Chipsets For Core 2 Duo
Educated users and enthusiasts currently have the following chipset options:
- AMD/ATI Crossfire Xpress 3200 for Intel
Triple PCI Express x16 for Crossfire dual graphics and an additional ATI physics accelerator card
- Intel P965 with ICH8
Single PCI Express x16. Some motherboards offer dual PCI Express x8
- Intel 975X with ICH7R
Dual PCI Express x8 for ATI Crossfire dual graphics
- Nvidia nForce 650i Ultra/SLI
Single PCI Express x16 (Ultra) or dual PCI Express x8 (SLI) for SLI dual graphice
- Nvidia nForce 680i SLI
Dual PCI Express x16 plus PCI Express x8 for SLI dual and quad graphics
ATI's Crossfire Xpress 3200 for Intel is quite an amusing product, as it went into the AMD portfolio after the acquisition of ATI. The result is AMD offering a chipset for Intel processors. There are not many Crossfire Xpress 3200 motherboards; in fact we have only received DFI's LanParty ICFX3200-T2R. Although the RAID storage performance and USB 2.0 performance cannot compete with Intel's core logic, the chipset performs well and doesn't show performance shortcomings that we observed with former chipsets. This solution is the only choice for dual x16 PCI Express ATI Crossfire graphics.
The Intel chipsets can be considered the conservative choice. All the motherboard vendors offer P965 motherboards, because this is the current de-facto chipset standard. It offers 16 PCI Express lanes to run a single PCIe graphics card. Some motherboards yet offer two x16 PCI Express connectors, both powered by eight lanes, which works well for dual graphics setups. Intel currently offers the highest RAID storage performance and the most consistent USB 2.0 performance (ICH8). The 975X chipset is still around, but it is not as overclockable as the P965.
Nvidia is most advanced when it comes to features and flexibility. Its nTune overclocking and performance-tuning utility is welcome for everyone who doesn't want to spend nights determining the maximum overclocking settings manually. Nvidia's so-called SLI memory allows the motherboard to automatically set the highest possible memory clock and timings - if SLI memory is used. Nvidia also supports sophisticated RAID setups, although their performance doesn't stand against Intel's ICH7R and ICH8R. You need an nForce motherboard if you would like to run SLI dual or quad graphics with GeForce graphics cards. There are "several motherboards with the 680i SLI high-end chipset available; the number of 650i solutions is still growing.