Heart of the PC - 10 Years of Motherboards


Timeline: 2005

2005


  • At HardwareZone, 2005 for motherboards was a year for shootouts, as we rounded up various boards using chipsets like the nForce 3 Ultra, nForce 4 Ultra, VIA K8T800 and Intel 915P for comparison. Of course, there were also some new chipsets on show and one of the earlier ones that year was the Gigabyte GA-8I955X Royal, using the Intel 955X Express (Glenwood) chipset. It had a "wide range of compatibility and support from Prescotts, to dual-cored Smithfields and Pentium Processor Extreme Editions. Official memory support has been updated to embrace dual channel DDR2-667."

    Significantly, the 955X brought more PCI Express lanes and SATA 3.0Gbit/s to the Pentium 4, reflecting the competitiveness between the AMD and Intel eco-system. Along with the 955X, the 945 was also introduced for the mainstream users at the same time, with slightly less PCI Express lanes.

  • NVIDIA too would embrace the Intel platform in 2005, bringing its nForce chipset over to the Pentium 4 world and expanding the potential consumers of its SLI technology. This was done by NVIDIA licensing the use of Intel's front-side bus technology. "Essentially, NVIDIA bottled all the goodness of the nForce4 SLI and released them into a chipset suitable for use with Intel processors."

    NVIDIA's move looked like a success, with our benchmarks showing that it was handily beating Intel's own 925X Express reference chipset by around 5%. Additionally, NVIDIA's proprietary technologies were also a handful for any competitor and especially if you have bought into the green team's GPUs, SLI seemed like a natural progression and for that, you'll need this chipset.

  • The nForce 4 Ultra also got a thorough look in a series of articles featuring nForce 4 Ultra boards. One of the first was the abit Fatal1ty AN8, which also happened to be one of the first motherboards to be branded with professional gamer, Jonathan 'Fata1ty' Wendel's gaming handle. For those who weren't too sure about the Ultra version of the nForce 4, we prepared a table listing the differences and this has been reproduced here for reference.

     

    This series of shootout articles concluded with an extensive summary listing the pros and cons of eight motherboards. Sweeping the competition was the DFI LANParty UT nF4 Ultra-D, which took the Most Overclockable Product and Most Innovative Product awards and hence was rightly the overall winner.

  • While the 955X brought new features to the table, it was not exactly much of an improvement over the 925X it originated and the entry of NVIDIA into the Pentium 4 space meant that Intel had to be on its toes too when it came to chipsets. Hence, in November 2005, the giant updated its chipset for all LGA 775 processors with the new 975X chipset. This new chipset is yet another refresh of the 955X chipset, this time supporting dual graphics.

    Whereas NVIDIA had its SLI technology, Intel was unable to get that right for its own chipset. But there are two GPU players in town, so ATI's CrossFire instead is the choice. Intel implements this by having two PCI Express x16 slots but each slot will only have x8 bandwidth when dual graphics cards are installed.

    Our first look at such a board only came in January 2006, when we tested the Gigabyte GA-G1975X. The experience with CrossFire was smooth and the benefits from the dual GPU setup looked promising. "Starting from a resolution of 1024x768, enabling CrossFire delivers around a 34% performance increment to nearly 70% at 1600x1200."