Originally we had asked all popular motherboard manufacturers to submit an ATX motherboard that had to comply with only two requirements: We wanted it to offer an ideal price/performance ratio and to support dual core Pentium D processors. This obliged the participants to submit 945P chipset based products only, as VIA does not have a Pentium D chipset and SiS 656FX is less popular than Intel's offering. The 915 and 925 chipsets cannot be used because Intel had to modify the specifications for socket 775 to support the startup sequence for dual core chips.
The selection is similarly small on the high end. Here, it is the 955X and NVIDIA's nForce4 Intel Edition chipset fighting to win the hearts of enthusiast customers. While the nForce 4 IE chipset currently is the best choice for gaming and for conserving an upgrade path to dual graphics SLI setups, the 955X usually is the better deal for high-end computers in the business or professional world. We expect to see a 975X chipset in spring together with the Pentium D 900 series that will support dual graphics. Yet it remains unclear whether this could include SLI or not.
The boards we received represent pretty well what is available on the market. Though there are some lower-cost products for socket 775, it is quite difficult to match the Intel chipset's capabilities thanks to a solid feature base including extensive RAID features (ICH7-R includes software-RAID5).
All motherboards exclusively support DDR2 memory at both DDR2-533 and DDR2-667 speeds. It is very important to understand that the performance difference between the two of these will only be interesting if you run applications with high-memory and performance requirements. Generally, we recommend going for brand memory in order to contain your spending within reasonable borders. In case you want it all, go for the lowest latency memory available (DDR2-667 at CL3-2-2-8 timings), but it might cost a fortune.