Socket 939 Motherboard Roundup: ABIT, MSI, Gigabyte

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Test System Setup & SiSoft SANDRA

How we configured our test systems: When configuring the test systems for this review, we first entered the system BIOS and set each board to its "Optimized" or "High-Performance Defaults."  We then manually configured our RAM to run at 200MHz (DDR400), with the timings set by the SPD.  The hard drives were then formatted, and Windows XP Professional (SP1) was installed. When the installation was complete, 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 and removed Windows Messenger from the system altogether. Auto-Updating, drive indexing, and System Restore were also disabled, and we set up a 768MB permanent page file on the same partition as the Windows installation. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance," installed all of our benchmarking software, defragged the hard drives, and ran all of the tests...

Test System Specifications
"AMD Inside!"
SYSTEM 1:
S939 - AMD Athlon FX-53 (2.4GHz)

ABIT A8V
VIA K8T800 Pro

2x512MB Corsair PC3200
CL2

Radeon 9800 Pro
Onboard 10/100 Ethernet
Onboard Audio

WD "Raptor" 36GB Hard Drive
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP1
ATi Catalyst 4.8
VIA Hyperion 4.53
DirectX 9.0c
SYSTEM 2:
S939 - AMD Athlon FX-53 (2.4GHz)

Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939
NVIDIA nForce3 250GB

2x512MB Corsair PC3200
CL2

Radeon 9800 Pro
Onboard 10/100 Ethernet
Onboard Audio

WD "Raptor" 36GB Hard Drive
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP1
nForce Driver 4.27
ATi Catalyst 4.8
DirectX 9.0c
SYSTEM 3:
S939 - AMD Athlon FX-53 (2.4GHz)

MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum
NVIDIA nForce3 250GB

2x512MB Corsair PC3200
CL2

Radeon 9800 Pro
Onboard 10/100 Ethernet
Onboard Audio

WD "Raptor" 36GB Hard Drive
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP1

nForce Driver 4.27
ATi Catalyst 4.8
DirectX 9.0c
SYSTEM 4:
S939 - AMD Athlon FX-53 (2.4GHz)

MSI K8T Neo2-FIR
VIA K8T800 Pro

2x512MB Corsair PC3200
CL2

Radeon 9800 Pro
Onboard 10/100 Ethernet
Onboard Audio

WD "Raptor" 36GB Hard Drive
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP1

VIA Hyperion 4.53
ATi Catalyst 4.8
DirectX 9.0c
Preliminary Benchmarks With SiSoft SANDRA 2004
Synthetic Testing

We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. SANDRA consists of a set of information and diagnostic utilities that can provide a host of useful information about your hardware and operating system. We ran three of the built-in subsystem tests that partially comprise the SANDRA 2004 suite (CPU, Multimedia, and Memory).  All of these tests were run with our processor set to its default clock speed of 2.4GHz (12x200MHz).  (Note: Some of these boards ran the processor with an FSB higher than 200MHz. Where necessary, we manually set the FSB to 200MHz to keep the playing field level.)

All four of the motherboards tested here performed similarly in SiSoft's Processor and Multimedia benchmarks.  In these two tests, neither the K8T800 Pro-powered boards (ABIT AV8 & MSI K8T Neo2-FIR) nor the nForce3-powered boards (Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939 & MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum) had any real advantage.  SANDRA's Memory Bandwidth Benchmark tells a bit of a different story, however.  In the Memory Bandwidth Benchmark, the nForce3-based Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939 and MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum had a slight but measurable advantage of about 100MBps.  The K8T800 Pros came close but never quite broke the 6GBps barrier, while the nForce3s consistently broke 6GBps.


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