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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  • Shintai - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    So to summon up with updated benchies, bios etc.

    Conroe 2.67Ghz beats the 2.8Ghz FX with:

    Quake(intel demo) Single 22.4%
    Quake(intel demo) SMP 24.8%
    Quake(Anand demo) Single 28.7%
    Quake(Anand demo) SMP 30.9%

    FEAR - min 25.4%
    FEAR - max 18.8%
    FEAR - avg 19.6%

    WMV9 12%
    DiVX 6.1 29.5%
    iTunes 6.0.1.3 9.7%

    UT2004 and HL2 in the 20 - 30% faster range aswell on Conroe according to Anand. But if Intel was mean, they bench this FX with a 3.33Ghz Conroe XE or a 3.0Ghz Woodcrest.

    And funny to see Intels dualcore implementation scales better than AMDs.

    530$ to get that much more performance than a 1000$ FX chip.
    Hell, even the 420$ and maybe 295$ chip is faster.

    Both Conroe and AM2 gets DDR-2 800 at retail.
    Reply
  • dysonlu - Sunday, March 12, 2006 - link

    "530$ to get that much more performance than a 1000$ FX chip.
    Hell, even the 420$ and maybe 295$ chip is faster."

    So, where can I order this amazing 530$ CPU?

    It gets on my nerve to see people comparing prices between a computer part that's 6 months away from shipment and one that's shipping now.
    Reply
  • Chadder007 - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    Thanks for the update....just shows us that Intel wasn't fooling around.
    Even after the BIOS update, the Conroe pounds the fool out of the FX-60. Also I doubt any other changes can help with the AMD performance either, even a chipset upgrade.
    Reply
  • plus - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    So the Conroe is 20% faster. Decent result. Of course, the FX60 is on the 90NM process... will be interesting to see what 65NM process brings to the FX series... AMD is due to have that out about the time Conroe is released.

    Intel always seems to compare best to AMD when they are one shrink ahead. Tells a lot about the strength of the Athlon core.

    I didn't see in the article if the Conroe is 64 bit. I've been running winXP64pro since Steam began auto-detecting 64bit capacity... It does seem to run smoother.

    Plus
    Reply
  • Eris23007 - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link


    Furthermore, to add on to the last post in this reply chain, Intel has already announced a transition to 45nm in 2007 - not long after AMD will have their first 65nm chips.

    I've been predicting this for a while: AMD has been doing some excellent architectural work, but a good CPU is more than just architecture: the CMOS manufacturing process guys are of equal, if not greater importance. This is also where Intel has their biggest advantage: their CMOS manufacturing excellence is simply unparalleled both in quality and quantity. Say what you will about their architectural choices, but when is the last time you remember Intel failing to pull of a process shrink transition?
    Reply
  • coldpower27 - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    AMD 65nm products isn't due till 1st Half of 2007. It's also AMD own fault that they are 3-4 Quarters behind Intel typically on process transistions. So hence Intel has 65nm products to show sooner then AMD can. Hence comparisons to AMD's 90nm products are legitimate.

    Intel's Core Micro-architecture have EM64T by default. This is obvious, you actually think Intel won't include such a thing when basically the bulk of shipping Pentium 4's and Celeron D have it now.

    You have to remember the FX 60 was overclocked to 2.8GHZ and the Conroe @ 2.66GHZ beat it by 20% on average, what happens when you use the Conroe XE 3.0GHZ+/1333FSB edition agains the Athlon FX.
    Reply
  • spinportal - Wednesday, March 22, 2006 - link

    Actually the Pentium D and Xeon lines have EMT64, the Yonah - DuoCore processors do not.
    So we need real price points, with a comparable 939 NF4 AMD rig on XP64 or Vista-64 Beta2.
    But where is the 64-bit push? All hoopla and not worth the aggravation of adoption?
    Reply
  • anandtechrocks - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    20% from a CPU alone is a decent result? When is the last time you have gotten 20% performance increase from a new processor? I think the results are amazing, expecially this early in the game. Reply
  • porkster - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    How well does the amazing Conroe overclock? Were you allow to test that? Reply
  • Nighteye2 - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    The EE conroe will of course perform a bit better with higher clock speeds, but with the bus limiting it and only so much cache to try to circumvent that I don't expect conroe to scale very well. I'd also like to see 64-bit performance, as the bigger instructions will reduce the advantage of the large cache.
    Reply

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