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Review: Intel i875P Canterwood

by Tarinder Sandhu on 14 April 2003, 00:00 4.5

Tags: Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)

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Intel Canterwood i875P

A motherboard is a motherboard is a motherboard, right ?. In the strictest sense, a motherboard's job is to ensure that the constituent parts of a PC all function well. It has to link the various components to each other in a seamless fashion. That's as true today as it was 15 years ago. However, in recent years, the choice of motherboard has become that little bit more crucial, especially when one is considers PCs from a features and performance point of view.

The recent motherboard trend has been to integrate as many useful features to the PCB as possible. As new technologies blossom, such as USB2.0, Firewire, Serial ATA, the need for discrete controllers is slowly replaced by integrated solutions. Not only does this give the end-user a lot for their money, it should ensure that the peripherals work perfectly.

Perhaps the most visible example of successful integration is the impressive NVIDIA nForce2 solution for AMD processors. Not only did it give the AMD faithful a much-anticipated performance increase, it also integrated a number of useful technologies into a powerful chipset.

Intel, on the other hand, have always been a little conservative in integrating the very latest technologies for the Socket 478 chipsets. It took them a while to ratify DDR333 memory for official operation, so the introduction of a dual-channel-capable, performance-based chipset was something of a surprise. The E7205, or Granite Bay as it's better known, comfortably eclipsed the performance laid down by incumbent i845PE-powered motherboards, and generally matched the ill-fated i850E in the performance stakes.

Whilst the Granite Bay motherboard wooed many with its performance prowess, by extracting as much as possible from the 133FSB P4s, the need to boost performance was still a niggling factor, especially in view of the excellent recent strides made by the potent AMD / NVIDIA combination. With 3GHz+ P4s producing more heat than a 60w light bulb, pure MHz increases were going to be a little difficult to obtain and cool on a 0.13u fabrication process. Another method, one of pushing up the amount of data that a CPU can use at any given speed, seemed like a perfect substitute for pure MHz grunt.

Enter the 800FSB, dual channel DDR-400 Canterwood chipset. Not only does the 50% increase in FSB and memory bandwidth potential help compliant P4 processors with respect to overall performance, it also integrates some novel features. Let's take a closer look.