Conclusions: Technologically Immature And Lacking Software Support
We were disappointed by the Skulltrail platform. Although we have tested and reviewed numerous Intel products, we have never had such a half-baked system such as this in our labs. If this sounds harsh, bear in mind that all we have to base this conclusion on is the Skulltrail system itself in its current state, which Intel provided as an official review platform. We do not know whether Intel plans to revise and improve the platform before the final versions ship to retail.
The Skulltrail system is unable to keep up with current desktop systems with a single quad-core processor by a long shot. We are not considering workstation applications here, since such applications are simply not the focus of the platform at this time. The main performance problems can be attributed to how Intel chose to use a chipset from the workstation segment, from the use of FB-DIMM memory and from the lack of widely multi-threaded software. Most applications can take advantage of four processors at most, meaning that the second quad-core CPU is practically never in use.
Also, the quality of the board is - simply put - very bad. Due to a lack of crucial options, the BIOS is not suited for overclocking, the Southbridge fan is far too loud, the PWM fan-speed regulation for the CPU cooler does not work and the board takes far too long to boot. Several times, the board even crashed when restarting.
It is incomprehensible why Intel would send a platform plagued with so many problems out to the press in such a rush. Currently, Intel is not under any kind of pressure from the competition - it has already proved that it makes the fastest CPUs in the market. So why create such a dubious platform? Considering the performance that can actually be harnessed by today's software, the platform's energy consumption is far too high. While Skulltrail theoretically offers the option of using SLI or CrossFire configurations, any single-socket system offers higher gaming performance at a much lower price.
The performance weaknesses of the Skulltrail motherboard's workstation chipset are its downfall. With games, the system falls behind the two single-CPU desktop systems by up to 45%.
In the benchmark suite, the two Core 2 Extreme QX9775 CPUs are even slower than a single QX9770. Although the Skulltrail dual-CPU system shows very strong performance gains in 3D rendering and video encoding tasks, its overall performance score is still hobbled by its gaming weakness. In the end, a single QX9650 Compare Prices on Core 2 Extreme QX9650 is only 3.9% slower overall than the two QX9775 Skulltrail chips together.
|Intel Skulltrail Article Overview|
|Part 1||Intel Skulltrail Part 1: The Power of 8 Cores|
|Part 2||Intel Skulltrail Part 2: Overclocking and Power Consumption|
|Part 3||Intel Skulltrail 3: 8 vs 4 Core Performance|