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Express : Core 2 Duo and P965 vs i975x
by Marc Prieur
Published on July 26, 2006

With the upcoming release of the Core 2 Duo in stores, we are beginning to see the first motherboards based on P965 Express chipsets. The MCH supports a 1066 MHz FSB bus that is required for the Core 2 Duo. There is only one PCI Express x16 link (no CrossFire) and a DDR2 memory controller that officially support DDR2-533, 667 and 800 modes. The latter includes several small improvements called "Fast Memory Access", which is supposed to increase performances compared to previous controllers.

It’s the 8th version of the ICH that has been chosen. The main differences compared to the ICH7 is on the network level, with the integration of a 10/100/1000 Mbits /s controller and in terms of SATA. The R version that supports RAID now has 6 ports. However, this is at the expense of the Parallel ATA that is simply abandoned.
ASUSTeK P5B Deluxe
In order to bypass this problem some manufacturers like ASUSTeK use additional solutions. On the P5B Deluxe used for this test, there is a JMicron JMB363 PCI Express chip that supports 1 PATA as well as 2 additional SATA including one external (8 in total). The PATA port supports two peripherals and we were able to connect two older ATAPI DVD players like the Pioneer DVD-114.

ASUSTeK decided to focus on the network and included two Gigabit chips, a Marvell 88E8001 for PCI and a Marvell 88E8056 for PCI Express. We note the choice not to use the network management solution integrated to the ICH8. The card also includes a WiFi 802.11a/b/g Realtek RTL8187L chip that uses the USB hub. HD audio is entrusted to the Analog Device SoundMAX AD1988B chip and FireWire to a Texas Instruments TSB43AB22A chip. It is interesting to point out that the motherboard has two PCI Express ports that are physically of the x16 type. Only the first one however is wired as such to the MCH, the second is connected to the ICH via a x4 link. Even by hacking the driver to allow the activation of SLI and/or CrossFire, with such a configuration performances won´t be very high.

The first thing that surprised us in the bios of the P5B was that Asus returned to their bad habit of displaying ratios in the form of a fixed DDR speed. So with a 1066 MHz FSB, if you select DDR2-533, you will have a FSB:DDR ratio of 1:1. However, if you choose a FSB of 333 MHz and select DDR2-533, you will end up with the same 1:1 ratio. Memory will run at 333MHz, which is the same as standard DDR2-666 in practice. We prefer the bios of the P5W DH Deluxe (i975X Intel) which doesn´t simply display DDR2-533, but the real memory speed.

We first want to point out that for now, the bios doesn´t allow you to select a FSB:DRAM ratio inferior to 1:1. You can´t run at a lower frequency than the FSB´s, which isn’t very handy for those who like to overclock their computer and have a modest memory. We, however, hope that the bios limitation comes from Asus and not the chipset. A second observation is that we were unable to boot with a FSB clocked at 400 MHz or "1600 MHz FSB". This is certainly a bios problem rather than a chipset limitation since the Gigabyte 965P-DS3 couldn´t reach over 380 MHz FSB with the F1 bios but reached 480 MHz with the second F2. Our last remark regarding the bios is that we obtained very strange results with DDR2 and timings of 3-3-3-8. Performances were much inferior to those obtained in 4-4-4-12.

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