New Intel Platform

Let’s move on to the new memory, DDR2. This memory has received a lot of hype lately from various sources, not just Intel. Interestingly enough AMD has decided to stick with DDR400 for the time being, presumably waiting to see what will actually happened to DDR2 and to see how well it will do.

All the major memory manufacturers such as Micron/Crucial, Corsair, Samsung, Hynix, Infineon and so on are backing DDR2. Initial pricing is at about 90% more than equivalent DDR400 memory, but DDR2 for consumer PCs is rated at 533MHz so some of the higher cost is justified by the higher frequency. It is still a lot to swallow though, especially as initial tests show that DDR2 doesn’t offer any huge advantages over DDR in terms of overall system performance.

The advantage is that DDR2 is far more scaleable than DDR and there are already predictions of DDR2 running at 667MHz before the end of this year. This would require new chipsets yet again and so far the only official backer is SiS which claims that it will have chipsets ready by the end of the year.

But fast memory is not just about frequency and DDR2 has very poor memory timings, typically set to 4-4-4-8 compared to 3-4-4-8 for DDR400 at JEDEC spec. But many memory manufacturers offer modules with far lower memory timings such as 2.5-3-3-7 or even as low as 2-2-2-5. This kind of memory is, of course far more expensive than normal DDR400 sticks, but the lower latency does generally improve overall system performance.

There is of course a point at which higher frequency outweighs lower latency and this is somewhat true with DDR2. Hopefully with improved manufacturing techniques DDR2 memory timings will drop and we’ll see faster DDR2 memory appear later on this year.

So, we’ve covered the basics now and it’s time to move on to what really matters, the new chipsets. Let’s start from the top and work our way down from the 925X to the 915 range.

The 925X is the replacement for the 875P as Intel’s flagship chipset and offers similar features. As you would expect it has an improved memory controller and support for ECC memory - something you won’t find with the 915 series. The remaining features are similar across range with support for x16 PCI Express for graphics cards and four x1 PCI Express lanes that can be shared between various onboard components and PCI Express x1 slots. The only difference being the 915GV that doesn’t feature the x16 PCI Express slot for graphics cards.

All of the new chipsets supports four memory slots for a maximum of 4GB of DDR2 memory. Intel also now only supports a single IDE connector, but you’ll find four S-ATA connectors with support for Intel’s new Matrix RAID, which I will cover in more detail later. Next there is support for High Definition Audio, which I will also expand on a little later.

More common features such as PCI are still supported and so are up to eight USB 2.0 ports, 800MHz bus speed and Hyper Threading.

The 915G and GV chipsets will also feature the new Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900, which will replace the Intel Extreme Graphics 2 seen on the 865G chipset. We will follow up with a review of this at a later date, as we’re still waiting for a motherboard with integrated graphics to arrive from Intel.

This leaves the 915P which will replace the 865PE chipset and is a cut down version of the 925X as per the 865PE to the 875P.

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