Intel's 900-Series Chipsets: PCI-Express and LGA775
Posted on: 08/13/2004 05:00 AM

Board Layout

We'll look at the 915G desktop board that Intel sent us, since its layout is the same as the larger 925x board, just with fewer slots:

Click to enlarge

Check out the cute little PCI Express x1 slot at the bottom of the board. Reminds me of the various riser expansion slots (CNR, etc.) that no one ever used. Not that that will be the case with these, I'm sure.

It's a pretty decent board layout, except for one thing that's been bother me during testing: the position of the main power connector. With an assembled system, it makes it nearly impossible to access the floppy and parallel ATA connections, since they end up sandwiched between the power cable and the drive bays in most cases. What makes this worse is that tall capacitor behind the ATA port. That thing is just a accident waiting to happen if you need to get at that ATA connector in an assembled system. I've bent the capacitor pins several times on our 925x sample board myself.

Of course if you're lucky enough to be using all Serial ATA devices then it's less of an issue. Still, I would have rather seen the main power connector on the top edge of the board.

Something that doesn't affect the 915G board but does bother me about the 925X board (sorry, I don't have a picture handy of this area of the 925X board) is the placement of one of the 3-pin fan headers. There's one up by the CPU socket and another at the front of the board, and those are fine. However there's a third header in-line with one of the PCI slots, and it's placed in such a way that pretty much any PCI card that you install pins your fan's wires against the three pin plug very tightly. That's a bit of a pain and it should have been located between slots, not in line with one of them.

Other than those complaints, the layout of Intel's desktop boards is pretty good. That's a good thing (TM), as we'll probably see a lot of motherboards that closely follow Intel's reference design.

I'm going to move along to some benchmarks now, but if any of you have non-performance related questions about the new platforms that I haven't answered, feel free to drop by the comments thread for this article and ask. I'll do my best to get you the answers you seek.

Benchmark Setup

I was somewhat limited in my benchmarking by available hardware, however I think we've got something interesting for you.

What I've done is I've used my existing desktop system, which I think is very representative of the kinds of systems that a lot of people are still sticking with, and compared it to the 915 platform using the Prescott and onboard video (realistically any system like this would probably come with only 512 MB of RAM and a slower CPU but we wanted to see how GMA900 performed) and the 925 platform with discrete audio and video. Jim was also able to get me some benchmarks from his 3.2 GHz P4 system, which will give us a good idea of what kind of gains those of you with a more up-to-date Intel system could expect from these new platforms.

We'll also get a good idea of how the 3.6 GHz Prescott stacks up against the 3.4 GHz EE P4, and of how Intel's new 900-series integrated video performs.


  System #1 System #2 System #3 System #4
CPU Intel P4B @ 2.4GHz Intel P4 Prescott @ 3.6GHz Intel P4 Extreme Edition @ 3.4GHz Intel P4C @ 3.2GHz
Motherboard Asus P4B266-C

Intel D915GUX

Intel D925XCV Soltek SL-B8E-F
FSB 533MHz 800MHz 800MHz 800MHz
Memory 2x 512MB 333MHz DDR 2x 512MB 533MHz DDR2 2x 512MB 533MHz DDR2 2x 512MB 400MHz DDR
Memory Latency 2-2-2 4-4-12 4-4-12 2-2-2
Video ATi Radeon 9500 Pro Onboard nVidia Geforce 6800GT nVidia Quadro SDR
Sound Creative Labs Audigy 2 Onboard Creative Labs Audigy 2 Onboard
Network D-Link DFE-538TX Onboard Intel Pro-100 D-Link DFE-538TX* Onboard Realtek 8100B
Hard Drive Western Digital 400JB Western Digital 400JB Western Digital 400JB Western Digital 400JB
OS Windows XP Pro, SP2 Windows XP Pro, SP2 Windows XP Pro, SP2 Windows XP Pro, SP2

* The Intel D925XCV comes with an onboard Marvell Yukon PCI Express gigabit ethernet controller. Ours was flaky so we used a tried and tested Realtek 8139 D-Link NIC.


  • Sisoft Sandra 2004.10.9.133
  • RC-72 v2.9008-490
  • LAME 3.96.1
  • AutoGK 1.54 beta
  • UT2004 Demo v3120
  • Doom3 1.0

Given the fact that I was called in to do this review at the last minute, and the time constraints associated with the fact that I have a life now (sweet, sweet free time has more of less left me since finishing school a couple of years ago), I've tried to keep the benchmark list both short and sweet. We'll start by getting some baseline numbers for CPU and memory performance from Sandra, then touch on media encoding and gaming. I've also thrown in RC-72 for kicks. I was big into RC5-64 back when the team was busy climbing the charts, and I was curious to see what the latest RC5 client performed like on these systems. That, and the fact that no amount of Googling has delivered unto me a page describing how to benchmark Folding@Home (no doubt someone will come up with a particular set of search terms that will "I'm Feeling Lucky" me right to such a page and post it to the comments...).

Anyway, let's start by looking at some Sandra results...

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