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NVIDIA nForce 4 SLI for Pentium 4 - first benchmark results

by David Ross on 16 March 2005, 00:00

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NVIDIA nForce 4 SLI for Pentium 4 - first benchmark results

Poor scores for P4 nForce 4, Athlon 64 still leading the floor

Last October NVIDIA launched its exceptionally good nForce 4 system chipset to support AMD Athlon 64, Athlon 64 FX and Opteron processors.

Stable and fast, and introducing a number of genuinely useful innovations for both high-end business workstations, consumer PCs and even entry-level servers, we still think nForce4 offers a particularly compelling proposition, and is probably the chipset of choice - for AMD platforms with NVIDIA graphics that is.

Here at CeBIT, NVIDIA held a Press Conference to announce similar flavours of its new Crush 19 chipset (nForce 4 for Intel's Pentium 4 processors), but specifics about its performance have apparently been left to NVIDIA partners to divulge.

Odd we thought, and quite the opposite of the confidence and pride in which NVIDIA eagerly presented its nForce 4 SLI Athlon 64 demonstration system to us last year... and here's, probably, why...

HEXUS has exclusively obtained the following benchmark results of a Pentium 4 nForce 4 system running ID Software's Doom 3, and perhaps in some comparisons, the platform as a whole is not looking too healthy.
Here's what we done got:

NVIDIA nForce 4 for Intel Pentium 4 (A02 Silicon) – P4 3.4GHz - Doom 3, High Settings, 1600x1200, 6x Anti-Aliasing
NVIDIA GeFORCE 6800 Ultra - 45.9 FPS
NVIDIA GeFORCE 6800 Ultra SLI - 55 FPS

So, a 22% increase in performance in adding a second £400 or so of graphics card... We'll let you make your mind up as to whether the 9.1 FPS is worth the bucks.

That said, at the time of writing what we don't yet have are detailed system specs, and we think that, perhaps from a performance perspective, presently what these numbers should be primarily compared to are the detailed results we got during our testing of an Intel E7525 'Tumwater' based, dual Intel XEON processor SLI workstation from SCAN International.

Obviously, that comparison in itself is flawed, but the difficulty here is that we haven't yet tested any other directly comparative, single processor mainboard for Intel LGA 775 processors which feature the requisite two 16x lane PCIe slots.

From a prospective purchasers perspective, and one who has no preference which companies' microprocessor is installed, then the obvious comparison is between an AMD or Intel NVIDIA SLI system, and for the present, if the numbers we have are correct, and we believe they are, then the choice is looking decidedly obvious - an AMD based NVIDIA SLI system looks set to simply wipe the floor with an Intel Pentium 4 SLI system.

We suggest that the primary reason for this is because, for the moment - even with the fastest host processors currently available - when running Doom 3, NVIDIA SLI is CPU limited.

Unlike the eighth generation AMD Athlon 64 or Athlon 64 FX, both of which feature an integrated memory controller, Intel's legacy processor architecture demands that its memory controller resides in NVIDIA's nForce 4 for Pentium 4 northbridge.

One question which remains unanswered is whether NVIDIA nForce 4 for Pentium 4 will support Intel's forthcoming dual-core processors.
Whilst Intel has maintained that these will be be LGA-775 socket compatible, our intelligence is that unlike AMD's own soon to be released dual-core processors – which, it claims, should simply work when installed into existing Socket 939 mainboards with the appropriate BIOS update – the indications are that Intel's dual-core processors will require new mainboards featuring two new chipsets seen at CeBIT, Intel 925X and Intel 955X (the 'X' stands for eXtreme').

In any event, obviously we'll reserve our final judgment until HEXUS undertakes its own, controlled and detailed testing procedure, but the early indications are interesting, and of course SLI is not just what NVIDIA's SLI is all about. We've yet to see how it shapes up directly to Intel's own directly comparable offerings, especially with regards to single graphics cards installations; which after all, are probably going to make up the majority of sales.

It should also be remembered that, certainly until ATi introduce its response to NVIDIA SLI – then NVIDIA SLI is simply in a league of its own, and no matter which processor platform you choose, NVIDIA wins.

HEXUS would like to extend its thanks to Willy Deep Lung for help with leaking us these numbers.

Update: Noise which we have heard is that A03 silicon solves some performance issues, since the 2nd graphics card is not using the memory properly at all.