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Intel power PC platforms: Core 2 Extreme QX6800 and V8

Blistering performance?

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To try it out, we plugged in a Western Digital WD150 Raptor hard drive and an Asus GeForce 7950 GT graphics card and then tried to install the 64-bit version of Windows XP 64-bit - 32-bit XP isn't supported by this hardware. Two things manifested themselves. First, there's a delay of 30 seconds or more between power-on and POST. It takes so long to get to this stage that we started to wonder if the kit was broken. Secondly, the 64-bit XP installer wouldn't recognise any SATA hard drive that we had to hand, so we plumped instead for installing the 32-bit Windows Vista Ultimate and all was well.

Intel V8 'performance PC' platform - eight cores in action
Intel's V8: eight cores in action

We ran a series of tests on the V8 which consisted of PCMark05, encoding a 350MB AVI file to DVD with Nero 7, and finishing up with POV-Ray. Glance at the results and you'll see that V8 is fast in PCMark05 and Nero but not much faster than the QX6800. You'll find the charts on the next few pages. POV-Ray is a different story as it is properly threaded to use multi-core processors, and in this test V8 delivers huge performance but, let's face it, that's not much use unless you are rendering the next Pixar movie at home.

Intel V8 'performance PC' platform - PCMark05 scores
Intel's V8: scoring well in PCMark05

You'll also note that the power draw of V8 is huge, to the extent that the motherboard requires a power supply with the usual 24-pin connector, as well as both 8-pin and 4-pin plugs. You also need a case fan solely to keep the FB-DIMM memory cool.

In other words, this hardware is ideally suited for a workstation rather than a PC, so what on Earth is Intel playing at by sending this hardware to Register Hardware?

The likeliest explanation is that Intel wants to show the CPU part of its 'Skulltrail' platform to the world. This is the platform that will combine dual quad-core CPUs with four PCI Express x16 slots to deliver a humungous gaming system, although you have to wonder about the graphics side of things. Will Skulltrail support CrossFire, and will SLI support Skulltrail? If not you certainly won't need four long PCIe slots and may not even require two.

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