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Test Settings

X58 Roundup: Seven $200-300 Core i7 Boards
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Test System Configuration

CPU

Intel Core i7 920 (2.66 GHz, 8.0 MB Cache)

CPU Cooler

Swiftech Apogee GTZ Liquid Cooling

RAM

Kingston KHX16000D3ULT1K3/6GX (6.0 GB)
DDR3-2000 at DDR3-1866 CAS 7-8-7-20

Graphics

XFX GeForce GTX 285 XXX Edition
670MHz GPU, GDDR3-2500

Hard Drive

Western Digital WD5000AAKS, 500 GB
7,200 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 16 MB cache

Sound

Integrated HD Audio

Network

Integrated Gigabit Networking

Power

Coolermaster RS850-EMBA
850W, ATX12V v2.2, EPS12V

Software

OS

Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1

Graphics

Nvidia Forceware 181.20 WHQL

Chipset

Intel INF 9.1.0.1007


We left power-savings features and Turbo mode enabled for our Core i7 processor during benchmarks and power tests, since most users can benefit from these in daily use. We then disabled EIST and enhanced C-States during our overclocking tests to assure all motherboards would be stressed equally and continuously.


Kingston won our 6GB DDR3 overclocking shootout with memory that can actually clock farther than the memory controller of our Core i7 processors, making it the perfect choice for testing the overclocking stability of each motherboard. The company even sent a second set so we could test six-module stability in addition to our standard three-module test. For benchmarks, we set six of the seven motherboards to DDR3-1866 CAS 7-8-7-20 where possible: The Biostar TPower X58 would not boot at any DDR3-1866 settings, so we had to choose DDR3-1600 mode instead. Also, the MSI X58 Platinum SLI was unstable at a DDR3-1866 CAS 7 setting, so we had to use 8-8-7-20 timings with this motherboard sample.


Quick set-in time, excellent thermal characteristics, and no-mess/no-waste application make Zalman’s ZM-STG1 the perfect thermal compound for bench testing. The company sent enough for us to equip the entire U.S. hardware team with two bottles per tester.


Swiftech’s Apogee GTZ allows us to maintain low temperatures, even during our Core i7 overclocking tests. An MCP-655b pumps the warm liquid into Swiftech’s 3x120mm radiator.

Benchmark Configuration

3D Games

Call of Duty: World at War

Patch 1.1, FRAPS/saved game
High Textures, No AA / No AF, vsync off
Ultra Textures, 4x AA / Max AF, vsync off

Crysis

Patch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Very High Quality, 8x AA

Far Cry 2

DirectX 10, Steam Version, in-game benchmark
Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA
Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality, 8x AA

World in Conflict

Patch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo
Test 1: High Details, No AA / No AF
Test 2: Very HighDetails 4x AA / 16x AF

Audio/Video Encoding

iTunes

Version: 7.7.0.43
Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 min
Default format AAC

Lame MP3

Version: 3.98 Beta 3 (05-22-2007)
Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min
wave to MP3

TMPEG 4.5

Version: 4.5.1.254
Import File: Terminator 2 SE DVD (5 Minutes)
Resolution: 720x576 (PAL) 16:9

DivX 6.8.3

Encoding mode: Insane Quality
Enhanced multithreading enabled using SSE4
Quarter-pixel search

XviD 1.1.3

Display encoding status = off

Mainconcept Reference 1.5.1
Reference H.264 Plugin Pro 1.5.1

MPEG2 to MPEG2 (H.264), MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG2), Audio: MPEG2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 kbp/s), Mode: PAL (25 FPS)

Productivity

Autodesk 3ds Max 9

Version: 9.0, Rendering Dragon Image at 1920x1080 (HDTV)

Grisoft AVG Anti-Virus 8

Version: 8.0.134, Virus base: 270.4.5/1533, Benchmark: Scan 334 MB Folder of ZIP/RAR compressed files

Winrar 3.80

Version 3.70 BETA 8, WinZIP Commandline Version 2.3, Compression = Best, Dictionary = 4,096 KB, Benchmark: THG-Workload (334 MB)

Winzip 11

Version 11.2, Compression = Best, Benchmark: THG-Workload (139 MB)

Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings

3DMark Vantage

Version: 1.02, GPU and CPU scores

PCMark Vantage

Version: 1.00, System, Memory, Hard Disk Drive benchmarks, Windows Media Player 10.00.00.3646

SiSoftware Sandra XII SP2

Version 2008.5.14.24, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Multimedia, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark

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