Undisputed leader amongst the 32bit Athlon platforms is currently nVidia's nForce2 chipset sporting dual independent memory controllers that are believed to be a key to the untouchable performance of this core logic. Surprising, therefore, has been the release of a recent wave of singe channel nForce boards by Soltek, ASUS and others that are competing against the VIA and SIS solutions at the very low end of the market. Even more surprising have been reports showing that those boards were actually outperforming the full versions that, at least in theory, offer twice the bandwidth of a single memory channel design.
We have seen in some of our own testings that under certain conditions, a single channel mode can be marginally faster than a dual channel configuration on the same board. However, these results were restricted to some synthetic benchmarks and, furthermore, did not take into account that the second controller was still there. Moreover, the two controllers were still governed by the arbiter.
In order to get to the bottom of this and separate the facts from fiction, we have taken two samples of the same board, that is, the ASUS A7N8X and its "crippled" brother, the A7N8X-X and pitted them against each other. So, which one turned out to be the winner?