Keeping pace with its regular processor releases, Intel has so far managed to churn out the chipsets to support them. Last year saw the appearance of the '3-series' chipsets, from the lower and mainstream G33 and P35 to the enthusiast oriented X38, all of which were ready for Intel's 45nm dual and quad-core processors (Wolfdale and Yolkfield). However, before the market had settled on these new boards, Intel was preparing for the launch of its enthusiast chipset follow-up, the X48, which became available earlier this year and on paper, is really a marginal, official increase of the FSB to 1600MHz.
Now that the '4-series' is out of the bag, the time has come for the mainstream equivalents to make their debuts. You can expect these boards to be available in the late-May to June time frame. Unlike the X48 chipsets, there are more substantial updates on these upcoming P45 motherboards, though we doubt users will be rushing to upgrade just yet. Basically, the new P45 boards now support PCI Express 2.0 to keep abreast of developments in graphics. The official FSB predictably gets a boost to 1600MHz while memory support gets pushed up to DDR3-1333MHz. Similar to the P35, vendors get to decide if they want DDR2 or DDR3 memory support, though with Nehalem on the far horizon, the next chipset iteration after the P45 will likely drop DDR2. The Southbridge now uses the new ICH10 (and as usual, the RAID capable ICH10R variant is also available), while CrossFireX support (up to 8x lanes for each PCIe graphics slot) is also implemented.
MSI sent us some engineering samples of its higher end P45 motherboards, the Diamond and Platinum versions and we have some interesting close up shots of these two boards, featuring their new heatsinks for the Northbridge. Do note that the motherboards shown in this preview article are engineering samples and demo units. Final specifications may differ for the retail versions, though the feature list should be mostly intact.
Starting off, we have the MSI P45 Diamond, which caught our eye with a new Circu-Pipe Liquid heatsink that is supposed to be bundled with a water cooling solution at retail.