Intel Follows The Dual Graphics Path
There was a time when chipsets were around for a year or longer, but since Intel introduced the PCI Express era, the pace has quickened dramatically. Over the last 18 months, we have seen Pentium class Intel core logic products arriving continuously, but the incremental value for the end user seems to get smaller each time a new product shows up. The recent additions of features did not really change much but model numbers and products. Today, Intel officially goes dual graphics, even though one dominant player is already around and a second is catching up rapidly - we're speaking of NVIDIA and ATI respectively. Could things really be different this time?
In 2004, the 925X chipset took care of the enthusiasts' dreams at the PCI Express platform launch , but its reign did not last long. The 925XE replaced it only a couple of months later, adding support for a faster Front Side Bus speed (FSB1066 in quad data rate mode). This, however, has only proven to be required for the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processors, which failed to clearly outperform the ordinary models despite their high cost.
The current top Intel model is called the 955X , and we still feel disappointed to see that it does not really deliver more performance, although the DDR2 memory speed was bumped up. The same is true for Serial ATA II, PCI Express for add-in cards or High Definition Audio: all of these are great to have, but if it weren't for other system components such as hard drives or graphics cards advancing more, today's computers really wouldn't be that much better than those of two years ago. For the majority of users, the really important reason for purchasing a 955X motherboard today is not faster speed but support for current and next generation dual core processors.
The 975X launch is different. The first thing to note is that it has been quiet on the Intel front. The usual media support by means of supplying product information as well as test samples was almost absent, and the 975X motherboard we used to produce the benchmark results for this article came from Gigabyte. The second thing worthy of note is a new feature - the 975X is the first Intel desktop chipset to support two PCI Express x16 slots. It is done the same way that has been popular at ATI, NVIDIA and VIA: The 16 PCI Express lanes of the chipset northbridge are split up, allowing for two physical x16 slots with x8 bandwidth each. Apart from that, the 975X is no different than the 955X.