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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [06.02.03]
Manufactured by: Intel

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A Time Of Change

A lot has changed since the last time we reviewed an Intel CPU.  Hyper-Threading was introduced, giving very nice boosts for multitasking, and in applications that support multithreading.  We also saw a milestone jump in clock speed; the P4 is up to 3 GHz now.

There is also a new class of Pentium 4 and new platforms to go with it.  The "C" class P4 supports 800 FSB (200 Mhz quad pumped).  It will be available in 2.4, 2.6, 2.8, and 3.0 GHz speeds. 

The new platforms are the 875P chipset on the high end, and 865PE for middle end.  These platforms both support 800 FSB, and dual channel DDR400 ram.  They replace the 850E and 845PE chipsets respectively.

The New Chipsets

The 875P chipset was actually announced in April, and the 865PE a week or so ago.  First, let's talk about the 875P:

As you can see, the new 800 FSB capability gives the CPU bus a theoretical bandwidth capability of 6.4 GB/s, as opposed to 4.2 GB/s on 533 MHz processors.  When an 800 FSB processor is used, Dual Channel DDR400 Ram is supported to match the memory channel up with this bus speed.  Note that when a 533 FSB CPU is used, only DDR333 is supported (but still in Dual Channel mode, which also matches up with the 533 MHz FSB at 4.2 GB/s).

ICH5 is the first southbridge to natively support SATA drives; this allows for the fastest of hard drives to be supported. Have a look at our SATA Overview to see what a difference can be made today.  There are actually two versions of ICH5, although only one is shown above.  ICH5/R adds RAID0 support, again built right into the south bridge.  Unfortunately, I don't think it supports any other types of RAID.

One thing this schematic doesn't show is its "Performance Acceleration Technology".  As much as this sounds like a stupid marketing term, there is actually something to it - PAT basically involves the "binning" of chipsets, much like with CPU's.  Just as a new CPU might not be capable of 3 GHz, but perfectly capable of 2.8 GHz, Intel's new chipsets are binned to either 875P, capable of the tweaked clock timings of PAT, or 865PE.

Like I said above when referring to PAT, 865PE's are essentially the same as 875P, only without PAT enabled. As such, the schematic looks exactly the same (except this one reflects the ICH5/R correctly).

Keep in mind that not all "865" chipsets are alike.  The 865P is actually an even lower model than the PE, and does NOT support the 800 FSB C class Pentium 4.  There is also the 865G, which is an 865PE with integrated graphics.  The final difference between 865x chipsets and the 875PE is lack of support for ECC DDR ram; something that surely won't affect any of us.

The News

Since the 875P is a direct replacement to the 850E, it makes sense than Intel recently announced that they are no longer going to manufacture ANY RDRAM-based chipsets.  While many users had more than a few reasons not to go the RDRAM route, there was no denying that it was almost always the fastest Intel platform.  Not necessarily the cheapest, or most favourable, but definitely the fastest.  We're going to look at whether this is the case now, not that it really matters anymore.  It's still nice to know whether we'll miss RDRAM support.

Our Goals

Our aim in this Platform Overview article is to answer several questions:

  • What is the fastest platform for the new "C" Class P4?
  • What kind of difference does "PAT" make?
  • What kind of difference does 800 FSB make?
  • Will 533 FSB CPU's benefit from the new dual channel chipsets?
  • How do the old platforms stack up now?
  • Will we miss RDRAM?

Let's get it on!

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