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

So overall, what kind of impression have Intel's new offerings made? A somewhat positive one, I think.

The 915 and 925 chipsets offer Intel's usual stability and solid performance, while making sure that you're all set to take advantage of PCI Express, DDR2, and Intel's new Socket 775 CPUs. The 915 offers a passable integrated graphics solution that might actually let you game a little on grandma's Dell when you're stuck at her place this Christmas.

Unfortunately, there's a price to pay for being future-proof. You get to deal with extra power issues, and if you're looking at the 925X chipset, you'll have to shell out for DDR2 memory. That's a fairly major drawback, in my opinion, especially given the fact that you're buying that DDR2 simply because the platform requires it, not because it actually gets you any major performance increases.

It's too bad that High-Definition audio didn't live up to its name. If it had delivered quality comparable to a discrete solution such as Creative's Audigy 2, then it would have helped to make the 915 and 925 that much more attractive: upgrade and get a feature you'd normally shell out $100 CAD for for free. But since HDA doesn't sound any better than previous integrated efforts, it's a wash.

One item that I was quite intertested in and that could add some appeal to the package is Matrix Storage - I wasn't able to test it because of a lack of drives, but if it delivers what it promises than it's a definate advantage to those who want to upgrade. IDE drives are just getting huge, and the prospect of efficiently using the available space on two of these drives to set up a variety of RAID arrays is very apealing.

As for the new processors themselves, they certainly offer a small performance increase over previous Northwood processors, but not enough of one that I'd be willing to run out and drop the amount of money that Intel charges for a top-of-the-line CPU. The 3.6 GHz Prescott does, however, offer the prospect of performance that often equals or exceeds that of a 3.4 GHz Extreme Edition for about half the price. Given that fact, it's quite impossible to recommend the Extreme Edition to anyone who actually has to pay for one.

We've also seen that those of you running slightly older systems like our 2.4 GHz test box can pick up a very healthy increase in performance by upgrading to something newer.

In the end, I have to give the 915 and 925 a somewhat indifferent recomendation: if you're already looking to upgrade and are looking at going Intel, you might as well pick up the latest and greatest if it isn't going to cost you too much more to do it. For those of you that are sitting on a somewhat more recent system, like the 3.2 GHz test box, you're probably better off spending the money on something else.

Cory Grimster

October 10, 2004

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