|Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME P45 Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Tuesday, 05 August 2008|
Page 16 of 17
Intel P45 Express Final Thoughts
Life has been good for Intel over the past two years since the Core 2 brand of CPU's was launched, but if Intel's new 45nm Penryn-based Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme processors are any indication of how they incrementally improve upon technology rather than innovate it, there might be trouble in store for them into the future. The continued pursuit of faster front side bus speeds and larger L2 cache only begins to reveal the weakness plaguing the ancient Direct Media Interconnect (DMI) technology, and reminds us of the Pentium 4 days when faster clock speeds were the quick-fix for lacking real technology improvements. Intel won't be able to fight back with their distant QuickPath replacement for DMI until 2009 at the earliest, which might have been the best time to launch the 4-series of chipsets.
The X48 Express chipset was first made available to consumer almost eight months before Intel released the mainstream P45 Express chipset. Although I can see the benefits behind the P45 chipset, I think that the launch should have been switched (X48 for P45). At the time that X48 launched, X38 was still brand new to the scene and doing quite well for itself. This made for a tame introduction of eXtreme chipset performance from the 4-series, and once again makes us less than enthusiastic about a P45 launch.
taking away some of the gusto is the fact that AMD has fired back with the launch of their Spider platform which presently includes: ATI Radeon HD 4800 series GPU's, AMD (Barcelona) Phenom CPU's, and the AMD 7-series motherboard chipset. This new hardware synergy has allowed the involved components to work together using HyperTransport 3.0 in ways that Intel never could deliver. While HyperTransport 3.0 presently uses DDR2, it still beats the bandwidth of DMI without even approaching it's plateau and gives value back to consumers not ready for the expense of DDR3. By the time Intel releases QuickPath, AMD will have moved onto DDR3 support and a Socket F structure.
After visiting with manufacturers at the 2008 International CES, I was left unimpressed by the limited list of features added into the Intel X48 launch, and now that August is here and the P45 chipset has launched I feel much the same way as I did back then. To some very plausible degree, all notions have been proven correct by this review since there seems to be no reasonable justification to launch of an entirely new series of chipsets.
Intel may not have officially supported the 1600MHz front side bus in the X38 chipset, but nearly all motherboard manufacturers enabled it as a default setting and P35 owners could achieve it through overclocking. PCI Express 2.0 and XMP were also both supported in the X38 chipset launch; and DDR3 has been available since the P35 chipset. Intel seems to have really dismissed value as an incentive for product placement, because anyone who owns a 3-series motherboard essentially receives the same functionality as they would with the X48. This (X48) chipset really just combined it all the unofficial features into one official package. So what about P45 Express?
The P45 chipset isn't just a clone, to be fair. Sure, it's a fallback part from the X48 line, but it also introduces the ICH10 (and ICH10R) Southbridge. I know, I know, this isn't really news-worthy, but it's what we've got. This puts the burden to successfully market and sell the product onto the shoulders of the add-in partner manufacturer; and this is where Gigabyte comes to shine. Adding Advanced Dynamic Energy Saver functionality to the Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME P45 motherboard is a good start, but additional features such as Ultra TPM (which offers 2048-bit chip-based encryption) is where value becomes more evident.