Finally Ready For Prime Time?
Few motherboard vendors were fully prepared for Intel’s Core i7 launch last November, but is it really hard to figure out why? Intel's Nehalem architecture introduced triple-channel memory and an on-die memory controller, so we’re certain that many engineers spent sleepless nights trying to figure out what effects this would have on BIOS configuration and how to optimize pathways for the new QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) CPU-to-northbridge link.
Manufacturers had to deal with big changes, yet Intel’s use of a pre-existing southbridge lends a similar look to the block diagram. Yet, the X58 chipset isn’t simply an X48 with the memory controller removed. In addition to a change from the front side bus (FSB) to QPI, Intel added four more PCI Express (PCIe) 2.0 lanes. Intel left the decision about what to do with those added lanes up to motherboard manufacturers, and most simply chose to ignore them.
We gave motherboard manufacturers 100 days from the Core i7 CPU launch to sort out any remaining problems before we began testing for today’s comparison of high-end platforms. In the months to come, we'll also take a look at mid-range boards in the $200-$300 range and offerings that fall in under $200. But for now, we're sticking to premium parts. Are all of these pricey motherboards finally ready for prime time?