In this research, a high performance silicon nanowire field-effect transistor ( transconductance as high as 34 mu S and sensitivity as 84 nS/mV) is extensively studied and directly compared with planar passive microelectrode arrays for neural recording application. Electrical and electrochemical characteristics are carefully characterized in a very well-controlled manner. We especially focused on the signal amplification capability and intrinsic noise of the transistors. A neural recording system using both silicon nanowire field-effect transistor-based active-type microelectrode array and platinum black microelectrode-based passive-type microelectrode array are implemented and compared. An artificial neural spike signal is supplied as input to both arrays through a buffer solution and recorded simultaneously. Recorded signal intensity by the silicon nanowire transistor was precisely determined by an electrical characteristic of the transistor, transconductance. Signal-to-noise ratio was found to be strongly dependent upon the intrinsic 1/f noise of the silicon nanowire transistor. We found how signal strength is determined and how intrinsic noise of the transistor determines signal-to-noise ratio of the recorded neural signals. This study provides in-depth understanding of the overall neural recording mechanism using silicon nanowire transistors and solid design guideline for further improvement and development.