iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Comparative Tests of the Four Mainboards based on Intel 915/925

and Analysis of the Factors Influencing the Performance of these Chipsets

We have recently reviewed in detail the new generation of Intel chipsets, now it's high time to pay our attention to off-the-shelf mainboards based on these chipsets. Besides, taking advantage of a specific character of some of the mainboards under review, we shall correctly compare DDR2 and DDR and analyze startup failures of the integrated i915G video.

Performance tests

Testbed configuration:

  • CPU: Intel Pentium 4 560 (3.6 GHz, Prescott), Socket 775
  • Mainboards:

  • Memory:
    • 2x512 MB PC3200(DDR400) DDR SDRAM DIMM Corsair, 2-2-2-5
    • 2x512 MB PC2-4300(DDR2-533) DDR2 SDRAM DIMM Micron, 4-4-4-11

  • External video card: Leadtek PX350 TDH (NVIDIA GeForce PCX 5900 (400/700 MHz) 128 MB)
  • HDD: Western Digital WD360 (SATA), 10000 rpm


  • OS and drivers:
    • Windows XP Professional SP1
    • DirectX 9.0b
    • Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility
    • Intel VGA 14.5
    • NVIDIA ForceWare 62.01

  • Test applications:
    • RightMark Memory Analyzer 3.2
    • 7-Zip 3.13
    • WinRAR 3.30
    • Mainconcept MPEG Encoder 1.4
    • Adobe Photoshop 7.0
    • Gray Matter Studios & Nerve Software Return to Castle Wolfenstein v1.1
    • Croteam/GodGames Serious Sam: The Second Encounter v1.07
    • Digital Extremes/Epic Games/Atari Unreal Tournament 2003 v2225

Short comparative characteristics of all mainboards under review are provided in a summary table below:

Mainboard Foxconn 915M03-G-8EKRS2 Foxconn 915M07-G-8EKRS Gigabyte 8ANXP-D Gigabyte 8GPNXP Duo
Links Foxconn 915M03-G-8EKRS2 Foxconn 915M07-G-8EKRS Gigabyte 8ANXP-D Gigabyte 8GPNXP Duo
Chipset i915G/ICH6R (NG82915G + FW82801FR) i915G/ICH6R (NG82915G + FW82801FR) i925X/ICH6R (NG82925X + FW82801FR) i915P/ICH6R (NG82GDP + FW82801FR)
CPU support Socket 775, Intel Pentium 4, Intel Celeron D Socket 775, Intel Pentium 4, Intel Celeron D Socket 775, Intel Pentium 4 Socket 775, Intel Pentium 4, Intel Celeron D
Memory slots 4 DDR2 4 DDR 6 DDR2 2 DDR2, 4 DDR
Expansion slots PCIEx16/ 2 PCIEx1/ 1 PCI PCIEx16/ 1 PCIEx1/ 2 PCI PCIEx16/ 3 PCIEx1/ 2 PCI PCIEx16/ 3 PCIEx1/ 2 PCI
I/O ports 1 FDD, 1 LPT, 2 COM, 2 PS/2 1 FDD, 1 LPT, 2 COM, 2 PS/2 1 FDD, 1 LPT, 1 COM, 2 PS/2 1 FDD, 1 LPT, 1 COM, 2 PS/2
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 + 3 connectors (2 USB 2.0 each) + 1 connector for 1 USB 2.0 4 USB 2.0 + 2 connectors, 2 USB 2.0 each
FireWire 1 + 1 connector for 1 port, VIA VT6307 1 + 1 connector for 1 port, VIA VT6307 2 connectors for 3 GigaWire ports (bracket for 2 ports is in the bundle), TI TSB82AA2 2 connectors for 3 GigaWire ports (bracket for 2 ports is in the bundle), TI TSB82AA2
Integrated into the chipset ATA controller 2 ATA100 + 4 SATA RAID 2 ATA100 + 4 SATA RAID 2 ATA100 + 4 SATA RAID 2 ATA100 + 4 SATA RAID
External ATA controller - - Silicon Image SiI3114CT176 (4 SATA RAID 0, 1, 0+1) ITE IT8212F (4 ATA133 RAID 0, 1, 0+1)
Audio HDA Avance Logic ALC880 codec HDA Avance Logic ALC880 codec HDA Avance Logic ALC880 codec, Coaxial S/PDIF-In/Out HDA C-Media CMI9880 codec, Coaxial S/PDIF-In/Out
Network controller Realtek RTL8110S-32 (Gigabit Ethernet) Realtek RTL8110S-32 (Gigabit Ethernet) Broadcom BCM5751KFB (PCIEx1 Gigabit Ethernet) + Marvell 88E8001-LKJ (PCI Gigabit Ethernet) Broadcom BCM5751KFB (PCIEx1 Gigabit Ethernet) + Marvell 88E8001-LKJ (PCI Gigabit Ethernet)
I/O controller ITE IT8712F-A ITE IT8712F-A ITE IT8712F-A ITE IT8712F-A
BIOS 4 Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG 4 Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG 4 Mbit Award BIOS v6.00PG 4 Mbit Award BIOS v6.00PG
Form factor, dimensions mATX, 24.5x24.5 cm mATX, 24.5x24.5 cm ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm

Test results:

This time we have an opportunity to estimate correctly the effect of using different memory types. The fact is, when you try to compare a mainboard from the X1 manufacturer based on the Y1 chipset with the Z1 memory type and a mainboard from the X2 manufacturer on the Y2 chipset with the Z2 memory type, it's very difficult to determine the contribution of Factor Z to the total difference. Fortunately, Gigabyte launched a model supporting both DDR and DDR2, plus we got two practically identical mainboards from Foxconn based on the same chipset, but with memory slots for different generations of RAM. Besides, in case of Foxconn mainboards we can measure the degree of performance slow down due to the integrated i915G video – again for different memory types. In order not to overcrowd the diagrams, we provide only the distinctive features of each system – we hope it won't be difficult to correlate them with specific models.

We'll start with low level memory tests in RightMark Memory Analyzer. We are not interested in maximal real read bandwidth, this value is approximately the same for all contenders, as it is limited by the CPU bus bandwidth. For read without prefetch operations the i925X mainboard is approximately on the level with DDR mainboards, new chipsets with DDR2 are lagging behind by 4%. The use of integrated video proportionally decreases the results approximately by 4-5% in comparison with the use of an external video card (mainboards with DDR2 experience a lesser decrease, but the bottom line results are lower).

Non-Temporal Store (direct memory access for writing past the processor cache levels) is also absolutely predictable and differs a little only because of the difference in FSB frequency values of the contenders. In ordinary memory write operations DDR2 gains revenge for the reading failure outscoring i915+DDR400 almost by 13% (however the Gigabyte mainboard didn't manage to squeeze so much from DDR2-533). i925X confidently comes first.

Pseudo-Random Read Latency (prevents D-TLB misses) is minimal in mainboards with DDR, only i925X remains on the same level. DDR2 impairs the results by approximately 4%, just as the integrated video.

Random read method doubles the latency, in this case DDR is beyond comparison outscoring i925X by more than 7%, and i915 mainboards with DDR2 – by 11-12%. Integrated video usage costs much less, just a couple percents slower.

On the whole it's all clear: i925X is really faster than i915 with DDR2, but this speed advantage is hardly enough to remain on the level with the same i915 but with DDR. However, 10% difference in synthetic tests does not make noticeable difference between our contenders in real tests.

The first role in archiving is quite expectedly played by memory latency, so the conclusions in the above paragraph are true. Meanwhile, the maximum lag from the leader of the system based on i915 with DDR2 and integrated video is less than 6%.

Practically all the tests included into our public technique for video encoding are weakly dependent on memory performance. These results wouldn't have deserved a separate diagram (less than 2% between the best and the worst systems) but for the sudden lag of a Gigabyte mainboard with DDR400, which we witnessed in half of the tests (in the other tests the mainboard was on the level with its competitors).

Unlike rendering programs (where the results are almost completely determined by CPU), image processing in Photoshop is more critical to the difference in chipsets and memory types. Scatter of readings is not large again, but Gigabyte 8GPNXP Duo with DDR400 is again lagging behind the rest of the mainboards by 8-13%. The reason for this strange behavior is not clear, but despite the undoubted potential of DDR in i915 mainboards we would still recommend to orient toward the models designed for a single memory type.

We plan to publish a separate article with a comparison of the i915G integrated video with other integrated chipsets, which are its real competitors unlike one of the top video accelerators on GPU NVIDIA. In the remaining part of our roundup we'd like to note that the actual position of affairs in games is preserved (i925X and mainboards with DDR are a tad faster than mainboards with DDR2), though the difference between the contenders is getting too measly.


If you wish, you can re-read the comments about the low level comparison of the systems under review. What concerns practice, there are only several obvious conclusions.

  1. Other things being equal, i925X is a tad faster than i915. The difference is small but nothing like "i865+PAT" is to be seen yet. However, we haven't reviewed mainboards from ASUSTeK yet.
  2. DDR in i915 is more preferable in respect of speed, the difference disappears. We cannot recommend mainboards with dual memory type support – they sometimes feature strange performance drops.
  3. Performance differences in all cases (in real tests) are not so great to condition univocal customers' choice.
  4. Integrated video core negligibly hampers the operation, which is a wonderful result if you recall integrated chipsets three-four years ago.

Considering what I wrote in the beginning of this article, if it's vital for you to switch to Socket 775, you may choose a system to your liking. There are no reasons to give preference to any of the memory types, so the present or future upgrade options should be considered individually. What concerns our recommendations on specific mainboards, it's too early to make them. It looks as if mainboards based on the Intel 900 series chipsets can be compared directly, without paying serious attention to their memory type and chipset. On this note we bid you farewell until the second part of the roundup, which will review an unexpectedly fast model from Intel, Albatron mainboards, and many others.

Reviewed by iXBT.com – this product has passed our lab tests

Stanislav Garmatuk (nawhi@ixbt.com)
Dmitry Majorov (destrax@ixbt.com)
Sergei Pikalov (peek@ixbt.com)

13 August, 2004

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