IntroductionIntel i925XE Chipset and 3.46GHz 1066MHz FSB CPU Review
AMD's recent release of its FX-55 and 4000+ processors has put the performance onus back on Intel's shoulders in no small way. The top-end consumer market is, as you would expect, comprised of buyers with fat wallets and high expectations. It's not good enough to be fast; you have to be at least as good as the main competition and preferably faster. That's especially true of core markets such as graphics cards, CPUs, and motherboards.
Intel has countered AMD's bludgeoning FX-series of CPUs with souped-up versions of its Northwood-based Pentium 4s. Taken from a server background and sporting no less than 2MB of L3 cache, Extreme Edition processors have added meaningful performance gains in cache-dependant applications; most notably games. Entry into the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition or FX club starts at around £400 and rises quickly, so performance is easily the most important criteria. Intel releases a 3.46GHz Extreme Edition CPU today. A strange frequency, you may think, but you'll see why in a moment.
Not content with just releasing Extreme Edition CPUs, Intel took the far-reaching measure of redesigning motherboard architecture with its 900-series chipsets which harnessed, amongst other things, DDR2 RAM technology and PCI-Express as a next-generation interconnect for both graphics and peripherals. The premium chipset, codenamed i925X or Alderwood, continued to use the displaced Canterwood/Springdale's 200MHz system bus (FSB), albeit quad-pumped, for transfers between CPU and Memory Controller Hub (MCH).
Intel has decided that a 200MHz FSB just isn't fast enough and has launched a revised chipset that supports a 266MHz system bus by default. With respect to Intel, increasing the chipset's bus speed, ceteris paribus, should reduce the significant disparity that currently exists between top-end processors and system speed. In other words, a lower processor multiplier and greater performance for a given CPU clock. Intel has unimaginatively labelled this chipset the i925XE.
Let's take a deeper look to see if ramping up the FSB is enough of a performance measure to keep the fat-walleted enthusiast happy.