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Our testing methods
All tests were run three times, and their results were averaged, using the following test systems.

Processor Athlon 64 3500+ 2.2GHz
System bus HT 16-bit/1GHz downstream
Motherboard Shuttle XPC ST20G5 SiS 756 reference DFI LANParty NF4 Ultra-D Gigabyte GA-K8VT890-9 939
BIOS revision FT20S905 756m0016.805 NF4LD209 F1
North bridge ATI RS480 SiS SiS756 NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra VIA K8T890
South bridge ULi M1573 SiS SiS965 VIA VT8237
Chipset drivers ULi 2095 integrated IDE: 204a
LAN: 103a
SATA: 303
ForceWare 6.53 Chipset: Hyperion 4.56
SATA: 4.20a
Memory size 1GB (2 DIMMs) 1GB (2 DIMMs) 1GB (2 DIMMs) 1GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type OCZ PC3200 EL Platinum Rev 2 DDR SDRAM at 400MHz
CAS latency (CL) 2 2 2 2
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 2 2 2 2
RAS precharge (tRP) 2 2 2 2
Cycle time (tRAS) 5 5 5 5
Hard drives Western Digital Raptor WD360GD 37GB SATA
Audio Uli M1573/ALC880 SiS965/ALC850 nForce4/ALC850 VT8237/ALC850
Audio drivers Realtek HD 1.19 Realtek 3.71 Realtek 3.71 Realtek 371
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT with ForceWare 66.93 drivers
OS Microsoft Windows XP Professional
OS updates Service Pack 2, DirectX 9.0c

We've endeavored to use production platforms and the latest drivers for testing, but SiS756-based motherboards aren't yet available on the market, so that chipset is represented by a reference board. Since nearly every motherboard manufacturer uses Realtek audio codecs and drivers, we've tried to use the same Realtek audio drivers on each board. Our Radeon Xpress 200/ULi M1573-based ST20G5 uses different Realtek drivers because its high-def codec isn't compatible with Realtek's standard AC'97 audio drivers.

Thanks to OCZ for providing us with memory for our testing. If you're looking to tweak out your system to the max and maybe overclock it a little, OCZ's RAM is definitely worth considering.

With the exception of the XPC ST20G5, our test systems were powered by OCZ PowerStream power supply units. The PowerStream was one of our Editor's Choice winners in our latest PSU round-up.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems' Windows desktop was set at 1280x1024 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests. Most of the 3D gaming tests used the Medium detail image quality settings, with the exception that the resolution was set to 640x480 in 32-bit color.

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.