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 Intel Pentium DualCore 3.0 GHz vs Intel Pentium 4 531 3.0 GHz 

[CPU] Intel Pentium DualCore 3.0 GHz vs Intel Pentium 4 531 3.0 GHz (English Version)

 


http://www.digital-daily.com/.


Quite recently, it seemed that the AMD platform started its victorious procession. At last, its high-tech offspring Atlon64 started acquiring a full-featured support in the software part (Microsoft released the long-awaited Windows XP Professional x64 Edition). Due to NVIDIA's efforts through the release of the revolutionary nForce4 chipset, this platform acquired support for all the most recent technologies and became the most promising and productive. Due to the SLI technology, the Athlon64-based proved a tasty morsel for gamers. There appeared prospects for expanding its market share. But all can't be going on too good.

For merely a few last months, the Intel platform has acquired enormous number of novelties allowing to win back the right to put AMD again on its place. First, nowadays all new processors have acquired support for 64-bit extensions. Secondly,trying to grasp as large market share as possible, NVIDIA released its nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition chipset, which resulted in a loss of SLI monopoly on the AMD platform. Thirdly, Intel hasn't been sitting idle and successfully launched a release of new dual-core processors with the chipset enforcement that supports them.

The leadership crown that used to be approaching AMD is now again distancing, so the company is in for an unequal fight even though it has got something to respond with. The comprehension is even more painful on the background of allegedly dishonest way of running a business. That's just what compelled the company to break the strained peace and move on to military, i.e. legal actions. Having got prepared carefully, AMD first started shooting back at Intel with lawsuits. To all appearances, we won't know soon what the court examination ends up with, but we can examine the new products which have made AMD's life harder right now.

We'll try to put everything altogether, analyze and confirm the findings with test data.

New processors

Along with the noisy announcement of expensive but, in Intel's viewpoint, promising dual-core processors, there was a much more moderate announcement of 5x1 processors aimed at workstations. There is only one thing these chips differ from their younger brethren of the 5xx line - support for 64-bit extensions. They say it will be of much need in the near future. But how soon that comes we'll discuss a bit later. Now we dwell on the honest performance of new processors in today's tasks.

We received two novelties in our test lab - the single-core Pentium 4 531 (3000 MHz with support for Hyper-Threading) and dual-core Pentium 4 830 (the same 3000 MHz but without support for Hyper-Threading). We now have got a chance to compare the real and virtual dual-core operation.

Intel Pentium 4 531

Let me remind it that this processor is aimed at home-based multimedia computers and workstations for today and for the future. Its advanced capability is achieved due to support for the Intel Extended Memory 64 technology that provides a full compatibility to already emerging 64-bit software and available operating systems. Besides, it offers support for the Execute Disable Bit feature which provides hardware-software protection against some viruses and worms. And the Hyper-Threading is still there.


Intel Pentium 4 531

Intel Pentium 4 531
Processor name
Intel Pentium 4 531
with support for
Hyper-Threading
Architecture
90-nm, LGA775
Cache memory
L2 1 MB
Clock speed
3.0 GHz
System bus
800 MHz

Intel Pentium 4 531

Intel Pentium 4 830

The histories of creation and positioning the processor are even more exciting. The emergence of dual-core processors is due to the fact that further rise of performance due to clock speeds only has proved more difficult. Complete re-working of the architecture to produce a more powerful processor of the same clock speeds is possible in principle but not justified. The time and resources for the development of a new processor will not pay back soon, but computers need to be assembled just today. You won't get much through cosmetic amendments only. But If we take the successful enough NetBurst architecture, i.e. Pentium 4, the Prescott core and pack two cores like that into a chip, then we may double performance in some (multi-threaded) tasks. There is one problem left though - there are few tasks or, to be more precise, little software to date. On the other hand, it is possible to run two resource-hungry applications which will work without an essential drop of performance in each application. This is what they sat at Intel regarding that: "Two working cores within a physical processor allow executing more tasks within shorter time, thus increasing the productivity of your work at the PC". On the other hand, making the dual-core processor a mass product, we can expect more software and games to come soon and able running with them more efficiently. These are just the purposes the models 820, 830 and 840 serve. Since the cost of a ready system based on such processors should be lower than that of a full-featured dual-processor configuration, there is every reasons the new systems are in for a wide recognition.

But we'd better get a closer idea of the Intel Pentium 4 830 - a central player on the field of dual-core chips. The processor supports the above mentioned Intel Extended Memory 64 and Execute Disable Bit. Besides, there is integrated support for the Intel SpeedStep feature which allows controlling the power consumption and heat emission of the processor to the detriment of performance at the moments when the load upon the system is far from the maximum. By the way, the issue of heat emission for such processors is topical because the chips may dissipate up to 160W at the peak level!


Intel Pentium 4 830

Intel Pentium 4 830
Processor name
Intel Pentium D 830
Architecture
90 nm, LGA775
Cache memory
L2 - 2x1MB
Clock speed
3.0 GHz
System bus speed
800 MHz

Intel Pentium 4 830

The processor itself was removed out of a demo system, so its appearance is somehow nonstandard, with a "tattoo" on.

New chipsets and motherboards based on them

Examining new processors is nothing without exploring the chipsets and motherboards which support them. Despite the already covered announcements pf chipsets and motherboards, let me briefly remind the major specifications of the novelties.


Chipset
NVIDIA nForce4 SLI Intel Edition
Intel 955X
Express
Intel 945P
Express
Intel 945G
Express
Intel 925XE
Express
Market sector
Performance
PC
Performance
PC
Performance
PC
Performance
PC
Performance
, Mass PC
Positioned for processors
Pentium D,
Pentium Extreme Edition,
Pentium 4
Pentium D,
Pentium Extreme Edition,
Pentium 4
Pentium D,
Pentium Extreme Edition,
Pentium 4, Celeron D
Pentium D,
Pentium Extreme Edition,
Pentium 4, Celeron D
Pentium Extreme Edition (single-core),
Pentium 4
Support for the Hyper-Threading technology
Optimized for Hyper-Threading
Optimized for Hyper-Threading
Optimized for Hyper-Threading
Optimized for Hyper-Threading
Optimized for Hyper-Threading
System bus (FSB), MHz
1066/800
1066/800
1066/800/533
1066/800/533
1066/800
Processor socket
LGA775
LGA775
LGA775
LGA775
LGA775
Q-ty of processors
1
1
1
1
1
North bridge (MCH)
nForce4 SLI Intel Ed. (Crush19)
82955X MCH
82945P MCH
82945G MCH
82925XE MCH
Type of the north bridge housing
N/A
652 mBGA
1202 FC-BGA
1202 FC-BGA
1210 FC-BGA
Support for memory modules
2 modules of dual-channel DIMM
2 modules of dual-channel DIMM
2 modules of dual-channel DIMM
2 modules of dual-channel DIMM
2 modules of dual-channel DIMM
Memory type
DDR2667/533
DDR2667/533
DDR2 667/533/400
DDR2 667/533/400
DDR2533/400
Maximum memory capacity, GB
16
8
4
4
4
Supported memory chips
N/A
256 Mbit/512 Mbit/1Gbit
256 Mbit/512 Mbit/1Gbit
256 Mbit/512 Mbit/1Gbit
256 Mbit/512 Mbit/1Gbit
Support for ECC
Non-ECC
ECC/Non-ECC
Non-ECC
Non-ECC
ECC/Non-ECC
Bus for external graphics
PCI Express x16 or 2 PCIe x8 for SLI
PCI Express x16
PCI Express x16
PCI Express x16
PCI Express x16
Support for SLI
yes
Possible
Possible
Possible
NA
Integrated graphics
NA
NA
NA
Intel GMA 950
NA
Interbridge communication bus
HyperTransport 800 MHz link (3.2 GB/s )
Direct Media Interface (2 GB/s )
Direct Media Interface (2 GB/s )
Direct Media Interface (2 GB/s )
Direct Media Interface (2 GB/s )
South bridge
MCP04
Intel ICH7: ICH7, ICH7R family
Intel ICH7: ICH7, ICH7R family
Intel ICH7: ICH7, ICH7R family
Intel ICH6: ICH6, ICH6R family
Type of the south bridge housing
N/A
652 mBGA
652 mBGA
652 mBGA
609 mBGA
PCI and PCI Express buses
3 or 4 PCI Express x1, up to 6 PCI 2.3
4 (ICH7) or 6 (ICH7R) PCI Express x1 lines, up to 6 PCI 2.3
4 (ICH7) or 6 (ICH7R) PCI Express x1 lines, up to 6 PCI 2.3
4 (ICH7) or 6 (ICH7R) PCI Express x1 lines, up to 6 PCI 2.3
4 PCI Express x1 lines, up to 6 PCI 2.3
Serial ATA ports
4 SATA II
4 SATA II
4 SATA II
4 SATA II
4 SATA
Parallel ATA ports
2 Ultra ATA/133
1 Ultra ATA/100
1 Ultra ATA/100
1 Ultra ATA/100
1 Ultra ATA/100
Support for SATA RAID
0, 1, 5, 10
0, 1, 5, 10 (Intel Matrix Storage Technology in ICH7R)
0, 1, 5, 10 (Intel Matrix Storage Technology in ICH7R)
0, 1, 5, 10 (Intel Matrix Storage Technology in ICH7R)
0, 1 and Matrix RAID for ICH6R
USB 2.0 ports
10
8
8
8
8
MAC network adapter
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
Dedicated Gigabit Ethernet network bus
Integrated GbE + firewall (ActiveArmor)
NA
NA
NA
yes
Integrated audio subsystem
AC-97 24-bit (96 kHz) audio up to 7.1 channel
Intel High Definition Audio, AC97/24-bit (192kHz) audio
Intel High Definition Audio, AC97/24-bit (192kHz) audio
Intel High Definition Audio, AC97/24-bit (192kHz) audio
Intel High Definition Audio, AC97/24-bit (192kHz) audio
I/O subsystem management
HyperTransport 800 MHz
SMBus 2.0 / GPIO
SMBus 2.0 / GPIO
SMBus 2.0 / GPIO
SMBus 2.0 / GPIO

That is how the specifications for new chipsets look as compared to the recent flagship Intel 925XE Express.

Intel 955X Express

This chipset is designed as a replacement of the "outdated" Intel 925XE Express and should provide support for novelties like dual-core Pentium D and Pentium Extreme Edition in combination with the much faster DDR2-667 memory (now officially, because 925XE also worked well with it). Depending on the installed ICH, the number of supported PCI-Express lines may be increased to 6, and a more reliable, flexible and fast data storage system on hard disks can be arranged. By the way, hard disks have now acquired a full-featured support for SATA II, or SATA 300. Besides, this new chipset allows building motherboards with two slots for video cards, i.e. an SLI configuration (perhaps, the CrossFire as well), but video cards manufacturers are putting obstacles in its way.


Intel 955X Express

Among the other special technologies of the chipset worth mentioning are:

  • Intel Memory Pipeline - allows more efficient use of each memory channel, thus accelerating data exchange between the processor and the system memory, thus boosting the system performance.
  • Intel Flex Memory - facilitates upgrades through use of memory modules of different capacities and the dual-channel mode at the same time.
  • Intel Active Management - Supports remote networked control of disabled systems over the network regardless of their state. Allows improving the efficiency of IT infrastructure, resource management efficiency, security and system availability.

At the test bench, the chipset was presented by the ASUS P5WD2 Premium motherboard.


ASUS P5WD2 Premium

Intel 945P/G Express

As compared to its elder brother, these chipsets are free from any certainly unneeded support for ECC memory in mass PCs and are decelerated due to the lack of Intel Memory Pipeline. On the other hand, support for 533 MHz system bus processors and DDR2-400 memory more suitable for building mass PCs has been returned. Intel Flex Memory and Intel Active Management have been preserved as is.


Intel 945P/G Express

Intel 945G differs from Intel 945P by the presence of integrated graphics core - Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 supporting Microsoft DirectX 9.0 and offering performance acceptable for office solutions.

In the tests, we used Intel's D945GNT built on i945G Express. It was presented for tests together with Pentium D 830 for review.


D945GNT

nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition

That's NVIDIA's first chipset for Intel processors which introduces its know-how like SLI. It is aimed at top-end systems of course. Besides, it offers support for all new processors (although there are some issues with Pentium D 820), as well as DDR2 memory, SATA II hard disks, an integrated Gigabit LAN controller, proprietary technologies ActiveArmor, and MediaShield.


nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition

In this chipset, the DDR2 controller is made up of two independent 64-bit ones able jointly operating in the 128-bit mode. Each memory slot is linked to dedicated address and control lines, which should provide a fast data fetching even in the asynchronous relative to FSB operation mode.

Another peculiarity of nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition is its integrated cycle generator. This allows cycling all the buses - PCI, PCI-Express, and FSB - independently, i.e. asynchronously.

Besides support for SATA II, this chipset offers another proprietary technology MediaShield which allows merging SATA and PATA hard disks into RAID arrays of levels 0, 1, 5, and 0+1, with alarms sent in case one of them fails (NVIDIA's disk alert feature), and automatic replacement with a backup.

ActiveArmor Firewall is a hardware facility for protection against hackers and unauthorized access to the network traffic. "NVIDIA ActiveArmor will guard your computer against almost all known attacks, including IP-spoofing and ARP cache poisoning. ActiveArmor also offers a simple setup, remote monitoring and configuration" - the white papers state.

In our tests, this chipset was represented by ASUS P5ND2-SLI Deluxe. Before the BIOS update with the most recent version, the board wouldn't see the second core of Pentium D 830 although it let the system start up and install Windows XP.


P5ND2-SLI Deluxe

Test specifics

Test configuration:


Processors
Intel Pentium 4,531
Intel Pentium D 830
Motherboards
Intel D945GNT (i945G)
Cooling
Cooler Master CI5-9JD3A-0L
Memory
2x Hynix DDR2-533 PC4200 (HYMP564U64P8-C4)
Video cards
Hard disks
Samsung HD160JJ 160Gb SATA300 7200rpm 8Mb
PSU
Chieftec HPC-420-102-DF 420W
Operating System
Widows XP Professional SP2 Ru
Drivers
Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility 7.0.0.1019
NVIDIA nForce Chipset Driver 7.13

Hynix DDR2-533 PC4200

The primary purpose of the tests was to compare new chipsets and assess the prospects of using dual-core processors. To get the answer to these questions, we loaded the systems with typical synthetic and gaming benchmarks, verified the times for data compression and encoding, and played modern games. To give an adequate estimate of the dual-core chip, we need multi-threaded benchmarks, better if they are real applications which are still few to date. So we had to create multi-threaded tasks manually using data encoding and background compression.

But before that, we say a few words on the heat emission of test systems. That Pentium D is hot was suspected before the tests. It's good that the nominal Cooler Master did not let it heat up higher than 61C but was feeding very warm air sideways. Without load, the temperature was within 56-57C. The first to undergo the tests was Intel D945GNT. It put us all into a difficult position right in the middle of tests - the computer simply powered off for no visible reason! Immediately, a lot of assumptions came up - the cooling system fails to do the job, the PSU was weak, the temperature sensors misread. But after working through the components with the hand, we immediately found the trouble-makers. That huge radiator on the MCH was simply red hot. We had to contrive and set up active cooling for it.


Afterwards, there were no more issues with the cooling. To be on the safe side, we fitted fans on top of the north bridges of other motherboards as well. In fact, the coldest part in no need for cooling was MCH in i955X - there are reasons why it is packed in 652 mBGA.

Performance test results

As usual, we start with the synthetic benchmarks - SiSoftware Sandra 2005 (2005.SR2a-1060).


Performance test results

As you can see, theoretically the dual-core processor performs arithmetic operations twice faster, and in combination with the SSE there is also a performance boost. As regards the chipsets, they demonstrated minimum effect on the performance.


Performance test results

At that, the dual-core processor gave an almost two-fold performance boost as well. The chipsets still produce a small effect although the photo-finish shows a negligible superiority of Intel "team". In the next test, the effect of chipsets on the result should be significant.


Performance test results

As it should be for a cheap chipset, i945G lost, whereas the top-end showed similar results - nForce 4 operates better with a dual-core processor, and i955X preferred the single-core processor.

Then there goes office synthetics and practice.


Performance test results

Although in some tests the performance of Pentium D and Pentium 4 proved equal, and the latter sometimes won, the overall performance rating shows a 12-13% performance boost for the former. Not so much, but impressive indeed! At that, i955X and nForce 4 IE proved approximately on par.


Performance test results

The faster, the better! In practice, the fast memory operation has made nForce4 in combination with Pentium D absolute leaders at WinRar compression. The i945G has lagged behind, as it should.


Performance test results

Here, the fastest is the best. The combination "Intel 955X Express + Pentium 4 531" has grabbed the leadership crown leaving nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition in the second place.


Performance test results

Although most 3D modeling/design packages are able running on multiprocessor platforms, we got the impression that SPECviewperf 8 does not make use of the feature. The result is evident. We only have to congratulate nForce4 on the victory at this test.

Now on to gaming synthetics.


Performance test results

This benchmarking package is sensitive to the speed of addressing the memory and the processor performance. Therefore, the leadership of dual-core Pentium D over the regular Pentium 4, and i955X over i945G looks quite logical, and nForce 4 IE is a leader again. But if we look at the figures carefully, the victories are not as significant as we expected.


Performance test results

In the more modern test package, the leader has been changed. Intel 955X coupled with Pentium D 830 demonstrates the highest result (but proves an outsider with Pentium 4 531). The i945G has pleased us unexpectedly with the results.


Performance test results

Another semi-synthetic/semi-gaming test that proves a slight advantage of the dual-core system and a small lag of the mass i945G behind top-end chipsets.

Gaming practice.


Performance test results

Now we smoothly move on to the practical tests. Quake III has long turned a synthetic benchmarking package from an action game due to its vivid sensitivity to the change in memory bandwidth and CPU performance. The result is there. I think the answer to the question "Which chipset runs better with memory?" is evident.


Performance test results

So as not to repeat all over again, let me note the unexpectedly good result of i945G produced with both processors.


Performance test results

There aren't any turning points in here.


Performance test results

This "photo-finish" game brings Intel 955X Express over to leaders who did a perfect job working with both processors.

The interim conclusion is this.

Although the dual-core Pentium D 830 has given a performance boost, we don't yet see the need for migrating to this platform. In fact, you would have to change the motherboard, and of course the PSU with the cooling system. And the processor alone is not cheap at all. For performance-critical systems assembled from scratch, the increased investments should pay back soon (especially when multi-threaded software comes up).

As regards the chipsets, then we should first congratulate NVIDIA on the creation of the functional and powerful nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition which competed on par with Intel 955X Express. Indeed on par, because during the tests we couldn't find the superiority of one over the other (while one of them is fast at one test, whereas the other leads at another test or goes on par).

Multi-threading performance tests

Since there aren't popular multithreaded tests/applications so far, we decided to make use of the capability of Windows XP to handle several processors and hopefully distribute load between them. Prior to running a test package or a game, we started archiving and/or encoding jobs to look for performance drops these background processes may result in.

To start with, we decided to have a look how the WAV encoding in MP3 will slow down if we ran this job simultaneously with WinRAR archiving.


Multi-threading performance tests

As you can see, the dual-core system has almost not felt the emergence of another resource-intensive process.


Multi-threading performance tests

Using 3DMark'05 we found out that various background jobs show a different effect on the overall performance. A media-stream task of re-coding showed less drop in "marks" than it was in WinRar operation. The simultaneous running of Lame and WinRar as background jobs for 3DMark resulted in their fatal deceleration but no performance drop for the main task being executed. In this mode, a dual-core CPU gave a performance boost as high as 47%.

We wondered how real it is playing games while the system is coding or compressing something.


Multi-threading performance tests

For a start, we took Half-Life 2 - one of the latest hits, not among the most resource-intensive. Since WinRar proved to be more "loading", we had to give up the encoding task while playing the game. Once demanding background processes emerge, even with Pentium D the performance dropped by 11%, and by as much as 43% with the single-core Pentium 4! Interestingly, once another background process emerged, the operating system increased the priority for the main process.


Multi-threading performance tests

At that, the situation repeats itself. Pentium D demonstrated an interesting result during the background encoding of WAV into MP3 - the performance didn't change at all and stayed within the error!


Multi-threading performance tests

Here one more rival comes into play - 7zip. As you see, the more threads and the more system resources they need, the better a dual-core processor performs and gives a 33% performance boost on the average. Recalculated to the work time, it means the same amount of work can be done in 5.5 hours instead of 8.

Conclusions (updated).

After testing the system in new modes, we found additional pluses - the average performance boost in multithreaded applications/tasks amounted to 33%. It's a pity that running such tasks is still a rare occasion, but the prospects are fine.

Intel GMA 950

Another hero of our test - a motherboard built on the chipset Intel 945G Express. The G means it offers integrated graphics based on the new Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 core, part of the updated architecture. We were impatient to see which tasks it would be able to cope with. Among the declared specifications, there is support for DirectX 9.0 and Open GL 1.4, as well as the operating frequency increased to 400 MHz with the possibility to address 224 MB of system memory.

Specifications:

  • 256-bit graphic core running at 400MHz;
  • Memory bandwidth increased to 10.6 GB/s if DDR2-667 is used;
  • Fill rates - 1.6 GPixels/s and 1.6 GTexels/s;
  • The video memory capacity has been increased to 224 MB (taken from the system memory);
  • Support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0 (Pixel Shader 2.0, Volumetric Textures, Shadow Maps, Slope Scale Depth Bias, Two-Sided Stencil, Vertex Shader 3.0 and Transform and Lighting);
  • Support for OpenGL 1.4 (ARB_vertex_buffer and EXT_shadow_funcs extensions and TexEnv shader caching);
  • Maximum resolution - 2048x1536@75 Hz;
  • Image display to several devices (LVDS, DVI-I, DVI-D, HDTV, TV-out, CRT);
  • Dynamic Display Modes with support for flat-panel, wide-screen, and Digital TV;
  • Support for HDTV resolutions - 480i/p, 576i/p, 720i/p and 1080i/p;
  • Support for Microsoft Windows XP, Windows XP 64-bit, Media Center Edition 2004/2005, Windows 2000, Linux (Xfree86).

There is also support for 16x9 and 16x10 image formats, hardware decompression of high-speed MPEG2 threads, 5x3 overlay filtration.

As the contender we used GigaByte GV-RX30S128D-B 128 MB video cards built on ATI Radeon x300 SE chip, almost of the lowest value sector.


GigaByte GV-RX30S128D-B 128 MB built on ATI Radeon x300 SE chip

GigaByte GV-RX30S128D-B 128 MB built on ATI Radeon x300 SE chip

During the express tests, we found out as follows:


In the performance tests for office applications, (to be more precise, at doing most of the office tasks) Intel GMA950 offers more than enough performance (the result proved higher than 1000 marks), but it lags behind X300 SE.


Judging by the result, the Intel GMA950 core will let you enjoy playing all the games which are over two years old, but with new games ... it is a thing of the next test.


Modern games will be really hard to play even at the minimum settings.


There is one proof to that. The lag behind 300 SE is already 65%.


As was already stated, old games are a piece of cake for Intel's integrated graphics.


Therefore, the result is expectable. Even at 640480 and the minimum quality settings, there is no quality and the FPS rate is 25. Playing Far Cry is impossible.


Half-Life 2 is a better performer, though. With much desire, you can try walking through it during lunch-breaks.


But here the result is sad, although the game did start up!

Conclusions on Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950.

If we position this solution not as a temporary replacement for a full-featured video card but as a good reason to save on an office computer, then Intel GMA 950 is a good option. The video core will provide a quality image display, superb 2D performance and handling simple 3D-applications. Besides, you will be able to launch any game with it in order to estimate or verify its functioning.

SLI and Intel

For confirmed gamers and at the same time worshippers of Intel processors, NVIDIA has definitely made a valuable gift in the form of its nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition (in fact, ATI with CrossFire are going towards that either, but we are not talking about that today). Now you get the chance of merging the power of two video cards into an SLI configuration to build scenes at immensely high resolution and quality settings.

Although we have run a series of tests, you won't see any graphs, because the talk is going on toward a bit different path.

Of course, there were no issues building an SLI on nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition. We simply took two Gigabyte GV-NX66T128D (GeForce 6600GT) cards, turned the key over on the motherboard (ASUS P5ND2-SLI Deluxe), fitted the cards into the PCI-Express 16x slots, applied additional voltage and powered on the PC. The system immediately detected the second card, installed the drivers and suggested enabling the SLI mode, which we gladly did.


SLI based on nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition

SLI based on nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition

Despite the performance boost as high as 62% in Far Cry at 1600x1200 and 64% in Doom 3 or with all the quality settings at 1024x768 switched to the maximum without performance drop, we found some shortcomings. First, the noise of the test bench went up essentially, so did the power consumption and the heat emission. Secondly, the power from the 3000 MHz processor was not enough to feed two GeForce 6600GT video cards, i.e. we were not able to increase the FPS in any of the games, and at higher resolutions there was even a drop in FPS down to 40-45 which will definitely be little for a hardcore gamer (one card at that resolution gave 26-30 fps). And that is with GeForce 6600GT. So, what will it be like if we fit a 6800? You arrive at the conclusion that unless your processor is higher than 3.6-3.8 GHz, think twice before buying the second video card for building the SLI. It is quite probable that to produce the expected effect you would have to replace the existing processor or overclock the existing one immensely.

But that is half the business. ASUS P5WD2 Premium (i955X) also has two PCI-Express 16x connectors. Is it worth trying? Of course, we did try to build an SLI in defiance of the specifications. It's not a problem to build a system - there is even no key. Simply fit, connect, and power it on. Windows gladly installed the drivers for the second video card, but


ASUS P5WD2 Premium (i955X)

ASUS P5WD2 Premium (i955X)

The video card drivers don't let create a SLI configuration on a chipset other than nForce 4. We could find online information on modified drivers quite easily, but we were unable to find the drivers themselves for the time meant to tests. Nor our attempts of forced SLI activation through modification of the system registry succeeded (you can find info on that at some web sites).

I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that all came up against the "correctly" written software, not the hardware issues. Our colleagues who, with the help of amended drivers, were able to launch SLI on i955X reported a 30% performance drop and poor prospects for this idea because you can't find renovated drivers with introduced amendments anywhere - NVIDIA will put obstacles in the way. Probably the situation may change with time. But today the second video card merely allowed us to expand the desktop (make it as wide as four monitors!).

Microsoft Windows XP x64 Edition

All the new processors offer support for Intel Extended Memory 64, which according to the adverts should allow installing more memory into the PC (what's the use of memory capacity greater than 4 GB?) and increase performance. That's why we are more interested in performance. It's good that Microsoft is currently sharing its operating system "for free" and it was not a problem for us to get it and install.


Microsoft Windows XP x64 Edition

But I presume the talk should not only be about the test results only, without a small digression to the implementation specifics of this OS, otherwise the results will not be clear enough, which also applies to the test results.

In Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, programmers at Microsoft have finally gave up support for the 16-bit code whose place according to the ranking was taken by 32-bit applications, i.e. a virtual space is created for call translation (Windows x86 emulator on Windows 64). Although not much, all this will take up resources. New 64-bit software is emerging not that quickly as we want it to. During the tests, we came across pitfalls - we failed to start up Aquamark 3, so instead of the test we were advised to send a report! PCMark'04 wouldn't start without installed Windows Media Player 9 and Windows Media Encoder 9 whose 64-bit versions are to come soon.

To ensure normal interaction with the hardware, the OS needs drivers. Windows XP x64 Edition needs ONLY 64-bit drivers. On the one hand, this will result in failure to operate for a great number of formerly functional devices. Far not every device will have the right driver written/recompiled. It is a bit easier with new devices - manufacturers are doing their best to make them work perfectly with Windows XP x64 Edition. But again, not all will be able to download enormous amount of files from the Internet. To make all the devices run in the renewed OS, we had to download as much as 76 MB. What adds more issues that many drivers are still a bit "raw". But we took the most recent.

Now that all is working correctly, we'd better look at the results.


At first, we were glad about the synthetics. 8-10% performance boost on the same system, only with a new OS and drivers.


The boost here is even higher, especially with the dual-core configuration.


The speed of addressing the memory has also gone up.

Synthetics is good, but let's come back to the reality.


So what? That's where virtualization and translation is! Performance drop is evident.


Nor WAV to MP3 encoding proved faster.


3DMark'05 also demonstrated a bit worse result. At that, we we growing upset..


Again, the same effect. Although the 20-30 fps loss is not really important, it is anyway annoying.


Almost 20% has been lost! I would put more exclamation marks, but to be more precise, it was actually a little bit more than 18%, just to make the bitter feeling softer.



The picture hasn't changed much in these games either. I wouldn't like to refer the positive result for Doom3 to the measurement error, but it's hardly believable.

The conclusion is grievous. Transition to Windows XP Professional x64 Edition is absolutely untimely. You've got to wait at least half a year and even more while Microsoft recompiles all that most actively. In the nearest future, we expect a transition to the 64-bit code of office applications, server packages and codecs with players. Games are not that fast at migrating to 64-bit code, although there are rare announcements on that. If we recall the notorious 64-bit patch to Far Cry taking as much space as over 1 GB(!), do we really need that? Anyway, that is a conclusion of today - all will radically change with time. We will recall today's Quake 3 or Half-Life as things of DOS era.

Final Words

What is left to do is to make the final conclusion on the expedience of introducing new technologies gathered around Intel. As usual, you've got to pay for the novelty, sometimes the tradeoff is too high although you are well aware that in the nearest time you won't be able making the most of your hardware. Even once programmers please us with the possibility to enable the still idle unit and technologies, we've got to be ready to side-effects. There is not much reason for worries, though. All will break even with time, will get polished and adapted, work even better than the old. But it's very likely that other New Technologies will emerge by then, and again we'll be arguing about the expediency of their introduction.

As regards today's heroes, we congratulate NVIDIA on the creation of the superb nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition chipset aimed at game stations. We also congratulate Intel on the release of the optimum chipset aimed at highly powerful universal systems - Intel 955X Express which is missing SLI only to become a leader, as well as on the Intel 945P/G Express chipset, an attractive option for mass PCs. The release of the dual-core processor is promising and timely, it gives performance boost already today, albeit not that significant. While these solutions are in little demand and expensive, very few would be willing to pay extra for the probable advantages, many will decide to wait a bit. Anyway, albeit slow, migration to the 64-bit code is coming closer. It's very likely that Windows XP x64 Edition is merely an "appetizer" aimed at making the user addicted to 64-bit ideas, thus preparing grounds for a wide-front offensive by Windows Longhorn (Vista).

27.07.2005


: 14.01.2006
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