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Market Survey, Part 2: Six Premium Pentium 4 LGA775 Boards

No Dual-core Processors On The Latest Boards!

It's sad, but true: with the Smithfield dual-core processor set to increase maximum power dissipation from 115 to 130 watts early this summer, Intel had to make small modifications to the pin setup of the Socket 775. It is thus beyond any doubt that all earlier boards on the market will not work with the dual-core processors.

(For their part, AMD has made a clear statement to the opposite effect: the dual-core Athlons running the Toledo core will to be able to do their job in all Socket 939 motherboards. Thus, nothing stands in the way of an upgrade other than a BIOS update.)

The changed pinout of the LGA Socket 775, however, does not apply only to Smithfield. The Prescott successor Cedar Mill (65 nm process, single core) and Smithfield successor Presler (65 nm, dual-core, 2x2 MB L2 cache) will also use the new pinout, and so will require the 945 or 955 chipsets.

The technical motivation for this move is for the most part beyond question. Sure, high quality mainboards with four-phase or multi-phase power converters can still supply a 130 watt processor. Even if the converter gets hot while running, adequate case ventilation should be sufficient. However, worst-case scenarios do have to be considered, and in these situations the current boards could give up the ghost if given insufficient cooling.

The Future Of Chipsets: 945/955

This technical adaptation undoubtedly comes at a somewhat convenient time for Intel, as modified chipsets are slated to come out early in the year anyway. The 915 is to be replaced by the 945 (Lakeport), and the 925 by the 955 (Glenwood). There aren't many fundamental differences in the Northbridge here. Both chipsets will support FSB1066 and DDR2-667, with the 955X now handling up to 8 GB of main memory, with optional ECC.

Also interesting is the development with the Southbridge, as the ICH7 is being offered at the same time. It still features four serial ATA ports, but they now support the SATA II specification for speeds up to 300 MB/s per device. RAID capability is also being upgraded to RAID 5, a factor that will weigh on CPU performance. However, dual-core processors should easily be able to cope with the calculations that RAID 5 requires.

There are to be three versions of the ICH7. The first is the base model, with four x1 PCIe ports and active management support. The second is a RAID addition with RAID 5 as mentioned, MatrixRAID, and six x1 PCIe ports. The third is a Digital Home model incorporating a still largely unknown feature called Energy Lake.