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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  • Questar - Friday, March 10, 2006 - link

    Nice to see you joining in. Great post. Reply
  • fikimiki - Friday, March 10, 2006 - link

    I'm AMD fan, but I'm also a computer user which wants to buy something with best/price performance. That's why I have bought ATI instead of nVidia (after 10 years sticking with nV products). There is one conclusion which is based on my observations for 10 years.

    Intel and AMD will never give you a chip which is 30% faster than competitor or your own product. They will give you 5, 7% but not 30% (FX is overclocked remember?).
    How about Conroe running 3.33 with 1333MHz bus? Does it squize X2 performance to match only one Conroe core??? Have you ever seen performance speed upgrade like this?
    Maybe in historical 286/386 times...

    Intel and AMD does business. There was a REASON, marketing reason for preview like this. And this behaviour is not reasonable. Showing 2.4GHz Conroe as EE Edition, comparing with FX60 and miserable 7% makes sense.
    And than make 100MHz upgrade, upgrade upgrade....
    This is business I observe for many years, because money is important, technology longevity also. Intel wanted to speed up P4/Netburst to 10GHz - just shrink die as long as possible, 64-bit in 2010...And this is let's say "normal" business behaviour!

    So I expect Conroe XE running as Intel mantra: Leap Ahead...10% faster than FX62 or whatever AMD will give to us in July...


    Reply
  • dysonlu - Sunday, March 12, 2006 - link

    BRAVO! THUMBS UP!!!

    That's the most intelligent, insightful and down-to-earth comment I've read so far! 98% of the other comments I've read gave me the impression that they were written by naive fools getting caught in the hype and clever marketing -- C'mon kids, do you really expect that, when everything's said and done, you would be able to order on newegg.com an Intel CPU that costs half the price and performs 30% better than its closest AMD competitor?!
    Reply
  • Rendition - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    1) Is Conroe a true 64-bit chip like the AMD chips are? If so, how do you think it will perform with 64-bit Vista and the new 64-bit capable games coming out next year?

    2) Does Intel have a tradition of having yield and volume issues when they move to a new manufacturing process like 65nm with Conroe?

    3) What has been the average cycle for an AMD new core to come out (4 years)? And how long as the current AMD core been out?

    4) If the AMD chips had a huge 4MB cache like Conroe, would that improve performance?
    Reply
  • theteamaqua - Friday, March 10, 2006 - link

    no cache does not influence performance as much as u think, for ex: i read benchmarks of Pentium 4 660 vs 560, the 660 has 2 MB L2 cache while 560 has 1MB L2 cache, the performance increase is roughly 3 % if u average all the benchamrk from gaming, multimedia, multi tasking ... its like HT(hyper threading), u never know the difference Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    quote:

    1) 1) Is Conroe a true 64-bit chip like the AMD chips are? If so, how do you think it will perform with 64-bit Vista and the new 64-bit capable games coming out next year?

    2) Does Intel have a tradition of having yield and volume issues when they move to a new manufacturing process like 65nm with Conroe?

    3) What has been the average cycle for an AMD new core to come out (4 years)? And how long as the current AMD core been out?

    4) If the AMD chips had a huge 4MB cache like Conroe, would that improve performance?


    I can answer some of that.

    1. Yes
    2. I am not sure
    3. Well, define new core, is K8 a new core enough or would it take a K7??
    4. Umm: http://www.anandtech.com/showdoc.aspx?i=2395&p...">http://www.anandtech.com/showdoc.aspx?i=2395&p...

    Looks like it, however, there are some unanswered questions. Will the 4MB cache be high performing enough to have a performance advantage(ie not have high latency like Prescott)?

    Doom 3=yes
    UT2004=not much
    WET=not much

    There are rumors there will be versions with 4MB L3 cache, which is obviously an EE, but being a higher latency L3, the benefit will be less than quadrupling L2, plus these 2.667GHz Conroe's are not really competing with FX's, its the 3.33GHz 1333MHz FSB Conroe EE's that will come after Conroe.
    Reply
  • logeater - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    I think I speak for everyone on this board when I say Anand has proved beyond reasonable doubt that Intel has regained it's rightful place at the throne. A flawless examination if I may say so myself.

    AMD, it's been fun, let me show you to the door...
    Reply
  • Bakwetu - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    The malicious intent in this is naturally to make people thinking about buying a system now (the logical choice for a gamer rig would be an AMD one) to hold off until the new Intel processor come. We have seen this "delaying of opponents sucess" ever since AMD became competative when the original Athlon was released.

    That aside, it is great to see the development in the cpumarket.
    Reply
  • PeteRoy - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    EAT IT AND LIKE IT Reply
  • MrKaz - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    Should Intel compare their future processor with their current offering and not with the competion?

    I mean P4 sucks in performance, power, ...

    Wouldnt those numbers look much better if it was some P4 vs Conroe?
    Reply

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