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Intel 915P Shootout : Intel Desktop Board D915PCY
By Zachary Chan
Category : Mainboard
Published by Vijay Anand on Monday, 17th January, 2005


The Intel 915P Express Chipset

This article is the first of a series we will be publishing that focuses on the multitudes of 915P motherboards already available. While we had initially decided to publish a mega shootout, we feel that a single large article might be a daunting task for users to wade through and absorb. Let's begin with a look at what the Grantsdale offers. Similarly developed like its performance counterpart, the 915P Express features the new Land Grid Array (LGA775) socket design. As the number suggests, LGA775 consists of 775 pins compared to 478 of the previous Socket-478. Unlike everything we know about socket design, the new LGA775 Pentium 4 processors have flat contact spots while the pins are located on the socket grid itself. The increased pin count and design move is in anticipation of ever faster bus speeds and more power hungry processors.

Besides the new socket, we see the introduction of PCI Express to the Intel platform as well. The 915P Express chipset will support both PCIe x16 graphics slot and PCIe x1 for next generation PCI Express devices. While PCI Express is gearing up to be the next big thing in graphics, technologies such as Gigabit Ethernet are already benefiting from the increased bi-directional bandwidth PCI Express offers. Speaking about bandwidth, 915P Express will also feature the new DDR2 memory standard. Unlike the Alderwood though, it retains support for regular DDR SDRAM. Mainly because of this feature, many of our motherboards in this shootout can be categorized into different classes that support only DDR, only DDR2 or both. This brings about a very flexible feature/performance mix in the motherboards we will showcase.

Intel 915P Express block diagram (Source:Intel)

The Grantsdale is still a traditional two chip design comprising of the Intel 915P NorthBridge that links the system with the processor, houses the memory controller and supports the PCIe x16 graphics card interface while the Intel ICH6R SouthBridge controls I/O functions from storage to peripheral connectivity. The ICH6R boasts a feature that has received much publicity on its own. Dubbed Azalia audio, it finally brings built-in HD Audio to the Intel platform. References to NVIDIA's SoundStorm are unavoidable as it promises high definition, high fidelity, multi-channel audio with Dolby Digital Live encoding capabilities. Another notable addition includes native SATA support (four ports) with RAID capabilities and NCQ (Native Command Queuing) through Intel's Matrix Storage Technology.

As we move forward towards increasingly high speed features (such as PCI Express), the traditional hub architecture that peaks at 266MB/s no longer offers enough bandwidth between the NorthBridge and SouthBridge. Intel has replaced the jaded design with a new serial bus dubbed the Direct Media Interface (DMI) that offers up to 2.0 GB/s bandwidth available between the memory and I/O controllers. Much like a 16-lane highway, DMI sufficiently frees up bandwidth bottlenecks for the SouthBridge to communicate effectively with the NorthBridge.

The following chart lists down the major functionalities and differences between the Intel 925, 915 and 865 chipset families. This should help you identify and place where the 915P Express chipset fits into Intel's plan.

Intel Pentium 4 Chipset Comparison
  Intel 925XE Express Intel 915P Express Intel 915G Express Intel 865PE
Processor Support
  • Pentium 4 Processor
  • Pentium 4 Processor
  • Celeron D Processor
  • Pentium 4 Processor
  • Celeron D Processor
  • Intel Pentium 4 Processor
  • Celeron Processor
  • Celeron D Processor
Bus Frequency
  • 1066, 800 MHz
  • 800/533 MHz
  • 800/533 MHz
  • 800/533/400 MHz
Processor Package
  • LGA775
  • LGA775
  • LGA775
  • mPGA478
Memory Support
  • Dual-Channel
  • DDR2 533/400
  • Dual-Channel
  • DDR2 533/400
  • DDR 400/333
  • Dual-Channel
  • DDR2 533/400
  • DDR 400/333
  • Dual-Channel
  • DDR 400/333/266
Memory Mbit Support
  • 1Gbit/512 Mbit/256 Mbit/
  • 1Gbit/512 Mbit/256 Mbit/
  • 1Gbit/512 Mbit/256 Mbit/
  • 512/256/128 Mbit
External Graphics Interface
  • PCI Express x16
  • PCI Express x16
  • PCI Express x16
  • AGP8X/4X (1.5V)
Intergrated Graphics
  • None
  • None
  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900
  • None
         
SouthBridge
  • Intel ICH6 Family
  • Intel ICH6 Family
  • Intel ICH6 Family
  • Intel ICH5 / ICH5R
PCI Support
  • PCI Express x1
  • PCI 2.3
  • PCI Express x1
  • PCI 2.3
  • PCI Express x1
  • PCI 2.3
  • PCI 2.3
Storage Support
  • SATA 150
  • UDMA ATA100
  • Intel Matrix Storage Technology
  • SATA 150
  • UDMA ATA100
  • Intel Matrix Storage Technology
  • SATA 150
  • UDMA ATA100
  • Intel Matrix Storage Technology
  • UDMA ATA100
  • RAID with ICH5R
Audio
  • Intel High Definition Audio
  • AC'97/20-bit audio
  • Intel High Definition Audio
  • AC'97/20-bit audio
  • Intel High Definition Audio
  • AC'97/20-bit audio
  • AC'97/20-bit audio


Tested & Certified Components
Graphics Card MSI RX600XT-TD128
Memory 2 x 512MB Kingston DDR2-533
Power Supply Unit AcBel 400W (API4PC01)
Cooler CoolerMaster CI5-9HDPA-01
Hard Disk Maxtor DiamondMax 10 200GB SATA

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