As a result of the latest price cuts, there are tons of bargains to be found in the CPU market. If youíre shopping for a Core 2 processor, the Core 2 Q6600 is one of the most popular upgrades right now among enthusiasts. The Q6600 packs four processing cores running at 2.4GHz and can be found for around $280. If youíre looking to spend less than $200, the Core 2 E6550 is pretty tough to beat, while the E6600 is slowly trickling down to that price point as well. But which motherboard is best? With so many choices out there, picking the right motherboard can be a little more challenging.
Before you can choose a particular motherboard, first youíve got to determine which system chipset is best.
Launched in May, the P35 chipset is Intelís newest, most feature-packed chipset. P35 is Intelís first chipset to support DDR3 memory. DDR3 speeds of up to 1066MHz are officially supported by the chipset, although most P35 motherboards support DDR3 speeds up to 1333MHz.
DDR3 memory itself is currently available in speeds as fast as 1600MHz.
Despite the high latencies (often 7-7-7 and higher), DDR3 begins to surpass DDR2-800 in almost every real world application at around 1333MHz. DDR3 also consumes less power than DDR2, starting at 1.5V, versus 1.8V of DDR2. This also results in less heat produced. Besides higher latencies, the chief weakness of DDR3 is its cost: many of the low latency 2GB DDR3-1333 kits (2x1GB) sell for over $500. Thatís over $250/GB! You can buy up to 16GB of DDR2-800 for $500 depending on the deal. On top of that, DDR3 capable boards are more expensive then their DDR2 counterparts.
Fortunately, the memory controller on the P35 chipset is backward-compatible with DDR2, officially supporting DDR2 speeds of up to 800MHz, although many P35 motherboards provide even higher speed options within BIOS.
Besides its new memory controller, the other feature that sets the P35 chipset apart from previous Intel chipsets is its support for 1333MHz FSB speeds. Many enthusiasts have pushed their Core 2 Duo CPUs to speeds of 1333MHz FSB or higher with older P965 and 975X motherboards, but this is considered overclocking by Intel and isnít officially supported. P35 also supports Intelís upcoming 45-nm Penryn processors, which will be launched later this year.
Apart from these revolutionary features, the P35 Expressí and the new ICH9 Southbridgeís other features are very standard. The ICH9 supports 12 USB 2.0 ports, 6 SATA ports with eSATA capability, 6 PCI Express x1 lanes and gigabit Ethernet. All of these are expected on a top end platform.
In this roundup weíll be taking a look at 3 Gigabyte P35 boards. On to the boards!