Pipe Dreams: Six P35-DDR3 Motherboards Compared

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Editor's Note: As mentioned below, Biostar's TP35D3-A7 Deluxe motherboard with BIOS Revision 0.51 would not boot when overclocked even 1 MHz. We obtained a TP35D3-A7 with an updated BIOS. It is discussed here.

With support for DDR3 memory and the next generation of FSB1333 Intel Core 2 processors, Intel's P35 Express chipset is the most forward-looking part in its portfolio. But support for advanced technology isn't going to alter its market: The P35 Express is designed to replace Intel's legendary-overclocking P965 mainstream part.

Driving Intel's latest technology "downward" into the mainstream is support for only a single PCI-Express graphic card at full x16 bus width and official DDR3 memory support extending only to 1066 MHz data rate. As a mainstream part, the P35 Express officially supports a single graphics card and memory speeds up to DDR3-1066. Adding a second graphics card slot or DDR3-1333 RAM compatibility are features Intel left to the discretion of motherboard producers.

The sixteen PCI-Express lanes delivered by the Northbridge are capable of supporting only one device, so there is no option to split them across two slots as previously seen in the high-end Intel 975X and later in the ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200. Like the P965, any second graphics card must instead use some of the six PCI-Express lanes from the Southbridge, so most "CrossFire Compatible" P35 Express motherboards will have the two x16 slots wired with x16 and x4 pathways. Rather than being a true CrossFire solution, any second graphics card is really more useful for adding multiple displays than it is for boosting graphics performance.

Great single-card performance and high overclocking capabilities pushed the P965 Express chipset to the forefront of mid-priced performance, so a major part of P35 Express testing will be to make sure this new product lives up to the reputation of its predecessor.

Buyers looking to upgrade their motherboard for future processor support while keep their old DRAM modules will be more interested in the P35 Express Chipset's DDR2 capabilities, while others will want to see how DDR3 motherboards compare to DDR2 versions. However, DDR3 still has to mature, and today's modules run such high latency that it makes a fair comparison impossible. Today, we focus on DDR3 performance. We will detail DDR2 performance in an upcoming review, and readers who still need to be convinced that DDR2-1066 CAS4 can be quicker than DDR3-1066 CAS7 can look back to this review for a comparison.

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Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • Dont get any biostar mobo, they all have capacitor problems in my experience.
  • Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R support up to 4GB DDR3 memory. However, could 8GBs 2x4GB DDR3 modules be used as long as it is within the top 1333 limit on the board?