two digit debug, voltage read points, Q-LED, and fully controllable fan headers.  While the $200 price tag of the MVG is the highest of any mATX board, ASUS feel that the level of functionality, along with the software, ROG forums and support structure, are well worth the investment.  It will be interesting to see how the differing audio features of the MVG and G1.Sniper M3 compare to each other.



ASUS Maximus V Gene In The Box

Gaming motherboards have to have that something extra in the box that adds to the value of the purchase.  It has to be something aside from the normal stuff that comes in the package – a gamer wants a little extra.  Whether that is decals to spread around the case, or an additional feature or two, the package must feel like something worth a little bit more to give a sensation of ‘free’. 

Inside the ASUS Maximus V Gene, we get:

Rear IO Shield
User Guide
Driver CD
Door Handle Sign that says “I’m gaming, do not disturb”
A set of labels for SATA cables
A mPCIe Combo Card
Six SATA Cables
ROG Connect Cable
A Flexi SLI Cable
Q-Connectors

In terms of connectivity, ASUS has you covered – plenty of SATA cables in the box, with Q-Connectors to help with case switches.  There is no USB 3.0 front panel as there is only one USB 3.0 header on board - this is typically taken by any modern case.

ASUS Maximus V Gene Overclocking

Note: Ivy Bridge does not overclock like Sandy Bridge.  For a detailed report on the effect of voltage on Ivy Bridge (and thus temperatures and power draw), please read Undervolting and Overclocking on Ivy Bridge.

Experience with ASUS Maximus V Gene

Overclocking on ASUS motherboards has historically been rather good, given that it is one of the areas they focus on when designing a motherboard.  The ROG range is the epitome of this effort of course, and the options available to users who wish to fiddle in the BIOS are both numerate and expansive.

For users wishing to automatic overclock, we have several options.  In the OS, the TurboV Evo software part of AI Suite gives ‘CPU Level Up options for 4.2 GHz, 4.4 GHz and 4.6 GHz.  Each of these is a one button click, accept and reboot.  In the BIOS, users have the option of a ‘Gamer’s OC’, which boosts the CPU to a 48/47/46/45 multiplier depending on loading.  All options affect the voltage applied of course, and our results are below.

For manual overclocks, we took our base settings for our rather poor CPU (40x multiplier and 1.100 volts) and slowly raised the multiplier while trying to find the voltage at which each multiplier was stable.  All other settings were left on auto, and compared to the Z77A-GD65 Gaming, almost all voltages the temperature reported by the CPU was a lot less, allowing us to get 4.6 GHz from the CPU, albeit at a rather wild 1.45 volts.

Methodology:

Our standard overclocking methodology is as follows.  We select the automatic overclock options and test for stability with PovRay and OCCT to simulate high-end workloads.  These stability tests aim to catch any immediate causes for memory or CPU errors.

For manual overclocks, based on the information gathered from previous testing, starts off at a nominal voltage and CPU multiplier, and the multiplier is increased until the stability tests are failed.  The CPU voltage is increased gradually until the stability tests are passed, and the process repeated until the motherboard reduces the multiplier automatically (due to safety protocol) or the CPU temperature reaches a stupidly high level (100ºC+).  Our test bed is not in a case, which should push overclocks higher with fresher (cooler) air.

Automatic Overclock:

For CPU Level 1, the system applied a 42x100 overclock, setting the CPU voltage at 1.275 volts.  This gave 1.280 volts at load in the OS, with a PovRay score of 1523.17 and an OCCT load temperature of 72ºC.

For CPU Level 2, the system applied a 44x100 overclock, setting the CPU voltage at 1.325 volts.  This gave 1.328 volts at load in the OS, with a PovRay score of 1601.70 and an OCCT load temperature of 74ºC.

For CPU Level 3, the system applied a 46x100 overclock, setting the CPU voltage at 1.330 volts.  This gave 1.336 volts at load in the OS, but caused PovRay to crash with a memory error and OCCT to BSOD.

The Gamer’s OC Profile in the BIOS attempted to apply a 48/47/46/45x multiplier overclock based on loading, along with a CPU voltage of 1.350 volts and load line calibration set to high.  This configuration caused the system to blue screen on boot.

Manual Overclock:

For our manual overclocks, we left LLC at automatic, as well as power/current settings.  Here are our results:



Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 Overview

Visually, the G1.Sniper M3 looks like it packs a punch.  The black and green livery is relatively striking compared to the red and black of other gaming motherboards (ASUS, MSI, ASRock), but on closer inspection we see a diminutive VRM heatsink, no power/reset buttons, no two digit debug, five SATA ports (one perpendicular to the board) and a slightly odd PCIe layout (visually).

Normally for a microATX motherboard, the PCIe layout is such that we have x8/x1/x8/x4, with the first slot being x16 when the second x8 is not populated.  If you are not too careful, the G1.Sniper M3 actually has the layout slightly different – x8/x1/x4/x8.  Because the final two slots are the same color, it could be very easy to put the GPU in the wrong slot and not notice.  In fact, I did that – when I saw my gaming benchmarks performing worse (due to the x4 from the chipset), I had to double check what PCIe slots I was actually putting my GPUs in.  As a result, I tested both x8/x8 and x16+x4 configurations in this review.  It is worth noting that the x4 slot does not work for SLI, as SLI requires each video card to have an x8 minimum.

The big draw for the G1.Sniper M3 is going to be the audio – Gigabyte has gone with a Creative CA0132 chip, along with additional features on board to improve the quality of the signal.  Much like what we see on ASUS motherboards, larger capacitors for filtering and an EM shield is placed around the audio section.  However it is worth noting that the audio is not wholly isolated from the board in a separate PCB layer – various other chips do have tracing in and out of the EM shield.  Nevertheless, when we tested the sound solution, due to the software included we could not get a clear reading.  The only setting that gave any meaningful results with all the features enabled was 16-bit 48 kHz – in order to get the rest of the numbers, all the additional features had to be turned off.

As the Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 enables multi-core turbo by default (when XMP is enabled), we get relatively good performance across our CPU benchmarks to match the ASUS MVG.  The DPC Latency can be high if EasyTune 6 is left enabled, and the power usage seemed a little high in Metro with dual GPUs, but USB performance is reasonable.  Overclocking on the G1.Sniper 3 gave results similar to the MVG in both automatic and manual modes, with a variety of options related to LLC adjusted in automatic mode to make temperatures reach near limits (85ºC on an open test bed).

For $170, the Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 is a tough sell.  Sure it is cheaper than the ASUS MVG by $30, but the difference in terms of additional hardware, support, software and features like fan controls is almost night and day.

Visual Inspection

The green of Gigabyte’s gaming range is hard to miss, and after our review of the full sized G1.Sniper 3, it will be interesting to see what exactly has been taken out for the G1.Sniper M3.  To start, our VRM heatsink is smaller than that found on the G1.Sniper 3, with the chipset heatsink also petite, with no heatpipe connection between them.  The socket area is thus relatively bare, with no restriction above and below for large heatsinks.  We have three fan headers near the socket for fans – the CPU 4-pin above the socket, a SYS 4-pin to the top left of the socket, and another 4-pin just below the 24-pin ATX power connector.  The final 4-pin is on the bottom right of the board.

The memory slots are not the single sided latched versions which seem to populate the more expensive boards, but moving around the board in a clockwise direction, we have our 24-pin ATX power connector, and then a USB 3.0 header, powered by the chipset.  We have only 5 SATA connectors on board – two 6 Gbps in white, two 3 Gbps in black, and another 3 Gbps in black sticking out of the board.  It is odd to have a ‘gaming’ motherboard with no extra USB 3.0 or SATA 6 Gbps controllers – hopefully this is reflected in the price.

Continuing around the board and we have our three USB 2.0 headers, one in red to indicate it is the quick charge header.  We also have a TPM module, and the front panel audio header.

The audio on the G1.Sniper M3 is worth a closer look – it uses the Creative CA0132 audio codec rather than a Realtek:

We can quite clearly see a small EM shield around the audio section of the motherboard, as well as a couple of filter caps towards the front panel audio header.  While not as extensive as the ASUS SupremeFX audio solution, the proof will be in the testing. After speaking with Gigabyte, it is worth noting that the audio on the G1.Sniper M3 is not in its own isolated later on the motherboard.

The PCIe layout is typical for a mATX, featuring two main PCIe x16 slots separated by an x1 slot and an x4 from the chipset.  This would set the system up nicely for a dual double-slot GPU setup with an x4 WiFi or RAID card.

The rear IO is a little confusing.  Here we have all the video outputs, but this is a gaming motherboard – surely we would be expecting all users to have a discrete GPU?  In this circumstance only one video output should really be considered, and perhaps fill up the space with an OC button, a ClearCMOS button, or a stack of four USB 2.0 ports.

From left to right we have two USB 2.0 ports, a PS/2 combination port, D-Sub, DVI-D, DisplayPort, HDMI, another two USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA 3 Gbps port, an Intel Gigabit network port, two USB 3.0 ports, and our audio jacks.

Board Features

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3
Price Link
Size mATX
CPU Interface LGA-1155
Chipset Intel Z77
Memory Slots Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 32 GB
Up to Dual Channel, 1066-2800 MHz
Video Outputs D-Sub
DVI-D
HDMI
DisplayPort
Onboard LAN Intel
Onboard Audio Creative CA0132
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16/-, x8/x8)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x4
1 x PCIe 2.0 x1
Onboard SATA/RAID 2 x SATA 6 Gbps (Chipset), RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
3 x SATA 3 Gbps (Chipset), RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
1 x eSATA 3 Gbps (Chipset)
USB 4 x USB 3.0 (Chipet) [2 back panel, 2 onboard]
10 x USB 2.0 (Chipset) [4 back panel, 6 onboard]
Onboard 2 x SATA 6 Gbps
3 x SATA 3 Gbps
1 x USB 3.0 Header
3 x USB 2.0 Header
4 x Fan Headers
1 x TPM Header
1 x Clear_CMOS Jumper
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX Power Connector
1 x 4-pin CPU Power Connector
Fan Headers 1 x CPU (4-pin)
3 x SYS (4-pin)
IO Panel 1 x Combination PS/2 Port
D-Sub
DVI-D
HDMI
DisplayPort
1 x eSATA 3 Gbps
2 x USB 3.0
4 x USB 2.0
1 x Intel GbE
1 x Optical SPDIF Output
Audio Jacks
Warranty Period 3 Years
Product Page Link

If anything, the G1.Sniper M3 feels extremely bare.  No additional USB 3.0 ports, no additional SATA 6 Gbps controllers, but a full complement of IO video outputs.  By reducing these numbers (a simple gaming machine needs no more than the basics), Gigabyte do not need to invest in a PCIe 2.0 PLX chip to split some of the chipset lanes.  This ‘saving’ has gone into the Creative audio solution.  I do have a big beef though due to the lack of power/reset buttons on board as well as a two-digit LED debug.  When a board goes wrong, having these features helps the rest of us dealing with the issue!



Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 In The Box

Over the past 24 months, it has been somewhat exciting looking into the minds of manufacturers if you purely look into their bundles.  You can tell when a manufacturer is skimping on the extras to meet a lower price point – less SATA cables is a big giveaway, or not including a USB 3.0 bracket when two USB 3.0 headers are on board.  Gigabyte in the past usually split their bundles – anything below a UD5 is usually short of items, but UD5 and above (including the gaming ranges) has plenty to say for itself.

In the G1.Sniper M3 we get:

Rear IO Shield
Driver Disk
User Guide
Two Gigabyte Posters, Glossy
Six SATA Cables
Flexi SLI Bridge

Obviously the things that strike out are the posters.  I could image a freshman student in college putting these on the wall, but anything other than that and it seems a bit odd.  Being in my late twenties and married, I personally would not want to put these on the wall even if I was allowed to!

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 Overclocking

Note: Ivy Bridge does not overclock like Sandy Bridge.  For a detailed report on the effect of voltage on Ivy Bridge (and thus temperatures and power draw), please read Undervolting and Overclocking on Ivy Bridge.

Experience with Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3

Much like overclocking with the ASUS Maximus V Gene, we have three automatic overclock options to choose from in the operating system, along with BIOS options for manual overclocks.  The Gigabyte does not offer the automatic options in the BIOS, but they do have an additional OS mode to test for an overclock, dubbed ‘Automatic Tuning’.

For the automatic overclocks, the EasyTune6 software packed in plenty of voltage, using both a higher than stock fixed voltage with an offset.  As a result two of the three settings were stable, although the temperature under load was a cause for concern.  Due to our relatively bad CPU, the more extreme third setting and auto tuning were not able to perform.

Manual overclock options on the G1.Sniper 3 are split between those in ET6 (which are enabled at boot time when the software is loaded) or those that are set in the BIOS.  In the BIOS the options are spread around a few menus – the important ones of CPU multiplier, CPU voltage and Load Line Calibration are in all different menus to add to the confusion.  Despite this, overclock performance was reasonable, matching the ASUS MVG.

Methodology:

Our standard overclocking methodology is as follows.  We select the automatic overclock options and test for stability with PovRay and OCCT to simulate high-end workloads.  These stability tests aim to catch any immediate causes for memory or CPU errors.

For manual overclocks, based on the information gathered from previous testing, starts off at a nominal voltage and CPU multiplier, and the multiplier is increased until the stability tests are failed.  The CPU voltage is increased gradually until the stability tests are passed, and the process repeated until the motherboard reduces the multiplier automatically (due to safety protocol) or the CPU temperature reaches a stupidly high level (100ºC+).  Our test bed is not in a case, which should push overclocks higher with fresher (cooler) air. 

Automatic Overclock:

Using EasyTune6, CPU Level 1 attempts a 41x102 overclock (4182 MHz) and applies 1.295 volts to the CPU along with a +0.150 volt offset.  This setting was stable, giving 1.392 volts on the CPU at load, a score of 1519.50 in PovRay, and a peak temperature of 85ºC in OCCT.

CPU Level 2 attempts a 43x103 overclock (4429 MHz) and applies 1.300 + 0.150 volts on the CPU.  This setting was stable, giving 1.404 volts on the CPU at load, a score of 1615.00 in PovRay and a peak temperature of 86ºC in OCCT.

CPU Level 3 attempts a 45x104 overclock (4680 MHz) and applies 1.345 + 0.150 volts on the CPU.  This setting was not stable, giving 1.476 volts on the CPU at load, causing a memory error in PovRay and a BSOD in OCCT.

Auto Tuning in ET6 tries 43x105 (4515 MHz) at 1.400 volts, but this setting causes a BSOD on boot.

Manual Overclock:

Starting at our base settings of 4.0 GHz on the CPU and 1.100 volts, stability was tested to find the minimum stable voltage as the multiplier was increased.  Results are tabulated thus:



Many thanks to...

We must thank the following companies for kindly providing hardware for our test bed:

Thank you to OCZ for providing us with 1250W Gold Power Supplies.
Thank you to G.Skill for providing us with the memory kits.
Thank you to ASUS for providing us with the AMD GPUs and some IO Testing kit.
Thank you to ECS for providing us with the NVIDIA GPUs.
Thank you to Corsair for providing us with the Corsair H80i CLC.
Thank you to Rosewill for providing us with the 500W Platinum Power Supply for mITX testing, BlackHawk Ultra, and 1600W Hercules PSU for extreme dual CPU + quad GPU testing, and RK-9100 keyboards.

Software and BIOS

Normally as part of a review we would examine the Software and BIOS of each motherboard.  Both the ASUS and Gigabyte boards have bigger brothers, wherein we tested and analyzed the offerings from both manufacturers.  Please click to link through to the ASUS ROG MVF Software and BIOS analysis, or the Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Software and BIOS analysis.

Test Setup

Test Setup
Processor Intel Core i7-3770K Retail
4 Cores, 8 Threads, 3.5 GHz (3.9 GHz Turbo)
Motherboards ASRock Z77 Extreme4
ASRock Z77 Extreme6
ASRock Z77 Extreme9
ASRock Z77 OC Formula
ASRock Fatal1ty Z77 Professional
ASUS P8Z77-V Pro
ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe
ASUS P8Z77-V Premium
ASUS ROG Maximus V Formula
ASUS ROG Maximus V Gene
Biostar TZ77XE4
ECS Z77H2-AX
EVGA Z77 FTW
Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H
Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H
Gigabyte GA-Z77MX-D3H
Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3
Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3
Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP4 TH
Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP7
MSI Z77 MPower
MSI Z77A-GD65
MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming
Cooling Thermalright TRUE Copper
Power Supply OCZ 1250W Gold ZX Series
Memory GSkill TridentX 4x4 GB DDR3-2400 10-12-12 Kit
GSkill TridentX 2x4 GB DDR3-2666 11-13-13 Kit
Memory Settings XMP (2400 10-12-12)
Video Cards ASUS HD7970 3GB
ECS GTX 580 1536MB
Video Drivers Catalyst 12.3
NVIDIA Drivers 296.10 WHQL
Hard Drive Micron RealSSD C300 256GB
Optical Drive LG GH22NS50
Case Open Test Bed - CoolerMaster Lab V1.0
Operating System Windows 7 64-bit
USB 2/3 Testing OCZ Vertex 3 240GB with SATA->USB Adaptor

Power Consumption

Power consumption was tested on the system as a whole with a wall meter connected to the OCZ 1250W power supply, while in a dual 7970 GPU configuration.  This power supply is Gold rated, and as I am in the UK on a 230-240 V supply, leads to ~75% efficiency > 50W, and 90%+ efficiency at 250W, which is suitable for both idle and multi-GPU loading.  This method of power reading allows us to compare the power management of the UEFI and the board to supply components with power under load, and includes typical PSU losses due to efficiency.  These are the real world values that consumers may expect from a typical system (minus the monitor) using this motherboard.

While this method for power measurement may not be ideal, and you feel these numbers are not representative due to the high wattage power supply being used (we use the same PSU to remain consistent over a series of reviews, and the fact that some boards on our test bed get tested with three or four high powered GPUs), the important point to take away is the relationship between the numbers.  These boards are all under the same conditions, and thus the differences between them should be easy to spot.

One would expect power consumption of smaller motherboards to be less than that of full sized ATX ones – in the case of the Sniper M3 at idle that is true, but when it is loaded with two GPUs during Metro2033, it matches some of the high end ATX models, and moreso than the full G1.Sniper 3.  This could perhaps be related to the audio solution.

POST Time

Different motherboards have different POST sequences before an operating system is initialized.  A lot of this is dependent on the board itself, and POST boot time is determined by the controllers on board (and the sequence of how those extras are organized).  As part of our testing, we are now going to look at the POST Boot Time - this is the time from pressing the ON button on the computer to when Windows starts loading. (We discount Windows loading as it is highly variable given Windows specific features.)  These results are subject to human error, so please allow +/- 1 second in these results.

POST (Power-On Self-Test) Time

Neither motherboard is able to hit a glorious 12 seconds for Windows 7 POST times with two GPUs installed.



Rightmark Audio Analyzer 6.2.5

In part due to reader requests, we are pleased to include Rightmark Audio Analyzer results in our benchmark suite.  The premise behind Rightmark:AA is to test the input and output of the audio system to determine noise levels, range, harmonic distortion, stereo crosstalk and so forth.  Rightmark:AA should indicate how well the sound system is built and isolated from electrical interference (either internally or externally).  For this test we connect the Line Out to the Line In using a short six inch 3.5mm to 3.5mm high-quality jack, turn the OS volume to 100%, and run the Rightmark default test suite at 48 kHz, 96 kHz and 192 kHz.  We look specifically at the Dynamic Range of the audio codec used on board, as well as the Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise.

RightMark Audio Analyzer: Dynamic Range (16-bit)

RightMark Audio Analyzer: THD + Noise (16-bit)

In our limited audio test, the G1.Sniper M3 does come out better off than the SupremeFX III, but in order to get there we had to disable the majority of the add-in software that comes with the Gigabyte in order to get the test to even run at anything more than 48 kHz.

USB 3.0 Backup

For this benchmark, we run CrystalDiskMark to determine the ideal sequential read and write speeds for the USB port using our 240 GB OCZ Vertex3 SSD with a SATA 6 Gbps to USB 3.0 converter.  Then we transfer a set size of files from the SSD to the USB drive using DiskBench, which monitors the time taken to transfer.  The files transferred are a 1.52 GB set of 2867 files across 320 folders – 95% of these files are small typical website files, and the rest (90% of the size) are the videos used in the WinRAR test. 

The Maximus V Gene is ahead in terms of USB 2.0 speeds and efficiency.

Similarly in USB 3.0, the ASUS takes the lead.  As the ASUS has USB 3.0 Boost and an ASMedia controller for extra USB 3.0 ports, we can see that any setting hits the high echelons of our USB 3.0 test.  It is worth noting that ASUS have the top eight spots in our most recent USB 3.0 data.

DPC Latency

Deferred Procedure Call latency is a way in which Windows handles interrupt servicing.  In order to wait for a processor to acknowledge the request, the system will queue all interrupt requests by priority.  Critical interrupts will be handled as soon as possible, whereas lesser priority requests, such as audio, will be further down the line.  So if the audio device requires data, it will have to wait until the request is processed before the buffer is filled.  If the device drivers of higher priority components in a system are poorly implemented, this can cause delays in request scheduling and process time, resulting in an empty audio buffer – this leads to characteristic audible pauses, pops and clicks.  Having a bigger buffer and correctly implemented system drivers obviously helps in this regard.  The DPC latency checker measures how much time is processing DPCs from driver invocation – the lower the value will result in better audio transfer at smaller buffer sizes.  Results are measured in microseconds and taken as the peak latency while cycling through a series of short HD videos - under 500 microseconds usually gets the green light, but the lower the better.

DPC Latency Maximum

ASUS typically do very well in DPC Latency, and the Gene is no exception – 81 microseconds was actually a tall peak compared to a baseline around 35-40.  Gigabyte’s result required EasyTune6 to be turned off, otherwise the peak was nearer 500 microseconds.



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 – better benchmark results at stock settings (not entirely needed if overclocking is an end-user goal), at the expense of heat and temperature, but 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, memory subtimings at JEDEC).  Processor speed change is part of that risk which is clearly visible, 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 purchase.

Both the ASUS Maximus V Gene and the Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 use MCT when XMP is applied.

3D Movement Algorithm Test

The algorithms in 3DPM employ both uniform random number generation or normal distribution random number generation, and vary in various amounts of trigonometric operations, conditional statements, generation and rejection, fused operations, etc.  The benchmark runs through six algorithms for a specified number of particles and steps, and calculates the speed of each algorithm, then sums them all for a final score.  This is an example of a real world situation that a computational scientist may find themselves in, rather than a pure synthetic benchmark.  The benchmark is also parallel between particles simulated, and we test the single thread performance as well as the multi-threaded performance.

3D Particle Movement Single Threaded

3D Particle Movement MultiThreaded

As both motherboards enable MCT, we see a higher-than-baseline result for our multithreaded test.  Surprisingly the G1.Sniper M3 comes out as the most efficient for 3DPM-MT we have ever tested.

WinRAR x64 3.93 - link

With 64-bit WinRAR, we compress the set of files used in the USB speed tests. WinRAR x64 3.93 attempts to use multithreading when possible, and provides as a good test for when a system has variable threaded load.  If a system has multiple speeds to invoke at different loading, the switching between those speeds will determine how well the system will do.

WinRar x64 3.93

With both motherboards having MCT and the same memory timings, results come in within one-hundredth of a second between the two.  We are now testing using a command line interface, giving greater resolution in our timing results.  We have also been testing WinRaR 4.2, whereby the ASUS MVG scores 49.37 seconds and the Gigabyte G1.S-M3 scores 49.19 seconds.

FastStone Image Viewer 4.2 - link

FastStone Image Viewer is a free piece of software I have been using for quite a few years now.  It allows quick viewing of flat images, as well as resizing, changing color depth, adding simple text or simple filters.  It also has a bulk image conversion tool, which we use here.  The software currently operates only in single-thread mode, which should change in later versions of the software.  For this test, we convert a series of 170 files, of various resolutions, dimensions and types (of a total size of 163MB), all to the .gif format of 640x480 dimensions.

FastStone Image Viewer 4.2

Xilisoft Video Converter

With XVC, users can convert any type of normal video to any compatible format for smartphones, tablets and other devices.  By default, it uses all available threads on the system, and in the presence of appropriate graphics cards, can utilize CUDA for NVIDIA GPUs as well as AMD APP for AMD GPUs.  For this test, we use a set of 32 HD videos, each lasting 30 seconds, and convert them from 1080p to an iPod H.264 video format using just the CPU.  The time taken to convert these videos gives us our result.

Xilisoft Video Converter 7

x264 HD Benchmark

The x264 HD Benchmark uses a common HD encoding tool to process an HD MPEG2 source at 1280x720 at 3963 Kbps.  This test represents a standardized result which can be compared across other reviews, and is dependant on both CPU power and memory speed.  The benchmark performs a 2-pass encode, and the results shown are the average of each pass performed four times.

x264 HD Pass 1

x264 HD Pass 2

 



Metro2033

Metro2033 is a DX11 benchmark that challenges every system that tries to run it at any high-end settings.  Developed by 4A Games and released in March 2010, we use the inbuilt DirectX 11 Frontline benchmark to test the hardware at 2560x1440 with full graphical settings.  Results are given as the average frame rate from 4 runs.

Metro 2033 1 GPU 2 GPU
AMD
NVIDIA

Despite the Gigabyte motherboard being the better performer with AMD, the ASUS has a nose ahead with NVIDIA cards.  Due to the GPU limited nature of Metro2033, and the fact it is rather ubiquitous to lane counts, the x16 + x4 of the Gigabyte performs within a few percent of x8/x8.

Dirt 3

Dirt 3 is a rallying video game and the third in the Dirt series of the Colin McRae Rally series, developed and published by Codemasters.  Using the in game benchmark, Dirt 3 is run at 2560x1440 with Ultra graphical settings.  Results are reported as the average frame rate across four runs.

Dirt3 1 GPU 2 GPU
AMD
NVIDIA

Both motherboards are still trading blows with Dirt3, though what is noticeable is that x16+x4 from the Gigabyte board performs a lot worse than x8/x8 from the CPU – moving from above 120 FPS to below it.  Make sure you put the GPUs in the right slots!



While we have not had many Z77 micro-ATX motherboards in to review this generation (something we will be remedying for Haswell), getting to grips with both the Maximus V Gene and the G1.Sniper M3 has been rather fun.  Both of these boards would happily go into a slightly smaller gaming setup and still offer sufficient power when paired with the right cards – take a look at our recent review of multi-GPU gaming to see how a dual GPU setup might perform depending on which processor you may want to get.

Despite both motherboards aiming for roughly the same market, there is a difference between them in terms of which motherboard I would suggest people to buy. 

Conclusion: Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3

On first glance, the Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 looks like a good board – in terms of performance we are right on the money across the board, and overclocking performance is also competitive with the MVG.  On the motherboard itself is a fairly default chipset arrangement, with five of the SATA ports in a 4+1 arrangement (+1 at right angles to the motherboard), 4 USB 3.0 total from the chipset and an x16 or x8/x8 arrangement for GPUs.

A couple of points do stand out however – the first is the audio.  Onboard we have a Creative CA0132 codec solution, which promises a cleaner sound along with additional filtering and an EM shield to improve electrical noise.  In our tests however, we had to disable all the additional software features in order to get RMAA to run – despite this it still performed well.  Another point to stand out is the PCIe arrangement.  On the face of the board, we have three green full length PCIe slots.  Typically with a microATX board these are arranged in an x8/x1/x8/x4 arrangement, but on the G1.Sniper M3 these are x8/x1/x4/x8.  This allows for two triple slot GPUs (probably a good thing), but unless you are paying attention then, like I did to begin with, cards may go in the x4 slot instead, which is powered by the chipset and offers bad scaling (that is in general across all motherboards).  In this scenario CrossFireX does work, but SLI does not (you need x8 lanes per GPU).  We tested the x16+x4 arrangement and clearly the x8/x8 is preferred.  It is worth noting that using a second GPU like this will block one of the SATA ports.

 

Overall there are not that many extras on the G1.Sniper M3 – the MVG gives extra SATA ports, extra USB 3.0, along with a better fan controls and the software/BIOS package, all for $30 more.  I think Gigabyte pushed the boat out trying to accommodate the Creative CA0132, but it has sort of backfired because other elements end up slightly lacking.  If we had a Killer NIC onboard, as is the case on the G1.Sniper 3, it might be worth a look.  But for $170-$180, this fits right into the range for the Z77X-UD5H or Z77X-UP4 TH, which I would rather go for, even though they are ATX.

Conclusion: ASUS Maximus V Gene

The Maximus V Gene provides a great motherboard with a ton of features, if you do not mind paying the small price premium.  Even when you factor the initial cost in, against all the functionality, the software, the BIOS and the features, it makes financial sense that this board is worth purchasing for the extra green.

On the face of it, we get a high performing board with extra USB 3.0, extra SATA 6 Gbps, SupremeFX III audio, an mPCIe combo card, an Intel NIC, voltage read points, power/reset buttons, a two digit debug, excellent fan controls, and features like ROG Connect, FanXpert II, USB 3.0 Boost, GameFirst for network management and USB BIOS Flashback.

Performance wise the ASUS does quite well, enabling MCT and being very efficient across the board.  With USB 3.0 Boost, our USB numbers while using this feature are enhanced by a good margin.  Overclocking performed quite well, even with our bad CPU!

Any ASUS or ROG motherboard owner should hit up the ROG forums.  If you are having issues, or want to push your hardware a little further, there are users and admins there to help.

As a combined package, the ASUS Maximus V Gene is well worth the money.  At $200 it fits into that price range where most Z77 sales occur, albeit on full sized ATX boards.  For example, at this price range we have the Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H, the MSI Z77 MPower, the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe, Gigabyte Z77X-UP4 TH, the ASRock Z77 OC Formula and the ASUS P8Z77-V Pro all as serious contenders, each with their own merits.  But if you want an ROG board, the MVG is a great purchase.

In light of the performance and feature set, I would like to recommend the ASUS Maximus V Gene as a great purchase for those looking for a microATX Z77 motherboard.

Final Words

I know what some of you are thinking.  Why bother reviewing two motherboards so close to the launch of Haswell?  Surely users are going to want a Z87 motherboard instead?  My response to this comes from different angles. 

Firstly, Haswell adoption is not expected to be that high for the first few months.  As noted in various press articles, the initial batches of Haswell have an issue with USB 3.0 devices being recognized after sleep/hibernation.  Even before this issue was brought to light, DigiTimes reported that Haswell is likely to make up fewer than 20% of sales by year end. 

Secondly, e-tailers and home users who want to upgrade from Ivy Bridge to Haswell will be selling their old motherboards and/or processors.  There are a fair few users who stay slightly behind the curve in an effort to save money (this comic from xkcd springs to mind, but not as extreme as that), and users that are making the jump might sell en-mass just to get the newer models.  Ivy Bridge is still relevant if you want a fast system – it may not be the newest in the next couple of months, but you don’t necessarily need the newest to get your work/gaming done.

Of course as a reviewer it is my job to review the cutting edge, but until the Haswell launch is here I cannot publish anything Haswell related.  Nevertheless, our micro-ATX coverage for Haswell plans to be more extensive, so watch this space.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now