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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  • Zebo - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    No! read about Osborne effect. Essentially this is why new product demos like this, months ahead of schedule, are so rare and NDAs for all products exist. Reply
  • archcommus - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    Well good for Intel for coming out with such a strong product, but I'll always have to go with the best bang for the buck, wonder if that'll still end up being AMD even if their parts are weaker across the board this time around.

    Just hope AMD stays in the game, we can't afford to have the little guy fall behind too much.
    Reply
  • samuraiBX - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    I've been a diehard amd fan, but kudos to Intel for ramping up competitive products. I have only a couple of additions I'd like to see with the testing:

    1. I noticed that anandtech used the 2-2-2-5 T1 timings for the RD480 chipset. I remembered from an anandtech review that the best timings for this chipset is 2-2-2-7; not sure how much of a performance difference that would make, but I'd like to see the difference, however slight.
    2. I know that this website's impression of the RD480 chipset wasn't stellar, and while I can understand if Intel couldn't purchase the RD580 chipset two weeks ago, I'd imagine it would have been possible to obtain this week, or at least borrow an RD580 board from ASUS; isn't ASUS a participant at IDF this year?
    2. I understand that there was limited time, but I would also like to see how the conroe chip would do with 3d studio max. I'm looking to build a high end 3d animation workstation, and I'm looking at the performance leader, whether AMD or Intel.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    We did find 2-2-2-7 to provide the best bandwidth in our memory testing on the RD480 chipset, but the difference between 2-2-2-5 and 2-2-2-7 would be less than 1%, and certainly not significant. Reply
  • samuraiBX - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    As an addendum:

    I went to Bit-tech.net; the performance difference by Conroe is awesome! However, it was curious that on their F.E.A.R. benchmarks, the Intel overclocked FX-60 did worse than the reference FX-60.
    Reply
  • Accord99 - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    Different platform (NF4), different video card (single OC 7800GT). The bit-tech system may have been mored tweaked and perhaps there's some additional overhead in multi-GPU setups like Crossfire which causes reduced performance at extremely low resolutions. Reply
  • HurleyBird - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    Did anyone else notice that on the Intel Quake 4 timedemo performance *increased* for both processors but with Anand's timedemo performance *decreased*

    I wonder why that is?
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Did anyone else notice that on the Intel Quake 4 timedemo performance *increased* for both processors but with Anand's timedemo performance *decreased*


    You mean on the SMP enabled and disabled benchmarks?? That's because on the page, while SMP disabled(SMP=0) is first on IDF Quake 4, SMP enabled(SMP=1) is next one while on Anand's Quake 4, SMP enabled is first, while SMP disabled is second(skeptics...).

    THANKS FOR CONFUSING PEOPLE ANAND, otherwise great article.
    Reply
  • MrKaz - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    Why Ati drivers where modified to recognize the Conroe processor?
    What was the problem if the processor didn’t get recognized?

    I mean if the FX60 could say Unknown Processor and have no problems, (my mobile 2600+ says the same and runs OK).

    What problem would have come from the drivers by not recognizing the processor?

    Some drivers optimizations there? Like NVIDIA/ATI?
    Reply
  • amano - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    Just wondering.. did they use fear.exe, or a renamed fear.exe?
    Because there seem to be some issues with the fear benchmarking that cripple the AMD:
    http://www.beyond3d.com/forum/showthread.php?t=254...">http://www.beyond3d.com/forum/showthread.php?t=254...

    Reply

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