iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail

Platform

Video

Multimedia

Mobile

Other

Intel 945P/G Motherboards Roundup

January 10, 2006




The first results of our roundup of motherboards (sometimes even engineering samples) on the new series of Intel 945/955 chipsets turned out to be ambiguous. Of course, new models with beta BIOS versions have a right to be slow. If a chipset is much faster than its competitors, it will have almost no effect on the results. But according to our tests, in case of Intel 915(with DDR2)/945 and Intel 925/955 pairs, this condition is not met, so the new motherboards were just slower than the old ones. Now, over six months afterwards, all manufacturers have released BIOS updates for their products on i945/955. So I think we may speak of the final performance results. Thus, here is a roundup of four motherboards on i945P and one model on i945G with the latest BIOS versions.

Performance tests

Testbed configuration:

  • CPU: Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.46 GHz, Socket 775
  • Motherboards on Intel 945P:

  • Foxconn 945G7MA-8KS2 motherboard (BIOS dated 28.07.05) on Intel 945G
  • Memory: 2x512 MB DDR2-533 DDR2 SDRAM DIMM Corsair (CM2X512A-4300C3PRO), 3-3-3-8
  • Video card: [PCIEx16] ATI Radeon X800 XT 256 MB
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 (SATA), 7200 rpm

Software:

  • OS and drivers:
    • Windows XP Professional SP2
    • DirectX 9.0c
    • Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility 7.0.0.1019
    • ATI Catalyst 5.2

  • Test applications:
    • 7-Zip 4.10b
    • WinRAR 3.41
    • DivX Pro 5.2.1 MPEG4 codec
    • XviD 1.0.2 MPEG4 codec
    • Adobe Photoshop 8.0
    • Doom 3 (v1.0.1282)
    • FarCry (v1.1.3.1337)
    • Unreal Tournament 2004 (v3339)

Brief comparative characteristics of all motherboards under review are provided in a summary table below:

Motherboard ECS PF5 Extreme ECS 945P-A (2.0) Gigabyte 8I945P-G Foxconn 945P7AA-8KS2 Foxconn 945G7MA-8KS2
Chipset
Intel 945P/ICH7R
Intel 945P/ICH7
Intel 945G/ICH7
CPU support
Socket 775, Intel Pentium 4/Pentium 4 EE/Pentium D/Pentium EE/Celeron D
Memory slots
4 DDR2
4 DDR2
4 DDR2
4 DDR2
4 DDR2
Expansion slots
2 PCIEx16 (x16+x4), 1 PCIEx1, 3 PCI
2 PCIEx16 (x16+x4), 1 PCIEx1, 3 PCI
PCIEx16, 2 PCIEx1, 3 PCI
PCIEx16, 2 PCIEx1, 3 PCI
PCIEx16, 1 PCIEx1, 2 PCI
I/O ports
1 x FDD, 1 x LPT on a bracket, 1 x COM, 2 x PS/2, IrDA
1 x FDD, 1 x LPT, 1 x COM, 2 x PS/2, IrDA
1 x FDD, 1 x LPT, 1 x COM, 2 x PS/2
1 x FDD, 1 x LPT, 1 x COM + COM connector, 2 x PS/2, IrDA
1 x FDD, 1 x LPT, 1 x COM, 2 x PS/2, IrDA
USB
4 USB 2.0 + 2 connectors, 2 USB 2.0 each
4 USB 2.0 + 2 connectors, 2 USB 2.0 each
4 USB 2.0 + 2 connectors, 2 USB 2.0 each
4 USB 2.0 + 2 connectors, 2 USB 2.0 each
4 USB 2.0 + 2 connectors, 2 USB 2.0 each
FireWire
1 port (4-pin, mini-FireWire) + connector for 1 port on a bracket (VIA VT6307)
-
-
-
-
Integrated into the chipset ATA controller
for two ATA100 devices + 4 SATA300 RAID (0, 1, 10, 5, Matrix RAID)
for two ATA100 devices + 4 SATA300
External ATA controller
Silicon Image SiI3132CNU (2 SATA300 RAID 0, 1)
-
VIA VT6410 (4 ATA133 RAID 0, 1, 0+1)
ITE IT8212F (4 ATA133 RAID 0, 1, and 0+1)
ITE IT8212F (2 ATA133 RAID 0, 1)
Audio
Realtek ALC880 HDA codec, Toslink S/PDIF-In/Out
Realtek ALC655 AC'97 codec
Realtek ALC882 HDA codec (7.1+2), Coaxial and Toslink S/PDIF-Out, S/PDIF-In connector
Realtek ALC880 HDA codec, Coaxial S/PDIF-Out
Realtek ALC880 HDA codec, S/PDIF-Out connector
Network controller
Marvell 88E8053-NNC (PCIEx1 Gigabit Ethernet) + Realtek RTL8100Pí (Fast Ethernet)
Realtek RTL8100Pí (Fast Ethernet)
Broadcom BCM5789KFB (PCIEx1 Gigabit Ethernet)
Broadcom BCM5789KFB (PCIEx1 Gigabit Ethernet)
Broadcom BCM5788KFB (PCI Gigabit Ethernet)
I/O controller
Winbond W83627THF
Winbond W83627THF
ITE IT8712F-A
ITE IT8712F-A
ITE IT8712F-A
BIOS
AMI BIOS v2.58
AMI BIOS v2.58
Award BIOS v6.00
Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG
Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG
Form factor, dimensions
ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm
microATX, 24.5x24.5 cm

Test results

All the motherboards are actually based on the same chipset, which makes testing them much easier: there is no need to test various operating modes. The only exception could have been made for integrated video in i945G. But we already reviewed the performance drop caused by GMA900/950 as well as absolute performance results of these video accelerators, so we can do without repetitions. We used our standard pair of DDR2-533 modules from Corsair, which SPD contains 3-3-3(-8) timings for 533 MHz. We reduced timings to minimum in each case. All the contenders underwent this test successfully, working well with 3-2-2(-4) timings, which is the theoretical minimum. Well, is there no plot in this roundup, diagrams demonstrating five equal bars? Let's check it out.

While both Foxconn motherboards demonstrated nearly the same memory read/write speed and Gigabyte 8I945P-G writes to memory slower than reads from it, both models from ECS demonstrate evidently low performance.

Let's have a look at the maximum memory exchange rate (using prefetch and non-temporal store methods). Gigabyte motherboard slightly outperforms its competitors — that's all right, considering that its FSB frequency (and thus CPU clock) is higher by half percent. In this test, all other things being equal (processor + memory), all the models must have demonstrated similar reading results and absolutely the same (to within FSB frequency) writing results. But we can see that both motherboards from ECS are noticeably outperformed. Considering their startup problems with Pentium 4 EE (1066 MHz bus), problems in our tests are not quite like a bolt from the blue, but we still didn't manage to find out the reasons.

The situation with memory access latency is also quite expected: ECS PF5 Extreme and ECS 945P-A (2.0) are much slower, the other three models are on a par. Foxconn models are slightly outperformed, leaving hope for Gigabyte 8I945P-G to make up for its reduced write rate with the other parameters and fight for leadership in real tests.



Indeed, Gigabyte motherboard turns out several seconds faster in archiving than the pair of Foxconn models that demonstrate the same results. What concerns the "unfortunates" from ECS, they are slower by up to 10%.

Interestingly, even the video encode speed (measured according to our method) demonstrated by ECS motherboards is a tad lower, though these results usually don't depend on a memory operation speed.

Both models are also a couple percents slower in image processing in Photoshop, which is also not very critical to memory performance.

So the situation is crystal clear, but we shall also publish results of our game tests: these applications illustrate the difference in synthetic mode (640×480 and 800×600 with low graphics quality on a powerful modern video accelerator), which as a rule disappears in real conditions.







Testing the integrated audio quality

The integrated audio quality of each model was tested in 16bit, 44 kHz using the RightMark Audio Analyzer 5.4 test application and the Terratec DMX 6fire sound card:


Motherboard ECS PF5 Extreme ECS 945P-A (2.0) Gigabyte 8I945P-G Foxconn 945P7AA-8KS2 Foxconn 945G7MA-8KS2
Audio codec
Realtek ALC880, HDA (7.1)
Realtek ALC655, AC'97 (5.1)
Realtek ALC882, HDA (7.1+2)
Realtek ALC880, HDA (7.1)
Realtek ALC880, HDA (7.1)
Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:
+0.14, -0.16 (Very good)
+0.15, -0.56 (Good)
+0.14, -0.17 (Very good)
+0.14, -0.24 (Very good)
+0.16, -0.35 (Good)
Noise level, dB (A):
-74.2 (Average)
-76.6 (Average)
-84.2 (Good)
-84.9 (Good)
-81.8 (Good)
Dynamic range, dB (A):
74.3 (Average)
76.5 (Average)
84.4 (Good)
84.6 (Good)
81.5 (Good)
THD, %:
0.0062 (Very good)
0.028 (Good)
0.0048 (Very good)
0.0035 (Very good)
0.0032 (Very good)
Intermodulation distortion, %:
0.043 (Good)
0.066 (Good)
0.068 (Good)
0.019 (Very good)
0.027 (Good)
Channel crosstalk, dB:
-76.0 (Very good)
-77.0 (Very good)
-82.6 (Very good)
-83.0 (Very good)
-80.2 (Very good)
IMD at 10 kHz, %:
0.045 (Good)
0.150 (Average)
0.017 (Very good)
0.017 (Very good)
0.020 (Very good)
General performance
Good
Good
Good
Very good
Good

Evaluation details for each motherboard are provided in its description, you can go right to the page you need by following the link with a motherboard title in this table.

We noticed no radical differences between the contenders, even though ECS 945P-A (2.0) is equipped with an AC'97 codec versus HDA codecs in the other models. However, this very motherboard offers the worst results, the second model ECS (PF5 Extreme) did not go far from it. The most interesting audio codec is installed on Gigabyte 8I945P-G. And our winner is Foxconn 945P7AA-8KS2, which didn't demonstrate anything special as well as any failures.

A traditional reminder: we compare integrated audio controllers of these very motherboards only because they are based on the same chipset, so the chances are high that they will compete with each other to be your choice. A chipset has no effect on the audio quality (it's up to the codec, output signal level, operational amplifier at the codec output, feed-through electrolytic capacitors, successful motherboard layout…), so the cross comparison of any models based on our data will certainly be valid. However, chipset support for this or that audio standard makes a difference. Moreover, a motherboard does not necessarily use this advantage (for example, the above mentioned ECS 945P-A (2.0)).

Conclusions

In our opinion, the i945 chipset does not offer obvious advantages over competing solutions for the majority of users, so we didn't carry out a global roundup of motherboards on this chipset. Nevertheless, to give you a reference point to choose among models on i945P or i945G, we draw a bottom line under the five motherboards that found their way to our test lab. We cannot really single out a performance leader, Gigabyte 8I945P-G outperforms Foxconn 945P7AA-8KS2 and Foxconn 945G7MA-8KS2 by a scanty value (not in all tests) — we should recognize all the three models as winners. Both ECS models are a disappointment. While we couldn't really expect anything from 945P-A (2.0), considering its low price and its low-end nature, the top PF5 Extreme must have demonstrated better performance. However, the problems of ECS motherboards surely have to do with a poor BIOS version (they have the same BIOS).

We leave the comparison of audio quality up to you — the fact is that even noticeable differences in objective results in a great number of cases make no audible difference to users. For example, the difference of 10 dBA in a dynamic range of audio controllers will be no problem for listening radio broadcasts with small computer speakers :). As always, we conclude our review with a recommendation to read detailed descriptions of these models, because differences in functionality, package content, and certainly in prices may tip the scale.




Sergei Pikalov (peek@ixbt.com)
January 10, 2006

Write a comment below. No registration needed!


Article navigation:



blog comments powered by Disqus

  Most Popular Reviews More    RSS  

AMD Phenom II X4 955, Phenom II X4 960T, Phenom II X6 1075T, and Intel Pentium G2120, Core i3-3220, Core i5-3330 Processors

Comparing old, cheap solutions from AMD with new, budget offerings from Intel.
February 1, 2013 · Processor Roundups

Inno3D GeForce GTX 670 iChill, Inno3D GeForce GTX 660 Ti Graphics Cards

A couple of mid-range adapters with original cooling systems.
January 30, 2013 · Video cards: NVIDIA GPUs

Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1

An external X-Fi solution in tests.
September 9, 2008 · Sound Cards

AMD FX-8350 Processor

The first worthwhile Piledriver CPU.
September 11, 2012 · Processors: AMD

Consumed Power, Energy Consumption: Ivy Bridge vs. Sandy Bridge

Trying out the new method.
September 18, 2012 · Processors: Intel
  Latest Reviews More    RSS  

i3DSpeed, September 2013

Retested all graphics cards with the new drivers.
Oct 18, 2013 · 3Digests

i3DSpeed, August 2013

Added new benchmarks: BioShock Infinite and Metro: Last Light.
Sep 06, 2013 · 3Digests

i3DSpeed, July 2013

Added the test results of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 and AMD Radeon HD 7730.
Aug 05, 2013 · 3Digests

Gainward GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB Golden Sample Graphics Card

An excellent hybrid of GeForce GTX 650 Ti and GeForce GTX 660.
Jun 24, 2013 · Video cards: NVIDIA GPUs

i3DSpeed, May 2013

Added the test results of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770/780.
Jun 03, 2013 · 3Digests
  Latest News More    RSS  

Platform  ·  Video  ·  Multimedia  ·  Mobile  ·  Other  ||  About us & Privacy policy  ·  Twitter  ·  Facebook


Copyright © Byrds Research & Publishing, Ltd., 1997–2011. All rights reserved.