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Intel Skulltrail
Date 9th October 2008
Author Chainbolt
Editor James "Agg" Rolfe
Manufacturer Intel

Test Setup, Sandra / Everest Results

The question we are going to answer is: What is the impact of 8-core, dual processor computing on games and desktop applications? We tested the original Skulltrail platform as configured by Intel: A D5400XS motherboard with 2 x QX9775 processors and compared it with a single processor desktop system running a QX9650 quadcore and an E8500 dualcore processor.

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As already mentioned the D5400 chipset allows DDR2 4-channel operation. Running it with only 2 x 2 GB in 2-channel mode, as we did, is therefore not fully utilizing its bandwidth potential. Our D5400XS board was flashed with the latest available BIOS, revision 1149, dated August 2008. There have been various D5400XS BIOS updates since the original release. It seems stability and performance has been substantially improved with later BIOS versions. Some features were added as well. One of the later versions added for example support for Intel “speedstep technology” (EIST) that helps reducing power consumption when the system is idling.

The QX9775 were cooled by Zalman CNPS-9700 heatsinks. This is a LGA775 cooler, but as already mentioned the D5400XS retention mechanism allows installing them on LGA 771 sockets. The CNPS-9700 is a relatively simple heatpipe device of medium performance. The sinks had to be installed clockwise rotated to avoid colliding with the heatsinks on the MOSFETS. We directed their airflow towards the FB-DIMMS which have the bad habit of running quite hot. Intel is recommending active cooling when all 4 memory sockets are populated.

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We tested with an 8800GTX video card. Yes, we know that this is not the latest and greatest video card anymore. But using the 8800GTX allowed us to compare Skulltrail results with our “Yorkfield” and “Wolfdale” reviews from earlier this year. We also did not configure the test system for SLI or CrossFire. The impact of SLI and CrossFire on gaming performance is well documented and is anyway not related to dual processor computing, which is the subject of this test.

As we were using only one video card, we did initially run all tests with a 700 Watt PSU and only 1 x 8-pin 12volt connector. The system appeared stable until we did run 8 instances of Prime95 stressing all 8 cores with 100% load. After a few minutes the system started to randomly reboot. For stable operation we changed therefore to an Enermax Galaxy 1000 Watt PSU. We do not recommend running Skulltrail with less than 1000 Watt or a PSU that does not have a second 8-pin 12 volt connector.


Skulltrail was properly recognized as running with 8 cores by the Vista Device Manager, CPU-Z and other utilities.

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As to be expected, Sandra’s synthetic arithmetic and multimedia CPU benchmark show massive gains compared with the single quadcore 9650 system. The Everest CPU benchmarks come to the same conclusion: Skulltrail is far ahead of any other listed desktop workstation. As already predicted, because it is using fully buffered FB-DIMM memory, Skulltrail doesn’t shine when it comes to the performance of the memory. Bandwidth is, at around 5200 MB/sec, average at best. Memory latency is very high at almost 89.3ns.

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Left: Memory Bandwidth - Right: Memory Latency

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Left: Queen Benchmark - Right: SinJulia Benchmark

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All original content copyright James Rolfe.
All rights reserved. No reproduction allowed without written permission.
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