ASRock Z97 Anniversary motherboard – Easy to OC, but stripped to the bone


Test Setup & BIOS Settings

Test Setup

This is the basic test configuration for the ASRock Z97 Anniversary:-

  • 2 x 4GB Crucial Ballistix Elite Series DDR3-1600 (CAS 7-7-7-20 at DDR-1333MHz)
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290X DirectCU II OC (AMD Catalyst 14.4)
  • Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA 6Gbps hard drive (one single NTFS partition)
  • Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 (64-bit)
  • Intel Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition (3.2GHz) / Intel Core i7-4790K (4.0GHz)

While the main focus is to test the Pentium Anniversary CPU with the ASRock Z97 Anniversary board, we also managed to get our hands on the Intel Core i7-4790K, codenamed Devil's Canyon. We decided to swap out the new Pentium chip and operate the Devil's Canyon processor on our ASRock Z97 Anniversary test rig to see how much performance boost was garnered with the CPU upgrade. 

Note 1: We set the DRAM Frequency of the board to DDR3-1333 since the Pentium G3258 AE chip officially supports this operating frequency. Also, we set the CAS timings accordingly.

Note 2: We decided to use a top-end graphics card, the ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC graphics card, as we would like to ascertain the gaming performance of the new Pentium chip, together with its ideal Z97 companion. The premise is to see if the ASRock Z97 Anniversary coupled with a Pentium CPU be adequate to satisfy aspiring budget PC DIY gamers. Analyzing the same platform with a speedy CPU, we can also determine if the Pentium CPU becomes a bottleneck for this group of users.

At the same time, we compared this board against the ASUS B85-Pro Gamer motherboard that is targeted at PC gamers who want to build an mid-range to entry level gaming system, without breaking the bank. The same test components, listed above, drove our ASUS B85-Pro Gamer test system. We will take a closer look at this Intel 8 series motherboard from ASUS in a separate review. For now, it will suffice to know that this board is positioned as full ATX board that is targeted at the market segment of mid-range gaming components. In terms of retail price, a search amongst online retailers revealed that the ASUS board is priced at roughly US$121, which is almost the same price as the ASRock Z97 Anniversary.

The basic test configuration for the ASUS B85-Pro Gamer, which is identical to the ASRock board listed above.

 

BIOS Settings

The UEFI BIOS utility of the ASRock board is well-organised due to its tabbed layout. Besides its slick GUI, the utility allowed us to tweak numerous power settings like CPU Vcore voltage to more esoteric ones like Long and Short Power Duration Limits. This is extremely useful in pushing the new Pentium processor to new heights, especially in terms of its rated clock speed.

Speaking of overclocking, the BIOS utility has one trick up its sleeves; the option to overclock the Pentium G3258 with just the push of a button. At POST, the user can push the "P" key to gain access to the Pentium Anniversary Boost menu. There are three menu options to overclock the new Pentium processor. Naturally, we picked the last option to increase its clock speed to 4.2GHz during our overclocking tests.

Intel Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition Processor

ASRock claims that overclocking the new Pentium processor will be made simple with its exclusive Pentium Anniversary Boost feature of the ASRock Z97 Anniversary. By a click of a button, the processor was be overclocked to 4.2GHz, an increment of 31% over its default clock speed of 3.2GHz. However, before you go over the moon, do note that despite the fact that the Pentium G3258 has been updated to feature the Haswell microarchitecture, it is lacking due to the following factors:-

  • There isn't support for Intel HyperThreading technology.
  • Small cache size that's not using Intel Smart Cache technology that would otherwise allow any core to use any amount of the total cache available from the inactive cores. This would mean more CPU cycles and penalties when trying to access contents stored in a core's cache that's required in a different execution core. A shared cache structure would have made sharing memory across execution cores a lot speedier.
  • Its supported instruction set is limited in comparison to the current 4th generation Intel Core processors.

The table below compares the Pentium G3258 with two chips from the current Haswell Refresh stable; the entry-level Intel Core i3-4150 and the top-end Intel Core i7-4790K, codenamed Devil's Canyon. Full comparison can be seen here.

Pentium G3258 Processor Compared
Processor Model Cores / Threads Frequency
(Base / Turbo)
DDR3 (MHz) Integrated GPU GPU Clock
(Base / Turbo)
TDP Launch Price
Intel Pentium G3258 2 / 2 3.2GHz 1333 Intel HD Graphics 350MHz / 1100MHz 53W US$72
Intel Core i3-4150T 2 / 4 3.0GHz 1600 Intel HD Graphics 4400 200MHz / 1150MHz 35W US$117
Intel Core i7-4790K 4 / 8 4.0GHz / 4.4GHz 1600 Intel HD Graphics 4600 350MHz / 1250MHz 88W  US$350

 At a glance, the Pentium G3258 stands out due to its price point. According to the latest price lists of Sim Lim Square retailers, the commemorative processor is priced at S$95; while the Core i7-4790K has a price tag of S$450 and the Core i3-4150T price is estimated to be S$230. In addition, as we have mentioned earlier, the Pentium G3258 comes unlocked, with overclocking officially sanctioned!

Now that we've established what the Pentium G3258 Anniversary CPU is about, let us examine the chip's "ideal" companion, the ASRock Z97 Anniversary board and its performance.

 

Benchmarks

The following benchmarks were used in our testbed:-

  • Futuremark 3DMark (2013)
  • Hitman: Absolution
  • Tomb Raider
  • Thief
  • Cinebench R15
  • Handbrake (version 0.99)
  • Blu-ray playback (CPU utilization) 
6.0
Performance
7.5
Features
6
Value
5
The Good
BIOS UEFI utility allows for overclocking and system tweaking
Pentium Anniversary Boost feature allows for easy overclocking
The Bad
Rear I/O ports are limited
Multi-GPU configurations aren't supported
Overclocked performance could be better
Other boards offer more for the same price