With the launch of Core 2 Duo, eyes have suddenly turned to the motherboard manufacturers for a decent LGA775 motherboard. If you’re unlucky enough to already be on the LGA775 platform, there is a high chance that your motherboard doesn’t support Core 2 Duo. For others, all it will take is a BIOS update. But, as I mentioned in my Core 2 Duo article, some motherboards are being sold as Conroe compatible, but only with a BIOS update. If you get shipped a motherboard with an old BIOS on it, you probably won’t even be able to POST with a Core 2 Duo inside let alone update the BIOS.
So what’s a guy to do? One option is to take a compatible board that may or may not need a BIOS update and the cheapest Celeron you can find, which is around £30. Use this to update your BIOS, and wait out for Core 2 Duo prices to drop even more. In a few months, the cost of the Celeron would be absorbed in your savings and you’ll have a Core 2 Duo ready motherboard. Then you’re just a £10 eBay bid away from coupling that Celeron with a 915G motherboard and upgrading that aging backup machine.
If you’re not the type of person that likes to hunt around to find out which boards are compatible, then getting a 965 chipset motherboard is the obvious answer as every board will be compatible thanks to its almost simultaneous launch. With that in mind, we take a look at the Gigabyte GA-965P-DQ6 motherboard, to see how the 965 chipset performs and how well Gigabyte has implemented it.
The 965 chipset is aimed at the mainstream, with 975X maintaining its lead – mainly due to its support for CrossFire. The 965 chipset has several tweaks in the memory performance, so it will be interesting to see how it improves performance. We also see the inclusion of the new ICH8 south bridge.
Despite the mainstream status of the 965 chipset, Gigabyte has decided to build a pretty top-end board around it. Although they have three different models at varying price points, this gives an example of the best case scenario.
Naturally, being LGA775 it supports all current processors and is apparently ready for the new “Kentsfield” Quad Core processor that will be launched later in the year.
Both the north and south bridge are cooled by a silent heat-pipe system. Although it will cool passively to an extent, it relies on air coming from the CPU fan to cool it down. With ICH8 we see the introduction of a more sophisticated temperature measurement and fan controlling system, so even our high-end X6800 was running with a fan barely spinning and sometimes not spinning at all. So you’ll want to make sure you have a nearby case fan to keep the air moving. Ours was tested in an open test-bed, but we didn’t have any over-heating issues.
There is no doubt that Intel’s new Quiet System Technology is much better than the system used on the 975X motherboards. However, the sacrifice of using ICH8 is that there is no native IDE support. Gigabyte has solved this issue with a secondary chip on board, adding in another two SATA and a single IDE channel. That’s a total of eight SATA ports.