The Intel E7205 Chipset
The new Intel Granite Bay chipset (or better known as the E7205) was launched just two days ago and we've been getting lots of new product news based on this highly anticipated chipset from Intel. The Granite Bay promises to deliver a very high performance solution for the Intel Pentium 4 platform and it's targeted at the workstation market. This is one reason why Intel did not put the chipset in the 845 series but rather tagged it to the 'E' series.
The chipset is not cheap, and it will cost around 20-25% more than the Intel 850E chipset. Thus, users who want to get the best performance out of the Pentium 4 has to be prepared to fork out a handsome amount of investment to get an E7205-based motherboard. This is quite an irony as what you'll potentially save from not purchasing PC1066 RDRAM modules is being reinvested back into the chipset. However, we believe that DDR266 memory is still a lot cheaper than PC1066 and the E7205 will offer power users good performance at an attractive price point.
The E7205 die is much larger than the Pentium III processor. That's one reason why the chip's cost is high.
The E7205 chipset will come with support for the new AGP 3.0 standard. Users who intends to upgrade to AGP 8X cards such as the RADEON 9700 Pro or the upcoming NVIDIA GeForce FX will benefit from the larger bandwidth offered by the AGP bus. Therefore, the E7205 is really targeted to the power users and gamers too.
In addition, Intel has taken much of its knowledge and experience in building dual channel memory chipset solutions from the E7500 series and incorporated it into the E7205. This is why the Granite Bay will offer a dual channel DDR266 memory architecture to boost the memory bandwidth to as much as 4.2GB/s. Why not DDR333? That's a good question and we'd certainly preferred it to offer a larger bandwidth. Still, if you know Intel's conservative approach to things, the DDR266 memory is still the most stable form of memory available today. Also, DDR266 is still much cheaper than DDR333. The other reason is because Intel wants to keep both the memory and system bus running synchronously as that would still give you better performance.
Picking up rumors from the industry, we found out not long ago that the Pentium 4 would hit 667MHz FSB and the Granite Bay would then automatically move to support that FSB speed. While we debated on that piece of news, recent rumors now tell us that the Pentium 4 will hit 800MHz FSB by Q2 of 2003. The Granite Bay will be pretty obsolete by then as Canterwood (another new upcoming chipset) will jump right into the picture by offering dual channel DDR333 and DDR400 support. Of course, if you intend to wait, there wouldn't be an end and you'll never find yourself upgrading. Still, this upgrading frenzy is sometimes a little too much for some of us to bear.
With all that said, let's get right into specifications and analysis of the board in the next few pages.