Early adopters got theirs last month, when Intel announced its 875P performance chipset, code-named Canterwood. Intel now released a chipset for the rest of us. Developed under the name Springdale, the 865 chipset improves upon Intel's 845 chipset for mainstream PCs and corporate desktop systems. To serve this broad segment of the PC market, the 865 family comes in three distinct flavours: 865G, 865PE and 865P. The G in the 865G chipset stands for graphics because it includes integrated graphics in the form of Intel's Extreme Graphics 2 -- a vastly improved version of Intel's previous integrated graphics solution. Like the 865P and the 865PE, the 865G supports AGP 8X, should home users want to add a discrete graphics card for better 3D graphics performance. The 865P and 865PE chipsets, however, require a third-party graphics card because they do not integrate graphics on the motherboard. The 865P serves the low end of the mainstream market and supports only 533MHz or 400MHz frontside bus (FSB) speeds; it does not offer support for the new 800MHz FSB found on both the 865G and 865PE chipsets.
All three members of the 865 family share many of the same features found on Intel's high-end 875P chipset. First of all, both the 865 family and 875P chipset are manufactured using the same 0.13-micron process. You'll find support for dual-channel DDR400 memory, or memory that runs at 400MHz on two independent paths. In addition to the aforementioned 800MHz FSB (the pathway between the processor and system memory), the 865 chipset family offers support for Serial ATA, integrated RAID, AGP 8X, Gigabit Ethernet and Intel's own Hyper-Threading technology. The real differentiator between the 865 chipset family and the 875P chipset is something Intel calls Performance Acceleration Technology (PAT), found only on the high-end 875P. PAT gives you a slight performance gain by reducing memory latencies. Three sub-3GHz Pentium 4 processors accompany the arrival of the 865 chipset. Intel has released 2.8GHz, 2.6GHz and 2.4GHz P4s that use the speedier 800MHz FSB, and the company is expected to announce a new 3.2GHz Pentium 4 in the coming weeks. For now, you can get the latest Intel technology in a reasonably priced PC with the 865 chipset. In our initial tests, we found that the 865 is a huge improvement over the 845 chipset, and it's on a par with more expensive 875P-based systems.