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Roundup of Ten New Motherboards on Intel 915/925 Chipsets

November 25, 2004




Since the announcement of Intel 915/925 Express series chipsets, we have already compared the performance of new motherboards analyzing the influence of the chipset proper, motherboard memory type, and accompanying factors. We obtained approximately the same picture in the first and the second parts of our roundup of Socket 775 motherboards based on i915/925. And as we didn't detect any deviations from the "standard" this time, we decided to skip the analytical part and publish only the pure comparison of new motherboards. Our conclusions and attitude to the motherboards based on i915/925 will be repeated at the end of the article.

Performance tests

Testbed configuration:

Software:

  • OS and drivers:
    • Windows XP Professional SP1
    • DirectX 9.0b
    • Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility 6.0.1.1002
    • Intel VGA 14.5
    • NVIDIA ForceWare 62.01

  • Test applications:
    • 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 motherboards under review are provided in a summary table below:


Motherboard Albatron PX915G Pro Albatron PX915P Pro ASUS P5AD2 Premium ASUS P5GDC-V Deluxe ECS 865PE-A7
Chipset Intel 915G/ICH6 Intel 915P/ICH6 Intel 925X/ICH6R Intel 915G/ICH6R Intel 865PE/ICH5
CPU support Socket 775, Intel Pentium 4/Celeron D
Memory slots 4 DDR 4 DDR 4 DDR2 2 DDR2 + 4 DDR 4 DDR
Expansion slots PCIEx16, 2 PCIEx1, 3 PCI PCIEx16, 2 PCIEx1, 3 PCI PCIEx16, 2 PCIEx1, 3 PCI PCIEx16, 2 PCIEx1, 3 PCI AGP, 5 PCI
I/O ports 1 FDD, 1 LPT, 1 COM, 2 PS/2 1 FDD, 1 LPT, 1 COM, 2 PS/2 1 FDD, 1 LPT, 1 COM (on a bracket), 2 PS/2 1 FDD, 1 LPT, 1 COM (on a bracket), 2 PS/2 1 FDD, 1 LPT, 1 COM, 2 PS/2
USB 4 USB 2.0 + 2 connectors, 2 USB 2.0 each
FireWire - - 1 FireWire + 2 connectors for 2 GigaWire ports on a bracket (TI TSB82AA2 + TSB81BA3) 1 + 1 connector for 1 port on a bracket (TI TSB43AB22A) -
Integrated into the chipset ATA controller 2 ATA100 + 4 SATA 2 ATA100 + 4 SATA 2 ATA100 + 4 SATA RAID 2 ATA100 + 4 SATA RAID 4 ATA100 + 2 SATA
External ATA controller ITE IT8212F (4 ATA133 RAID 0, 1, 0+1) ITE IT8212F (4 ATA133 RAID 0, 1, 0+1) Silicon Image SiI3114CT176 (4 SATA RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5) + ITE IT8212F (4 ATA133 RAID 0, 1, 0+1) ITE IT8212F (4 ATA133 RAID 0, 1, 0+1) -
Audio Avance Logic ALC880 HDA-codec, S/PDIF connector Avance Logic ALC880 HDA-codec, S/PDIF connector C-Media CMI9880 HDA-codec, Coaxial and Toslink S/PDIF-Out, S/PDIF-In connector C-Media CMI9880 HDA-codec, Coaxial and Toslink S/PDIF-Out Avance Logic ALC655 AC’97-codec, S/PDIF connector
Network controller Marvell 88E8001-LKJ (PCI Gigabit Ethernet) + VIA VT6105 LOM (Fast Ethernet) Marvell 88E8001-LKJ (PCI Gigabit Ethernet) + VIA VT6105 LOM (Fast Ethernet) 2xMarvell 88E8053-NNC (PCIEx1 Gigabit Ethernet) + Marvell 88W8310-BAN (WiFi-b/g) Marvell 88E8053-NNC (PCIEx1 Gigabit Ethernet) Realtek RTL8100C (Fast Ethernet)
I/O controller Winbond W83627THF Winbond W83627THF Winbond W83627EHF-A Winbond W83627EHF-A Winbond W83627THF
BIOS 4 Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG 4 Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG 8 Mbit AMI BIOS v2.51 4 Mbit AMI BIOS v2.51 4 Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG
Form factor, dimensions ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm

Motherboard Foxconn 915A01-P-8EKRS Foxconn 915A03-P-8EKRS Foxconn 925A01-8EKRS MSI 915G Combo-FR MSI 915P Neo2 Platinum MSI 925X Neo
Chipset Intel 915P/ICH6R Intel 915P/ICH6R Intel 925X/ICH6R Intel 915G/ICH6 Intel 915P/ICH6R Intel 925X/ICH6RW
CPU support  
Memory slots 4 DDR2 4 DDR 4 DDR2 2 DDR2 + 2 DDR 4 DDR2 4 DDR2
Expansion slots PCIEx16, 3 PCIEx1, 3 PCI PCIEx16, 3 PCIEx1, 3 PCI PCIEx16, 3 PCIEx1, 2 PCI PCIEx16, 2 PCIEx1, 3 PCI PCIEx16, 2 PCIEx1, 3 PCI PCIEx16, 2 PCIEx1, 3 PCI
I/O ports 1 FDD, 1 LPT, 1 COM, 2 PS/2 1 FDD, 1 LPT, 1 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 1 FDD, 1 LPT, 1 COM, 2 PS/2
USB  
FireWire 1 + 1 connector for 1 port (VIA VT6307) 1 + 1 connector for 1 port (VIA VT6307) 1 + 1 connector for 1 port (VIA VT6307) - 3 connectors for 3 ports, 2 – on a bracket (VIA VT6306) 1 + 2 connectors for 2 ports on a bracket (VIA VT6306)
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 2 ATA100 + 4 SATA RAID 2 ATA100 + 4 SATA RAID
External ATA controller - - - VIA VT6410 (4 ATA133 RAID 0, 1, 0+1) VIA VT6410 (4 ATA133 RAID 0, 1, 0+1) VIA VT6410 (4 ATA133 RAID 0, 1, 0+1)
Audio Avance Logic ALC880 HDA-codec, Coaxial S/PDIF-Out on a bracket, S/PDIF-In connector Avance Logic ALC880 HDA-codec, Coaxial S/PDIF-Out on a bracket, S/PDIF-In connector Avance Logic ALC880 HDA-codec, Coaxial S/PDIF-Out on a bracket, S/PDIF-In connector C-Media CMI9880L HDA-codec, Coaxial and Toslink S/PDIF-Out, S/PDIF-In connector C-Media CMI9880L HDA-codec, Coaxial and Toslink S/PDIF-Out, S/PDIF-In connector Avance Logic ALC861 HDA-codec, Coaxial and Toslink S/PDIF-Out, S/PDIF-In connector
Network controller Realtek RTL8110S-32 (PCI Gigabit Ethernet) Realtek RTL8110S-32 (PCI Gigabit Ethernet) Realtek RTL8110S-32 (PCI Gigabit Ethernet) Realtek RTL8110S-32 (PCI Gigabit Ethernet) Broadcom BCM5751KFB (PCIEx1 Gigabit Ethernet) Broadcom BCM5751KFB (PCIEx1 Gigabit Ethernet) + Intel 82562EZ (Fast Ethernet)
I/O controller ITE IT8712F-A ITE IT8712F-A ITE IT8712F-A Winbond W83627THF Winbond W83627THF Winbond W83627THF
BIOS 4 Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG 4 Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG 4 Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG 4 Mbit AMI BIOS v2.51 4 Mbit AMI BIOS v2.51 4 Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG
Form factor, dimensions ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm

Test results

Maximum "analysis depth" of today's roundup is to test motherboards supporting both DDR and DDR2 with each memory type in turn. Results of systems with on-board video are omitted, as they are not essentially different from the results obtained in the first part of the series.



As you can see, relative speed in both archivers is absolutely the same, even the rating of contenders remained the same. As memory latency plays a pivotal role in this test, ASUS P5AD2 Premium outscores all other motherboards only in Turbo mode. But in general, motherboards supporting DDR400 look more preferable to DDR2-533 models (i865PE is outscored by i915, because the memory controller in the new chipset is faster). The low result of MSI 915G Combo-FR with both memory types is alarming (compare with ASUS P5GDC-V Deluxe) – it may indicate problems, which we have already seen in "dual-standard" motherboards.

Video encoding speed, measured according to our open method, is mainly determined by a CPU, so we contented ourselves with the results of a single test. As you can see, chipset and memory type have nothing to do with it. The difference in results can be explained by the FSB frequency increase value (and thus CPU) relative to the standard one. It's quite logical that the ASUS P5AD2 Premium frequencies increased almost by 1% (in Turbo mode) make this motherboard a leader. MSI 915G Combo-FR is again on the bottom of the list, though its frequencies are strictly according to the standard.

Photoshop tests steadily demonstrate "interesting" results: so, motherboards on i865 are again heavily defeated by all other models, and the ill-fated MSI 915G Combo-FR supporting two memory types failed the test again. It's strange that ASUS P5GDC-V Deluxe is doing quite well in this test and is even fighting for the first place – that's evidently the difference in the engineering efficiency in different companies providing non-standard operating modes with DDR and DDR2 on the same motherboard. All "normal" models have finished at about the same time, but the Turbo mode provided the finishing dash and again procured victory for ASUS P5GD2 Premium.





But just for a change MSI 915G Combo-FR works magic in games, demonstrating one of the highest results among the motherboards without "magical" acceleration technologies (like ASUS Hyper Path 2). ASUS P5GD2 Premium "with turbo-supercharging" is traditionally the first. Memory performance being important here, we are at last witnessing a percentagewise considerable overclocking effect. ECS 865PE-A7 was surprisingly moderate: i865PE being equipped with AGP 8x, we had to use [kind of] a faster video card, but it didn't help. You can see the rest on the diagrams.

Conclusions

Thus, summing up the series of tests of modern solutions for Socket 775 let's draw several conclusions, which pretend to be final and helpful in estimating by the eye the attractiveness of the motherboards with different properties.

  1. Motherboards based on the i915 series chipsets are faster than typical old representatives of i865, in case they use the same memory type (DDR). We recommend to buy these models, because i915+DDR2 motherboards are usually slower and are always more expensive, while i925X+DDR2 motherboards are still more expensive and provide almost no performance gain. Actually, DDR2 is of no real use these days.
  2. There is a point in buying a motherboard based on i915/925, if you need (now or in future) new technologies implemented in this platform. Performance is not a fad of this generation of Intel chipsets with PCI Express. On the other hand, performance differences in all cases (in real tests) are not that large to condition univocal customer's choice, except for a number of artifacts of the old chipsets in Photoshop.
  3. Let's do justice to qualifications of ASUS engineers: motherboards from this manufacturer are a tad overclocked, which helps them (even if purely formally) take the first places in tests. What is probably more important is that the ASUS motherboard supporting both memory types managed to demonstrate good image processing performance in Photoshop, while similar motherboards from other manufacturers failed this test. If you want a motherboard supporting two memory types, we can recommend only ASUS P5GDC-V Deluxe.

And now let's finish our roundup of motherboards based on Intel 915P/G and 925X. New chipsets are round the corner (including 925XE from Intel), it's time we have a look at them. Of course, if we find out an interesting occasion to return to the first generation of PCIE-chipsets, we'll get back to this topic immediately.






Sergei Pikalov (peek@ixbt.com)
November 9, 2004



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