New Intel Platform

We’ve finally reached the critical point, and ask the inevitable question - how does it all perform? To be honest, I have to say that I expected it to be a little faster, especially with the hype Intel has been spreading over the past few months. As it happens I received a retail motherboard (a full review of which will be up shortly) with the 865PE chipset and a Socket-T, which we tested with very similar components and the numbers where almost identical in SYSmark 2004 with the 925X platform being one single point ahead.

This does however not tell the whole story as both systems where tested with a single Maxtor 250GB S-ATA drive which Intel supplied as part of the test kit. The Maxtor drives support Native Command Queuing and have a massive 16MB cache and should have removed any bottle necks usually associated with slow hard drives. Sadly, we didn’t get the time to test these drives in a RAID configuration as yet, but expect this to follow shortly when we bring you a review of a retail board. That said, we did configure a RAID array on an existing Windows installation, and although it took three hours to migrate, it all appeared to work fine when it had finished.

In PCMark 2004 the 925X platform did take the lead and the improvement of Native Command Queuing is very clear here as the hard drive score was up by almost 700 points, which makes the new Maxtor drive the single fastest drive we have tested to date. This is very impressive and clearly shows the benefits of Native Command Queuing (coupled with a fast drive).

The 3D results are somewhat lower than those achieved with the 865PE board and an AGP version of the nVidia GeForce 6800 GT graphics card that was used to test both platforms. There are surely many reasons that one could attribute to this result – some would blame nVidia’s AGP to PCI Express bridge chip, but I would presume that the performance deficit is mostly down to immature PCI Express drivers. The scores are not completely off the wall and with a bit of tweaking I’m sure that nVidia will get them up on par with its AGP cards. Something worth pointing out here is the new six-pin power connector that you will see on all PCI Express graphics cards that draw more than 75W of power. This connector should appear on new power supplies shortly.

Let’s not forget the CPU, which was a Pentium 4 560, or to make it a bit more clear, a 3.6GHz Prescott core Pentium 4 with 1MB cache. This will be the fastest processor at the launch and all the new Pentium 4 processors will have a processor number in the 5xx series, while the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition will get a 7xx rating.

All in all there is a lot of new technology to digest and if you have been putting off buying a new computer, now might be the time that you should consider looking at putting your money on the table, as it will be quite some time before we see another dramatic change to the PC architecture. Intel has once again proven that it is moving the PC platform forward and many of the new features bring with them great benefits in performance and usability.

It will take a few months for the market to settle now that all the new technology has gone live, but once it does there will be a lot of choice and some good deals to be had. AMD is unlikely to be standing still for very long, and we’re fully expecting to see PCI Express support for AMD processors in the next few months.

We’ll be looking at an Intel 915G motherboard and taking a closer look at some PCI Express graphics cards in the coming week, so be sure to check back for the ongoing coverage of the new PC revolution.

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