IntroductionWe recently reviewed the Intel P35 chipset in depth and found it to be a worthy successor to the P965 and competitor to the Intel 975X and NVIDIA 680i LT. We also provided a variety of information about the chipset and delved head first into some preliminary performance results. However, due to time constraints after receiving retail kits a couple of days before the chipset introduction, there were a few performance results that we did not include. We will go over storage, networking, and audio functionality in detail in our P35 roundup. Areas such as overclocking, memory performance, and features like Intel's Turbo Memory (Robson on Desktop) will be handled in separate articles over the coming weeks.
Today's article will provide a quick performance peek at two areas that we received feedback on after the P35 article went live. We were in the process of testing these features, but didn't want to hold up our initial article several more days to give us time to complete testing. We received a new BIOS (0411) from ASUS for their P5K3 Deluxe motherboard that implements 1T command rate timings and allows us to run our current DDR3 memory from Corsair at slightly lower timings and voltages. We will present a few gaming benchmarks with this new BIOS and improved standard memory timings today. We are still testing the 1T functionality across several different DDR3 modules and will provide those results in the future.
The second part of our article will provide some initial CrossFire results with the ASUS P5K3 DDR3 platform. Our P35 DDR2 versus 975X preview performance numbers are available in this article for reference. We wanted to present additional performance numbers with the latest ATI HD 2900XT beta drivers but after experiencing numerous issues in Vista with OpenGL games and image quality problems in other titles we decided it would be best to wait on the final release drivers.
AMD has assured us the problems we experienced will be fixed in the final release driver code. The 7.5 Catalyst are now due at the end of May and we look forward to them. You might be wondering what the results were with games when the beta drivers worked correctly. We noticed on average a 2% increase in most games under Vista with slightly better performance improvements at lower resolutions. 3DMark scores improved up to 9% in some instances but we still noticed lower CrossFire scores in 3DMark2001 than single card scores. Overall, image quality was excellent and in games that have a lot of explosions and smoke we noticed clearer/sharper images than with our 8800GTS in side by side comparisons. Until we test the final release drivers our opinions are nothing more than subjective information.
|Standard Test Bed
CrossFire / Vista Ultimate 64-Bit Test Configuration
|Processor||Intel Core 2 Duo QX6700
(2.66GHz, 8MB Unified Cache)
|RAM||OCZ Reaper PC2-9200 (4x1GB)
3-4-3-8 975X, 4-4-4-10 P35, P965, 680i
Corsair DDR3 CM3X1024-1333C9DHX (4x1GB)
|Hard Drive||Western Digital 150GB 10,000RPM SATA 16MB Buffer|
|System Platform Drivers||Intel - 126.96.36.1993|
|Video Cards||2 x MSI HD2900XT|
|Video Drivers||ATI 188.8.131.52 (HD2900XT Release Drivers)
ATI 8.38 Beta
|CPU Cooling||Tuniq 120|
|Power Supply||OCZ ProXStream 1000W|
|Optical Drives||Plextor PX-760A, Plextor PX-B900A|
|Case||Cooler Master CM Stacker 830|
|Motherboards||Intel D975XBX2 (Intel 975X) - BIOS 2692
ASUS P5K Deluxe (Intel P35) - BIOS 0304
ASUS P5K3 Deluxe (Intel P35) - BIOS 0011
MSI P35 Platinum (Intel P35) - BIOS 7345P01
Gigabyte P35-DQ6 (Intel P35) - BIOS F4
DFI Infinity P965 (Intel P965) - BIOS 424
EVGA 680i LT SLI (NVIDIA 680i LT) - BIOS P04
|Operating System||Windows Vista Ultimate 64-Bit|
Test conditions were maintained the same, as much as possible, over the platforms tested. Our single GPU game tests were run at settings of 1280x1024 HQ to ensure our GPU was not a bottleneck during testing. Our limited CrossFire results were run at a resolution of 1920x1200 4xAA with 8xAF enabled where possible.
All results are reported in our charts and color-coded for easier identification of results. We utilize new drive images on each board in order to minimize any potential driver conflicts. Our 3DMark results are generated utilizing the standard benchmark resolution for each program. We run each benchmark five times, throw out the two low and high scores, and report the remaining score. All results are run at stock speeds for this article although we will provide overclocked results shortly.
Our choice of software applications to test is based on programs that enjoy widespread use and produce repeatable and consistent results during testing. Microsoft Vista has thrown a monkey wrench into testing as the aggressive nature of the operating system to constantly optimize application loading and retrieval from memory or the storage system presents some interesting obstacles. This along with the lack of driver maturity will continue to present problems in the near future with benchmark selections. Our normal process was to change our power settings to performance, delete the contents of the prefetch folder, and then reboot after each benchmark run. This is a lengthy process to be sure, but it results in consistency over the course of benchmark testing. All applications were run with administer privileges.
The test results today are preliminary and are meant to provide a first look at potential performance improvements with an improved BIOS, slightly lower standard memory timings, and CrossFire results with DDR3. We are utilizing initial DDR3-1066 and DDR3-1333 memory modules from Corsair. Our original P35 chipset article had memory settings set at 8-7-7-16 for DDR3-1066 and 9-9-9-24 with DDR3-1333.
Our test results are with the same memory modules, only now operating at 6-6-6-18 DDR3-1066 and 8-8-7-18 DDR3-1333 at stock voltages. Our current Corsair memory was not developed as true low latency DDR3; instead the ICs utilized offer reasonable latencies with significant headroom for overclocking. The tradeoff on improving the standard memory timings (DDR3-1066, 8-7-7-16 to 6-6-6-18) was relaxing the sub-timings and disabling the Transaction Booster option on the ASUS P5K3 board.
The resulting performance improvements were slightly lower than first expected but were completely within reason considering the memory timings and voltages utilized. We are still testing various timings and voltages for our P35 roundup. However, we will provide an exclusive look at the performance of DDR3 memory designed with low latencies and the ability to run tight sub-timings in a separate review shortly. With that said, let's take a look at our initial results.