Intel Skulltrail 3: 8 vs 4 Core Performance

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.

Join our discussion on this article!

  • I am a 3D artist so this MoBo will be in my next workstation anyway, but for extreme gamers this review completely missed the point and by more than a mile! First off, looking through all the benchmarks, the overclocked skull trails are top of the bunch in nearly every test, and sometimes way ahead of the others, and anyone that’s going to buy this MoBo is going to overclock! Secondly, I don’t think anyone is going to care about a little extra fan noise for this kind of power, and most likely extremist gamers and 3D pros will use liquid cooling on the CPU’s and Southbridge anyway. But the biggest point of all that toms hardware completely missed is that this MoBo is future proof! Within the next 2 years, 8 core single chips processors will be a reality from Intel and AMD and game developers are going to take full advantage of this I assure you! So in 2 years time when you people that decided to buy a single socket qx9770 system because of this review, and are looking at the benchmarks of people running 8 core systems on the latest games, you’ll probably be cursing toms hardware for this dumb review and feeling sick to the stomach that its upgrade time again, while the people that don’t believe everything toms hardware says is “the law“, and don’t have their heads firmly squeezed up toms dark and scary place, and that are capable of free thinking, will have a huge smile on their faces that their systems brought 2 years ago can still compete with the big boys and that they wisely spent those few extra $$$, £££ or €. I’m certainly not going to let a few games running ever so slightly slower in the now, putting me off buying a MoBo that will run the next gen of kick ass games 1 or 2 years from now. Dumb review toms Hardware dumb!
  • Intel BIOS release 1140 officially supports FSB overclocking and memory ratio overriding. FB-DIMM 800 sticks are also way cheaper now than 6 months ago and I guess they will score sky high with active cooling and low latencies. what about a new testing of the platform with a couple of X5272 to show how easily they cross 4GHz? As my point of criticism, this article should stress the price of the skulltrail is less than half of a single QX9770/QX9775 processor and building a 1P intel system with nvidia chipset can be way harder than this 2P offering.