With this bing a barebones system there are a couple things to consider when it comes to performance testing. For starters, the only thing I can really compare the Nightblade to is the performance of my personal LAN rig, Lunchbox 3. Even still, the performance is completely dependent on the CPU and video card that you decide to go with. Because of that I really want to focus more on the overall experience that you get with the Nightblade, but I will also include performance numbers to show what our specific configuration was capable of.
With the Nightblade all build I actually had the perfect chance to give it a complete test. I packed it up and took it with us to our fall/summer LAN event LanOC V15. This gave me a good chance to see how well the build in handle works and I was extremely impressed. It was easy to grab the Nightblade and move it around as needed with just one hand. I will say that when compared to our two Lunchbox machines it was a little on the heavy side. This is because the case is built out of steel where both of the Lunchboxes use full aluminum cases. It was still a major improvement over a full sized case, so I doubt most of you will notice. Having the neoprene cover on the handle helps as well, it prevents the handle from digging into your hand. I did notice another issue when transporting it as well. The paint finish is a little on the thin side, the Nightblade was packed up near something else and it quickly got a nice war wound on its side panel. After looking at online reviews it seems that a few of the users ran into this as well. Personally I expect my LAN rigs to get a little banged up, but I was a little surprised at how quick it happened.
During the event we used the Nightblade exclusively to run our LanOC event stream so I didn’t really have the chance to put it through its paces as far as gaming goes. Back at the office I had the chance to play a little LoL and HoTS as well as use it for everyday use for about a week. During that time not once did I even hear the fans spool up more than normal. Typically with LAN rigs they are so tight that airflow is an issue but the Nightblade hasn’t have that problem. This gave me the confidence to toy with the OC button on the front of the case without having to worry about overheating anything. It brings me back to the days when we had a turbo button on computers and it makes overclocking as easy as a single button push for anyone who doesn’t know how to do it.
I think what impressed me the most, especially when using the Nightblade for our Twitch stream was the number of USB ports. Not only did it have more than enough on the back of the case, MSI also included enough on the front panel to eliminate the need to even use the back panel ports if you wanted. This was great when hooking up a mouse, keyboard, and multiple webcams. For someone like me who normally has every plug in use it is important to see that they kept USB ports in mind when building the barebones. The other feature that I really liked was the inclusion of the wireless AC adapter. If you guys haven’t used wireless AC yet you really should. You can actually see speeds faster than your wired network in some cases. I wouldn’t use it for everyone at a LAN, but in your house you could get away with dragging the Nightblade around the house to any TV or monitor and gaming without having to worry about Ethernet. The funny thing is the Killer NIC that they include performs well as well, so you have options.
Just like with the motherboard itself, the Nightblade came with a nice software suite from MSI. MSIs Control Panel hits just about everything you should need to tweek and toy with your Nightblade but what I liked the most was their Live Update software. With it you can make sure you keep your BIOS up to date and make sure you have all of the latest software installed. In fact, after installing my OS I basically downloaded Live Update (and the network driver) and then used it to get the rest of my drivers.
Okay for our performance testing I ran the Nightblade through the same set of tests that I have used on my last few LAN rigs. You can actually see and compare the numbers At the following two links:
For comparison we are actually running a new i7-4790K Devils Canyon CPU and the R9 270X compared to the i7-4770 in the other two and they both have Nvidia GPUs. If you are also interested in seeing how the motherboard in the Nightblade performed on an equal platform check out my review of it HERE as well. So how did the Nightblade perform with our setup? Well officially on the GPU side of things it was a little slower than my two other configurations, the R9 270X performs well but was just a little below the 760 and 670 in these tests. With that said, overall anything on the CPU side of things pulled ahead due to the higher clock speed of the i7-4790K. The great thing about the Nightblade is the fact you aren’t limited to an ITX card what I am using here. Not that there is anything wrong with it, because I love them in my smaller rigs, but you have the option of dropping a new GTX 980 in the Nightblade to see even better performance!