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More Than Just a 'Paper Launch': 680i Motherboard Comparison, Part 1

Test Setup

System Hardware
Socket 775 ProcessorIntel Core 2 Duo E6700(Conroe 65 nm, 2.67 GHz, 4 MB L2 Cache)
RAMCrucial Ballistix PC2-8000 PN: BL12864AA10052x 1024 MB DDR2-1000 (CL 5.0-5-5-15)
Hard DriveWestern Digital WD1500ADFD-00NLR1, Firmware: 20.07P20150 GB, 10,000 RPM, 16 MB cache, SATA/150
Graphics CardFoxconn GeForce 8800GTX, P/N: FV-N88XMAD2-ODNVIDIA GeForce 8800GTX - 768 MB
Power SupplyOCZ GameXStream OCZ700GXSSLI - 700W
System Software & Drivers
OSWindows XP Professional 5.10.2600, Service Pack 2
DirectX Version9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)
Platform DriversNVIDIA Platform: nForce 9.53Intel Platform: INF 8.0.1.1010
Graphics DriverForceware 97.44

BIOS improvements have made Foxconn's 975X7AB-8EKRS2H competitive with top-priced parts and are a good implementation of Intel's 975X chipset by which to compare Nvidia's 680i performance. We used the most recent P20 BIOS version.

Cooler Master's Hyper TX offered a significant heat reduction compared to our most recent previous game platform shootout. Lower temperatures did not further our achievable clock speeds because we refused to push our core beyond a hopefully-safe 1.50V

NVIDIA claims its 8800GTX graphics processor and 680i chipset are optimized to work together. Rather than question Nvidia's marketing integrity, we accepted this opportunity to sample from Foxconn's new graphics line.

Crucial's Ballistix might not be the greatest "bang for the buck" memory on the market, but its stability proved superb in this test. In fact, our 680i benchmarks used the "800 MHz" at CAS 4-4-4-8 and 1T command rate. Were that not enough, we then pushed them stably to "1066 MHz" at the same latencies simply by raising the command rate to 2T! The 975X comparison board defaults to a 2T command rate and lacks manual control for such.

Western Digital's aging Raptor 150 still represents the pinnacle of desktop single-drive performance, with 10,000RPM boosting seek times and 16 MB cache assisting repetitive reads.

Benchmarks and Settings
3D-Games
F.E.A.RVersion: 1.0 RetailVideo Mode: 1024x768Computer: MediumGraphics: MediumTest Path: Options/Performance/Test Settings
Quake 4Version: 1.2 (Dual-Core Patch)Video Mode: 1024x768Video Quality: defaultTHG Timedemo waste.maptimedemo demo8.demo 1 (1 = load textures)
Audio
Lame MP3Version 3.97 Beta 2 (12-22-2005)Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 minwave to mp3160 kbps
OGGVersion 1.1.2 (Intel P4 MOD)Version 1.1.2 (Intel AMD MOD)Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 minwave to oggQuality: 5
Video
TMPEG 3.0 ExpressVersion: 3.0.4.24 (no Audio)fist 5 Minutes DVD Terminator 2 SE (704x576) 16:9Multithreading by rendering
DivX 6.2Version: 6.2.2 (4 Logical CPUs)Profile: High Definition Profile1-pass, 3000 kb/sEncoding mode: Insane QualityEnhanced multithreadingno Audio
XviD 1.1.0Version: 1.1.0 Beta 2Target qantizer: 1.00
Applications
Autodesk 3D Studio MaxVersion: 8.0Characters "Dragon_Charater_rig"rendering HTDV 1920x1080
Synthetics
PCMark05 ProVersion: 1.1.0System, CPU and Memory TestsWindows Media Player 10.00.00.3646Windows Media Encoder 9.00.00.2980
SiSoftware Sandra 2005Version 2005.7.10.60CPU Test = Arithmetic, Multimedia BenchmarksMemory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.