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Intel P45: The New Chipset Lacks Progress

Intel P45: The New Chipset Lacks Progress
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Intel’s chipset business is a well oiled machine. The firm has been releasing a new desktop chipset family every year right around Computex in June. This time, the P35 family (Bear Lake) is being replaced by the P45 series, code-named Eaglelake. The new chipset family consists of four different models (two with integrated graphics) and mainly introduces PCI Express 2.0 to the mainstream. Although there are several new features and improvements, we found that the sum of Intel’s changes is actually quite minimal.

The P45 family is Intel’s fifth core logic product family for the socket LGA775 platform. The first of this line was the 915 Express Chipset, which launched in 2004. Looking at the number of new features that were introduced then, such as the Land Grid Array processor socket LGA775 itself, PCI Express graphics, DDR2 support, Matrix RAID and High Definition audio, the recent improvements to the P45 make are clearly more evolutionary in nature.

The 945P chipset introduced DDR2-667 memory speeds and 1066 MHz front side bus speeds, but it wasn’t until the advent of P965 with its ICH8 I/O controller that the interface connectivity was improved from four to six SATA 3 Gb/s ports, and from eight to 10 USB 2.0 ports. The P35 upped the ante to 12 USB 2.0 ports, DDR3 memory and 1333 MHz FSB speeds. But the real benefit for end users was, again, minimal.

Much Ado About Nothing?

To hide the fact that chipsets are already very mature and difficult to improve significantly, the industry has shifted attention towards multi-graphics card setups, tweaking, and overclocking—even Intel, a traditionally conservative manufacturer. Nvidia adapted its SLI technology to work with three or even four graphics chips. Intel has been supporting AMD’s/ATI’s CrossFire feature (albeit on the more expensive 975X, X38 or X48 chipsets, which don’t really provide better performance than their mainstream counterparts, but give more sophisticated features and support for unlimited overclocking). From this perspective, the P35 has been the most reasonable and powerful chipset choice, and we’re looking forward to analyzing the P45, being its official successor.

However, looking at the list of new features of the P45 compared to the P35, we remain a bit skeptical. Many of the features introduced in the past have been quietly removed. Think of Intel’s Wireless Connect technology, introduced with the 915 and ICH6, and Active Management Technology (iAMT with ICH7), which was finally merged into vPro. Then there was Quiet System Technology and Matrix Storage Technology, and finally Turbo Memory Technology, which allows motherboard makers to add flash memory to motherboards. These were all improved and eventually recycled in recent years; this was probably due to a lack of true innovations, which, we admit, are difficult to find.

P45, P43, G45, G43

We received six motherboards that are all based on Intel’s latest mainstream chipset P45, and used two of the six (Asus and Gigabyte) for benchmarks. Please be advised that we did not look at the feature-capped P43, which does not support hardcore overclocking or dual graphics setups, and we did not look at the integrated graphics chipsets G45 and G43. The difference between these last two is more comprehensive decoding support for H.264, VC-1 and MPEG-2 video in HD resolution in the G45.

Display 32 Comments.
  • -2 Hide
    Proximon , July 10, 2008 9:35 AM
    Not sure most readers here care about power consumption, although we all will need to start soon. Pretty sure the P5Q-E supports BOTH PCI-E 16x1 OR 8x2.
  • 3 Hide
    Strid , July 10, 2008 9:39 AM
    I'm not sure the power consumption comparison is completely fair towards the P45 cipset. The used P35 motherboard has 6 phases, if I'm not mistaken, while the P5Q-E and EP45-DQ6 have 8 and 12 phases respectively. I would have loved to see a power consumption survey that took this into account.
    However, you definitely proved a point. One would expect that the power consumption went down with the die-shrink. Not up or stay at the same level.
  • -1 Hide
    royalcrown , July 10, 2008 9:56 AM
    Considering what the video, cpu use, I could care less about mb wattage. When the other stuff gets a lot lower I'll care, till then zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
  • -1 Hide
    dragunover , July 10, 2008 10:52 AM
    stridI'm not sure the power consumption comparison is completely fair towards the P45 cipset. The used P35 motherboard has 6 phases, if I'm not mistaken, while the P5Q-E and EP45-DQ6 have 8 and 12 phases respectively. I would have loved to see a power consumption survey that took this into account.However, you definitely proved a point. One would expect that the power consumption went down with the die-shrink. Not up or stay at the same level.

    There was no die shrink? All the extra power is going to be coming from the PCI-E 2.0...And,I know I'm going to shock people!But,10 watts isn't shit!
  • 1 Hide
    aleluja , July 10, 2008 11:50 AM
    So PCI-E 2.0 is not worth having right now, is it? I mean if i had a HD4850 card would it make a difference with PCI-E 2.0 and PIC-E 1? Now P45 boards cost much more than P35 and seeing as it delivers no performance gain, i think P35 is the way to go.
    And yes, 10watt difference is a lot, really.
  • 3 Hide
    outlw6669 , July 10, 2008 1:20 PM
    I have the P5Q-E and it DOSE support 8x 8x PCIe 2.0 CrossFire. I know this for a fact as I am running it right now. Hell, you could even add in another 4850 in the lower slot at 4x PCIe 1. Come on Toms team. Also, what about relitave CrossFire performance compared to the X38/48? I have been dying for this article from you guys just for that comparison.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 10, 2008 1:43 PM
    The power consumption is important but you can't make a definite conclusion about P35 vs P45 from just two motherboards. Power consumption even on the same chipset varies a lot between motherboards. Maybe try the Gigabyte P5Q-E (just guessing from the reasonably sized heatsinks)?
  • 3 Hide
    Haiku214 , July 10, 2008 2:31 PM
    There's no point in buying a p45 or an x48 if you already have the p35/x38. Wait for Nehalem!
  • 1 Hide
    zedweb , July 10, 2008 2:52 PM
    What I really would like to see is a P35/P45 vs X38/X48 mashup!
  • 1 Hide
    Shadow703793 , July 10, 2008 3:31 PM
    ^Agreed! In some cases the P45 beats the X38 when it comes to OCing (ie high stable FSBs on P45)
  • -1 Hide
    chaugh , July 10, 2008 3:56 PM
    I think there's a typo descriping the type of memory supported by the MSI P45 Diamond motherboard. It states "The Diamond version supports DDR2 instead of DDR3, which makes sense at this time. ". The Diamond only supports DDR3.
  • 2 Hide
    DXRick , July 10, 2008 5:23 PM
    I see nothing wrong with the "small" improvements added to the P45 series. The P45 boards are the same price as the P35 with the small improvements. They won't awe the hardcore gamer, but improvements to power management is cool for everyone. :) 

    What we really need now is for the price of DDR3 (which will save around 4 watts) to drop from the sky. :p 

    I look forward to seeing how the new integrated graphics of the G45 perform.
  • 2 Hide
    zenmaster , July 10, 2008 5:36 PM
    This review has very different results for power consumption.
    It shows the P45 using quite a bit less than the P35.

    When combined with the opposite results you are seeing, It appears the issue may be in the boards you tested and not the P45 chipset itself.

    http://www.tweaktown.com/reviews/1468/12/msi_p45_platinum_motherboard/index.html
  • 1 Hide
    Shadow703793 , July 10, 2008 5:38 PM
    Haiku214There's no point in buying a p45 or an x48 if you already have the p35/x38. Wait for Nehalem!

    Agreed. Well said.
  • -2 Hide
    gwolfman , July 10, 2008 5:57 PM
    Hey AUTHOR:
    Can you post/send your overclocking setting or asus o.c. profile so I can see your setup. I just got the board and wanna see how I can do on the newest BIOS. Thanks!
  • -3 Hide
    jthorn , July 10, 2008 8:28 PM
    I plan to order a new build based on Q9450 and 4850 GPU. I was going to choose P45 (P5Q) since I do not plan to overclock nor do I plan to crossfire. I get PCIE 2.0 and the most stable chipset possible for this build. The X48 would be wasted $$$ and overkill. Not sure why this conclusion was missing from the article.
  • 3 Hide
    nachowarrior , July 10, 2008 10:16 PM
    i would have rather liked to know more about amd's new 7 series chipsets. there is VERY little documentation/benchmarks on them. It would be awesome to see a "performance/price" review on very comparable motherboards changing pretty much ONLY the chipset. I would like a 790fx, but thus far i havn't been able to find a whole lot of comparison data telling me that the difference (other than more video card support) between "x" and "fx" or even the 770 for that matter (770=no crossfirex/sli)
    ANYWHO chipsets seem to be pretty under the radar, and kudo's for actually paying attention to them. Now for those new fangled amd ones? :-p
  • 0 Hide
    Sined , July 10, 2008 10:17 PM
    Biostar Tpower I45? .. how did you manage to leave that board out, cheap and proberly the best board around?
  • 2 Hide
    knowom , July 10, 2008 11:02 PM
    Agreed they really should have tested the Biostar Tpower I45 and/or TForce TP43D2A7 since they both claim record breaking OC performance and aren't really any more expensive than other P43/P45 boards to buy. I personally have the TForce TP43D2A7 and while I've only run it up to 400bus speed 1600fsb it's very stable and a great deal for the price point plus supports the newer Intel processors which in and of itself is nice compared to some of the P35 motherboards which require a bios update first. PCI 2.0 will only become more important in the future as well, but that was basically mentioned anyway.
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , July 11, 2008 4:25 AM
    SinedBiostar Tpower I45? .. how did you manage to leave that board out, cheap and proberly the best board around?


    Keep your eyes peeled, we plan to look at this one in an upcoming roundup!
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