||Intel 875P Canterwood Preview
April 14, 2003 Chris Angelini
Summary: Intel's 875P "Canterwood" chipset fuses the Pentium 4 CPU to a brand new 800MHz system bus and dual-channel DDR400 memory (providing up to 6.4GB/sec of memory bandwidth to the CPU). But that's not all, the new ICH5 South Bridge adds native Serial ATA support, and even optional Serial ATA RAID support. Read all about this new chipset and how it performs in comparison to the competition right here!
| Introduction||Page:: ( 1 / 13 )|
With processors topping out at over 3GHz, it is easy to take for granted the technology surrounding us. To think that AMD and Intel are attaining parity with very different microprocessor architectures is simply amazing, as each company has seen its designs evolve to accommodate the pressures of competition.
The AMD Athlon, which debuted at 650MHz and little more than PC100 memory support, has morphed not only with regard to its processing core, but also utilizes significantly faster front side bus and memory frequencies. In fact, rumor has it that we’ll soon be seeing an Athlon XP with 400MHz front side bus support – two times faster than the original 200MHz bus. NVIDIA’s nForce2 is perhaps the most popular complimentary chipset, providing up to 6.4GB of bandwidth, though the processor can only utilize 2.7GB in its current form.
Remarkably, the Pentium 4 is in a similar situation. The fastest P4 runs at 3.06GHz – double the 1.5GHz we saw late in 2000 when Intel first unveiled it. Comparing memory advancements is a bit more difficult, as the i850 chipset sported PC800 RDRAM whereas most current chipsets opt for either one or two channels of DDR memory instead.
Nonetheless, Intel has managed to remain competitive with a 533MHz front side bus pushing 4.3GB per second and a comparable quantity of memory bandwidth, achieving a delicate balance between system and memory throughput. But for the Pentium 4 to continue scaling upwards, Intel feels that data needs to be passed even faster between system memory, the memory controller hub, and the processor. It was originally speculated that Intel would do this by transitioning to a 667MHz front side bus. However, we now know an 800MHz setting will replace the current generation of chips optimized for a 533MHz bus.
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The first chipset to officially introduce an 800MHz system bus is called 875P, formerly known as Canterwood. In addition to a faster front side bus, 875P is accompanied by a revamped memory architecture and a new I/O Controller Hub, catapulting it to the pole position of Intel’s Pentium 4 chipset family. As with past chipset launches, Intel has designed its own line of boxed motherboards to showcase 875P, allowing us to conduct a performance evaluation of the final product.
SIDEBAR: AOpen, DFI, Gigabyte, and MSI have already announced motherboards based on 875P. There are undoubtedly many more to come.
| Inside The 875P Chipset||Page:: ( 2 / 13 )|
875P Memory Controller Hub
Persisting with its Hub Architecture, 875P actually consists of several components. The first, and arguably most important, is the 875P Memory Controller Hub. The job of the MCH is that of an intermediary between processor, memory, graphics card, ICH, and now Ethernet interface. Previously, support for integrated networking was tacked on as an extension of the I/O Controller Hub (ICH) and as such, shared its 266MB/s with IDE, USB, and PCI devices.
Technologies like Gigabit Ethernet have the potential to severely tax that link, not only reducing network performance, but also potentially limiting other subsystems as well. Intel’s Communications Streaming Architecture (CSA) sees the Ethernet link moved up to the MCH and granted a dedicated 266MB/s link. As a result, CPU utilization is reportedly decreased, multiple data streams are more easily managed and ultimately, platform performance is enhanced.
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The E7205 “Granite Bay” chipset was Intel’s first desktop product with AGP 8x support. However, it was and continues to be prohibitively expensive, especially considering its relatively small performance advantage. For the time being, “Granite Bay” remains a workstation-centric product, ideal for those who can utilize its 4GB memory ceiling. But now that 875P is here, we’ve also got AGP 8x in the high-end enthusiast space, though it should be noted that VIA and SiS have supported it for some time already with their P4X400 and 648 chipsets, respectively. We’ve yet to see a notable performance enhancement attributable to AGP 8x, but perhaps the upcoming generation of DX9 games will exemplify the bandwidth advantages of the 2.1GBps link.
More significant is the 800MHz bus supported by 875P. Technically a 200MHz bus, quad-pumped, the new frequency enables a theoretical 6.4GB per second of bandwidth between the MCH and Pentium 4, up from 4.3GB per second. “Granite Bay” is an ideal match for 533MHz front side bus processors because it supports two channels of DDR266 memory, creating a balance. The same does not hold true for the 800MHz chips, which are capable of utilizing significantly more bandwidth. So, Intel has equipped 875P with two, 64-bit channels of DDR400 memory that are able to match the front side bus, in theory.
The final addition to 875P, and the feature that distinguishes 875P from the upcoming 865 family of chipsets, has been dubbed Intel’s Performance Acceleration Technology. In essence, PAT facilitates tighter timings within the MCH, internally speeding up memory accesses regardless of the installed modules. “Springdale” silicon isn’t validated to take advantage of these improvements, giving 875P a small performance boost. With several new features in place, Intel has positioned the 875P MCH as a replacement for i850E, which Intel still considers its flagship Pentium 4 chipset. It should also be noted that Intel’s roadmap currently doesn’t show plans for a version of 875P with integrated graphics. Variants of “Springdale” will include graphics, but these will likely be directed towards the mainstream market.
SIDEBAR: Intel is launching a 3GHz Pentium 4 in tandem with 875P, running on an 800MHz front side bus. Several other processors are rumored to be around the corner, taking 800MHz support down into the P4 family.
| ICH5 and Serial ATA Performance||Page:: ( 3 / 13 )|
Intel may be a little slow in exposing AGP 8x support in its desktop flagship, but it should certainly be praised for expediently adding Serial ATA support to its I/O Controller Hub (ICH). The latest iteration, ICH5, adds Serial ATA to a long list of connectivity features that includes eight USB 2.0 ports, support for 5.1-channel audio, two channels of ATA-100 (up to four devices), and a PCI bus. The adoption of Serial ATA has been slow, but by adding native support to the ICH5, Intel may play some role in hastening an inevitable transition. Apparently, Intel feels that the 266MBps link connecting the MCH and ICH is sufficient, even while SiS moves to a 1GBps interconnect and VIA utilizes a 533MBps link.
Mention “Type R” in a car enthusiast circle and you may hear of an Integra Type R, or if you’re overseas, a Civic bearing the same label. The ‘r’ in Intel’s ICH5R stands for something else entirely. For the first time, Intel is supporting RAID capabilities in its ICH, though the support is limited to the Serial ATA interface. Each of the two SATA channels supports one device. With a hard drive attached to each channel, a RAID 0 (striping) array can be constructed to improve disk throughput. IDE RAID has become increasingly popular amongst A/V users looking to avoid the expense of SCSI while benefiting from faster disk writes. We wanted to add some tangibility to Intel’s claims of enhanced performance, so we tested a pair of Seagate’s 120GB Barracuda drives spinning at 7200RPM, each with an 8MB cache. For the sake of comparison, we also tested one of IBM’s problematic 30GB ATA-100 drives, also spinning at 7200RPM, but with a 2MB cache.
Using HDTach as a metric, we compared performance of Intel’s ICH5R to Silicon Image’s reference Serial ATA controller, which can already be found on many motherboards. With the latest drivers from each company, the SI controller performed marginally better than the ICH. A much larger discrepancy exists between the Seagate and IBM drives, though it can be partially attributed to the difference in cache sizes between the products. Most interesting is the RAID scores, which demonstrate slightly reduced read performance, but significantly enhanced write performance to the RAID 0 array. Hopefully, an update to Intel’s new Application Accelerator 3.0 is able to increase read performance to some degree.
SIDEBAR: Intel’s own 875) motherboard, the D875PBZ, supports SATA RAID 0 and Gigabit Ethernet.
| System Setup||Page:: ( 4 / 13 )|
Intel Pentium 4 3.06GHz (Hyper Threading enabled, 533MHz front side bus)
Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz (Hyper-Threading enabled, 800MHz front side bus)
Intel D875PBZ 875P Motherboard
ASUS P4G8X Deluxe E7205 Motherboard
ASUS P4PE i845PE Motherboard
Gigabyte SINXP1394 SiS 655 Motherboard
1GB Corsair PC3500C2 DDR Memory (2x512MB)
ATI RADEON 9800 Pro 128MB
120GB Seagate Barracuda Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM, 8MB cache)
Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1
Desktop resolution 1024x768, 32-bit color, 85Hz refresh
All power saving options were turned off, as were the Automatic Update and System Restore services. Graphics options under the ‘Performance’ tab were all disabled for maximum performance.
Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo
3D Mark 2001 Second Edition Build 330 – 32-bit color
Quake III: Arena version 1.17 ‘Demo001’ demo
Serious Sam: The Second Encounter – 32-bit color, Elephant Atrium demo
SiSoft Sandra 2003 Memory Bandwidth Benchmark
Business Winstone 2002
Content Creation Winstone 2003
Intel’s 875PBZ is another attempt to appeal to performance enthusiasts. It exposes all of the features offered by the 875P chipset, includes basic memory timing controls and even offers a limited overclocking mode, allowing a 4% increase in frequency, which we confirmed works flawlessly. We did attempt to use different modules from Corsair and Kingmax (PC3200 and PC3500 DIMMs) only to find that the board was unable to run any timing more aggressive than CAS 2.5-2-2-7. Further, on a 533MHz bus, 875P is limited to DDR333, even if DDR400 settings are specified in the BIOS. The ASUS P4G8X was set to run at SPD settings, as was P4PE board. All four platforms support Hyper-Threading, which was enabled in each test bed.
SIDEBAR: The 875P MCH must generate significantly more heat by supporting the 800MHz front side bus – it sports a fairly large heat sink.
| 3D Mark 2001 SE||Page:: ( 5 / 13 )|
3D Mark 2001 SE v.330 – DirectX 8
The 875P setup, running a 533MHz bus, is faster than E7205, 845PE and SiS’ 655 chipset. However, it simply dominates after making the move to 800MHz. Keep in mind that all of the test results were taken on a 3GHz processor, so the results are representative exclusively of platform performance, and in the case of 875P, front side bus scaling.
SIDEBAR: The D875PBZ’s back panel has six USB 2.0 ports. Alas, there is no IEEE 1394 connectivity this time around.
| 3D Mark 2001 SE – Frame Rates||Page:: ( 6 / 13 )|
3DMark 2001 - Car Chase
3DMark 2001 - Dragothic
3DMark 2001 - Lobby
3DMark 2001 - Nature
SIDEBAR: Check out Canterwood.com if you’re looking for a luxury home up in Washington.
| Serious Sam SE||Page:: ( 7 / 13 )|
Serious Sam SE (Elephant Atrium) – OpenGL
We recently established in our 655 Shootout that SiS has a pretty killer product. The 655 is able to beat 875P running at 533MHz by a slim margin, but the results are quickly reversed once the chip is treated to the bandwidth benefits of an 800MHz bus. In fact, 875P instantly takes an eight percent lead over its nearest competitor at 800x600.
SIDEBAR: The golf community of Canterwood is located on the Gig Harbor on the Puget Sound of Washington. Gig Harbor, which sounds like it could be a tech community, was originally supported solely by fishing.
| Quake III: Arena||Page:: ( 8 / 13 )|
Quake III Demo001 – OpenGL
Once again, the 875P configured to run at 533MHz is competitive with the E7205 and SiS 655 boards. It is no surprise that the 800MHz configuration is able to pick up a commanding lead. At 800x600, it bests its nearest competitor, E7205, by nearly nine percent.
SIDEBAR: There are several “Springdale’s,” one in Arkansas, one in Ohio, and one in South Carolina.
| Comanche 4||Page:: ( 9 / 13 )|
Comanche 4 – DirectX 8
As a flight simulator, Comanche 4 is naturally a good indicator of processor performance. In this case, we’re using it to differentiate processor performance, though. Throughout testing, the 533MHz 875P outpaces the other three platforms and the 800MHz setup goes a step further. However, the performance delta is much smaller – at 1024x768, the 800MHz system holds a mere three percent advantage over the comparably clocked 533MHz test bed.
SIDEBAR: There is a Springdale Orchards in Peshastin, WA. Perhaps that is where Intel picked up the name for its upcoming Pentium 4 chipset?
| Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo||Page:: ( 10 / 13 )|
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby – DirectX 8
Unreal Tournament 2003 Botmatch – DirectX 8
We’ve seen 875P repeatedly trounce its competition, both in 533 and 800MHz configurations. The Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo reaffirms our previous benchmarks, showing the 3GHz Pentium 4 on an 800MHz bus as the fastest solution currently available. Unless you want to overclock, in which case you’re on your own, buddy.
SIDEBAR: Rather than call it overclocking, the D875PBZ calls it “Burn-in mode.”
| SiSoft Sandra 2003 Memory Bandwidth||Page:: ( 11 / 13 )|
SiSoft Sandra 2003 Memory Bandwidth
Sandra provides the most blatant results this far, explaining why our benchmark numbers have seen between three to nine percent improvements by simply switching to a faster front side bus. At 800MHz, the bus is theoretically capable of 6.4GB per second (in DDR400 mode). Our numbers indicate the true throughput it closer to 4.9GB per second – about 76 percent of the theoretical maximum. At 533MHz, the true throughput drop closer to 3.4GB per second. Because the i845PE chipset uses single-channel memory, it is only able to push 2.6GB per second.
SIDEBAR: Barry Bonds holds the MLB single season record for home runs – 73.
| Winstone Testing||Page:: ( 12 / 13 )|
Content Creation Winstone 2003 - Internet
The Content Creation numbers aren’t nearly as compelling as the game scores we’ve seen. Nevertheless, 875P turns out to be victorious in its 533MHz and 800MHz settings. Surprisingly, the P4PE takes third and is followed by the SiS 655 and E7205 boards.
Business Winstone 2002 – Office Productivity
The situation looks much better in Business Winstone 2002, where both 875P configurations take commanding leads.
SIDEBAR: 100 octane gas is to an S4 as Red Bull is to a tired author.
| Conclusion||Page:: ( 13 / 13 )|
After months of rumors, speculation and anticipation, the first flagship chipset since i850E has emerged from Intel’s doors. Does it live up to the expectations that have been affixed to it? We say yes. Not only is it faster than any other chipset on the market, but it introduces native Serial ATA support, which should pave the way for faster adoption in a market that has been slow to roll with the drive technology. The inclusion of 800MHz bus supports affirms 875P as a product with some staying power, even if Intel plans to eventually incorporate DDR-II memory support. Moreover, it signifies a move away from Rambus’ RDRAM technology and the embrace of cutting edge of DDR memory.
Intel’s D875PBZ is an excellent indicator of what we can expect from the newest chipset. It does marginal overclocking and supports a degree of memory timing adjustment. Features like Gigabit LAN and Serial ATA RAID support put the Intel board on the same level as many third-party manufacturers. Considering that Intel has a history of conservatism, this is a big step and should be commended.
But in the end, how does 875P stack up against the multitude of competing chipsets it is being forced to share shelf space with? Should you buy an 875P motherboard? As always, it depends on what sort of user you consider yourself to be. If performance is of the utmost importance and you don’t mind being an early adopter of technology, the by all means, 875P is the most “out there” chipset available. And if Intel’s name screams “reliability” to you, again, this would be a solid choice, as it behaved itself very well over the course of nearly a week. However, if you don’t anticipate shelling out the premium price commanded by a 3GHz processor, SiS’ 655 is still more viable than we would have imagined a week ago.
It is also worth mentioning that there are a handful of i845PE motherboards with unofficial support for an 800MHz front side bus. Even though the i845PE didn’t finish in the top three of our benchmarks, it remains a powerful alternative that, like SiS’ 655, won’t break the bank. Finally, look to SiS for an updated version of the 655 validated with 800MHz front side bus support in mind.
SIDEBAR: Now that 875P has hit the streets, will you be migrating to an 800MHz Pentium 4? Or, would you rather wait for Springdale, which should be noticeably less expensive? Even if you’ll be sticking with your Athlon XP, we’d like to hear from you!