At Fall IDF 2005 Intel briefly mentioned to us that we might be able to benchmark Conroe at this year’s Spring IDF.  We took the comment very light heartedly and honestly didn’t expect good ol’ conservative Intel to let us benchmark and preview a platform a several months before its release.  We didn’t believe that Intel was going to let us do it, once again because of their very conservative history, even as we were walking to our Conroe performance meeting.  Even after we ran the benchmarks we expected there to be a catch or something, but no, it looked like Intel had done the unimaginable.  Not only had they officially sanctioned the benchmarking of Conroe but they let us publish the numbers

Obviously we were skeptical going into the meeting, after all Intel had never been this open in the past.  But looking back at recent history, AMD’s competitive pressure has forced Intel’s hands to disclose more information than they ever have before.  There was a time where Intel was extremely tight lipped about all future plans and where they would never admit to not being the leader in performance; the Athlon 64 chiseled away at Intel’s confidence and truly humbled a giant.  The result was a very different Intel, a more open Intel.  This new Intel is very eager to talk about the future, mainly because the future doesn’t include the Pentium 4 but rather its new Core architecture. 

So we benchmarked Conroe; we previewed it, under the only circumstances we could.  Intel setup the systems, Intel installed the benchmarks and Intel only let us run what it had installed.  Given those circumstances we did our best to make sure the comparison was as legitimate as possible.  We checked driver revisions, we checked hardware configurations, BIOS settings, and memory timings; we consulted device manager to make sure nothing strange was limiting performance.  We did everything we could think of to make sure that the comparison we would present to the world was as transparent as it could be.  But the one thing I ’ve come to understand and appreciate is that the AnandTech reader will always keep us honest; many of you came to us with questions and we spent all evening answering them. 

Detailed Test Specifications

First, some insight into how the whole situation went down.  Intel offered all of its press contacts a chance to spend 1 hour with the Conroe and Athlon 64 FX-60 systems it had setup.  Although it doesn’t seem like a lot of benchmarking given that we only tested four games (at one resolution) and three applications, keep in mind that we ran each test at least three times and spent a good deal of time checking the configuration of the systems. 

Intel had two systems setup, side-by-side, and claimed to do its best to make them comparable.  We did our best to confirm those claims, and from what we could tell they were legitimate. 

Each system used two 512MB DIMMs and were both running in dual-channel mode.  The AMD system featured two DDR400 DIMMs running at 2-2-2-5 with a 1T command rate.  The Intel system featured two DDR2-667 DIMMs which actually ran at 5-5-5-15 timings during our tests, not the 4-4-4-15 timings we originally thought (we have since re-ran those numbers which you will see later). 

Intel also made it a point to mention that by the time Conroe ships DDR2-800 will be the memory of choice, however dual channel DDR2-667 already offers more memory bandwidth than Conroe’s 1066MHz FSB can use so the fact is meaningless. 

The AMD system utilized a DFI LANPARTY UT RDX200 motherboard, based on ATI’s RD480 chipset.  Intel claimed that the RD580 chipset was not readily available over 2 weeks ago when the parts for this system were purchased, and thus RD480 was the platform of choice to use with a pair of X1900s in CrossFire.  The Intel system used Intel’s currently shipping BadAxe 975X based motherboard. 

Each system also used a pair of Radeon X1900 XT graphics cards in CrossFire mode, the drivers and settings were identical across both machines. 

We tested on two Hyundai LCD monitors, each with a maximum resolution of 1280 x 1024. 

Cool’n’Quiet was disabled on the Athlon 64 FX-60 system.  The FX-60 was overclocked to 2.8GHz at a 1.5V core voltage using a 14.0x multiplier, everything else remained at their defaults. 

AMD
Intel
Processor
AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 @ 2.8GHz
Intel Conroe E6700 @ 2.66GHz
Motherboard
DFI LANPARTY UT RDX200
Intel D975XBX "BadAxe"
Chipset
ATI RD480
Intel 975X
Chipset Drivers
ATI Catalyst 6.2
Intel INF 7.2.2.1006
Video Cards
ATI Radeon X1900 XT CrossFire (2 Cards)
ATI Radeon X1900 XT CrossFire (2 Cards)
Video Drivers
ATI Catalyst 6.2
ATI Catalyst 6.2
Memory Size and Configuration
2 x 512MB DDR400 DIMMs
2 x 512MB DDR2-667 DIMMs
Memory Timings
2-2-2-5/1T
4-4-4-15

 

Some have tried to compare the results from these benchmarks to other results, using similar applications but different workloads.  For example, our iTunes 6.0.1.3 test uses an input file that’s around 1/2 the size of the one Intel supplied us for these tests.  The results in the game and encoding benchmarks are simply not comparable to anything outside of the two systems we have here.  These results are not meant to be definitive indicators of performance, but rather a preview of what is to come. 

The BIOS Issue
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  • theteamaqua - Friday, March 10, 2006 - link

    actually its FX 60, sorry Reply
  • Beenthere - Friday, March 10, 2006 - link

    Well the Intel Desperation Forum is just about complete and as usual it's just another Dog and Phony show where the naive get manipulated by Intel. And the media will be hyping the Intel gospel now with FUD beyond compare until the next Intel Desperation Forum. It's pretty amazing the FUD Intel can produce but they can't produce quality CPUs. Shows where their interest is focused. Reply
  • stopkidding - Friday, March 10, 2006 - link

    Ok, I have always been a passive reader to these forums. I read more out of curiosity about user perceptions to technology than to engage in some mindless ranting with arrogant arm chair scientists and geeks who have no better use of their time than to seek validation from fellow lifeless nerds! having said that, here is my message to AMD fanboys.

    I value competition, and admire what AMD have done with their limited resources and creative use of new technology. So they have had their fair share of the spotlight. A pat on AMD's back. Good job. Having said that, it really pisses me off when people take this to be a free for all Intel bashing event. Most people have no idea, how great the contributions of Intel have been to advance the state of art in the world of computing. While the nerds are busy talking about giga this and mega that, Intel is quietly investing billions of dollars into research that is fundamental to the core of all forms of computing, be it hardware, software or the cutting edge manufacturing processes. Intel invented the whole performance game, took it to the next level and AMD has always had a free ride on countless technologies that Intel gives away for free to the computing world. Be it investing money into standards are USB, PCI, Wifi, Wimax, the open source community, compiler research, etc to advancing the lives people around the world my investing tons of money in technology education programs around the world (Intel has trained 3 million teachers world wide and plans to train another 10 million). The list and contributions are endless.

    So the point its, which i hope your turd filled brains will get it at some point, Intel is why we have what we have today. While a fair and balanced critisism of products and technology misteps is required, it is ultimately competetion and the market that decides the victor, and trust me kiddos, most of you here haven't got a clue about what you are talking about.....geez people grow up!!

    PS: Neither AMD64 nor EM64T technologies are true 64 bit processors, there are merely extensions to 32 bit processors that allow them access 64 bit memory! ARGGHH!!!
    Reply
  • dysonlu - Sunday, March 12, 2006 - link

    While I agree that huge corporations such as Intel do contribute to the world with technology advancements. Please don't make it sound like they are doing it out of pure love ("give away for free")! Big companies develop stuff to create new markets with which they can grow their overall business and make more money. Intel had no other choice than to co-operate with others and share technologies for a given new market to be viable. Reply
  • stopkidding - Monday, March 13, 2006 - link

    I totally agree with you, Intel invests in the ecosystem to grow the market, no charity here. My point was the relentless, meritless bashing of Intel, making it seem like a company that is upto no good. I was merely listing the accomplishments that matter to the industry. what forums like this do is reduce all of that to a few fps on a game to decide who is great and who is not. as the saying goes, "the 0.1 % of the market makes 99.9% of the thrashy noise". the gamers are self aborbed pretentios hacks who know nothing...... Reply
  • Cerb - Saturday, March 11, 2006 - link

    PS: Neither AMD64 nor EM64T technologies are true 64 bit processors, there are merely extensions to 32 bit processors that allow them access 64 bit memory! ARGGHH!!!

    How are they not? 64-bit registers makes...64-bit CPU.

    The extensions make mostly wider and longer sets of registers. AFAIK, they are at 40/48-bit memory access. They are as much 64-bit processors as any others; they're just not compeltely redesigned from the ground up, because consumers and businesses that are used to using binary apps hate that.
    Reply
  • stopkidding - Monday, March 13, 2006 - link

    modern 32 bit processors for a long time have had 128 bit registers for floating point operations. the conroe as 128 bit instruction sets and registers for SSE instructions and 128 bit for fp. does that make it a 128 bit processor? Reply
  • Cerb - Wednesday, March 15, 2006 - link

    For marketting weenies, it does :). Like many other things, being x-bit is not any great and useful metric, except to differentiate it from its past (IA32, now x86-64). Reply
  • smut - Friday, March 10, 2006 - link

    Get with reality! People are always going to live by the mindset "What have you done for me lately" or "Your only as good as your last hit" Who cares what they did many years ago? This is not my point of view, just saying why you had to make that point, because no one cares about that stuff these days and thats the way fanbois will continue to think. Reply
  • Nighteye2 - Friday, March 10, 2006 - link

    EM64T is an extension, yes, but AMD64? What is your source on that? From what I recall the AMD64 instruction are real 64-bit instructions, rather than 32-bit instructions with bigger memory adressing capabilities...
    Reply

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