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Serial ATA performance
The Serial ATA disk controller is one of the most important components of a modern core logic chipset, so we threw each platform a selection of I/O-intensive storage tests. We've also included results from a Foxconn P9657AA-8KS2H motherboard to explore the P965 Express' performance with a vanilla ICH8 south bridge.

We'll begin our storage tests off with IOMeter, which subjects our systems to increasing multi-user loads. Testing was restricted to IOMeter's workstation and database test patterns, since those are more appropriate for desktop systems than the file or web server test patterns.

IOMeter is a best case scenario for Native Command Queuing (NCQ), and the vanilla ICH8 shows its weakness here. The nForce chipsets do support command queuing, but they're quite a bit behind the other Intel chipsets.

For whatever reason, the nForce chipsets won't run IOMeter with a load of 128 or 256 outstanding I/O requests. We've seen this behavior before from other chipset and RAID controllers—including older Intel designs—so it's nothing to get too worked up about. Even 64 outstanding I/Os is hitting a desktop chipset pretty hard.

IOMeter response times track with transaction rates, with Intel's 975X and ICH8R-equipped P965 out in the lead.

CPU utilization is below 1% for all the chipsets, but the P965/ICH8R combo consumes slightly more CPU cycles than the others across both test patterns and all load levels.