Well, we already know that the processor and video board being used are powerful, so given that everything will be the same on both test systems we should be able to see where both of the chipsets show their best performance. Since overclocking on this processor is nearly moot, I'll be using default speeds. I will also use default speeds for the video board. After all, we're testing motherboards here, not graphics!
As I have pointed out before, most of our readership falls into either the enthusiast or hardcore gamer categories so I will maintain a series of tests with this type of user in mind. Our selection is a mixture of synthetic, gaming and real-world applications that should give us a pretty good idea as to strong and weak points in either motherboard.
Before we go further, let's take a quick look at the test system and the utilities being used for testing.
Test System Setup
MSI K8N Neo 2 Platinum (Supplied by MSI)
ABIT AV8 - 3rd Eye (Supplied by ABIT)
AMD Athlon 64 FX-53 Processor (Supplied by Newegg.com)
2x 256MB OCZ PC3500 Platinum Memory (Supplied by OCZ)
Thermaltake PurePower 480-watt Butterfly (Supplied by Thermaltake)
Sapphire X800 XT PE Graphics Card (Supplied by Sapphire)
Western Digital 80GB SATA Hard Drive
SiSoft Sandra 2004 SP2b
HD Tach 3 RW
Quake III Arena
Unreal Tournament 2004 (full version)
Cool 'n Quiet (a fan speed/power saving feature) was disabled on both boards during testing so it wouldn't be a factor in overall results. Memory timings used were 2-3-3-7 on the OCZ memory modules with a 1T Command Rate. Windows was updated to SP1 (I'm still not confident enough in Microsoft to implement SP2, sorry) and all test programs were updated to their latest version with the exception of Quake III Arena. This program was left in its original state so we could continue to use the Demo001 file included with the game.
Drivers used for testing consisted of the ATI Catalyst 4.8 for the Sapphire video board, VIA Hyperion 4.53 and nVidia Unified Driver 4.27.
Let me mention one final fact regarding testing of these two motherboards. The MSI board comes with the base memory speed set to 200MHz but in fact runs at about 200.9MHz with the base speed of the processor at 2411MHz. The ABIT board, on the other hand, comes set to 207MHz out of the box. I left the MSI board set to default and reset the ABIT board to 201MHz bring the speed of the processor to 2412MHz. This should help keep a level playing field during all tests.
Version and / or Patch Used: 2004 SP2b
Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.co.uk
Product Homepage: http://sisoftware.jaggedonline.com/index.php?location=home&a=TTA&lang=en
SiSoft Sandra (System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is a synthetic Windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
Since I am using other utilities and programs to help test for CPU prowess, I only used Sandra for memory benchmarking. Sandra is one of the basic tools for testing this type of performance so it is included in our suite. After all, we're looking for tests that you can run on your own systems to give a direct comparison.
While the results are not different between the two competitors, the MSI board using the nForce3 Ultra chipset does manage to come out ahead in the memory department. The memory timings used are a little aggressive, but not overly so. When we crunch some numbers, though, the difference is roughly 1% or less in each test.
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