Intel had no less than four fully configured ‘SkullTrail’ test systems on display during the Intel Developer Forum and while there was a gag order on the performance numbers, Intel allowed Legit Reviews to take all the pictures we wanted of the test systems and the motherboard itself. This system is nothing new to Legit Reviews as back in June of this year we were in Taiwan and got a chance to see this 45nm V8 system, but it had 667MHz FB-DIMM Modules and 3.00GHz Harpertown processors. This time around the system has been named SkullTrail and has faster 800MHz FB-DIMM memory modules and 3.40GHz processors! This means the system is even faster than when we last benchmarked it just a few months ago.
The SkullTrail system uses Harpertown processors, an update of the current Clovertown processor series, which offer significant clock-for-clock performance gains and improved power requirements. When a pair of these new Harpertown processors are used in conjunction with the Skulltrail motherboard an enthusiast gaming platform is born that will impress even the most hard core AMD fan boy.
The most impressive SkullTrail machine on display was fitted with a pair of quad-core 45nm processors running at 4.0GHz each (overclocked from 3.4GHz) with a 120x120mm radiator based water cooler for the FB-DIMM modules, a 120x480mm radiator water cooling loop on the pair of video cards and each processor got it’s own Vapochill! This system was created by no other than Intel Senior Performance Analyst Francois Piednoel. With all this cooling the system required the use of a Thermaltake Thoughpower 1200W power supply and although it wasn’t using all of them, it had three 250W power supplies in the 5.25″ drive bays. These are in place to be used when running Quad-SLI on four GeForce 8800 Ultra video cards! Yes, it seems that since SkullTrail uses a pair of nForce MCP’s on the SkullTrail motherboard it will support SLI, which is a first for Intel motherboards! All of this power means lots of draw and this system will use nearly an entire 15 Amp circuit when overclocked and at full load.
With two water coolers and two Vapochills cooling the SkullTrail demo system, Intel managed to overclock their system up to 4GHz, but doing nothing more than increasing the multiplier. The BIOS doesn’t yet have voltage adjustments in it, so they were able to overclock from 3.4GHz to 4.0GHz with the default voltage and some monster cooling by increasing the multiplier on these unlocked processors. Speaking of liquid cooling it seems that water cooling will be standard for all Skulltrail systems, although we did spot this system with Zalman heat sinks.
It looks like some of the lower clocked LGA 771 Harpertown processors can get away with air cooling, but for an extreme enthusiast system, the vast majority will be water cooled for sure. Intel mentioned that a system like the one above should be had for around $4,000 once the hardware comes out later this year. The extreme cooled SkullTrail demo that was shown at the start of the article will be more than this due to the extreme cooling used.
A SkullTrail system like this one is more likely what will be shipping in months to come, but even it has two cooling loops. One cooling loop and 120mmx480mm radiator for the GeForce 8800 series video cards and another cooling loop with a second 120mm x 480mm radiator is on the other side for the two 3.4GHz Harpertown processors that were used on this demo system.
With all the video cards and cooling solutions in the way it’s hard to see the board, but I managed to catch a picture of it between key notes here at IDF. Here you can easily see the four PCIe 2.0 slots for graphics cards, which is sure to create some crazy performance numbers and break a number of world records once enthusiasts get their hands on these platforms. FB-DIMM’s are the only memory modules that will work, but now that 800MHz FB-DIMM modules are out we are seeing impressive bandwidth numbers.
From what we have seen, the Intel Harpertown processors make for a nice update of the current Clovertown processor series and if you have the money for an ultra high-end gaming system keep an eye out for SkullTrail in the months to come!
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