Intel Dual Core: Pentium EE 840 Arrives

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The i955X Chipset & D955XBK Reference Board


The Intel D955XBK Reference board

The Intel 840 processor performance embargo was lifted at the same time as that for the Intel i955X chipset. Realizing our worst fears, this is because you must have an i945 or i955 chipset based platform to run Dual Core because……wait for it…. dual core processors are not supported by previous generation Intel chipsets.  Not even a BIOS update will allow that i925XE board you just bought to run a dual core processor.  The upcoming nVIDIA C19, VIA PT894 Pro and ATI’s R200 are all said to support Dual Core.  This means that consumers will once again have to change out key parts of their system to upgrade to the latest and greatest in hardware.  While this is not going to make enthusiasts happy, taking a quick look at the reference board above, one will note that a PSU upgrade may also be in order .  This is because the Intel D955XBK reference motherboard was designed around the Intel ATX12V version 2.01 power requirements.  Note the 4×2 12V power connector just above the CPU socket and the 24-pin ATX power header below the memory DIMM’s.

This board offers a secondary PCIe slot in the form of a physical x16 connector with electrical routing of x4. The fact that the slot is an electrical equivalent of a x4 is important to note. This slot supports x1 and x4 PCIe cards. Although the PCIe specification allows x16 cards to auto negotiate down from x16 to x4 and x1 and may work functionally, such configurations have not been validated by Intel for use on the D955XBK reference board.


The Intel D955XBK Reference board

The 955X Chipset:

The Intel 955X chipset offers dual-channel DDR2-667 memory support (Unofficially supports a working DDR2-800 option in the BIOS), a fast 1066MHz system bus speed, and PCI Express architecture for up to 4GB/Sec of bi-directional bandwidth for graphics cards and other I/O devices that users add on.  Some of the biggest changes changes on the Intel 955X Express chipset is the improved memory architecture. Actually the Intel 955X Express chipset incorporates a brand new memory controller hub (MCH) backbone architecture.  Intel enchanced the memory pipelining on the i955X over what was used on the i925XE and has achieved higher utilization of each memory channel, improving the memory bandwidth.  Intel didn’t extend the pipelines like the did from the Northwood to Prescott, but made them wider for better data flow.  Intel also improved the electrical layout with optimized ball-out for better latency where the MCH is installed to the motherboard PCB.  During testing Legit Reviews was able to hit 3-2-2 memory timings using un-released PC-5400 samples from Corsair Memory.  We were also able to use the 800MHz DDR2 BIOS option, giving us 800MHz DDR2 memory when running at only a 200MHz FSB.  Thankfully, it looks like Intel is listening to the needs and wants of the enthusiasts more and more these days!

The I/O Controller Hub (ICH7/R):

Intel High Definition Audio (Intel HD Audio) featuring eight independent DMA audio engines leads the least of awesome new features on the ICH7.  The new audio solution can handle 7.1 surround sound, Dolby Digitial, DTS, and DVD-Audio with ease.  The controller hub also has four SATA ports integrated onboard that allow for up to 3Gb/s of bandwidth for hard drives.  The ICH7 also comes with some new software called iAMT (Intel Active Management Technology, that will really help IT techs in business settings.  The ICH7R comes with Matrix Raid for the ability to run RAID in 0, 1, 5, and 10 formats.  Everything remains hot swapable and NCQ ready when the combined with the right drives.

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