ATI sent us a preproduction motherboard from MSI, sporting the XPRESS 200P chipset and what we’re obviously are going to do is put it head to head with NVIDIA’s nForce4 Ultra motherboard. Our goal is to find out who reigns supreme in the PCI-Express Athlon-64 arena. We’ll be exploring overall PC performance, as that is what counts, no matter how fast the individual parts are. To do that we used the exact same hardware on both the nForce4 Ultra as well as the XPRESS 200P motherboard. Both systems used an AMD Athlon FX53 processor, a NVIDIA GeForce 6800GT PCI-E graphics card, two 250GB Maxtor Maxline III Serial-Ata harddisks in RAID0 with NCQ and 1GB of OCZ PC3200, cas 2-2-2-5, DDR 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 both chipsets are going toe-to-toe, with the XPRESS 200P being slightly faster in the majority of our benchmarks, but clearly not enough to get excited about. In all honesty we must say that both motherboards we used are samples, featuring beta BIOS’s and drivers. Once motherboards start hitting the store shelves the gap might have been closed, or the nForce4 Ultra could even be taking the lead. What’s important here though is the simple fact that both chipsets perform admirably. NVIDIA however has a card up its sleeve, the nForce4 SLI, which, once available, will shift the balance in favor of NVIDIA.
Does this change anything about ATI’s position? Not really, ATI is still the only manufacturer offering an integrated chipset for the AMD Athlon-64 platform, possibly creating strong sales in the entry-level and office PC market. Once, and if, the nForce4 SLI is released we’re quite sure ATI will have some more detailed specifications about their dual graphic card solution. At the end of the day it looks like we’ll go another round in the ongoing chipset battle. From our perspective either chipset performs admirably; price, availability and features of motherboards sporting these chipsets will ultimately determine how popular a chipset will become.