Test Conditions

By Joel Durham Jr.  |  Posted 2002-01-29 Print this article Print

Our benchmarking is done using custom designed, NASA-inspired machinery thats calibrated to a hundredth of a micron. It takes place in a sealed room thats 1000 times cleaner than any hospital operating room. Were observed by independent auditors from three different agencies, who themselves are observed by other auditors, and all results are notarized and sealed on the spot. (No, Arthur Andersen is not involved).

Okay, so were exaggerating a bit. That may be going a little overboard, but suffice it to say our test conditions are very strictly controlled. We reformat the hard drive between each and every motherboard test, and we install all the same versions of the same applications and games in the same test bed for each board. Tests are always run in the same order, and we reboot the system between each test run.

Before testing a board, we make some mandatory settings changes in its BIOS to even the field. We do not cache any BIOS feature, including video BIOS. We set the memory settings for auto, but if the board has a default optimal setting we give it a try to give the board the best possible circumstances. If the optimal setting proves to be unstable, we make a quick attempt to tweak the memory settings, but if it takes too much work we drop back to default. While we comment on the accessibility a board offers to overclockers, we do not overclock anything during our benchmark runs. We go for an out of the box experience.

During benchmark runs, onboard audio, game and MIDI controllers are all disabled. We do use the onboard network adapter if there is one. Once weve completed our entire battery of tests, we go back and listen to the audio quality of the onboard audio, and then we play several games and run applications to get a flavor for the real-world experience the board offers.

We install each board according to its manufacturers instructions. We use the BIOS and drivers that were shipped with the board, only seeking updates to fix apparent instabilities, incompatibilities, and other problems.

Our testbed consists of the following components:

Testbed Components
Component Detail
Case Antec SX-635 case
Processor AMD Athlon XP 1800+ with Cooler Master active cooler
Memory 640MB DDR memory
Power Supply Antec 400W
Storage WD400BB ATA100 hard drive, Maxtor D740X-6 ATA100 hard drive, Toshiba 16x DVD ROM drive and 1.44MB, 3.5" floppy drives
Graphics GeForce3 Ti 500 (driver v.21.85)
Audio SoundBlaster Live!
Ethernet 3COM 3C905-TX
Keyboard KeyTronic 104-key PS/2
Mouse Logitech USB Optical mouse

Joel Durham Jr. has loved computers, technology, and gaming since he was a kid, first enjoying the wonders of the Atari 2600 and later indulging in the fabulous graphics of the Commodore 64. His lust for all things technical drove him to eventually seek employment: he landed a job at Computer Concepts, a Rochester-based PC consulting and repair firm, where the company president took Joel on as his apprentice. Within a year, Joel was running the service shop, installing networks for clients, and building systems with glee.

A writer at heart, Joel longed for the glory of seeing his words in print, so in 1997 he left his shop to take a job as PC Gamer's first Technical Editor. After leaving that post to flee the ridiculous cost of living in northern California, Joel worked mostly as a freelance tech writer, taking a year-long break from the mercenary life to telecommute to CNET as the Senior Technical Editor of the now-sadly-defunct Gamecenter. Residing in Upstate New York with his family, Joel repeatedly flung himself at ExtremeTech (which often used his freelance services over the years) until he convinced them to hire him.


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