Hopefully, our debut Linux article scratched the surface on where Linux is going, and where it has to catch up in order to become a viable alternative to Windows in the near future. With that being said, it is important that we keep our Linux benchmarks as up to date as possible for new hardware, as well as focus on which new hardware provides stability and performance advantages.

Since the Athlon 64 architecture places the memory controller directly on the CPU core, the role of the northbridge becomes severely limited. The core logic still controls critical IO operations and features, but the general consensus is that chipset manufacturer and quality matters less and less. Today, we will attempt to prove if that is true or not with Linux. Not only must we look at raw performance, but also at driver support and quality. Keep in mind that since these hardware platforms were launched over a month ago, we should see stable and fine-tuned Linux drives by now.

Although modifying and recompiling everything provides us with better performance, we hinder ourselves with that approach, since benchmarks become very difficult to replicate. So, once again, we will be using "out of the box" configurations using SuSE 9.1 Pro (both x86_64 and x86 binaries). We want to give the opportunity for as many people as possible to replicate our benchmarks.

 Performance Test Configuration
Processor(s): Athlon 64 3500+ Socket 939 (2.2GHz, 512KB Cache)
RAM: 2 x 512MB Mushkin PC3500 Level II
Memory Timings: Default
Hard Drive(s): Seagate 120GB 7200RPM IDE (8Mb buffer)
Video AGP & IDE Bus Master Drivers: Linux NVIDIA Core Logic: 1.0-275
Linux NVIDIA Graphics: 1.0-6106
Video Card(s): NVIDIA GeForceFX 5600SE 128MB
Operating System(s): SuSE 9.1 Professional (32/64 bit)
Linux 2.6.4-52-default
Motherboards: NVIDIA NForce3 250 Reference Board
VIA K8T800 Pro Reference Board

We attempted to keep our test configuration as close to CPU/Motherboard/Memory Windows test configuration as possible. The only major change that we adopted for this analysis include the change in processor, IDE rather than SATA hard drive, and the NVIDIA GeForceFX video card. We opted for an NVIDIA card over an ATI card for these benchmarks primarily for 64-bit Linux driver support. We have a Linux video card roundup lined up for the future; so in that article, we can take a better look at where the particular differences lay in video processing.

Feel free to take a look at Wesley's breakdown of each motherboard that we featured in this review here.

Encoding Tests


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  • MNKyDeth - Monday, July 19, 2004 - link

    10 - Posted on Jul 19, 2004 at 1:23 PM by tfranzese
    "hardcore linux gamer", I'm sad for you. ;)

    Yeah, well, some of us would rather play the games linux has and not have to worry about a blue screen while we play. I won't use wine or wineX either, unless it upports 90% of all windows games and works 100% all the time.
  • RyanVM - Monday, July 19, 2004 - link

    It seems to me that optimizing the binaries would certainly be useful for seeing just how good performance can be. The vast majority of Linux users will be compiling their own code anyway... Reply
  • sprockkets - Monday, July 19, 2004 - link

    Hmmmm, although you say that you didn't optimize using flags during compile of Lame or anything else compiled, doesn't the configure script do this for you automatically, or at least, detect your processor type and compile accordingly?

    Comments on chipset support: It is nice to be able to install SuSE without a floppy, unlike EVERY version of windows out there. Did the SATA work though on the NF3? Sound would work since it's just the usual Intel 8x0 driver, right?
    VIA audio to some extent works on my motherboard with the 8237 SB, and while the codec seems fully supported, which is a SoundMAX, sound only came out once.
    I wouldn't call the fact that the kernel calls the chipset the K8T400 a necessary gotcha. One of the best things I like about linux is the fact that it refers to hardware by either it's real name or codename, unlike stupid windows which refers you your hardware from the marketed name of the product, making you think it really is something unique. For instance, SuSE 9.1 refers to the 964L SB from SIS as having a 963 ATA controller. On the outside it says 964L, but really, it probably uses the same IDE controller from before.
  • KristopherKubicki - Monday, July 19, 2004 - link

    Doom3 get a linux port but probably not right away. You all know we will have benchmarks first :)

  • tfranzese - Monday, July 19, 2004 - link

    "hardcore linux gamer", I'm sad for you. ;)

    Anyway, there's no need to included UT2K3 when they've got UT2K4 to benchmark. Including Quake3 is old and tired. Is Doom3 getting a Linux port?
  • MNKyDeth - Monday, July 19, 2004 - link

    I am very glad to see linux benches from a reputable site for a change. It's just nice having some hard numbers/facts, that I can use to compare my hardware choices with. I am a hardcore linux gamer and would like to make a suggestion if possible. RTCW:ET and UT2k4 are great benches, but there are many other games you can bench with on linux like Savage and Quake3, UT2k3 and maybe even Medal of Honor:AA. It's just a suggestion to include more games if you do a vid card roundup on linux later on or even if it is just a small comparison. Reply
  • RZaakir - Monday, July 19, 2004 - link

    Javescript links are wacky no matter how you look at it. There are myriad ways to design links to work when Javascript is disabled.

    Anyhow, I echo #5. I am very encouraged by the performance gains that we are starting to see. Around 30% on UT2004 is amazing. Hopefully Microsoft will get their act together so that we'll start seeing similar performance on Win32.
  • Jeff7181 - Monday, July 19, 2004 - link

    It's just too bad a crappy FX5600 was used for the gaming tests. Couldn't at least have dug up a FX5900?

    Oh by the way... I'm writing this using Firefox as well... maybe someone needs to learn how to use Firefox's features that make it a "web browser of choice." :)
  • srMatanza - Monday, July 19, 2004 - link

    Another awesome article in an awesome series. I think it's great that quality linux benchmarking articles are finally starting to show up in reputable forums.

    I can't wait for the linux video comparison. I think a good 64-bit distro review would also serve a purpose, especially if it focused on usability and maturity.

    Keep up the good work.
  • AlexWade - Monday, July 19, 2004 - link

    WOW! Finally, some REAL benchmarks between 32-bit and 64-bit.

    And I must say, if gains were saw across the board with non-64-bit optimized code, imagine what the jump will be with 64-bit optimized code!

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