Intel's 900-Series Chipsets: PCI-Express and LGA775
Posted on: 08/13/2004 05:00 AM


There are a few things that are different about powering one of these new systems. For starters, there's a new standard for power supplies that support these systems: ATX12v v2.0. ATX12v v2.0 power supplies use 24-pin main power connectors and the 6-pin power connector for new video cards like the Geforce 6800 series.

However, since you're not likely to have a lot of luck finding an ATX12v v2.0 unit right now (Antec Neopowers are just starting to show up here in Canada), Intel was kind enough to keep things sort of backwards compatible.

I say "sort of" because while these new boards will accept a 20-pin power connector and a molex connector to make up the difference, they require a lot more juice than previous Intel systems. So whatever power supply you're currently using may not be up to the task. To give you a rough idea, I had a generic 430 watt unit here that couldn't cut it. I ended up using a 600 watt ATX12v v1.3 unit in all my testing. I'm sure a lot of you are packing high-quality supplies in the 400 - 500 watt range that could handle one of these systems, though.

As for the 6-pin graphics card connector, my press kit came with Y-cable which magically turned two molex connectors into the shmancy new 6-pin connector. I'd imagine that if you were to pick up a Geforce 6800 series card or any other video card which requires the new connector that it would come with a similar converter.

Now that we've talked about power, let's take a look at cooling.


Aftermarket Socket 775 coolers are still quite rare, so the only example of one that we have to look at is the stock Intel cooler. Check this beast out:

It's a nice design that reminds me of the old Orb coolers. Works better than those did, though. Zing. Oh and I can tell you from personal experience that a big, unguarded fan is as bad of an idea as you'd think it would be. It looks smaller than it is when it's spinning and it likes the taste of fingers. I'm not sure what Intel was thinking, but I'm pretty sure it didn't have anything to do with how I was going to fiddle around inside a running Socket 775 system without getting my fingers chopped up.

As for mounting this cooler, it's done with the usual 4 holes around the socket and some funky push-and-twist pins that you can see better in this picture:

What you have to do is get the heatsink situated on the CPU with all four of these pins in the holes, then you push each pin down, which causes the clear plastic tabs to expand, and then you give them a turn so that they lock. At least that's usually how it works. Sometimes the flimsy pins don't want to lock, or you didn't have them pushed far enough down into the socket holes. This mounting scheme doesn't seem to put much pressure on the CPU, either, and I worry that that is hurting cooling performance. Frankly it's a silly mechanism and I find it to be a step backwards over the excellent cage-and-levers design used on stock Northwood coolers.

It's not a big deal once you've got your system assembled and running, of course, but it's still annoying.

Speaking of mounting, how about a quick peek at Socket 775 itself?

As you may have heard, Socket 775 processors have lost their pins. *gasp* The socket has them now and it looks a little strange, if you ask me. I get a very bed-of-nails feeling when I install one of these processors. Still the socket's pins don't feel overly fragile. There was some worry about only being able to switch processors so many times with these systems before wearing the socket out, but after shuffling hardware around here for a few weeks I don't seem to have worn down the sockets on either of our test boards. That's one less thing to worry about.

Next we'll take a quick look at the layout of Intel's reference boards...

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