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 Athlon 64 FX-60 @ 2.8GHz
Intel Conroe E6700 @ 2.66GHz
Intel D975XBX "BadAxe"
Intel 975X
Chipset Drivers
ATI Catalyst 6.2
Intel INF
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


Some have tried to compare the results from these benchmarks to other results, using similar applications but different workloads.  For example, our iTunes 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


View All Comments

  • Questar - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    I think you have confused AMD for ATI. Reply
  • amano - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    Not really: "Why Ati drivers where modified to recognize the Conroe processor?"
    Indeed, why ? Perhaps to fix the disadvantage that the FEAR benchmark gives to ATI?
    If this disadvantage was fixed for the INTEL-setup, and not for the AMD-setup, then the 2 setups can not be compared and the benchmark-results are flawed.
    (sorry, my first post was a bit confusing..)
  • Accord99 - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    That was fixed several driver revisions ago. All it was was a mistake in one If statement. Reply
  • DSaum - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    So the 41% Conroe advantage over AMD has suddenly become 20%? After this sorry episode I have serious doubts as to Anandtech's objectivity as an unbiased reviewer.

    "Believe it or not, Intel doesn't seem malicious in their intent." LOL
  • clnee55 - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    After a great review and re-test by Anand, I hope i don't see fanboism comment again. Unfortunately, there are still kids around, who cannot understand a simple review. Reply
  • Bladen - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    ^And the AMD fanboy of the year award goes too...

    BTW for thoes wondering if Conroe and the others are 64 bit, the answer is yes.

    I highly doubt Intel will release a processor that is not 64 bit in the future. Well for any processor designed for laptop, desktop or server anyway...
  • Bladen - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    Ohh crap, I failed to realise my post would not be directly below DSaum... Reply
  • matthewfoley - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    Um, would they have released a follow up article telling you about it if they were trying to hide something? Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    It was a 41% advantage in one game during one total hour of testing. In addition, not only did Anand explain how they messed up, but also provided new graphs only 2 days later. What are you really thinking here, that Anand's mistake will increase Conroe's sales even though the corrected numbers are out and its 6 months away from launch? I'm pretty sure even Intel fanboys didn't just read the first story and then plan on not visitng another hardware site before launch. Reply
  • Aileur - Thursday, March 09, 2006 - link

    Way to be able to read

    on average we’re still seeing a bit over a 20% increase in performance over an overclocked Athlon 64 FX-60.


    Especially looking at titles like F.E.A.R. where Conroe's performance advantage averages over 40%

    Now, thats not the same as dropping from 40 to 20%, is it?

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