Test Setup

Standard Test Bed - CrossFire Test Configuration
Processor Intel Core 2 Duo QX6700
(2.66GHz, 8MB Unified Cache)
RAM OCZ Reaper PC2-9200 (4x1GB) DDR2 4-4-4-10
Corsair CM3X1024 (4x1GB) DDR3-1066 8-7-7-16
Hard Drive Western Digital 150GB 10,000RPM SATA 16MB Buffer
System Platform Drivers Intel - 8.3.0.1013
Video Cards 1 x MSI HD2900XT
Video Drivers ATI 8.37.4.3 (HD2900XT Release Drivers)
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 D975XBX2KR (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 64-bit Ultimate
.

Test conditions were maintained the same, as much as possible, over the platforms tested. Our game tests were run at settings of 1280x1024 HQ to ensure our GPU was not a bottleneck during testing. We will provide CrossFire results in our upcoming P35 roundup but preview performance numbers are available in this article.

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 in the next article.

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 we will present today are preliminary. What do we mean by this? Although the boards we are reviewing are full retail kits, their BIOS tuning continues at a rapid pace before the "official" launch on June 4th. Over the course of the last week we have tested numerous BIOS releases from each manufacturer and we've seen positive steps along the way. We honestly thought this preview would be a cake walk for ASUS until Gigabyte/MSI provided their latest BIOS releases that improved the performance of the boards up to 9% in certain areas.

We are also using early DDR3-1066 samples with memory settings at 8-7-7-16 for 1066 scores and 9-9-9-24 for DDR3-1333 results. We just received lower latency DDR3-1333 modules and will update our results in the roundup. On a side note, ASUS provided us a new BIOS for their P5K3 board that enables 1T command rates at DDR3-1066. Early testing has shown performance improvements up to 4% in memory sensitive applications. ASUS is continuing to work on the command rate timings and hopes to have 1T settings ready when low latency DDR3-1333 hits the market shortly. Expect to see an exclusive on this memory and BIOS in the next few days.

Our Intel Intel D975XBX2KR will be at a slight disadvantage, but with memory speeds set to DDR2-800 we were able to run timings at 3-4-3-8 without issue. We did not include extensive overclocking results for the CPU or memory side as time did not permit us to run each processor series on each board for the full test suite. We received seven boards late last week and will have results on several of those along with full overclocking results before Computex starts. We will also compare P35 1333/1066 DDR2 against P965 1333/1066 at the same time. Our DFI Infinity P965 is the fastest P965 board in our labs and as such is a good match for comparison.

Memory Performance


Click to enlarge

We switched to a 4GB memory configuration for this article and future motherboard tests. The P35 chipset proves to have the fastest memory performance and best latencies at stock speeds provided the BIOS is tuned properly. We still find the 975X to offer some of the fastest memory performance when overclocked provided you can change strap settings and have very good RAM.

We noticed an 11% difference in unbuffered memory speeds and a 7% difference in latencies on the ASUS P5K Deluxe board when comparing auto to manually adjusted BIOS settings using the same standard 4-4-4-10 memory timings. Our other boards are tuned to the best possible performance that still allows the board to complete our benchmark test suite. We did not compare DDR2-1333 to DDR3-1333 for the simple fact that we currently do not have any DDR2 memory capable of 1333 speeds in a stable manner. However, we do expect DDR2-1333 RAM later this summer.

MSI P35 Platinum Basic Features Futuremark and Cinebench Results
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  • yacoub - Monday, May 21, 2007 - link

    I think HardOCP's conclusion is pretty honest. These boards are a first gen DDR3 setup that has to transition well from DDR2. Performance will be similar, they will offer a few new decent hardware features, but beyond that for most folks they should stick with their P965 or 650i/680i boards and their speedy DDR2 and wait until around a year from now when DDR3 will start to appear that legitimately outperforms DDR2 in a noticeable way and hopefully by then is cost competitive with DDR2.

    Right now we can get 2x1GB matched pairs of decent PC6400 DDR2 for around (and under) $100. When DDR3 reaches prices like that they'll see more converts from the enthusiast crowd. Or when they start showing performance gains on the order of 15-25% over DDR2.
    Reply
  • tomoyo - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    I don't think anyone should be thinking about an upgrade from a p965 in the first place, you've already gotten a core 2 duo and are waiting for the next gen of penryn! Obviously the point of this motherboard chipset is for new buyers, especially people who do not have a core 2 duo in the first place. That is exactly what my situation is, I'm sitting on an amd platform still and looking into when a good chipset/cpu combo is out. The P35 is it for myself, I like the higher fsb overclock and full set of features, hopefully the price will come down quickly as well. Also it's finally gotten to a point where we can get a full set of sata devices with no ide involved...which eliminates the jmicron issue. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, May 21, 2007 - link

    If we were buying a new board today it would be P35 - based on our test results and not our untested opinions. Gaming is faster, memory performance is faster (even with DDR2), and the 1333 processor bus gives current C2D owners a "free" 25% overclcok in most cases.

    We would likely buy a P35 that supports DDR2 memory, because there is a large price difference in DDR2 and DDR3 right now, and DDR2 is just as fast as DDR3 on the P35 at the same speed and timings - and DDR2 is faster on P35 than P965.

    However, we already have our first samples of low-latency DDR3 in for testing. Recommending DDR3 will be about how fast we see price parity with DDR2 as it is definitely the memory of the future.
    Reply
  • suryad - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    Any ideas on when an SLI based P35 setup would be released? That is about the only thing that is holding me back from purhcasing a P35 mobo. I want SLI. Reply
  • yacoub - Monday, May 21, 2007 - link

    "If we were buying a new board today "
    Right. And the HardOCP editorial was writing more for those of us who already own a fairly recent board and are wondering if the performance is significant enough to warrant another upgrade. Conclusion: it isn't.

    You're both right, in other words. If you're buying a new board today, no major reasons NOT to buy a P35 unless it's a DDR3 one in which case DDR3 is cost prohibitive and offers little to no real performance benefit. If you already have a P965, 650i, 680i, etc, no reason to upgrade.
    Reply
  • tomoyo - Tuesday, May 22, 2007 - link

    Actually that's not true, according to Kyle, he's endorsing the P965 for all users, new or old. I think he's gotten far too distrustful for new products, especially when this one looks pretty promising. Since the P35 is more of an evolution than anything else, it's a good possibility that we'll get some pretty stable products right off the bat. And I'm of the opinion that a cheap 5% performance upgrade and mobo with full penryn voltage support is worthwhile at the right price for any new user. I do think it'll be a good idea to wait about a month and see if there is any fallout before diving in. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, May 21, 2007 - link

    That was an editorial, not a review. There was not a single test result in that article.

    On the other hand, we are late to NDA because we got 3 new P35 boards on Friday, and we wanted to bring you real test results based on four motherboards. Our comments and conclusions are based on testing a large number of P35 motherboards, and both DDR2 and DDR3 memory on these boards.
    Reply
  • michal1980 - Monday, May 21, 2007 - link

    I know, but his conculsion was to get a mature p965, yours a p35. uggh. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, May 21, 2007 - link

    With the testing results provided here (and in our previous articles), we're comfortable in saying that P35 is already quite mature, particularly the ASUS boards. If you already have a P965 board there's not much reason to upgrade, but if you're buying a new board we would take a serious look at P35 offerings. Reply
  • TA152H - Monday, May 21, 2007 - link

    I was seriously considering getting one of these boards, but I wouldn't even think about it after your review. What the heck is going on with the power use???? The improvement in performance, to me, is a lot less noticeable than the damn noise you'll have trying to evacuate the heat from the motherboard. What a disappointment. The interesting thing is, another site that ran the power use came in lower than the P965, so I'm really confused which is right. My gut instinct is, they are, because this is a 90nm chip with lower specified power use, but I'm sure you guys knew that and were just as confused and made sure your results were correct. I don't get it at all. It's really disappointing, but maybe with future revisions Intel will get the power down to normal levels.

    I now think supporting DDR2 was a mistake, sure it's good today, but prices for DDR3 will come down, and they would come down fast if Intel made it only DDR3 since memory makers would be very motivated to get their act together. Plus, you'd pay LESS for the chipset, and you'd pay less in electricity for it, and you'd pay less for the motherboards since they wouldn't need as extravagant a cooling solution on it (although, I may buy a MSI just to have that roller coaster. I'm not sure why they felt that design was necessary, but I feel like I need it now. ). So, sure, the cost right now of DDR3 would offset it, but that point will be crossed, and for the rest of the life of the chipset, people will be paying for something that is completely unnecessary and useless, which DDR2 support will be. The P965 would have been fine for legacy support, you don't NEED a P35, and for those folks that wanted it, DDR3 would be fine. Maybe the X38 will drop the dreaded DDR2 support since it's a high-end solution and doesn't need to be shackled with DDR2 support. I hope so.
    Reply

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