Granted, feature lists that sport things like SLI, Serial ATA II and PCI-E look compelling, but as usual things that look good on paper do not have to perform well when actually being put to the test. To start off with the nForce4 SLI, that chipset seems to be a mirage for now, although NVIDIA announced the SLI technology as far back as June of this year, we have not even caught a glimpse of it thus far. The nForce4 Ultra is alive and kicking though, as besides the nVidia reference board that we have been sent for evaluation, motherboard manufacturers such as MSI and Asus have also announced immediate availability.
So the nForce4 is the best there currently is for the Athlon-64, bar none, so we set out to see how it fares against Intelís fastest chipset to date, the i925X. To make this a fair comparison we have kept all parts used identical between the two test systems. We have used Intelís own D925XCV motherboard, the 3.6GHz Intel Pentium 4 Prescott processor and 1GB of OCZ DDR2-4300, CAS 4-4-4-8, memory. On the system featuring the NVIDIA nForce4 reference motherboard we have used an AMD Athlon FX-53 processor, with a 2.4GHz clockspeed and 1GB of OCZ DDR400, CAS 2-2-2-5, memory. Both systems were equipped with an NVIDIAís PCI-E GeForce 6800GT and two 250GB Maxtor Maxline III Serial ATA harddisks with NCQ in a RAID0 configuration. We used Microsoft XP with SP2 and the supplied beta drivers for the nForce4 chipset, version 6.11 and NVIDIA's 65.75 display drivers.
We have looked at overall system performance as that is what counts, as both platforms are different in terms of technology used and both have their strengths and weaknesses, and cannot be compared directly. For example the memory architecture, AMDís memory controller is integrated in the processor whereas Intel uses the chipset to interface to the memory. We used PCMark04 to gauge overall system performance and 3DMark03 and 3DMark05 to see how well the PCI-E implementation of the nForce4 chipset performs. As can be seen from the benchmarks the Pentium 4 is a good 13% faster than the Athlon-64 in PCMark04 and keeps the lead, albeit quite a bit smaller, in the other two benchmarks as well.