Abit BD7IIRAID & MSI 845E Max2 BLR

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Abit's BD7II-RAID Vs. MSI's 845E Max2 BLR
Two Fully Featured i845Es Do Battle...

By, Marco Chiappetta
August 6, 2002

    

OVERCLOCKING:

We had very good luck when overclocking with both of these motherboards.  Surprisingly, the MSI 845E Max2 BLR, turned out to be the better of the two.  Although Abit is almost universally praised for their overclocking friendly products, the BD7II-RAID wasn't able to best MSI's offering this time around.  As you all know, the multiplier is locked on all retail Pentium 4s, so we set out to find the highest attainable speed of our particular CPU by raising the Front Side Bus (FSB) frequency.  The CPU core voltage was set to 1.65v (+10%), and we slowly raised the FSB until the system was no longer stable.  If any one of our benchmarks hung, or produced any errors whatsoever, the FSB was lowered and we re-tested the system.  With the Abit BD7II-RAID, we were able to hit a very nice 158MHz FSB (effective 632MHz) with our 2.4GHz Pentium 4, for a top speed of 2844MHz, and increase of 18.5%.  Occasionally though, the BD7II-RAID wouldn't re-boot when we exited the BIOS during our overclocking tests.  After saving our settings, the system would just sit there with a blank screen and wouldn't POST.  If we powered the system down, and then brought it back up a few times, it would eventually POST.  This minor annoyance was probably an issue with the early revision of the BIOS we tested with, hopefully Abit will address this in the future.  The MSI 845E Max2 BLR, however, fared a bit better.  We were able to push the FSB all the way up to 160MHz (effective 640MHz), for a top speed of 2880MHz, an increase of 20%.  We should also mention that MSI includes their "Fuzzy Logic 4" overclocking software with the 845E Max2 BLR, which gives users the ability to manipulate their FSB from within Windows.  I'm a "Do It Yourself" kind of guy thouhg, so I opted to do all my overclocking from within the BIOS!

TESTING METHODOLOGY:

We have (and we're sure you 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 either "Load Optimized Defaults" (Abit BD7II) or "Load High Performance Defaults" (845E Max2 BLR). To keep the playing field level, we then configured the Memory CAS Latency and other memory timings to be set by the SPD. The RAID array was then formatted, and Windows XP Professional was installed. After Windows was completely installed, we hit the Windows Update site and downloaded all of the available updates, with the exception of the ones related to Windows Messenger. Then we installed all of the necessary drivers, disabled Windows Messenger and then removed it from the system.  Auto-Updating and System Restore were also disabled and we set a 768MB permanent paging file. Lastly, we set the Visual Effects to "best performance", installed all of the benchmarking software and defragged the hard drive.  All of the tests were then run at the CPU's default and overclocked speeds.  Now, on to our results...

The Hot Hardware Test Systems
Lots of Intel Hardware Here!


 

Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz (2400MHz)
533MHz FSB
 

Abit BD7II-RAID (Intel i845E)


256MB Corsair PC2700 (CAS 2) x 2

NVIDIA GeForce 4 Ti 4600 (29.42 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


 


 

Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz (2400MHz)
533MHz FSB
 

MSI 845E Max2 BLR (Intel i845E)


256MB Corsair PC2700 (CAS 2) x 2

NVIDIA GeForce 4 Ti 4600 (29.42 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
Synthetic Goodness

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 installed hardware and operating system.  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).  Default, and overclocked scores are both represented below.

Abit
BD7II-RAID
Abit
BD7II-RAID OC
MSI
845E Max2 BLR
MSI
845E Max2 BLR OC
CPU
2400MHz (18x133)
133MHz Memory

 
CPU
2844MHz (18x158)
158MHz Memory


 
CPU
2400MHz (18x133)
133MHz Memory


 
CPU
2880MHz (18x160)
160MHz Memory


 
Multimedia

 
Multimedia

 
Multimedia

 
Multimedia

 
Memory

 
Memory

 
Memory

 
Memory

 
Hard Drive

 
Hard Drive

 

At our CPU's default clock speed of 2.4GHz, the Abit BD7II-RAID managed to slightly nudge ahead of the MSI 845E Max2 BLR in the CPU Arithmetic, CPU Multi-Media and Memory bandwidth benchmarks.  In the File System tests though, the BD7II-RAID's High-Point 372 powered RAID 0 array posted scores about 10% higher than the Promise 20276 found on the MSI board.  The High-Point controller also gives users the ability to tweak their cluster size, something that is missing on the Promise "Lite" controllers integrated onto most mainboards.  Obviously, when we over clocked the systems, the scores tipped in favor of the 845E Max2 BLR because of the higher clock speeds we were able attain.  

Benchmarks with Quake 3 Arena
Low-Res Frag Fest

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 a high-end graphics card at these minimal settings allows the motherboards and processors to push as many polygons as possible, without being limited by the graphics subsystem.

Here, the MSI 845E Max2 BLR managed to outpace the Abit BD7II-RAID by a tiny margin.  For all intents and purposes though, these scores are identical.  The .009% performance difference falls well within the "margin of error"!

Performance Comparisons with PC Mark 2002
CPU and Memory Tests

Next up we have some tests from MadOnion's PCMark 2002 benchmarking suite.  PCMark 2002 is very simple to run, and produces repeatable results.  We ran their "CPU" and "Memory" performance modules.  The CPU module incorporates the following tests:

CPU Test:

  • JPEG decompression

  • Zlib compression & decompression

  • Text search

  • MP3 Audio Conversion

  • 3D Vector Calculation

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.

Just like in the SiSoft SANDRA tests, the Abit BD7II-RAID outperformed the MSI 845E Max2 BLR in PCMark 2002's CPU and Memory benchmark modules while the system was running at default clocks speeds.  As was the case with the Quake 3 benchmark, the performance of these two boards was virtually identical.

Flask, 3D Mark & The Winstones

 
Tags:  MSI, RAID, X2, BD, MS, Abit, AI, id

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