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| Judgement Day: Core 2 Extreme X6800, Zalman, Gigabyte and OCZ. (25 comments )|
by: CanadaDave (303) | Posted in cluster Final Round FiringSquad-Intel Editors Challenge
Posted 73 months ago ( edited 73 months ago ) in category DEFAULT
|» MEDIA (8)|
Figure 1 - Gigabyte 965P-DS3 Verdict
Figure 2 - OCZ Platinum PC2-6400 Verdict
Figure 3 - Zalman CNPS9700 Verdict
Figure 4 - Zalman ZM600-HP Verdict
Figure 5 - Zalman Fatal1ty Case Verdict
Figure 6 - Gigabyte 7600GT Verdict
Figure 7 - Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 Verdict
Figure 8 - Overall System Final Verdict
Over the course of the past two weeks, the system supplied by FiringSquad for the Editor’s Challenge Final Round has been assembled and disassembled numerous times, has had several operating systems loaded on it, drivers updated and rolled back, and has been thoroughly put through the wringer to squeeze out the highest benchmark numbers possible. Some results have been highly encouraging and some have been disappointing. Each component, however, has stood on its own merits, and will be judged accordingly.
Overall System Notes and Comments
The Gigabyte motherboard used in this system was a strong runner, providing a breadth of system performance options (once the advanced BIOS view was enabled) and a strong promise of stability due to the build quality of the board itself. The Gigabyte 965P-DS3 also provides an extremely useful recovery feature, whereby it loads a subset of its BIOS prior to system POST, allowing the system to easily be recovered without resetting the entire CMOS. The system will first attempt to boot with the settings chosen by the user, and then, if POST fails, it will remove the user settings to bring the selections back to default. This feature was tested on multiple occasions during the overclocking portion of the performance analysis, and performed admirably, failing to recover only once when the system was intentionally sabotaged by setting the memory frequency at an unreasonable 1200MHz.
The 965P-DS3 otherwise provided a very solid platform for overclocking. Voltage choices were available for all major areas (though increments below 0.1V were available only in the CPU setting), and the motherboard allowed a decrease in multiplier setting below stock as well – a feature which some boards do not allow. For the less experienced overclocker, generic “make this component go faster” settings were available for both the memory and graphics card, as well as the C.I.A.2 function to step up the CPU frequency when needed. On the whole, the experience provided by the Gigabyte 965P-DS3 was very satisfying, and this board can be heartily recommended as a platform for any level of enthusiast.
(See Figure 1 for Final Score: Gigabyte 965P-DS3 Motherboard)
The OCZ Platinum memory ran without issue at 800MHz at its stickered 4-5-4-15 timings. When trying to raise the clock speed of the memory beyond 800MHz, however, it balked at anything above 843MHz even with relaxed timings. Increasing the voltage was of no help, either. While 800MHz 4-5-4-15 memory is nothing to sneeze at, it would have been nice to have had more headroom with the memory than was available. While this issue could potentially be chalked up to compatibility issues between the Gigabyte motherboard and the memory itself, similar reports of frustrated overclocking of this memory have been popping up in various message boards around the Internet. OCZ’s higher end offerings in their Platinum series (the PC2-7200 and PC2-8500) both would allow for more headroom in overclocking efforts, and would likely be a much better companion to the X6800 processor. Trying to increase the PC2-6400’s frequency far beyond specification levels when dealing with such other high-end (and expensive!) system components seems somewhat pointless, when OCZ offers superior memory in that line.
(See Figure 2 for Final Score: OCZ Platinum PC2-6400 Memory)
The Zalman cooler and power supply both gave solid showings in the test-bed system. The temperature of the CPU did not exceed 56 degrees Celsius under peak load during its maximum overclock, which provides hope that the Zalman cooler can adequately handle the stress of an even higher overclock without issue. The cooler itself is physically very large, and while no fragility issues were experienced during the benchmarking period, the plastic cooler clip seems likely to be a problem for machines which are moved frequently. With the included ZM1 thermal grease and applicator brush, the Zalman cooler was a strong performer, and provided cooling power beyond what the X6800 required in order to reach at its maximum overclock.
(See Figure 3 for Final Score: Zalman CNPS9700NT CPU Cooler)
The heat-piped power supply performed without issue. The comparatively large bottom fan and the heat-pipe cooling solution found internally ran quietly, and exhausted a good amount of air flow from the rear fins. The cables provided were more than adequate for the needs of the system, and the active PFC solution gave the assurance that this power supply would not be a liability in terms of heat. One interesting note – there is actually a small blue LED found inside the power supply – it appears that the intent of this LED was to shine through the lower cooling fan to give off an ambient glow. In any event, the LED was not noticeable until close inspection of the power supply – a shame, as the blue color would have looked quite nice in the case. One other small nit-pick complaint is that the power cables included would have made the case cleanup easier had they provided some short-run cables in addition to the longer “Christmas Tree” style cables which were included. Aside from those minor issues, the Zalman ZM600-HP is an excellent power supply: A worthy addition to any high performance rig.
(See Figure 4 for Final Score: Zalman ZM600-HP Power Supply)
The Zalman Fatal1ty case is quite attractive, and controls noise very effectively, especially when considering the number of fans (1-120mm and 2-92mm) which are included. The red LED lights look very sharp against the black outer shell, and the laser etching of the case achieves the “competitive gaming” feel that Zalman appears to have been striving for. The hard drive chassis is very well designed, with the vibration deadening hardware and rear lock bar doing an adequate job of holding the hard drive in place. The shortcomings of the case are in the use of the disposable knock-out slot guards, the lack of a proper power supply shelf, and the sheer weight of the case. Equally, at the price point demanded by Zalman, a thicker plastic on the side window would have been nice. Still, the Zalman Fatality case is a solid offering in an increasingly competitive market space from a company which is steadily becoming known for providing high quality, quiet-running components.
(See Figure 5 for Final Score: Zalman Fatal1ty Case)
The Gigabyte 7600GT graphics card has a robust layout, and proved to be a good overclocker while running completely silent due to its Silent Pipe II technology. The included TV-out breakout box and dual DVI output made for a strong offering, and the inclusion of Civilization IV in the packaging only served to make a strong offering that much better. The 7600GT graphics platform, however, has begun to age, and showed up badly against the other high performance components in the system.
Gigabyte has newer products better suited for pairing with a cutting edge CPU, and many of these incorporate their excellent Silent Pipe II technology. Users who are looking for top-tier performance from their systems should turn their attention to the higher-end offerings in the Gigabyte product line.
(See Figure 6 for Final Score: Gigabyte GV-NX76T256D-RH GeForce 7600GT Graphics Card)
The Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 processor is not only the most expensive single component in the test-bed system, but also the component which held the most promise for impressive performance
In testing the system provided by FiringSquad, it quickly became obvious that the X6800 processor excelled in any benchmarks for which it was the primary component being tested. In the synthetic benchmarks, both Sandra and 3DMark supplied excellent numbers, showcasing the raw processing power of the processor. In 3DMark in particular, where comparison tables exist, the score of 2574 at stock speeds puts the X6800 squarely among the elite in the industry. When looking at the overclocked scores of the processor, the situation improved even further.
Under real-world application tests, the architectural improvements of the Core 2 Extreme over its previous generation siblings were obvious. WinRAR flew through its compression tasks without breaking a sweat, easily doubling the performance of the Pentium D 805 processor used for comparison purposes. TMPGEnc MPEG-2 encoding fared similarly well, performing its encoding task at less than 1/3 of the time of the length of the DV file itself.
In business or media-intensive situations, the Core 2 Extreme X6800 is an elite processor which delivers cutting-edge performance. While synthetic benchmarks are of no real-world importance to users, the amount of time taken to encode media files has long been an issue for professionals. The X6800 powers through these tasks at unprecedented levels of performance, setting a new benchmark against which future processors will be judged.
When game benchmarks came into play, however, the aging 7600GT graphics card quickly became the bottleneck, and the power of the X6800 was restrained. This proves one thing – the performance of a gaming system is only as strong as its weakest link! The Core 2 Extreme X6800 is an absolutely screaming processor, and pairing it up with a lower-mid range graphics solution results in the entire system performing poorly in gaming benchmark situations. The graphically-demanding Company of Heroes required the graphics settings to be turned down just to achieve a mediocre framerate of 40fps, while Supreme Commander fared significantly worse, even at the lowest detail level. Indeed, benchmarks needed to be taken from a 3 year old title which is known to be CPU-bound – Unreal Tournament 2004 – before the breakaway performance of the X6800 began to become evident.
The lesson: PC gaming is not an inexpensive hobby. If the goal is to have a system which provides bleeding edge performance in the newest games under the most intense of settings, then equal attention must be given to all components. The Core 2 Extreme X6800 sits among the elite processors available to consumers, and its performance suffers if paired with anything other than comparably elite components.
On the topic of expense, the Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 costs a lot. Indeed, the price tag for this processor is nearly $1,000, placing it out of the reach of many consumers. Further, Intel has recently released its Quad-core processors, the fastest of which comes in at a virtually identical price point to the Core 2 Extreme X6800. Given that the Core 2 Extreme X6800 was released nearly 10 months ago, this is hardly a surprise – but the reality is that the Core 2 Extreme remains the fastest processor (in terms of clock speed) on the market today. This, combined with the Core architecture of the processor, means that the X6800 continues to hold the crown for the highest level of single-threaded performance for desktop users. As the single-thread application list is dwindling by the day, however, users looking to spend $1,000 on the pinnacle of processor performance would be better served by looking at Intel’s newest effort, the QX6700.
(See Figure 7 for Final Score: Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 Processor)
(See Figure 8 for Overall Final Verdict Chart)
While performance in some of the gaming benchmarks was sub-par due to the older graphics core, the test-bed system has many shining points. All three of the Zalman components (the Fatal1ty case, the XYZ power supply and CNPS-7000 cooler) provided an extremely strong showing – an excellent array of products from a promising young manufacturer. Gigabyte’s components were as solid as the name on their retail boxes, with the P965-DS3 standing out in particular as an excellent overclocker’s motherboard. The obvious gem in the entire build is the Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800. It speaks volumes that the processor which was released almost 10 months ago still sits firmly atop many benchmarking charts, and only now has Intel begun to raise the bar even further with their quad-core offerings. The Core 2 Extreme X6800 is the crown jewel in any gaming system; indeed, the most difficult part about working with one is finding system components that can keep pace.
|25 User Comment(s) • 13 root comment(s)|
| Trogdor (39) May 18, 2007 - 08:01 pm|
I liked the text, but I thought the scores were a bit nice on a lot of areas. The CPU in particular would have gotten a lot lower from me. Either get a QX6700 for about the same price, or save money and get that E6600 you used and overclock the sucker. (Never mind the coming price cuts.) Of course, I'm late to the party so the winner has already been decided. It was close, and you both did great work. Keep in touch!
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