Monday, August 5, 2013

[Article] Haswell, here I come: 4770K + Maximus VI Hero.

Two years and one month ago, I got my SandyBridge CPU (2600K) and motherboard. Yesterday, my motherboard broke. Well, after a long sleep, it came back to life. Still not completely stable, but it is working at least. But I decided that I’m gonna get a new motherboard anyway. It’s a matter of time this board will die imho. I just hope I will be able to sell the motherboard.

I had been sitting on the fence in dilemma, uncertain whether to stick with my SandyBridge 2600K CPU or to upgrade. I first felt Haswell was not worth it. Then the feature-set of the new boards won me over. I even considered the upcoming IvyBridge-E CPUs. But they will be using the two generations old x79 chipset. The prices would be pretty steep (3930K costs JPY57,000 even now), so I decided that route is not for me. That's JPY80,000 or more.

I had been reading the motherboard reviews to decide on a board. Three boards came out on top. The Asus Z87 Pro, Asus ROG Maximus VI Hero and MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming. I felt the software/UEFI support of Gigabyte boards was cheesy and ASRock boards not so good in terms of power delivery circuitry, software and even price - which was their strong point until now.


Let me talk about each board a hit.

Asus Z87 Pro:
・Overall a great board with a lot of features for the price.
・Comes with built in Wi-Fi.
・Six USB3.0 ports (no USB2.0) at the back.
・Intel LAN. Decent audio, but not the best but better than midrange boards.
・All the nice Asus tweaking software and fan expert2 is available.
・Seems to have some quality issues like breaking memory fasteners and sometimes malfunctioning USB.
・Newegg rating 4/5.
・Price: JPY48,842 (with 4770K CPU)

MSI Z87A-GD65 Gaming:
・This is a decent, clean and nice looking board.
・Killer LAN.
・Has special overclocking support if you have a MSI gaming graphics card (which. I don't).
・6 USB (2 USB2.0 and 4 USB3.0) ports at the back.
・6 SATA-III ports, all native from chipset
・The biggest advantage of getting this board is getting free Lucid Virtu MVP software. Not sure if it expires after a year though.
・They say the audio is great but reviews suggest otherwise.
・The power delivery circuitry isn't top notch either.
・Newegg rating 4/5.
・Price: JPY50,997 (with 4770K CPU)

Asus ROG Maximus VI Hero:
・Very nice looks
・Has 8 USB ports at the back. 4 USB3.0, 4 USB2.0
・Awesome audio, if not the best integrated audio currently available.
・Has a lot of tweaking options, being a ROG board.
・Comes with all the nice Asus features.
・Has the same high quality voltage delivery design as their flagship boards.
・High quality components for stability and longitivity.
・Doesn't come with Wi-Fi or Virtu MVP support though.
・Newegg rating 5/5.
・Price: JPY51,975 (with 4770K CPU)

Sofmap is giving a maximum of JPY5,000 worth discount if CPU and motherboard are purchased together. Both the Asus boards get the maximum discount, while the MSI board only gets JPY2,000. That's why the MSI board is only slightly cheaper than the Maximus VI Hero board.

The Maximus VI Hero board looked very compelling because I don't want wireless right now, especially 802.11n when 802.11ac is already available. (I plan to upgrade to 802.11ac perhaps next year when the prices drop.) And I could do with extra USB ports at the back. And having nice onboard audio means that I can finally get rid of the Creative X-Fi Titanium card which I have been having driver issues with. The only issue I had with the Maximus VI Hero, even the Z87 Pro, is that they don't come with Virtu MVP license. That's a bummer becase without it, I cannot use QuickSync. I can, but that means plugging the monitor to the iGPU ports and rebooting. I really don't want any of the other benefits that Virtu MVP provides.

A pre-release version of Handbrake is available for download that supports Intel QuickSync. I had checked the output quality of a full 1080p movie, and it seems there is a noticeable quality difference between QuickSync and x86 outputs. QuickSync videos are not suitable for ripping movies. But it is fast. A full 2Hr movie took only 30 minutes to transcode. It would have taken more than 2Hrs if done with the CPU, but mostly because of two-pass encoding. QuickSync doesn't support two-pass. Not sure if it is the technology itself or a shortcoming of Handbrake. But I am yet to see a application that support two-pass QuickSync transcoding.

Anyways, since the output quality isn't that great on QuickSync, I don't think it would become a big issue. Besides, I can buy Virtu MVP if I want. Just that it is not free. Anyways, I decided that my decision should not be based on Virtu MVP support. So I went with the Maximus VI Hero. I ordered the bundle on Thursday night and it arrived on Saturday. Will write  about it on a separate post. 
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