Intel P45: The New Chipset Lacks Progress

P45 Boards

All P45 motherboards share the following features :

  • Support for the entire Core 2 processor family, including Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad and Core 2 Extreme in 45 nm and 65 nm, Pentium Dual core and usually Celerons
  • Support for ATI CrossfireX multi-graphics configurations
  • PCI Express 2.0, up to two slots, physically capable of accepting x16 cards, but running on eight lanes
  • Additional PCI Express 1.0 slots
  • Six Serial ATA 3 Gb/s ports
  • Gigabit Ethernet with varying PHY components
  • RAID 0 and 1 (you need ICH10R for RAID 5 support)
  • AHCI SATA 3 Gb/s with Native Command Queuing (ready for SATA optical drives and hot plugging)
  • eSATA (if available) : All SATA connectors can be routed to the back panel of motherboards and be implemented as eSATA.
  • High Definition audio : A simple audio codec, running all audio load through the processor, is the least you can expect from any P45 motherboard
  • They do not support Windows 98 or Windows ME

On the following pages you will find the P45 motherboards that had arrived at our test lab by the time we started writing this review. We will discuss boards in detail in a dedicated roundup soon, so I focused instead on key features. All of these boards should now be available at retail. We used the Asus and the Gigabyte motherboards for the benchmark runs.

1600 MHz FSB Supported by Motherboard Makers

It’s interesting to look at memory and FSB support. All of these motherboards—with the exception of the MSI P45D3 Platinum and Asus’s P5Q3 Deluxe (not received for review)—rely on DDR2 memory instead of the more expensive DDR3 technology. This is a clear indicator that the motherboard makers don’t believe DDR3 is going mainstream any time soon. And we have to agree, as our tests did not reveal a huge benefit for high speed DDR3 when compared to DDR2. As mentioned before, DDR3 will become interesting once 4 GB DIMMs become affordable, as performance isn’t reason enough to make the switch.

When it comes to front side bus speeds, the motherboard makers have become confident, marketing all of these boards as 1600 MHz-capable. And they all are, as the chipset is often capable of hitting speeds as high as 2000 MHz. However, Intel’s specification only refers to 1333 MHz as the maximum system speed for the Eaglelake chipset, which is a positioning decision in the first place. The only vendor sticking to the Intel specification is ECS. With the P45 supporting 1600 MHz, the only justification for the more expensive X48 chipset would be its dual x16 PCI Express 2.0 slots.