Intel Redefines the Mainstream PC, Again

 
 
By Loyd Case  |  Posted 2003-05-21
 
 
 

Intel Redefines the Mainstream PC, Again


This is an era of rich media for both home and business. But multimedia and real time 3-D applications—ripping CDs, playing the latest 3-D computer games, authoring multimedia content, and the like—require substantial memory bandwidth, which has demanded high-end systems, in the past.

Intel is altering that equation with the launch of the 865PE chip set, formerly codenamed Springdale. The Santa Clara chip giant recently introduced the 875P, its new dual-channel chip set that lets high-end systems use DDR400 memory. (See "Intel Opens Up Headroom with Canterwood" and "Intel Hits a Home Run"). The high-end desktop systems the 875P targets typically cost $2,000 or more.

The 875P allows for faster memory timing throughout the memory controller than the 865PE, which can result in better performance for memory-intensive applications. The 865PE, a lower-clocked version of the 875P, is slightly less efficient at some memory-based operations. Still, the new offering supports DDR400 memory, just like its older brother, and when combined with a Pentium 4 running an 800MHz FSB (front-side bus), the result is a staggering 6.4GB/s of memory bandwidth.

Intel also announced two other variants of the 865—the 865G, which has the same integrated graphics core as the previous incarnation, the 845GE, and the 865P. The 865P supports only 533-MHz and 400-MHz FSB processors, but is otherwise identical to the 865PE.

That brings us to the second puzzle piece Intel is announcing—new 800-MHz FSB processors. Along with the 865PE, Intel is releasing the Pentium 4 2.4C, 2.6C and 2.8C, which run at speeds of 2.4, 2.6, and 2.8GHz, respectively, and support the 800-MHz front-side bus. They also support Hyper-Threading, Intels simultaneous multithreading technology. For more details on these announcements see our news story.

ZIFFPAGE TITLEPerformance and the 865PE


Performance and the 865PE

We built a system around the Intel D865PERL motherboard, Intels premium 865PE mainboard. The D865PERL has full 5.1 channel audio support, stereo microphone input, four USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, and the usual array of legacy keyboard, mouse, printer, and serial ports. We supplied the system with a 3.0-GHz Pentium 4, an ATI Radeon 9700 Pro graphics card and a pair of Seagate Serial ATA drives configured as a RAID 0 array using the soft RAID controller built into the ICH5 I/O controller hub, part of the 865PE chip set.

We compared the results from that system to those from two similarly configured systems, one with the 875P chip set and one using the 850E. We also compared results from an Athlon XP system; that used the nVidia nForce2 graphics chip set. The 875P and Athlon XP systems used RAID 0 arrays. Because the 850E-based PC, a Dell 8250 had a different storage configuration—a 200GB Western Digital ATA drive—we did not use that system in tests where disk performance was a factor.

ZIFFPAGE TITLEDesktop Applications Performance


Desktop Applications Performance

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to view the results.

AMDs current flagship desktop CPU proved tough to beat in our Business Winstone 2002 test. (The Intel 865PE system lagged the more powerful Intel 875P machine by less than 4 percent, though.) The Pentium 4 did prove its mettle against the Athlon on the Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2003 benchmark test suite, however.

With the Intel-based systems, only 1.2 points separated the 865PE from the 875P on the Content Creation Winstone. This suggests that you could use an 865PE-based system for entry-level content creation, but some applications will benefit from the faster memory controller in the 875P. In particular, media encoding applications will likely render faster on 875P systems.

ZIFFPAGE TITLEGaming Performance


Gaming Performance

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to view the results.

We also looked at the performance of a number of popular 3-D games and ran FutureMarks 3DMark 2001SE. Interestingly, the 865PE system outperformed the older 850E-based Dell in a number of these tests, and essentially tied that RDRAM-equipped PC in the rest. Bear in mind that the 3.06-GHz Dell system actually has a 66-MHz clock-rate advantage over the 875P- and 865PE-based systems with their 3.0-GHz CPUs.

The PCMark 2002 memory scores indicate that the 875P offers substantially higher memory throughput than the other two Intel chip sets (and the Athlon XP/nForce2 combination also suffers by comparison). This indicates that any application able to take advantage of higher memory bandwidth will benefit, which we saw in our game tests.

Most 3-D game applications benefit substantially from increased memory bandwidth. When antialiasing was disabled, the 865PE system generally kept up with, or in many cases, beat the Dell 8250, which is based on the older Intel 850E. When antialiasing is turned on, the differences widen, probably due to the older chip sets lack of AGP 8X support. The 875Ps better memory bandwidth results in even higher benchmark test scores than those of the 865PE on our 3-D tests, which is what we would predict looking at the PCMark 2002 memory scores.

ZIFFPAGE TITLEAnalysis and Conclusions


Analysis and Conclusions

Although not as speedy as the 875P , the new mainstream platform, the Intel 865PE, offers superior performance in memory-intensive multimedia and real-time 3-D applications when compared with Intels former high-end offering based on the 850E chip set. Intel is positioning the 865 series as the mainstream platform for all but the lowest-cost systems. This brings a level of performance to budget-conscious home and IT users that was previously available just to performance enthusiasts or in low-end workstation-class systems.

For more performance results, see ExtremeTechs "Intel Strives for Balance With Springdale Chipset".

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