Socket 939 Motherboard Roundup: ABIT, MSI, Gigabyte
Wolfenstein: ET & Unreal Tournament 2004
To start our in-game testing, we ran through a batch of time demos with the OpenGL game Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. Wolfenstein: ET is a free, standalone multiplayer game that is based on the original Return to Castle Wolfenstein that was released a few years back. It uses a heavily modified version of the Quake III engine, which makes it a very easy-to-use benchmarking tool. We ran the test using the "Fastest" setting at a low resolution of 640 X 480, using 16-bit color and textures. Running this test with a high-end graphics card, at these minimal settings, isolates processor and memory performance without being limited by the graphics subsystem.
Using our custom demo, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory had all four of the boards we tested finished within a couple of frames per second of each other. Here, the MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum posted the fastest frame rate of 144.6 FPS, followed by the Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939, the K8T Neo2-FIR, and the ABIT AV8. There's only 1.7 frames per second separating the K8N from the AV8, though - hardly a large enough delta for a decisive victory.
Lastly, we did some benchmarking with Epic's Unreal Tournament 2004. When we tested these systems with UT 2004, we ensured that all of them were being benchmarked with the exact same in-game settings and graphical options and we dropped the resolution and detail levels to isolate CPU and memory performance.
In yet another complete reversal, the ABIT AV8 pulled ahead of the pack when testing Unreal Tournament 2004 with our custom demo. The ABIT board posted a frame rate of 146.43, followed by MSI K8T Neo2-FIR, the MSI K8N, and the Gigabyte K8NSNXP-939. The 4.76 frames per second difference separating the AV8 and K8NSNXP-939 equates to about a 3.4% advantage for the K8T800 Pro-powered AV8. Also notice that the other K8T800-powered board, the MSI K8T Neo2-FIR, came in just behind the ABIT board and ahead of the nForce3s.