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 Intel Skulltrail/D5400XS + 2 x QX9775

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arunkumar

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PostSubject: Intel Skulltrail/D5400XS + 2 x QX9775   Sat Nov 22, 2008 9:04 am

Intel Skulltrail/D5400XS + 2 x QX9775

Ideal for high performance computing, but gaming performance is disappointing



When AMD and Intel introduced their first consumer dual core CPUs in 2005, experts said soft ware wasn’t fully ready to utilize two processing cores. Last year, when Intel released the first quad core desktop CPU (the QX6700), we again said the soft ware ecosystem is not geared to welcome four processing cores. Intel has just gone one up on the ‘core’ competency by launching a whole new eight core platform.

The Brain in the Skull
The Skulltrail’s lineage is from an Intel D5400XS server platform. This board can only take CPUs based on socket 771 — the Xeon server lineup (Intel’s desktop CPUs are based on socket 775). Also, the motherboard needs the more expensive server level buffered RAM.




Performance — A Mixed Bag

When talking of sheer computing performance, this is as good as it gets. Unfortunately, not all applications can make full use of all eight cores, so currently performance on such applications is less than what the hardware is capable of.

As usual we ran PC World’s WorldBench 6.0, which simulates real world applications like Microsoft Word, 3DS Max, Nero Burning ROM, etc. The best score managed by the Skulltrail (using two QX9775 CPUs running at 3.2GHz, 12MB L2 cache) was 132. This is just a little over 6 percent higher than the 123 points that we saw on the Core 2 Duo QX9650 (clocked at 3.0 GHz) on a normal desktop P35 motherboard, using the same amount of RAM (2GB) and the 150 GB WD Raptor X hard drive. We also various gaming tests (see chart below) and noticed no considerable gain. In fact, the Skulltrail was slightly slower!

In Cinebench Release 10 (a 3D rendering benchmark), we obtained a score of 20,468, while 11,579 was the best that QX9650 managed — the Skulltrail showing nearly twice the performance.

Features and Design
It is clear that Intel has positioned this new platform for gamers with fat wallets. The board has four full x16 PCIe slots for adding graphic cards with support for both Nvidia’s SLI and ATI’s Crossfire technology. The indulgent gamer who acquires this platform can thus have the option of choosing any graphics solution that appeals to him.

Accommodating two CPUs means the D5400XS is a large motherboard. It is larger than an ATX form factor, and needs a workstation cabinet. With big performance, comes a big demand for power. Intel recommends a 1000W power supply when using two graphics cards. The motherboard has two 8-pin CPU power connectors and for overclocking you will need to use both. However, for normal operation using a single ATI Radeon 3850, a 500W power supply served us just fine.

Verdict
This is a flagship model for Intel to showcase its prowess in the desktop performance segment. And, the power of eight cores is alluring, no doubt. With CPU intensive tasks such as 3D rendering and multimedia encoding, the performance gain with eight cores is nearly twice that of four as our tests have confirmed.

When it comes to gaming however, it is at best equal to what a regular desktop quad core CPU can achieve. Gamers can invest their money in a dual graphics setup on a usual single processor platform instead of spending a small fortune on the Skulltrail. The Skulltrail is for now only for enthusiasts with very deep pockets.
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