At Phoronix we are constantly running Linux benchmarks with quad-core and even octal-core systems with more than enough RAM and all of the latest and greatest hardware from the chipsets to the graphics cards. However, with an increasing number of new Linux users trying out Linux for the first time on their old computers, we have been asked to conduct some benchmarks using popular desktop Linux distributions on older hardware. We have done just that as we try out Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Fedora, Mandriva, and SimplyMEPIS with an old Intel Northwood system.
The system we had used contained an Intel Pentium 4 1.6GHz "A" processor (Northwood core, 400MHz FSB), 2 x 512MB of DDR-400 memory, Western Digital 80GB 8MB cache ATA-100 hard drive, and an ASUS P4SGX-MX motherboard. The ASUS P4SGX-MX uses the SiS 650GX Northbridge with the SiS 962L Southbridge. The SiS 650GX + 962L support AGP 4x, SiS Real 256 graphics, six USB 2.0 ports, and DDR PC-2700/2100/1600 memory. This hardware doesn't go back as far as we could possibly go, but with the Northwood being over five years old it should work for a better representation of "older hardware". All of this was contained inside the SilverStone Milo ML02 chassis.
The Linux distributions used included Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon Tribe 4, Xubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn, Fedora 7, Mandriva 2008 Beta 1, and SimplyMEPIS 7 Preview. We had used some common Linux benchmarks at Phoronix such as LAME compilation, LAME encoding, timed disk reads, and Gzip compression.