MSI K7D Master Dual Socket A Motherboard

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The MSI K7D Master Dual Socket A Motherboard - Page 4

The MSI K7D Master Dual Socket A Motherboard
Athlon Power X 2!

By Marco Chiappetta
May 21, 2002

The next series of tests were with the "real world" Business and Content Creation Winstone benchmarks and a low resolution time demo run using Quake 3 Arena.  These tests don't demonstrate the true power of a multi-processor system though, so continue reading until the our conclusion section, for a simplified explanation why.

Business & Content Creation Winstone
"Real Word" Simulations

We ran ZD Labs' Business Winstone 2001 benchmark first.  We'll directly quote ZD's eTestingLabs website for an explanation as to what this test is comprised of:

"Business Winstone is a system-level, application-based benchmark that measures a PC's overall performance when running today's top-selling Windows-based 32-bit applications on Windows 98 SE, Windows NT 4.0 (SP6 or later), Windows 2000, Windows Me, or Windows XP. Business Winstone doesn't mimic what these packages do; it runs real applications through a series of scripted activities and uses the time a PC takes to complete those activities to produce its performance scores."

The Business Winstone tests include:

  • Five Microsoft Office 2000 applications (Access, Excel, FrontPage, PowerPoint, and Word)

  • Microsoft Project 98

  • Lotus Notes R5

  • NicoMak WinZip

  • Norton Antivirus

  • Netscape Communicator

The MSI K7D Master was crushed by the KT333 based single CPU system.  The significant performance delta can be attributed to three things.  One, the lackluster hard drive performance we saw with AMD's chipset.  Two, the 66MHz. clockspeed advantage of the Athlon XP 2100+ and three, the lower memory bandwidth provided of the AMD 762 chipset.

Next up is ZD's Content Creation Winstone 2002.  This benchmark runs a similar series of scripted activities as well, but the tests are comprised of more "bandwidth hungry" applications.  The applications used in the Content Creation Winstone 2002 tests include:

  • Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1

  • Adobe Premiere 6.0

  • Macromedia Director 8.5

  • Macromedia Dreamweaver UltraDev 4

  • Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 7.01.00.3055

  • Netscape Navigator 6/6.01

  • Sonic Foundry Sound Forge 5.0c (build 184)

Some of the applications used in the Content Creation tests are multithreaded, and this benchmark is not affected as much by slower hard drive performance, which is why the difference in scores is much less pronounced.  Nonetheless, the KT333/2100+ combo bests the MSI K7D Master by about 10% here, but this kind of performance difference would be unperceivable to the end user.

Quake 3 Arena
No SMP Here...

Quake 3 is one of the few games that "technically" has the ability to take advantage of a second CPU.  We ran a timedemo at low-resolution to isolate CPU performance.

Unfortunately, no matter what we tried, we were not able to get Quake 3 to run in "SMP Mode" on the MSI K7D Master.  We were relegated to running a "standard" time demo.  Last year I reviewed Abit's Dual-PIII board, the VP6, was able to get Quake 3 working properly in "SMP mode" and saw roughly a 20% increase in frame rate.  If anyone has had any luck getting Quake 3 working on their Dual-Athlon rig, drop us a line and let us know what you did.  I'd like to update this review with those scores if possible.

SO WHAT DO ALL THESE BENCHMARKS MEAN, IS A DUAL-CPU SYSTEM ACTUALLY "SLOWER" THAN A SINGLE-CPU SYSTEM?

The quick answer is absolutely not.  After looking at our benchmark results, many of you may be dismissing a Dual-Athlon system.  You're thinking there is no real benefit to going with a second CPU unless you're running applications specifically coded to take advantage of it...but you'd be wrong.  There is a common misconception that a Dual-CPU system will only outperform a single CPU system when multi-threaded (SMP compatible) applications are used, but this simply isn't true.  Without giving an overly technical explanation, think of every application or program running on your system as being a thread.  At any given time you may have upwards of 29 or 30 single threaded applications or processes running on your machine (open up Task Manager and see for yourself, odds are you'll have even more than that running).  On a single CPU system all of these threads are processed by the lone processor, while on the Dual-CPU system the threads can be split between the 2 CPUs.  This is a VERY over-simplified explanation, but it accurately explains the advantage of a Dual-CPU system. This ability to balance the processing load across multiple CPUs, in general yields a more responsive system.  Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time using a Dual-CPU system knows what we mean.

Using Business Winstone 2001 as an example, I'd like you to think about these benchmark scores another way.  Theoretically speaking, because the applications used in these tests are not multithreaded, we could have run the Business Winstone 2001 benchmark in two concurrent instances on the Dual-CPU system, without seeing a huge drop in performance, while a Single-CPU system's scores would have been halved.  To put things simply, if you multitask, and keep numerous applications open on your machine at once, you'll definitely "see" and feel the benefits of a Dual-CPU rig.

Although the MSI K7D Master lacks many of the bells and whistles found on some "enthusiast" boards, like RAID or 6 Channel audio, it still managed to impress us on a few different levels.  MSI has targeted this board at the low to mid-range server and workstation markets, and we feel they have built a product that caters to them perfectly.  Our only "pseudo-gripe" with the K7D Master is the potential for some users to have "broken" USB 1.1 ports.  This issue really isn't MSI's fault though.  Errata in the original revision of the AMD 768 Southbridge is the culprit.  Regardless, our board's USB 1.1 ports seemed to work properly, and MSI includes a 5-Port USB 2.0 PCI card anyway.  The overall performance of this board is great, and stability throughout our battery of tests was top-notch.  The only way we could get this board to crash was to overclock the board well past 10% mark, which isn't what the K7D Master was designed to do in the first place.  Based on it's good performance, rock solid stability and versatility in configuration options, but because it has limited expandability and a flakey Southbridge, we give the MSI K7D Master a HotHardware Heat Meter Rating of...

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Tags:  MSI, Motherboard, MS, dual, SoC, 7D, socket, board, AR, K

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