It's that time of year again. Computex is almost upon us and that usually means some major product introductions are getting ready to occur. On May 21st, Intel will launch the P35 chipset, the successor to the P965 chipset introduced last June. We have been testing several P35 (Bearlake) based boards in both DDR2 and DDR3 configurations. We cannot reveal benchmarks yet, but let's just say there are a few surprises in store on launch day. Unfortunately, AMD's new AM2+ design along with the Barcelona/Agena family of processors are not quite ready for public display, but rest assured we think the wait will be well worth it.

While the new product introductions always grab the lion's share of attention, it also means that today's top performing products are well on their way to becoming tomorrow's value based solutions. This is always good for those of us with limited budgets and the lack of desire to upgrade every six months but who want excellent performance per dollar. We are now seeing the second generation of P965 motherboards selling near the $100 mark and they are still providing very good performance and features.

More good news is that the products based on these now "mature" chipsets are well tuned and most of the bugs have been sorted out. Case in point is the Infinity 965-S from DFI and the P5B Premium from ASUS which are two excellent P965 motherboards that were recently launched. While targeted to different audiences and price segments, they both offer top performance and features with a certain level of maturity not found in earlier designs. In fact, our P35 motherboards will be compared and graded against these two P965 boards shortly.

Today we will present some of the motherboard products that we are currently testing and will provide reviews of in the near future. While this is not a complete listing and does not include all of the boards in the upcoming uATX opus, it should provide a good indication of the products we are currently excited about. If you can't wait for the full reviews and one of these boards has the features you're looking for, consider inclusion in this preview a general recommendation of the product. (Naturally, you'll still have to wait for the P35 parts.)

One of the most interesting articles we have worked on in a long time will be an upcoming chipset shootout with all currently available chipsets for the Intel Core 2 Duo product including the new Bearlake series. The chipset determines many of the features a board will include, as well as many of the performance aspects. As such, we think the chipset roundup will prove enlightening. With that said lets take a quick look at some of these product offerings.

Motherboards: Intel Performance

The continuing introduction of new chipsets from both Intel and NVIDIA for the Intel Core 2 Duo processor series has created an enormous amount of product introductions in recent weeks. So much so that our labs are once again stacked with motherboards that we are in the process of testing and analyzing. Intel currently holds the overall performance crown with the Core 2 Duo and the continued rollout of new motherboards for this impressive processor series is still amazing.



The DFI NF-680i LT is based upon the recently released NVIDIA 680i LT SLI chipset that we reviewed a few weeks ago. The board supports LGA775 socket processors, features three PCI Express x16 slots (dual x16 SLI support, x8 physics support), one x4 PCI Express slot, and two PCI 2.3 capable slots. Besides the six native Serial ATA 3Gb/s ports, DFI has also included two Serial ATA 3Gb/s ports via the Silicon Image 3132 chipset. The board also features DFI's new Karajan audio module featuring the Realtek ALC885 8-channel HD audio codec. In initial testing we have reached 9x420FSB with our retail QX6700 and general performance has been very good, although DFI is still tweaking memory performance and overclocking capabilities on the quad core and 4MB cache Core 2 Duo CPUs. We will be comparing this board to our other 680i and 650i boards shortly.



The MSI P6 Diamond is based upon the NVIDIA 680i chipset that has proven itself over the course of the last few months to offer excellent performance when tuned properly. As with most new Core 2 Duo chipsets introduced since last year, the 680i had a bumpy introduction but the latest boards based on this chipset have matured greatly since the launch. The P6 Diamond is no exception to this rule and early testing has revealed a board with a lot of potential and performance that scales very well.

The board supports LGA775 socket processors, features four PCI Express x16 slots (dual x16 SLI support, quad x8 SLI support), one x1 PCI Express slot, and two PCI 2.3 capable slots. Besides the six native Serial ATA 3Gb/s ports, MSI has also included two Serial ATA 3Gb/s ports via the new Silicon Image 4723 chipset and one e-SATA port via the Silicon Image 3531. The board also features Creative's X-Fi 8-channel HD audio codec and has proven to be a welcome relief when compared to the Realtek codecs in gaming. In initial testing we have reached 9x420FSB with the QX6700 and 7x510 with our E6600. Overall performance has been very good although MSI is still tweaking the BIOS. We were hoping for beta Quad 8800GTX SLI drivers but gave up so the board review will be up shortly.

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  • DigitalFreak - Friday, May 04, 2007 - link

    Where was the board with the Via chipset? I needed a good laugh. Reply
  • danielackerman - Friday, May 04, 2007 - link

    I dont understan why anand hasnt done any good reviews on amd based mobos. I dont own intel, ive never owned intel, i will never own intel. there are many like me. there are many who love this website.

    PLEASE BE A BIT MORE FAIR AND BALANCED. less monopoly of intel board reviews and more skinny on amd based boards please.

    thnax
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Friday, May 04, 2007 - link

    umm, not much has happened on that front since the launch of AM2. They had a review of the new AMD integrated graphics, I'd expect more with the uATX review whenever it comes. Otherwise I'd expect more motherboard tests after the Barcelona launch. Reply
  • kilkennycat - Thursday, May 03, 2007 - link

    As for many others not wishing to upgrade to a new motherboard every year - in spite of the money that activity makes for the MB manufacturers and the chip-set suppliers, grrrr... --- compatibility with upcoming processor-families becomes a most important decision-making parameter. In the case of the Intel motherboards, the obvious candidate is the desktop version of Penryn. Considering the motherboard voltage-regulator fiasco with the move from P4 to Conroe, it seems that there could be a repeat of that fiasco, or a chip-set incompatibility fiasco (as with the 715/725 and dual-cores) with the move to Penryn.

    For example, I expect to build a new PC in the Fall this year. I would like to buy a motherboard with a few months of production and BIOS-updates "under its belt". I will probably initally invest in a fast dual-core Intel Conroe system ( if AMD does not pull a rabbit out of the hat in a month or two ) and potentially later upgrade to a Penyrn quad-core when the "price is right". Replacement of my just-purchased motherboard to address that latter contingency is just "not on the cards"..... However, for me, a BIOS update to an existing MB is perfectly acceptable in the case of a Penryn upgrade.

    I'm sure that Anandtech has sufficient clout to spring free a beta-phase quad-core Penryn or two and some MB Alpha-BIOS updates to verify Penryn-compatibility in your formal reviews of the Intel-compatible versions of these new-generation motherboards.

    Of course, if you could also spring loose some desktop K10 AMD CPUs to verify AMD motherboard compatibility for their upcoming desktop-CPU family, I am sure that you will make some more of your readers eternally grateful.
    Reply
  • kilkennycat - Thursday, May 03, 2007 - link

    ... sorry line #4, 915/925, not 715/725.... Reply
  • mattt79 - Thursday, May 03, 2007 - link

    quote:

    We will also be introducing our Vista and Linux benchmarks for our mainstream motherboard reviews.


    Finally! Could you also mention possible compatability problems... such as the JMicron EIDE controller issues that almost all of the 965 boards have?

    Thanks,
    Matt
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, May 03, 2007 - link

    the JMicron controller is supposed to work with Linux kernel 2.6.18 and up. I can't give any firsthand experience though, as Ubuntu 7.04 does not like my card reader or wireless card and I have not gotten time to actually install and try the JMicron.

    Any tests on whether those heatpipe chipset coolers have issues when using a good CPU cooler, such as an Ultra-120 or Tuniq, that move some airflow away from right at board level?
    Reply
  • yacoub - Thursday, May 03, 2007 - link

    The cooling on the MSi P35 board looks like a friggin' rollercoaster! :D Reply
  • sprockkets - Thursday, May 03, 2007 - link

    That Albatron board has been replaced by a newer version, but good luck finding it.
    Also, someone made a point elsewhere that again, Intel just made the current chipset obsolete in 6 months, again. Not a big deal for the end user though.

    That Sapphire board? Uses Teapo caps and like 2 mosfets per a channel, that's absurd for a near $100 board. Take a look at the abit nview and see how it has Rubycon caps all over the board, bearing much higher quality.
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Friday, May 04, 2007 - link

    Yeah, I was about to write a post saying that the Saphire board looks to be a knockoff of the MF-M2 nView, which we have two here on premisis (I own one, and I love it)

    Good looking out on the caps/mosfets, I did not notice that myself :/

    On a side note, someone needs to inform mini-ITX makers, that socket 754 is pretty dated, and time to move to more availible/inexpencive CPUs . . .
    Reply

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