Haswell vs. Ivy in Gaming – The ECS Z87H3-A2X golden motherboard and i7-4770K
This evaluation will test our Z87 ECS Golden Board and the latest Haswell Intel platform versus Ivy Bridge. The new ECS motherboard proudly bears the name, GANK Domination Z87H3-A2X and we shall pit our new Haswell Core-i7 4770K at stock and overclocked, against our EVGA FTW Z77 motherboard running Ivy Bridge i7-3770K at up to 4.8GHz.
We shall see if the new Haswell platform can gank Ivy Bridge at 4.2GHz and higher. We will be able to compare, by extension somewhat, the performance of our old Bloomfield i7-920 which we also ran benchmarks with at 4.20Ghz with the same GTX 680. However, this time we have a much faster video card, the GTX 780 Ti, which is able to differentiate between CPUs at 1920×1080 and 2560×1600 resolutions, without resorting to using multiple graphics cards in SLI.
In this evaluation we shall introduce 2x4GB of superfast Kingston’s Hyper-X Predator RAM at speeds of 2800MHz into the mix while using a Kingston 240GB HyperX SSD for benching. We want to see if it is worth it for a gamer to upgrade his CPU platform and we will test ten games, including our eight newest games. And we shall benchmark using synthetic and real world tests to determine the progress Intel has made with Haswell in CPU performance.
Intel released Ivy Bridge CPU architecture on 22nm in late April of last year. We were able to briefly compare its performance in more than 20 games against our aging flagship 45nm Core i7-920 CPU at 4.2GHz by using a GTX 680 and GTX 690 on both platforms. We are going to build on our earlier evaluation to carry out a complete platform upgrade to compare Ivy Bridge’s Core i7-3770K IPC directly against Haswell Core i7-4770K at 4.2GHz.
We shall also attempt to reach higher clockspeeds with our Core i7-4770K and will compare further overclocked performance above 4.2 GHz to test Haswell CPU scaling in gaming. We are trying to help answer the question, if an overclocked Core i7-3770K should be upgraded when paired with the very fastest available video cards at the resolutions that gamers play at. We shall also test at maximum details to determine if there are any significant framerate differences between the two platforms at settings that gamers actually use.
We are not going to compare Intel’s CPU graphics as the EVGA FTW motherboard requires an active HDMI to dual-link adapter to run it, whereas the ECS motherboard does not. Most enthusiasts do not use CPU graphics for intensive 3D gaming, and a GTX 780 Ti or R9 290X or a GTX 680/770 or R9 280X/HD 7970 classes of video card are often paired with an i7 3770K/4770K CPU.
The Ivy Bridge Architecture vs Haswell
The Core i7-3770K processor is offered in a 22nm 1155-land LGA package (H2) while Core i7-4770K is also 22nm and is offered in a non-compatible 1150-land LGA package, which means you must upgrade your motherboard from Sandy/Ivy Bridge to support a Haswell CPU. Haswell is Intel’s “tock” which is new microarchitecture, whereas Ivy Bridge was Intel’s “tick” – a die shrink of Sandy Bridge’s 32nm architecture.
There are important differences between Haswell and Ivy Bridge CPUs, including an integrated voltage regulator in Haswell that was formerly part of the Ivy Bridge chipset. Intel has focused on mobile which means lower temperatures and power savings for notebooks, but not so much on the desktop. While there are some boosts to IPC (instructions-per-clock) and to performance, Haswell wasn’t designed for overclocking under high load.
Instead of relying on the motherboard to produce a variety of power rails like Ivy, Haswell has a fully-integrated voltage regulator that takes a single input and divides voltage to the required rails. Although overall system power may be reduced by about 20 percent at a comparable idle power to Ivy Bridge, Haswell has an approximately 10 percent increase in load power consumption which adversely affects overclocking.
The fully-integrated voltage regulator and higher power consumption under load mean that Haswell is actually worse than Ivy Bridge at overclocking. We were able to stably run our Ivy Bridge Core i7-3770K at 4.5GHz on stock voltage settings; at 4.8GHz with reasonable temperatures in gaming, and benchmark at acceptably high temperatures at 4.9GHz with our Thermaltake Water2.0 CPU cooler. Not so with Haswell, as 4.4GHz was our maximum overclock at stock voltage, while 4.5GHz was completely stable with higher voltage and some tweaks, while 4.6GHz was absolute tops for game benchmarking, and unstable under Linpack or Prime stress testing.
A CPU die shrink usually reduces overclocking potential as the components get smaller. Sandy Bridge overclocked generally better than Ivy Bridge, and Ivy overclocks better than Haswell. Not only does transistor density increase which uses more power, but there is also less die surface area to dissipate heat from. Although Ivy Bridge and Haswell are both based on Intel’s 22nm FinFET process, the Haswell integrated voltage regulator makes overclocking more difficult. It also seems that Haswell’s built-in thermal throttling at stock turbo speeds is more aggressive than with Ivy Bridge.
However, for about the same price as an Ivy Bridge chip, there is about 10% more performance. The overclocking ability of Haswell will generally be lower than Ivy, but Haswell’s approximate 10% clock-for-clock advantages over Ivy Bridge means that theoretically a Haswell i7-4770K at 4.5GHz should be faster than an Ivy Bridge i7-3770K at 4.8GHz. We will specifically test this out in PC gaming and with other benchmarks.
Haswell is a more advanced chip than Ivy Bridge. IPC were increased by adding more execution resources and improving out-of-order execution capabilities, with most of them dedicated to brand new features such as AVX2, FMA3, and TSX. These are new features which require software that has been specifically compiled to take advantage of them. We are not testing these new features but will focus mostly on gaming and day-to-day computing tasks.
We are benching using the GTX 680 and the GTX 780 Ti on both platforms to give you a comparison of our two CPUs’ scaling in games at 1920×1200 and 2560×1600 resolutions and at the maximum details that gamers play at. Nearly two years ago when we performed our original Ivy Bridge evaluation, the GTX 680 was the most powerful single-GPU stock card available and the dual-GPU GTX 690 we used has almost the same performance as two GTX 680s in SLI. Now a single-GPU GTX 780 Ti challenges the dual-GPU GTX 690 in many games, nearly equaling its performance, and we shall use it to benchmark each of our two platforms with the latest drivers.
The Core i7-3770K has four identical 3.5GHz Ivy Bridge cores, and is rated at a TDP of 77W. As with the other Ivy Bridge Core i7 CPUs, they have a large pool of shared L3 cache, along with four L2 cache pools (one for each core) and a pair of dedicated pools of L1 cache (again, one per core). Similarly, the Core i7-4770K also has 4 identical cores, and Haswell is rated for a TDP of 84W. Probably the main advantage offered by Haswell’s Core i7-4770K is its incredible power savings features on the 22nm process for mobile. We shall see what it does for desktop gamers.
The Z87 Chipset and ECS Golden Series Z87H3-A2X
The Z87 chipset is the non-compatible upgrade to the Z77 Ivy Bridge chipset as the enthusiast chipset for Haswell including Core i7. Z87 supports both CPU multiplier and IGP overclocking (for unlocked Intel CPUs), Quick Sync, and SATA 6.0Gbps as well as PCIe 3.0. It also supports Intel Virtu Technology, which uses the IG for less demanding tasks and the discrete GPU for more intensive applications, saving energy. With this chipset, Intel has further refined their Smart Response (SSD caching).
The ECS Golden Series Z87H3-A2X is ECS premium enthusiast motherboard that includes their “non-stop” technology and premium 99-hour replacement service. It is currently priced at $254.99 after a $30 main-in rebate at Newegg which is average for a high-quality and fully-featured enthusiast board.
ECS Non-stop Technology
All ECS Black Series Motherboards are Nonstop certified, including the Z87H3-A2X. Nonstop technology comprises four interlocking tests and enhancements that combine together to protect PCs and defeat many of the most common causes of hardware problems and system instability.
Every ECS Nonstop certified motherboard runs a course of tests that checks and stresses critical components to ensure that they are up to ECS standards through their non-stop testing cycle over 3 days and under extreme environmental conditions. ECS Nonstop boards also include 100 percent Golen Solid long-life capacitors, to protect users from capacitor leakage and failure problems.
ECS Nonstop technology also uses comprehensive electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection. The 100 percent ESD protection on Nonstop motherboards is achieved with special circuitry that protects expensive and delicate chips from static build up that can damage or destroy them. So this motherboard is ECS’s premium board and it is also ‘gold’ in every way. There is also a very clearly spelled-out warranty on ECS’ web site:
* ECS Warranty is offered to direct customers with valid ECS invoice only.
Warranty Period guarantees against defects in workmanship and manufacturing. The warranty is effective from the date of ECS’ original invoice, unless stated otherwise in writing.
– ECS brand Motherboards warranty cover from ECS Invoice 36 months for parts and 24 months for part and labor.
– ECS brand Motherboards with CPU Bundle warranty cover from ECS Invoice 12 months for parts and labor.
– ECS brand VGA Card with NVIDIA Chipset warranty cover from ECS Invoice 36 months for parts and 24 months for part and labor.
– ECS brand VGA Cards with all other Chipset warranty cover from ECS Invoice 12 months for parts and labor.
– ECS brand all other products warranty cover from ECS Invoice 12 months warranty for parts and labor.
Contacting ECS for Warranty Service
A RMA number is valid for 30 days from date of issuance. RMA returns will be thoroughly tested as to all complaints and sent back to customers within 10 working days following receipt of the products by ECS. In the event a defective board cannot be repaired, ECS reserves the right to replace it with like-new refurbished product.
Warranty & Replacement Service
The 99-Hour Replacement Service gives ECS customers in the USA (48 contiguous states) a fast and trouble-free service to replace ECS products if any issues should come up. Simply register the ECS motherboard or VGA card bought after Dec. 31, 2011 on ECS’ website, and if a replacement is needed, ECS will process your return and ship out a replacement within 24 hours after receiving it via 3-Day shipping – guaranteeing that ECS customers will receive their replacement within 99 hours.
In addition to the first class replacement service, ECS customers by registering their products on the ECS website will receive the latest product/service updates & announcements and be automatically entered in drawing for random prizes.
Register your ECS motherboard or VGA card at: http://www.ecsusa.com/ECSWebSite/Member/LoginPage.aspx
Here are the ECS Z87H3-A2X specifications from the ECS web site:
|CPU||º Supports new 4rd gen Intel® Core™ family, Pentium, Celeron series processors in LGA1150 socketº DMI 5.0GT/sº 12 Phase Thermal Design Powerº VRD 12.5º 100% Solid capacitor designº Supports Intel® Turbo Boost 2.0 Technologyº Supports Intel® Hyper-Threading Technologyº Intel® K Series Unlock CPU Supportº Please refer to CPU support list for details|
|CHIPSET||º Intel® Z87 Express Chipsetº Intel® Smart Response Technology, Intel® Smart Connect Technology & Intel® Rapid Start Technolog|
|GRAPHICS||º Support Intel® HD Graphics 4000(Intel 4th gen CPU)º Supports DirectX® 11 .1º *DirectX 11.1 – Only supported with the 4rd Gen Intel processors for LGA 1150 socketº Supports Intel® HD Graphics, InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™º Supports HDMI 1.4a & Premium Audioº Supports LucidLogiX® Virtu™ MVPº Supports NVIDIA® 2-Way SLIº Supports ATI® 3-Way CrossFireX™º Supports Full HD 1080P Blu-ray / HD-DVD Playback|
|MEMORY||º Dual-channel DDR3 Memory architectureº Supports DDR3 1600/1333/1066 non-ECC, Un-buffered SDRAM Memoryº Supports up to 3000(OC),2933(OC),2800(OC)º 4 X 240-pin DDR3 DIMM socketº Support up to 32 GB*º Intel® extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 1.3/1.2 Memory Modulesº Note:Please refer to the latest Memory support list for detailsº Note: DDR3_1 with DDR3_3 are the same channel, DDR3_2 with DDR3_4 are the same channel by Intel® Specification|
|EXPANSION SLOT||º 3 X PCI Express X16 Gen 3.0 slot(s)º 1 X PCI Express X 1 Gen 2.0 slot(s)º Supports NVIDIA® SLI Technologyº Supports ATI® CrossfireX Technologyº 1 X Mini PCI Express X1 slot(s)( Mini SATA supported)º 1 X PCI slot(s)º *When using two VGA cards, the bandwidth is @8 badnwidth; when using one VGA card, the bandwodth is @16.|
|Storage||º Support by Intel® Z87 Express Chipset• 5 X Serial ATAIII 6Gb/sLocated in SATA3_1/2, SATA3_3/4, SATA3_7 Portº Support by ASM1061 Controler• 2 X Serial ATAIII 6Gb/sLocated in EXSATA3_5/6 Port• 2 X eSATAIII 6Gb/s• RAID0, RAID1,RAID5, RAID 10 configurationº Supports Intel® Rapid Storage Technologyº Supports NCQ, AHCI and “Hot Plug” functions|
|Audio||º 8-Channel HD audio CODECº Compliant with HD audio specificationº Realtek ALC1150+ALC5505 8-channel High Definition audio CODECº BluRay DVD/HD DVD support|
|LAN||º Dual Realtek 8111G Gigabit Fast Ethernet Controllerº Wake-On-LANº Dual LAN with Teaming functionº Ultra low power consumption|
|Wireless||º Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n wireless LAN|
|Bluetooth||º Supports Bluetooth V2.0|
|USB||º Support by Z87 Express Chipset• 6 X USB3.0 port(s) up to 5Gb/sBack Panel 4 port(s)Onboard 2 port(s)• 8 X USB2.0 port(s) Up to 480 Mb/sBack Panel 4 port(s)Onboard 4 port(s)º ECS EZ Charger (Gray USB header)|
|REAR PANEL I/O||º 1 X Audio port (Line-in,4x Line-out, SPDIF out)º 2 X RJ-45 port with teaming functionº 1 X HDMI port(s)º 1 X Display portº 1 X Wireless LAN Dongleº 1 X Bluetooth Dongleº 2 X eSATA 6Gb/s port(s)º 4 X USB3.0 port(s)º 4 X USB2.0 port(s)º 1 X Clear_CMOS Button|
|CONNECTORS & HEADERS||º 1 X 24-pin ATX Power Supply connectorº 1 X 8-pin ATX 12V Power Connectorº 1 X 4-pin CPU_FAN connectorº 1 X 4-pin SYS_FAN connectorº 1 X 3-pin PWR_FAN connectorº 1 X Power on buttonº 1 X Reset buttonº 1 X Clear_CMOS buttonº 1 X Front Panel switch/LED headerº 1 X Front panel audio headerº 1 X Onboard Buzzerº 1 X USB 3.0 header• Support additional 2 USB portsº 2 X USB 2.0 header• Support additional 4 USB ports
º Support EZ charger (gray color)
º 1 X CLR_CMOS header
º 1 X Serial port header (COM)
º 1 X mSATA connector
º 1 X 7S-LED Display
º 1 X ME_UNLOCK header
º 1 X Chassis intrusion header
º 1 X Voltage measure points
º 1 X 80P Switch button
º 1 X Quick OC button
º 1 X BIOS set button
º 1 X ROM Backup button
|SYSTEM BIOS||º AMI BIOS with 64×2 MB SPI Flash ROMº Supports M.I.B X Utilityº Supports ACPI 3.0 & DMIº F7 hot key for boot up devices optionº Over-Clockingº Graphic OC Supportº Dual Displayº Support ECS EZ BIOSº Plug and Play, STR (S3) / STD (S4) , Hardware monitor, Multi Bootº Multi-Language BIOSº Audio, LAN, can be disabled in BIOSº Dual BIOSº Dual-Monitor function|
|FORM FACTOR||º ATX Form Factorº 305mm(W) X 244mm(H)|
|OS Support||º Windows 7 32-bitº Windows 7 64-bitº Windows 8 32-bitº Windows 8 64-bit|
|Certifications||º CE/FCC Certificationº ErP/EuP Certificationº WHCK Certification|
|Bundled Software||º ECS Intelligent EZ Utility : eBLU, eDLU, eOC, eSFº Free Bundle: Norton Internet Security ,CyberLink PowerDVD, CyberLink PowerDirector 9, Muzee with trial versionº Creative Sound Blaster Cinema software|
As one can see, the ECS Golden Series Z87 motherboard is fully-featured. Head over to the next page and we’ll find more out about our new Haswell Core i7-4770K as we unbox our ECS Golden Series motherboard.