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The ABIT "Legacy Free" AT7 & IT7 MAX Motherboards
Innovation Through Elimination...

By, Marco Chiappetta
July 9, 2002

OVERCLOCKING:

Overclocking with the AT7 and IT7 MAX motherboards was very easy, thanks to Abit's powerful Soft Menu III.  Both of these boards offer a very complete set of overclocking options, that allow you to adjust the CPU core, DDR and I/O voltages.  Users can also alter the FSB in 1MHz increments, and both boards offer an assortment of AGP/PCI dividers, that make running finicky PCI or AGP cards a bit out of spec. more of a reality.  The Athlon XP 2100+ we had installed on the AT7 MAX was multiplier locked and hasn't been the greatest overclocker.  With that said, the AT7 was still able to run our CPU with a 142MHz FSB, for a completely stable 1846MHz, a 133MHz increase.  We had to bump our Vcore voltage up to 1.85v to keep things running properly at this speed though.  The IT7 MAX allowed us to take our 2.2GHz "Northwood" all the way up to 2442MHz, utilizing an FSB of 111MHz and a 1.7v core voltage.  The maximum FSB we were able to hit with this particular CPU in the past was 110MHz on some other motherboards.  A difference of 1MHz is not monumental, but nonetheless the IT7 was able to take this particular CPU higher than it had ever been before.

TESTING METHODOLOGY:

We have seen significant variations in benchmark scores from one site to the next.  Due to this fact, we feel it is necessary to explain exactly how we configure each test system before we run any benchmarks. When testing these boards, the first thing we did was enter the system BIOSes and set each board to "Load Optimized Defaults". We then configured the Memory CAS Latency and other memory timings to be set by the SPD, but ran the memory at 166MHz on the AT7 and at 133MHz on the IT7. The RAID array was then formatted, and Windows XP Professional was installed. After Windows XP Professional was completely installed, we hit the Windows Update site and downloaded all of the available updates, with the exception of the ones for Windows Messenger. Then we installed all of the necessary drivers, disabled and removed Windows Messenger, disabled Auto-Updating, disabled System Restore and set a 768MB permanent swap file. Lastly we set the Visual Effects to "best performance", installed all of the benchmarking software, defragged the hard drive and ran all of the tests at the CPU's default and overclocked speeds.  Now, on to our results...

The Hot Hardware Test Systems
You Just Have to Love Them!


AMD Athlon XP 2100+ (1733MHz)
 

Abit AT7 (VIA KT333)


512MB TwinMos PC2700 (CAS 2)

NVIDIA GeForce 4 Ti 4600 (23.82 Drivers)

On-Board NIC

On-Board Sound

IBM 7200RPM 30GB HD x 2

Creative Labs 52X CD-Rom

Standard Floppy Drive

Windows XP Professional

DirectX 8.1

Via 4-in-1s v.4.39
 


 

Intel Pentium 4 2.2GHz (2200MHz)
 

Abit IT7 (Intel i845e)


512MB TwinMos PC2700 (CAS 2)

NVIDIA GeForce 4 Ti 4600 (23.82 Drivers)

On-Board NIC

On-Board Sound

IBM 7200RPM 30GB HD x 2

Creative Labs 52X CD-Rom

Standard Floppy Drive

Windows XP Professional (DirectX 8.1)

Intel Chipset Drivers v4.00.1013
Intel Application Accelerator v2.2


 

Performance Comparisons with SiSoft SANDRA
Time for some numbers...

SANDRA (the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information and diagnostic utility put out by the good folks at SiSoftware. Besides benchmarking, it provides a host of other information about your hardware and software.  We began our testing with four of the built-in sub-system tests that are part of the SANDRA 2002 suite (CPU, Multimedia, Memory and File System).  We tested the AT7 at our CPU's default clock speed of 1733MHz (13 x 133) and while overclocked to 1846MHz (13 x 142).  With the IT7, we ran the tests at the CPU's default clock speed of 2200MHz (22 x 100) and while overclocked to 2442MHz (22 x 111).

AT7 AT7 OC IT7 IT7 OC
CPU
1733MHz (13x133)
166MHz Memory


 
CPU
1846MHz (13x142)
175MHz Memory


 
CPU
2200MHz (22x100)
133MHz Memory


 
CPU
2442MHz (22x111)
144MHz Memory


 
Multimedia

 
Multimedia

 
Multimedia

 
Multimedia

 
Memory

 
Memory

 
Memory

 
Memory

 
Hard Drive - RAID 0
Hard Drive - RAID 0

In the CPU tests, at default clock speeds, it is obvious that both boards are performing on par with competitive systems in SANDRA's database.  When overclocked, however, both the AT7 and IT7 surged passed all of the other systems.  We saw the same pattern in the Multimedia test.  Something to note is that the AMD test system beat the Intel system in the CPU and Multimedia tests.  The tables are turned in the memory bandwidth and file system tests though, showing a clear advantage on the Intel side.  We tested file system performance using a pair of IBM 30GB hard drives setup in a RAID 0 configuration, and although both boards were equipped with the same HPT374 controller, we saw the i845E based IT7 had a clear advantage. 

Benchmarks with Quake 3 Arena
More of What You're Lookin' For!

In this next test, we have Quake 3 Arena v1.17 Time Demo scores taken at a resolution of 640X480 using 16-bit color and textures.  Running Quake 3 with these minimal settings allows the motherboards and processors to push as many polygons as possible, without being limited by the graphics subsystem.

Quake 3 Arena has always favored the Pentium 4.  In this test, the IT7 managed to outpace the AT7 by 8FPS, or about 3.3%.  A difference this small is nothing to get excited about though.  What do you say we move on to our next test, to see if the performance delta is more pronounced?

Performance Comparisons with PC Mark 2002
CPU and Memory Torture...

MadOnion's PCMark 2002 benchmarking suite, is rapidly gaining acceptance amongst on-line PC hardware testing community.  PCMark 2002 is very simple to run, and produces repeatable results.  We ran their "CPU" and "Memory" performance modules, which incorporate the following tests:

CPU Test:

  • JPEG decompression

  • Zlib compression & decompression

  • Text search

  • MP3 Audio Conversion

  • 3D Vector Calculation

PCMark's CPU test also shows the i845E powered IT7 / P4 combo outperforming the VIA KT333 based AT7 / Athlon XP combo by a slim margin of 177 points, or 3.3%.  The difference here is still too miniscule to mean much to end users.  Next up is the memory test.

Memory Test Technical details: (Quoted)

Raw read, write, and read-modify-write operations are performed starting from a 3072 kilobytes array decreasing in size to 1536 KB, 384 KB, 48 KB and finally 6 KB. Each size of block is tested two second and the amount of accessed data is given as result. In the STL container test a list of 116 byte elements is constructed and sorted by an integer pseudo-random key. The list is then iterated through as many times as possible for 2 seconds and the total size of the accessed elements is given as result. There are 6 runs of this test, with 24576 items in the largest run corresponding to a total data amount of 1536 KB, decreasing in size to 12288 items (768 KB), 6144 items (384 KB), 1536 items (96 KB), 768 items (48 KB) and 96 items in the smallest run corresponding to 6 KB of total data.

In PCMark's memory test, the IT7 leapt ahead the AT7.  The IT7 managed to post a score 1228 points, or 35% higher than the AT7.  I don't put too much stock in this synthetic test though.  I have yet to see a 2200MHz P4 outperform an Athlon XP 2100+ by a 35% margin in any real world situations.

Jammin' to the Stones

 

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