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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [09.18.08]
Manufactured by: Abit


Ethernet Performance

Now we are starting to get into what can set a motherboard apart from the pack; onboard peripherals. Even though many motherboards use identical chipsets, and the memory controller is in fact built onto the CPU in AMD's case, it's the rest of the components that really make them different. And in many cases, even though the same features are found in competing motherboards, utilizations of those features can vary.

The A-N78HD uses Nvidia's GeForce 8200 ethernet controller, which still requires a PHY. In this case, a Realtek RTL8211B is used. Since it is built right into the chipset, we don't have to worry about crappy or outdated controllers being used. It should be about as fast as a good PCI-E based ethernet adapter.

The AX78 it's going up against uses the Marvell Yukon 88E8056 controller, which is PCI-E based. This means that it should be capable of extremely high bandwidth at full saturation, at the expense of some extra CPU cycles.

In this case, its performance is as good as can be expected, and the CPU usage is about as low as we've seen for the performance.

USB Performance

For the most part, USB should also perform about the same. But since the USB is controlled by the Southbridge, this is a place where the lower quality Southbridges can cause a board to fall behind. The A-N78HD we're looking at today actually has it quite easy going up against the AX78 and its terrible SB600 Southbridge.

As you can see, the competing motherboard has terrible performance, but the GF8200 based A-N78HD performs as well as expected. CPU usage is at 8% for the A-N78HD and 15% for the AX78.

SATA Performance

AMD users don't have it easy. If you want to build a good system with an Intel CPU, the choice is simple: Intel chipset. At the very least, their performance is consisten. The same can't be said for AMD's and even Nvidia's chipsets in terms of hard drive performance (and reliability).

You usually have several choices on how to run your hard drives - IDE mode, which is the most basic, works fine on all systems, but you will not benefit from NCQ or hot swapping. For that, you need to enable AHCI. Unfortunately, AHCI requires well-written drivers and a well-designed chipset, something AMD/ATI have yet to figure out how to do. Nvidia seems to have it down for the most part, but their drivers are often lacking.

We tested SATA performance in IDE mode as well as AHCI mode. And when using AHCI mode, we ran the tests using Vista's latest integrated drivers, as well as Nvidia's latest drivers (18.11 at time of publication). The hard drive used is a 36GB Raptor 10,000 RPM drive. The AX78 was left in IDE mode, since its AHCI utilization is just completely busted.

As you can see, performance looks good when AHCI is enabled and Nvidia's drivers are used, but the whole story isn't shown here. HDTach showed a really weird result with the write tests:

Yeah something ain't right... Then again, we performed all our benchmarking in AHCI mode with these drivers, and they worked perfectly fine. It could very well be an error with this benchmarking program.

Next Page: (Overclocking; Conclusion)