Articles: Mainboards

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Testbed and Methods

The main goal of our today’s testing is to estimate the performance of mainboards on alternative chipsets with a dual-channel memory controller. So we will compare the speeds of ASUS P4S800D (on SiS655FX) and Soltek SL-PT880Pro-FGR (on VIA PT880) with the performance of high-quality and widespread i865PE-based P4P800 mainboard from ASUS. This comparison will help us to form our own opinion about the quality of the alternative chipsets and see if they are any competitors to Intel’s offers in the mainstream, not only low-end, market sector.

The testbed was configured as follows:

  • Pentium 4 3.2GHz CPU;
  • ASUS P4P800 (i865PE), ASUS P4S800D (SiS655FX) and Soltek SL-PT880Pro-FGR (VIA PT800) mainboards;
  • 2x512MB DDR400 SDRAM (Corsair CMX512-3200LLPRO, 2-3-2-6 timings);
  • ASUS RADEON 9800 XT graphics card (Catalyst 4.10);
  • 2xWestern Digital Raptor WD360GB hard disk drives united into a RAID0 array.

The testbed ran under control of Windows XP SP1; the BIOSes of the mainboards were tuned for maximum performance.


Synthetic Memory Subsystem Tests

The performance of the memory controller is the basic evaluation factor for a Pentium 4-supporting chipset, which impacts the overall performance of the chipset. That’s why we run memory subsystem tests in the first hand.

To start out, we run Sciencemark 2.0 to measure the memory bandwidth and latency.

It is all clear: i865PE is superior to SiS655FX and the PT880 in the memory controller speed. Intel chipset provides higher bandwidth and lower latency.

The results of SiSoft Sandra 2004 confirm the point once again: i865PE wins this test, too. Between the two losers, the VIA chipset shows higher performance than the SiS655FX in this test.

In fact, we may stop the review right now. It is already clear that mainboards on alternative chipsets can’t outperform i865PE-based products. A comprehensive testing session will help us estimate the width of the gap, though. If the PT880 and SiS655FX are just slightly worse than the i865PE in real applications, we can forgive them.

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