i975X Chipset & D975XBX Desktop board:
Along with the new Pentium Extreme Edition processor, Intel has introduced a new chipset that goes by the name of i975X. In fact, this chipset has been around for a couple of months, but this is the first i975X-based motherboard we've had the chance to look at. The Pentium Extreme Edition 955 will work in any Intel 955X-based motherboard, as well as any motherboard based on NVIDIA's nForce4 SLI Intel Edition chipset. We're not sure whether it works with ATI's Radeon Xpress 200 chipset, as we've not got a motherboard that we can verify this on. However, with the Pentium Extreme Edition 955 already having support with current chipsets, why does Intel need to release another chipset?
i975X chipset block diagram
We understand that Intel has made some changes to the core logic, which will help to improve memory performance - this is known as Intel's Memory Pipeline Technology. There is also the inclusion of support for two PCI-Express x8 slots for multi-GPU scaling. We understand that many board manufacturers are working on getting both CrossFire and SLI to function correctly with the i975X chipset. Of course, this will ultimately be dependant on support in the video card drivers - NVIDIA has locked down SLI support in its drivers, whereas ATI's CrossFire remains open for the time being.
Memory Pipeline Technology delivers enhanced memory efficiency and utilisation thanks to increased memory pipelining, which is said to increase performance in memory-intensive operations and tasks. Along with this, the 975X chipset incorporates a Memory Controller Hub backbone architecture, which includes wider internal data buses that support dual channel DDR2 memory at speeds of up to 667MHz.
D975XBX - Intel 975X Desktop board
Thanks to Intel's Flex Memory technology, it's also possible to install differing memory sizes in each slot while still utilising in dual channel mode. This is great, as it allows a flexible upgrade path, as you could have 1GB of DDR2 installed now
, and you could add two 1GB modules for a total of 3GB of memory in dual channel.
There is support for a front side bus of either 800MHz or 1066MHz, meaning that all current and previous LGA775 CPUs are supported by the new chipset. It's also worth noting that the i975X chipset supports both synchronous and asynchronous memory, allowing you to get the most out of your DDR2 667MHz memory modules.
The D975XBX desktop board that Intel has sent us with this CPU comes with three PCI-Express x16 slots. Only the right-most slot supports a full 16 PCI-Express lanes - the remaining two slots support 8 PCI-Express lanes and are used instead of the primary slot when running two cards in a multi-GPU configuration. Lets not forget that - due to the nature of PCI-Express - it's also possible to use one or both of the PCI-Express x8 slots as expansion slots for PCI-Express x1 and x4 cards.
The i975X chipset comes with Intel's High Definition Audio chip, delivering 8-channel audio and multiple channel support for voice applications like online chat or VoIP. There are eight SATA ports on the reference motherboard, four of which are supported by the ICH7R South Bridge. These four ports support Intel's Matrix Storage Technology, transfer rates of up to 3Gb/s and also RAID in either RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 or JBOD configurations. There are also goodies including native hot plug capabilities and performance increases with Native Command Queuing.
Interestingly, the board only comes with a single Ethernet socket, but we're sure that some board manufacturers will opt for a dual Ethernet solution. Many of them did with Intel's 955X chipset, and the likes of ASUS also implemented a WiFi card into its P5WD2 Premium motherboard. We're expecting the same from ASUS this time around, too.