Test Systems and PCMark Vantage
How we configured our test systems:
When configuring our test systems for this article, we first entered their respective system BIOSes and set each board to its "Optimized" or "High performance Defaults". We then saved the settings, re-entered the BIOS and set memory timings for DDR2-1066 with 5-5-5-18 timings or DDR3-1066 with 7-7-7-20 timings. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows Vista Ultimate was installed. When the Windows installation was complete, we updated the OS, and installed the drivers necessary for our components. Auto-Updating and Windows Defender were then disabled and we installed all of our benchmarking software, defragged the hard drives, and ran all of the tests.
For our first round of benchmarks, we ran all of the modules built into Futuremark's PCMark Vantage test suite which was updated using the November 2007 Hotfix. Vantage is a new Windows Vista-only benchmarking tool that we've incorporated into our arsenal of tests here at HotHardware. Here's how Futuremark positions their new benchmarking tool:
"The PCMark Suite is a collection of various single- and multi-threaded CPU, Graphics and HDD test sets with the focus on Windows Vista application tests. Tests have been selected to represent a subset of the individual Windows Vista Consumer scenarios. The PCMark Suite includes CPU, Graphics, Hard Disk Drive (HDD) and a subset of Consumer Suite tests."
The overall PCMark Vantage score is derived from the subset of individual scenarios and suite tests, calculated in total "PCMarks". Here are the overall results:
Our testing of the two MSI boards starts off a little bit on the down side, as they posted the second and third lowest overall PCMark Vantage scores. Our only NVIDIA nForce board in the bunch, the ASUS Striker II Formula was in dead last, a good 30-40 Marks behind them. However, other ASUS boards including one using a P35 chipset posted higher overall scores, with the X48-driven Rampage Formula beating out MSI's duo by a 4 percent margin.
"Our memories are often kept in digital form. Here, large digital photos in HD Photo format are stretched, flipped and rotated using the CPU. Plenty of system memory is highly beneficial for manipulating large images. Importing digital photos to Windows Photo Gallery is where a high performance HDD shines. More and more image manipulation is being done using the GPU, enabling instantaneous color correction, sharpening and softening of images. Home video editing with Windows Movie Maker can be very time-consuming – unless you have a high performance HDD. Home videos recorded on digital video cameras are sometimes transcoded and transferred to a portable media player. High definition videos are often archived in media servers. It may, however, be handy to have them transcoded and transferred to a portable media player. A fast CPU with many cores can handle transcoding swiftly." - Futuremark
The PCMark Vantage "Memories" suite includes the following tests:
Memories 1 - Two simultaneous threads, CPU image manipulation and HDD picture import
Memories 2 - Two simultaneous threads, GPU image manipulation and HDD video editing
Memories 3 - Video Transcoding: DV to portable device
Memories 4 - Video Transcoding: media server archive to portable device
"Memories" finds the boards right in the thick of things - the P45 Diamond earned the second highest spot behind the Rampage Formula, yet the P45 Platinum fell as low as fourth. One of the boards the Platinum beat out was the P35-based Blitz Formula, but it also manages to outrun the technically superior X48-class board from Intel, the DX48BT2. Still, differences between the boards are quite slight.
"High definition TV broadcasts and movies have arrived. Playing an HD DVD with additional HD content, a Blu-ray movie, or watching HDTV smoothly (while making a backup of an HD DVD by transcoding to a media server or transcoding from a media server archive to a portable media player) requires lots of computing and graphical power. Windows Media Center with a high performance HDD can handle simultaneous video recording, time-shifting, and streaming to an Extender for Windows Media Center, such as Xbox 360™."
Vantage TV and Movies suite includes the following tests:
TV and Movies 1 - Two simultaneous threads, Video transcoding: HD DVD to media server archive, Video playback: HD DVD w/ additional lower bitrate HD content from HDD, as downloaded from the net
TV and Movies 2 - Two simultaneous threads, Video transcoding: HD DVD to media server archive, Video playback, HD MPEG-2: 19.39 Mbps terrestrial HDTV playback
TV and Movies 3 - HDD Media Center
TV and Movies 4 - Video transcoding: media server archive to portable device, Video playback, HD MPEG-2: 48 Mbps Blu-ray playback
The TV and Movies suite brings us right back to the original results with both MSI boards back at the rear of the pack again. The only difference is that this time it's the P45 Diamond placing last overall instead of the P45 Platinum. Again, we noted that the scores were actually quite close for the most part, with four of the boards placing within 10 points of each other. The only two boards to truly differentiate themselves here were the ASUS RoG boards: the Rampage Formula and Striker II Formula, using both Intel and NVIDIA chipsets.