Oct, 2014

Lightweight PK Champion - ECS Z97-PK motherboard)

                                                           

The 20th anniversary edition processor recently introduced by Intel reminds us not only the rush of time but also the progress achieved by Intel along the time. It was about 10 years ago that Intel and AMD competed with each other. At that time, AMD had its advantage on overclocking technology and forced Intel to play the catching-up. But, since then, Intel’s process miraculously became more advanced and brought us a serious of low power-consuming processor products whose performance easily surpassed that of AMD processors without the need of overclocking, which consequently has put the overclocking technology out of fashion. The 20th anniversary edition processor is of Intel Pentium series, code-named G3258, and is an unlocked one. When I held this latest unlocked processor in hand for the first-time, I knew that I had to shop a nice motherboard for it. As I was strolling and shopping around, I came to notice this boxing PK victory motherboard advertising - showing that the motherboard is a Z97 chipset one and, most important, is delightfully inexpensive. I bought one, made some tests with it, and got results greatly exceeded my expectations. I will show you what I found.


 

【Physical appearance】

This motherboard is the version specially dedicated to and designed for the 20th anniversary processor G3258.

 

On its retro appearance, there are 6 fixing holes for screwing it to a small Micro ATX form factor chassis, and a CPU socket supporting LGA package CPUs including the 20th anniversary Pentium CPU G3258 (which has 1150 pins).

 

【Performance Test】

After finishing the hardware installation, the first thing to do is setting the BIOS. ECS Z97-PK’s BIOS provides two interface options: one is EZ-mode, and the other is Advanced mode. The EZ-mode looks very refreshing with a sense of technology. It provides fewer options compared to the advanced mode, and allows you to overclock the processor in just a few steps.

 

The overclocking feature is being set to "Disabled", and the default clock speed for G3258 is 3200MHz.


The overclocking feature is being set to "High Performance", and the clock speed of G3258 can be up to 4400MHz.


Now it is being set to "Max Performance", the G3258 can be overclocked to as high as 4700MHz. Until now is for newbies, and if you want to make it to 5000MHz, you may need to adopt some tricks and to make some consideration for your heat sink.


It scores 800 in CPU Mark 99!


Usually it is sufficient to play heavyweight online games, such as Watch Dogs, if your system scores more than 13639 in PCMark05 and 5284 in 3DMark06. However, an independent graphics card is still recommended in order to unload the burden of your CPU!

 

It scores 19.32fps for its OpenGL performance and 321cb for its CPU performance in CINEBENCH R15 testing.

 

【Gaming experience】

With the Z97-PK motherboard, obviously you will have decent gaming performance easily if you use a middle-range graphics card and overclock the G3258 ! Here, I will make a bold attempt to play following heavy games using just the onboard graphics.

● Watch Dogs

Watch Dogs’ video clip taken from my ECS Z97-PK machine:

This game is indeed the most popular one of this year, its storyline is as good as that of Grand Theft Auto, and it has multi-platform versions. The protagonist is a character named Aiden, who is a hacker and fixer fighting crime and triads in Chicago. By adopting a new gaming engine derived from Ubisoft Montreal's latest scalable Disrupt engine, Watch Dogs successfully brings advanced graphics, special effects and technology into multiple platforms. Tests show that if you want to fully enjoy the highest settings of this game with no hardware anti-aliasing, you need to add a graphic card at least as good as GeForce GTX 770. You still can play the game with Intel’s onboard graphics (just like I have done here) but no way to play with the graphic detail such as reflections, shadows and waves. To enjoy the highest setting and hardware anti-aliasing quality, you need the fast SLI system. As I played the game, the picture quality was automatically detected by the system and set to lowest level that felt like playing an old generation game. In this case, in order to bring in more effects of ambient occlusion, level of detail, reflections, shaders, and water, you may need to reduce the screen resolution. It is worthy of praise that this game not only fully support the most highest-grade GPU but also older GPUs coming out such as four years ago.

 

● StarCraft2

StarCraft 2’s video clip taken from my ECS Z97-PK machine:

This game includes many effects using DirectX 9 and Pixel Shader 2.0. It is also fully compatible with DirectX 10, but eventually does not include any DirectX 10 exclusive effects. It uses Havok’s physics engine to let “debris objects slide down the slope” by which to enhance the efficiency of three-dimensional graphics. It also recently adds support to NVIDIA 3D Vision Technology. When playing an online game on the ECS Z97-PK machine, there is actually nothing to complain about except the network lag problem. The problem can be observed when you are playing with multiple players online. There are many motherboard providing optimized packet processing feature to cope with this problem, and this is what the ECS Z97-PK motherboard missing. Actually, the ECS Z97-PK motherboard can handle the game with four players online, and starts to miss some effects when the number of online-players reaches eight or more.

 

● Ultimate Street Fighter IV

Ultimate Street Fighter IV’s video clip taken from my ECS Z97-PK machine:

With the classic game “Ultimate Street Fighter IV” running on my ECS Z97-PK machine, the visual effects go so smooth with the resolution being set to 1920 X 1080 under the default game settings in which the vertical sync option is set to Enabled, the anti-aliasing is set to Disabled, the motion blur option is set to Low, the quality of model and stage are selected to High. This is mostly because the game is still designed as a 2D fighting game and less relies on a graphics card; however, it would be not that easy for my ECS Z97-PK machine if the game was a 3D game. This game, Ultimate Street Fighter IV, is the latest version of the popular fighting game Street Fighter 4, inherits and enhances the storyline of the previous version, readjusts the balance of capabilities for all characters, adds five new characters and six new fighting scenes, and provides several new fighting features such as “Double Ultra Combo”, “Red Saving Attack”, and “Delay Wake up”. Among all the characters, Poison is the one quickly grab the heart of all players for her super strength in attack and defense under her hot appearance.

 

● Speed 18

Speed 18’s video clip taken from my ECS Z97-PK machine:

This time I play Speed 18 on my ECS Z97-PK machine. This game uses a 3D engine designed for FPS shooting games – as known as Frostbite 2 Engine- and it proves that a racing game is obviously too much for onboard graphics to handle. Without an independent graphics card, the game cannot run smoothly enough for you to make necessary acceleration and cornering to avoid the fence or trees. If this happened in reality, I must have been killed in a car accident already. The major problem when you play this game with the onboard graphics is that the number of frames, FPS value, is set and fixed to 30, which is too low for the game to run smoothly. Furthermore, remember to upgrade DirectX to version 11.1 or above before trying this game!

 

【Reviews】

The ECS Z07-PK motherboard supports Intel’ i3 and i5 processors and no doubt has the best C/P among the Z97 chipset motherboards. When speaking of the latest 9-series chipsets, it is said that the X99 series is for heavyweight boxers and the Z97 is for lightweight. This leads to say that the ECS Z97-PK motherboard is Ippo (the leading character of a Japanese boxing manga “Hajime no Ippo (The First Step)”) for its astonishing overclocking potential hidden under the low-key and simple appearance. Respect it or get KO. The hardware quality of this motherboard looks quite good. It adopts not only the all high-grade solid capacitor motherboard design to enhance the operational stability, but also ECS’s exclusive Durathon Technology to boost the motherboard’s moisture resistance by introducing a bi-directional splitting glass fabric design. The motherboard has been tested with extreme temperature (-10℃~50℃) along with other 1500 duration tests. This significantly reduces the failure rate of the motherboard in regions of hot and humid climate, just like in Taiwan. Furthermore, the Z97-PK motherboard provides PCI-E 3.0 interface and three display outputs, along with supporting DDR3 memory up to 32GB and SATA3 interface up to 6Gb/s, to guarantee players a game environment with no performance lag. Only thing the motherboard missed is a M.2 interface that is considered of a great feature of the Z97. For software feature, the motherboard comes with the ECS’s exclusive EZ software package. In the package, eBLU & eDLU can online update the BIOS and drivers respectively, eOC together with eSF can help you on overclocking without your system crushing because of overheat, and EZ-charge can charge your mobile devices directly instead of using their dedicated chargers. The best thing about the EZ package is that all the included software utilities can run on Windows. I have performed some basic burn-in tests and play some games on the machine. In the burn-in tests, Most attempts to overclock the processor to 4700MHz succeed but fail in some conditions, and can be speeded up to and fairly stabilized at 4400MHz. Instead, it is easy to overclock you system to 4700MHz for gaming, and the games run smoothly even using the onboard graphics. I plan to upgrade this machine to my personal gaming platform by saving some money to add more memory, plug in a graphics card, and replace the system drive with a SSD one! After all the words have been spoken, there is only one question to be answered – how good is the price? According to the information available on the Internet, the price is around NT.2000. Speaking of performance and cost value, this motherboard is definitely the best match with Intel’s unlocked processor G3258! For more detail, please visit:

 

ECS official site: http://www.ecs.com.tw

ECS facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/ecstaiwan

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