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Testbed Configuration and Methods

Since our goal was to check if the new nForce SLI x16 chipset has any advantage over the ordinary nForce4 SLI, we used the same hardware parts with two different mainboards:

  • AMD Athlon 64 4000+ CPU (2.40GHz, 1MB L2 cache)
  • ASUS A8N32-SLI Deluxe and ASUS A8N-SLI Premium mainboards
  • OCZ PC3200 Platinum EL DDR SDRAM (2 x 1GB, CL2-3-2-5)
  • Samsung SpinPoint SP1213C (Serial ATA-150, 8MB buffer)
  • Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 sound card
  • Cooler Master Real Power 450 power supply (RS-450-ACLY, 450W)
  • Dell P1130 and Dell P1110 monitors (21”, 1800x1440@75Hz max display mode)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Pro SP2 with DirectX 9.0c
  • NVIDIA nForce4 AMD Edition 6.70 (for A8N-SLI Premium)
  • NVIDIA nForce4 AMD/Intel X16 6.82 (for A8N32-SLI Deluxe)
  • NVIDIA ForceWare 81.95

Two NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX graphics cards working in SLI mode constituted the graphics subsystem for the gaming tests. This will show if the two PCI Express x16 channels give any performance gain in games as opposed to the ordinary nForce 4 SLI config in which each x16 slot has only 8 PCI Express lanes. To avoid CPU-imposed limitations, we didn’t test 1024x768 resolution, but tested the popular 1280x1024 mode and the difficult but standard 1600x1200 resolution. We also didn’t test the systems in the “pure speed” mode, but added two new modes to our traditional “eye candy” settings (4x FSAA + 16x anisotropic filtering): 8x FSAA + 16x AF and 16x FSAA + 16x AF. The ForceWare driver was set up as usual:

  • Image Settings: Quality
  • Vertical sync: Off
  • Trilinear optimization: On
  • Anisotropic mip filter optimization: Off
  • Anisotropic sample optimization: On
  • Gamma correct antialiasing: On
  • Transparency antialiasing: Off
  • Other settings: default

We select the highest graphics quality settings in each game. If possible, we use the games’ integrated benchmarking tools and if not, we measure the frame rate with the FRAPS utility. We measure minimal as well as average fps rates whenever possible.

We turned on the 4x FSAA + 16x AF mode from the game’s own menu if it was possible. Otherwise, we forced the necessary mode from the ForceWare driver as we also did for the higher levels of full-screen antialiasing.

These games and applications were used as benchmarks:

First-Person 3D Shooters

  • The Chronicles of Riddick
  • Doom 3
  • Far Cry
  • F.E.A.R.
  • Half-Life 2
  • Project Snowblind
  • Quake 4
  • Serious Sam 2
  • Unreal Tournament 2004

Third-Person 3D Shooters

  • Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Simulators

  • Colin McRae Rally 2005
  • Pacific Fighters

Strategies

  • Age of Empires 3
  • Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War

Semi-synthetic benchmarks

  • Aquamark 3

Synthetic benchmarks

  • Futuremark 3DMark03 build 360
  • Futuremark 3DMark05 build 120

Besides these gaming tests we also made use of WinRAR 3.51, Futuremark 3DMark2001 SE (build 330), Futuremark PCMark05 (build 110) and our own utility to test the bandwidth of AGP and PCI Express buses. For these tests the testbed included but one GeForce 7800 GTX graphics card. We offer you the results of the theoretical tests first as they are indicative of what you may expect from the ASUS A8N32-SLI Deluxe and the new chipset in real gaming applications.

 
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