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  Intel's 925XE, upping the ante for PCI-E? 
  Nov 01, 2004, 07:30am EST 
By: Sander Sassen

Intel’s 915G/P and 925X chipsets were the first chipsets to offer PCI-E slots and the new 775-pin socket for Intel processors. Both these chipsets offered very little in terms of performance over older socket-478 chipsets such as the Intel 865G or 875P, but introduced a host of new features such as PCI-E, HD Audio and DDR2 memory support. Although these features don’t offer a compelling reason to upgrade, as we explained earlier, Intel has been phasing out the older socket-478 platform quickly so the new socket-775 platform becomes the de-facto choice for an Intel based PC. With the introduction of the i925XE chipset Intel tries to up the ante and increase the performance by increasing the front side bus clockspeed of the chipset and processor. With the new chipset Intel also introduces a new processor, the 3.46GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition with 2MB of L3-cache, based on the Gallatin, 0.13-micron, core that is also used for Intel’s Xeon processors.

Intel D925XECV2 motherboard

OCZ PC4300 DDR2 memory

The Intel 925XE motherboard and the 1GB of OCZ DDR2 memory used in testing.

In essence all this new chipset offers is a clockspeed increase, at 1066MHz the chipset and processor fsb is clocked at exactly 33% faster than the previous iteration of the chipset. This also results in the processor running at a lower multiplier than previous processors on the 800MHz fsb and gives the new 3.46GHz Pentium 4 EE processor a 66MHz clockspeed advantage over the old 3.4GHz Pentium 4 EE. Whether this clockspeed increase is enough to best the i925X we’ll be exploring by putting these two chipsets head to head in a number of benchmarks that focus on overall PC performance. We’re quite confident that the faster fsb will help to up the performance of the processor or the memory interface, but it is the overall PC performance that counts, no matter how fast the individual parts are.

To do that we used the exact same hardware on both the i925X and i925XE chipsets motherboards, the only difference was the processors used; a 3.46GHz, 1066MHz fsb, Pentium 4 EE processor on the i925XE chipset and a 3.4GHz, 800MHz fsb, Pentium 4 EE processor on the i925X chipset. Both systems used a NVIDIA GeForce 6800GT PCI-E graphics card, two 250GB Maxtor Maxline III Serial-Ata harddisks in RAID0 with NCQ and 1GB of OCZ PC 4300, cas 4-4-4-8, DDR2 memory. Windows XP was used with SP2 installed and all the latest drivers on both the chipsets as well as the graphics card. To gauge the performance of both chipsets we measured the overall performance using Futuremark’s PCmark04 as well as 3Dmark03 and 3Dmark05, accompanied by some benchmarks on compressing DVD to DivX, CD to MP3 and data files to ZIP files.

As can be seen from the above benchmarks the i925XE chipset is only slightly faster than the i925X, not enough to get excited about. But in all honesty we weren’t expecting much, Intel has long since been playing the clockspeed game with small increments in processor or chipset fsb clockspeed, these never did amount to much, nor did they this time around. Does this change anything about Intel’s current position in the market? Not really, AMD is still the performance leader and with NVIDIA recently releasing their Nforce4 chipset this performance gap has only increased as this chipset did offer a host of new and compelling features. We can therefore say that this new Intel chipset and the new 1066MHz front side bus, is just another meaningless upgrade that will not buy you any real-world performance advantage, period.

Sander Sassen.

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