Hopefully, our debut Linux article scratched the surface on where Linux is going, and where it has to catch up in order to become a viable alternative to Windows in the near future. With that being said, it is important that we keep our Linux benchmarks as up to date as possible for new hardware, as well as focus on which new hardware provides stability and performance advantages.

Since the Athlon 64 architecture places the memory controller directly on the CPU core, the role of the northbridge becomes severely limited. The core logic still controls critical IO operations and features, but the general consensus is that chipset manufacturer and quality matters less and less. Today, we will attempt to prove if that is true or not with Linux. Not only must we look at raw performance, but also at driver support and quality. Keep in mind that since these hardware platforms were launched over a month ago, we should see stable and fine-tuned Linux drives by now.

Although modifying and recompiling everything provides us with better performance, we hinder ourselves with that approach, since benchmarks become very difficult to replicate. So, once again, we will be using "out of the box" configurations using SuSE 9.1 Pro (both x86_64 and x86 binaries). We want to give the opportunity for as many people as possible to replicate our benchmarks.

 Performance Test Configuration
Processor(s): Athlon 64 3500+ Socket 939 (2.2GHz, 512KB Cache)
RAM: 2 x 512MB Mushkin PC3500 Level II
Memory Timings: Default
Hard Drive(s): Seagate 120GB 7200RPM IDE (8Mb buffer)
Video AGP & IDE Bus Master Drivers: Linux NVIDIA Core Logic: 1.0-275
Linux NVIDIA Graphics: 1.0-6106
Video Card(s): NVIDIA GeForceFX 5600SE 128MB
Operating System(s): SuSE 9.1 Professional (32/64 bit)
Linux 2.6.4-52-default
Motherboards: NVIDIA NForce3 250 Reference Board
VIA K8T800 Pro Reference Board

We attempted to keep our test configuration as close to CPU/Motherboard/Memory Windows test configuration as possible. The only major change that we adopted for this analysis include the change in processor, IDE rather than SATA hard drive, and the NVIDIA GeForceFX video card. We opted for an NVIDIA card over an ATI card for these benchmarks primarily for 64-bit Linux driver support. We have a Linux video card roundup lined up for the future; so in that article, we can take a better look at where the particular differences lay in video processing.

Feel free to take a look at Wesley's breakdown of each motherboard that we featured in this review here.

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  • gherald - Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - link

    Must be something wrong with firefox then, because I've tried disabled all popup protection to the point where I get a lot of ads at other sites, but still cannot open this comments page.

    Even if it works perfectly for everyone else in the world, I still say it's stupid to have this in a popup.

    -posted from opera
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - link

    #21 - does the registry corrupt itself, or does the user cause the corruption, or is it spyware/virus/trojan related? I'm betting on the last more than the others. Of course, if you're constantly tweaking your setup, problems can occur, but that happens with ANY operating system. Hell, after getting XP configured and setup properly, I didn't need to do a reinstall for over two years, and the only reason I ended up reinstalling was when my motherboard died on me.

    The only thing MS really needs to fix now is some of the default settings. Storing individual temp files for each user? Why would we actually want that? Setting aside 10% of your hard drive space for Temporary Internet Files (which are almost never used), and another 10% for System Restore!? That's stupid. If you need to use System Restore to return to a point more than three months in the past, there's a decent chance it won't work or will cause more problems than it fixes. However, these aren't huge problems; they're just annoyances.
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - link

    No operating system should fatally crash by simply ending task or terminating a process.

    You are right 18#, it isn't hard keeping it clean, but then again I end up reinstalling it about every 8 months since the registry corrupts itself, not fatally, but just to make your favorite app not work anymore, or it take forever to boot up.
  • kd4yum - Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - link

    Kristopher: Any idea whatever happened to the MSI K8N 939-pin motherboard you folks used in the High End System Guide a few weeks ago? I can not find that motherboard anywhere. Has MSI scrapped it? When and where will it be for sale?
  • balzi - Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - link

    #15 -- I think something screwed up on the articles Gaming Benchmarks. UT2004 has a native Linux 64 bit version - so it would run a 64bit app. on 64 bit drivers, and i assume they saw awesome FPS gains. however this page:http://www.anandtech.com/linux/showdoc.aspx?i=2127...
    has no graphs relating to UT2004 64bit.. hmm?!?!?

    On the SATA RAID support.. I just bought a ASUS K8V (K8T800) .. granted it's a S754 board but the VIA southbridge remains the same [8237] I think.. anyway.. I had big problems getting hte RAID going, in fact I didn't get it going and had to opt for the Promise RAID controller onboard.. Gigabit Ethernet was provided by a Marvel Yukon chipset.. ASUS chose good here.. SuSE 9.0 picked it up eventually. though not straigth away.

    I sincerely hope VIA see some of these comments about their on-die SATA RAID support for Linux.

    as a consolation - I used the VIA instructions with some minor changes to get the Promise controller going.. they were sufficiently vague yet all-encompassing to be applicable. :)

  • tfranzese - Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - link

    Linux isn't without it's problems #17. I wish I had the time or willingness to get more into Linux, but for all my needs (programming) it gets the job done without me having to spend too much time learning anything extra. Bashing Windows is quite sad though on all your parts, it isn't too hard to keep a clean and stable Windows installation.
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, July 20, 2004 - link

    The last BSOD I got on someone's computer was simply to end process on a trojan horse in winxp. Sad.
  • tfranzese - Monday, July 19, 2004 - link

    I can't remember the last time I had a BSOD when I wasn't messing with my hardware setup changing things around.

    I'm sad for people who still live in the past.
  • TrogdorJW - Monday, July 19, 2004 - link

    #14 - Oh, yeah, I get blue screens ALL the time while gaming on XP. Mostly, it involves underwater scenes, though. Last time I had a BSOD on XP? Probably a few weeks ago. Last time I had a BSOD on a system that wasn't *overclocked*? I can't even remember.

    On the article:
    "Mental ray seems optimized for NVIDIA, but it does not seem to provide a distinct advantage going from 32-bit to 64-bit architecture." Duh - you mention that only a 32-bit version is available, so why should it benefit at all from 64-bit? Unlike games, which rely heavily on graphics drivers, Mental Ray is more of a CPU dependent application, so 64-bit graphics drivers aren't going to help it score higher.

    "Surprisingly, the difference between 64-bit and 32-bit UT2004 was a little more than we expected. The case for 64-bit is extremely strong with this benchmark." I'm a little confused here - it seems to me that the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit was much larger on W:ET than on UT2K4. Still, it's good to see *any* performance increase under 64-bit for a game. Is UT2K4 actually available in both 32-bit and 64-bit Linux binaries now? That wasn't made entirely clear in the article. IIRC, you're still running UT2K4 as a 32-bit game on a 64-bit OS, right? Only the drivers are 64-bit enabled.

    Overall, though, great article. With the updated Nvidia graphics drivers that provide support for 4K stack kernels (like Fedora Core 2), things are getting better. On a side note, I was finally able to get the Nvidia driver to run properly on my friend's 3000+ system (Chaintech ZNF-250 motherboard) by installing it manually from the command line and then run SaX2 to configure X. The old Nvidia driver crashed the system when I tried to install it, although AT never seemed to have that problem.

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