Three motherboards for Intel and AMD CPUs: June 2007

Three motherboards for Intel and AMD CPUs: June 2007

Summary: It's June 2007 and we have a whole new generation of motherboards for AMD and Intel.  If you're looking to buy (or build) a new computer, you'll want to read on.

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It's June 2007 and we have a whole new generation of motherboards for AMD and Intel.  If you're looking to buy (or build) a new computer, you'll want to read on.  See more images of these motherboards at higher resolution.

[UPDATE 6/13/2007 - Learn out to use these motherboards to build a brand new computer]

Intel 3-Series Chipset Intel launched a new set of motherboard chipsets called the "3-Series".  The lower-end G33 integrated graphics chipset and the mid- to high-end P35 chipset became available this month.  A high-end X38 chipset and G35 integrated graphics chipset will be available from Intel in the fall.  The 3-series chipset supports DDR3 memory in addition to DDR2 memory (excluding the G33) and the upcoming 45 nm Intel "Penryn" CPUs coming out later in the year.  Power consumption has also been improved and the north- and south-bridge are passively cooled.  The upcoming G35 will also feature full DX10 embedded graphics for better Vista gaming graphics.

The 3-series has the new ICH9 storage controller it improves on an already solid ICH8 which had phenomenal RAID performance.  The Intel ICH9R ("R" designates the RAID version of the ICH controllers) now lets you create a RAID Level 5 array with up to 6 drives.  Another really interesting feature of the ICH9 south-bridge storage controller is that it has a 4x eSATA (external SATA) expander which means each SATA port can connect up to 4 hard drives and this opens up a lot of possibilities for fast external storage.

AMD 690G Chipset AMD launched the G690 integrated graphics chipset back in March.  Intel has long dominated the embedded graphics chipset market but AMD wants a piece of the action.  While there's little glory in the embedded graphics chipset market since no one gets excited about baseline performance, more than 90% of retail PCs sold come with embedded graphics and the stakes are extremely high.  AMD with a merged ATI wants to invade the market with its new 690G and 690V chipset and eat away at Intel's incumbent G965 with an aggressive price point.  But now the Intel G33 is out and we'll see how these motherboards stack up.

Gigabyte P35T-DQ6 Intel P35

The Gigabyte P35T-DQ6 comes with the newest Intel P35 "3-Series" chipset and it comes in an unusually large box.  This motherboard has a street price starting at $180 [UPDATE 10:11PM - $249 is the starting street price.  I was looking at a very similar model that sold for $179].

The newest Intel P35 chipset supports all current socket 775 CPUs as well as the upcoming Intel "Penryn" 45 nm processors.

Key features of the Gigabyte P35T-DQ6 are the 6-port SATA-300 Intel ICH9R RAID controller with eSATA expander, DDR2 as well as DDR3 memory support, 2 additional SATA-300 ports, floppy drive port, PATA UDMA-100, 2 IEEE 1394a, 8-channel audio, 4 USB 2.0 connectors with 8-ports, Gigabit Ethernet.

Another box within a box to further protect the Gigabyte P35T-DQ6 motherboard.  No packaging expense is spared for this mid- to high-end motherboard with a street price starting at $180.

After removing the plastic cover and the paper/foam protector for the exotic heat pipes and fins, we can see some serious cooling capability for the north- and south-bridge chipsets.  This allows for some hardcore overclocking because the chipset can stay cool while the motherboard clock speed is raised.  The 3-series chipset motherboards all use passive chipset cooling whereas some older chipsets permitted noisy and unreliable fans.

This is a detailed top view of the Gigabyte P35T-DQ6.

The Gigabyte P35T-DQ6 contains lots of cables, manuals and quick start guides.  There is a 2-port eSATA with a Molex power connector for fast external storage.  Along with the killer storage features of the ICH9R, the two extra SATA ports let you hookup SATA-based DVD burners and other optical drives without using up any of your RAID ports though you can still attach hard drives to these ports.  Storage is unfortunately one of those things people skimp on even in so-called performance PCs, but the performance of a computer is mostly limited to storage I/O performance and you can't call a computer high-performance unless the storage performs well.  With the whopping 8 SATA ports, the Gigabyte P35T-DQ6 hits the spot on storage capacity and performance.

If you're looking for a high-performance computer with aggressive overclocking capability and compatibility with future Intel 45 nm chips, the P35T-DQ6 is a very good choice.

<Next page - Gigabyte GA-G33M-DS2R Intel G33 graphics motherboard>

Gigabyte GA-G33M-DS2R Intel G33 graphics motherboard

This is the newest Gigabyte GA-G33M-DS2R Micro-ATX motherboard based on the newest Intel G33 "3-series" chipset.  It comes in a more conventional small box and has a street price starting at around $134 and the 3-Series chipset has very good energy efficiency.

This is the contents of the Gigabyte GA-G33M-DS2R.  It also has an Intel ICH9R 6-port RAID controller and a 2-port eSATA with a Molex power connector for fast external storage.  While it doesn't have 8-ports like its bigger P35-based sibling, it's still very impressive on storage capability.  For a personal storage server, this is a very effective solution.

This is a detailed view of the Gigabyte GA-G33M-DS2R.  It has an integrated Intel GMA 3100 graphics controller, 6-port SATA-300 Intel ICH9R RAID controller with eSATA expander, DDR2 (no DDR3) support, floppy, PATA UDMA-100, 2 IEEE 1394a, 8-channel audio, 4 USB 2.0 connectors with 8-ports, and Gigabit Ethernet.

One problem with the newest G33 motherboards is that they don't have on-board DVI or HDMI output which presents a problem if you want to hook up a digital LCD display or you want to use this motherboard in a home theater media center PC.  HDMI can be adapted to DVI and back but HDMI has integrated audio and HDCP DRM support which allows you to play legal Blu-ray or HD DVD content.  You can add a simple SDVO ADD2 PCI-Express adapter (which Intel supplied me for review) but I had to rack my brain looking for information on these things since the consumer is on their own.  Here's what I came up with after an hour of searching.

This certainly isn't looking good since there's no way I would recommend spending around $40 on an SDVO ADD2 adapter when you can get a much nicer NVIDIA GeForce 6600 PCI-Express 128MB discrete graphics video card for $37.  The NVIDIA cards have much nicer graphics drivers including the ability to adjust for over scans on most DLP projection HDTVs, much better discrete graphics performance with dedicated memory, and fully functional graphics driver support.  Without access to at least a cheap DVI ADD2 SDVO adapter (preferably HDMI), the integrated graphics feature isn't usable for a home theater PC or anyone with a digital DVI or HDMI display.  I'm waiting for a response from Intel or Gigabyte pertaining to this issue and I'll be updating this section hopefully within the next day.  The $10 DVI ADD2 card might be a reasonable solution if I can verify that an ADD2-reverse card works with G33-based Micro-ATX motherboards.

The older Intel G965 which is a year old has yet to release functional 3D acceleration drivers which really isn't excusable.  Intel behind closed doors has shown me engineering drivers that do work and drivers are suppose to be available this summer but I still haven't heard of a final release date yet.  Now granted, no one really expects good gaming performance out of an embedded chipset but 5 frames per second on some games that require Vertex Shading is inexcusable.  If all you want is a Media Center PC for video playback, then this won't be an issue because the Intel G965 had good video performance and the G33 should be no different.  But consumers buy a mainstream computer in the store thinking that they should be able to do some casual gaming and they deserve to have functional drivers.  I'm still waiting for an update from Intel pertaining to this issue and I'm also trying to find out if the new G33 graphics drivers have solved this problem.

[UPDATE 6/13/2007 - Intel has confirmed with me that beta drivers with Vertex Shading for the G965 on Windows XP are available now but that production drivers for XP/Vista for the G965 and G33 won't be ready until August.  That means 3D game performance that need Vertex Shading will suffer until August.  Intel also confirmed that the G33 and G965 won't have DX10 capability; that will be for the G35]

As a low-end 3-Series board with overclocking capability, this isn't a terrible deal if we can work out the SDVO DVI/HDMI issue (which I'll update).  It might be better to just get a cheaper reference Intel P35 motherboard without graphics and get a cheap discrete graphics adapter and not worry about rare SDVO adapters.  Note that the Intel board has no legacy floppy or PS2 ports and it has zero overclocking capability which isn't usually needed for a home theater PC because overclocking will jack up power consumption and can possibly break suspend capability.  You'll get much better graphics driver support and performance and you'll have a P35 motherboard with DDR3 support.

<Next page - MSI K9AGM2-FIH AMD 690G integrated graphics motherboard>

MSI K9AGM2-FIH AMD 690G integrated graphics motherboard

Not forgetting about AMD, this is an MSI K9AGM2-FIH Micro-ATX AM2 socket motherboard based on the AMD (ATI) 690G motherboard with integrated HDMI graphics.  Street price for this motherboard is a mere $73 and it even comes with an HDMI video output port making it an extremely attractive Media Center PC.  It only has 4 SATA-300 ports unlike the 6 ports on the older Intel G965 and new G33 motherboards and it's missing RAID Level 5 functionality as well as an eSATA expander so its storage capability is a little lacking.  The storage capability may be good enough for many people and the 690G motherboard is substantially cheaper than the Intel-based boards.

This shows the contents of the MSI K9AGM2 motherboard.  It comes with a minimum set of cables but it's more than reasonable for such an inexpensive motherboard.

Here's a close-up view of the MSI K9AGM2.  It has an integrated ATI RADEON Xpress 1250 graphics chipset with VGA and HDMI out, 1 PATA UDMA connector, 4 SATA-300 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, 8 channel audio, 4 USB 2.0 ports, and one IEEE 1394a Firewire port.

Unlike its direct competitor Intel G965, it has fully functional 3D gaming drivers and can be used for casual 3D gaming.  Of course ATI has had driver support issues of its own.  For example, Linux drivers have always been lacking though AMD is promising better open source support for ATI graphics drivers.  I have an ATI X800 and I still can't get Vista drivers for my VIVO (Video In Video Out) capability.  The ATI drivers are also extremely bloated and require .NET framework to fully function.  As far as I'm concerned, .NET is fine for rapid development custom applications but I absolutely do not want it in my drivers because device drivers need to be lean and mean.  But having said all that, the integrated RADEON Xpress 1250 should work well enough for most casual users and home theater applications.  After racking my brain looking for an SDVO ADD2 HDMI adapter for the Intel-based motherboard, I can really appreciate the inclusion of an on-board HDMI port. 

While AMD has been battered by Intel on the CPU front, they're trying to keep their market share by targeting the mass market segment with extremely aggressive pricing.  While this doesn't really help AMD's bottom line to be this aggressive on price, it does mean users can find extremely cheap dual core processors.  An AMD X2 4200+ 65W 2.2 GHz for example is only $68 with shipping and it's perfectly suitable for casual computing, home theater, or home server applications.  While AMD chips can't really be overclocked that much, that is irrelevant to many users and this particular market segment.

The bottom line is that the value of the MSI K9AGM2-FIH is undeniable with its low street price of $73 and on-board HDMI port.  For those looking for a low-cost alternative to Intel and don't have a need for extreme storage, you can't really beat the price and features.

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Topics: Intel, Hardware, Processors, Storage

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34 comments
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  • Such Vibrant Colors

    Those motherboards sure are colorful.
    dragosani
    • As they should be. Should be no complaints from AMD fans today.

      As they should be. Should be no complaints from AMD fans today since I hammered Intel on the integrated graphics 3D problem and the lack of DVI/HDMI.
      georgeou
      • AMD board featured LAST!

        Heh, just kidding. :-D (Never say people don't have anything to complain about.)
        Robert Crocker
  • Is the AMD motherbord ready..

    for the Barcelona processor? You talked about Intell's penryn processors in your article, but not about Barcelona..

    BTW: nice to read, that you're happy about something which is related to AMD.. ;-)
    Arnout Groen
    • I do not believe it will work for the Barcelona

      I do not believe it will work for the Barcelona. I could be wrong but I think you need a slightly upgraded AM2 or an AM3 motherboard. Furthermore, the 690G is a mainstream line product, Barcelona will initially be very high-end.
      georgeou
      • That is for certain

        Barcelona is for the Opteron Line which is up to a Socket F or 1207 pin ordeal. That is what I can remember from my head and not looking.

        I know that Barcelona is definitly a different Pin configuration from AM2, AM2+, or AM3.
        nucrash
        • Phenom will work

          The rebranded name for the quad core chip Phenom will support socket AM2 and also a new socket 1207. So you'll be able to go quad-core with an AM2 motherboard.

          http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=2987
          Robert Crocker
  • MSI could use a Grammar Check on their products.

    I could swear that I seen the phrase "Build in 3D Graphic"

    Does that mean we get to build the 3D Graphic in the motherboard our self, or is it like the old G.I. Joe stuff that has some assembly required.

    I do find humor in selling computer components with labels that look like they were written by a six year old.

    George, I think your daughter could catch that.

    On a more serious note, do you think that poor presentation of a product takes away from your idea of the quality of the product?
    nucrash
    • If that is the worst case scenario...

      ... you have yet to read the poorly translated instructions on many consumer products imported from Asia using a non-English speaker for the translations. I think Jay Leno has done a few bits with some of the most outlandishly poor translations. They always crack me up since I see quite a few of them personally every year.
      Confused by religion
      • Sounds like a plug for Engrish.com

        I fail to remember that most manufacturers are not from English speaking countries.

        Sorry, had a moment of selfishness there.

        Granted, their English is better than my Japanese, Korean, and Chinese.

        ja mata
        nucrash
        • Engrish is Japanese import

          Engrish is Japanese import. The Chinese often have problems saying the "r" unless they're from Beijing. I?ve noticed that the Japanese tend to reverse r and l in the way they say them. It?s like the Spanish speakers wanting to say y as j and j as h.

          But as always, most Americans should be mindful that ?Engrish? speakers are better at English than Americans at Japanese or just about any other language. Fortunately, English IS the second language of choice in the whole world.
          georgeou
          • Wow I am taking hits for being a jerk today

            Not only do I find myself offending those who do me the honor of supplying me
            with good quality hardware, but also I am insulting the largest nation in the world.

            Although I do find a large amount of truth in what you say. Many people in the US
            only have the ability to speak a single language, and they can not even do that
            properly. What I consider worse is the fact that I deal with the small community
            mentality of, "If they(foreigners) are going to come over here, then they should
            learn to speak the langauge." Since I work for a foreign owned company, I have a
            different approach saying that, "If another country is willing to supply me with a
            job, perhaps I should learn their language."

            Back to the original topic though, Good review on all three. I won't be building
            another system for a couple years, but if I need to build a friend a small rig, I
            atleast have some options.
            nucrash
          • Nah I'm not picking on you

            Actually, I (as an immigrant) would support English as the official language. Supposedly (and I say that loosely), no one should become naturalized as a citizen without mastery of the English language. There's no reason not to have a common bond within a nation. Getting rid of bilingual education in California was the best thing ever done for immigrant students and even its most hardened opponents saw the light when they saw the phenomenal results.

            That doesn't mean I oppose learning other languages, it?s just that I think people should know the native standardized language. However, I don't think an accent or slightly broken English is a big problem and it's pretty understandable for foreigners. However, I don't believe foreigners are entitled to convert the host nation to their language.
            georgeou
    • Motherboard makers are almost all from Taiwan

      Motherboard makers are almost all from Taiwan and you can often catch these things in their manuals.

      I don't think it completely ruins the presentation but it is annoying. They should get someone who is better at English.
      georgeou
  • AMD (ATI) 690G

    I read on another sight, that although the ATI 1250 was not a screamer with high_end gaming as an addon card would be in a desktop.

    it was reported that for laptops integrated graphics, it would
    outperform the Intel G950

    however, the ATI 1250 was a direct X 9 implementation.


    FYI, thanks
    not of this world
    • It outperforms the G950 because G950 lacks fully functional drivers

      It outperforms the G950 because G950 lacks fully functional drivers. Specifically the vertex shaders.
      georgeou
      • If dual video output is needed...

        for the Intel solution, the Intel DG33L does indeed sport 1 VGA and 1 DVI-D output. This is a board that does not have overclocking but if stability and warrantee float your boat, at $125.00 through distribution, it is a decent way to go. Also with the 3100 graphics they finally kicked the core freq to 400MHz and now has a full 256Mb capability shared. Plus did I see Pixel Shader 2.0 on it with DX9C?

        GMA 3100 Graphics Controller
        The Intel GMA 3100 features the following:
        ? 400 MHz core frequency
        ? High quality texture engine:
        &#9135; DX9.0c* and OpenGL* 1.4 compliant
        &#9135; Hardware Pixel Shader 2.0
        &#9135; Vertex Shader Model 2.0
        ? 3D Graphics Rendering enhancements:
        &#9135; 1.6 dual texture GigaPixel/s maximum fill rate
        &#9135; 16-bit and 32-bit color
        &#9135; Maximum 3D supported resolution of 1600 x 1200 x 32 at 85 Hz refresh
        &#9135; Vertex cache
        ? Video
        &#9135; Software DVD at 30 fps full screen
        &#9135; Adaptive deinterlacing
        &#9135; Dynamic Video Memory Technology (DVMT) support up to 256 MB
        &#9135; Intel? Clear Video Technology
        ? Display
        &#9135; Intel TV Wizard utility (step-by-step setup help for TVs and displays)
        &#9135; Up to 2048 x 1536 at 75 Hz refresh (QXGA)
        &#9135; DVI 1.0 compliant
        &#9135; Dual independent display options with digital display
        &#9135; Hardware color cursor support
        &#9135; High Definition Content Protection (HDCP) version 1.1 support
        &#9135; DDC2B compliant interface with Advanced Digital Display 2 card or Media
        Expansion Card (ADD2/MEC), support for TV-out/TV-in and DVI digital display
        connections
        &#9135; Supports flat panels up to 2048 x 1536 at 75 Hz refresh (when in dual-channel
        mode) or digital CRT/HDTV at 1920 x 1080 at 60 Hz refresh (with ADD2/MEC)

        Yeah, the ADD card can still be an issue, but in an attempt to shrink case size for more of a CE feel, any reduction in additional processing and heat needs to be addressed.

        Oh, yeah, great articles on available boards and solutions.
        magpie_z
        • Thanks for the suggestion, but driver not ready for G33

          Thanks for the suggestion, but the vertex shader capable driver is still not ready for the G33 or G965 yet and won't be till August. By then, the G35 with DX10 drivers will be available though we don't know if the the DX10 driver will be complete.
          georgeou
  • Semantic disconnect

    [i]As far as I?m concerned, .NET is fine for rapid development custom applications but I absolutely do not want it in my drivers because device drivers need to be lean and mean.[/i]

    What we have here is a failure to communicate.

    Hard-core geek thinking maps "device driver" to something like a "driver" in *nix: low-level code that strokes the hardware so that the operating system can talk to it. Typically runs at Ring 0.

    The rest of the world maps "device driver" to the whole package that comes with the hardware: not only the low-level silicon stroker but the gooey stuff that lets you select the boot-time splash screen, update the BIOS, select video resolutions, etc. etc. etc.

    The first patently [b]must[/b] be low-level and can't run VMs such as the .NET CLI -- the performance would be imperceptible.

    The latter, on the other hand, can run to gigabytes [1] of user-interface code and has no particular performance requirements -- but [u]does[/u] have profound needs in the reliability/correctness department for large bodies of code. Maybe even security, since it has to have access to low-level functions that control Ring 0 behavior.

    Bottom line: I think you're being too hard on the driver-development people here, George, primarily due to a misunderstanding.

    [1] OK, maybe a slight exaggeration. Or not.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • That was my first thought too

      The .NET runtime is used for the front end to allow the user to change settings, it is NOT used for the actual drivers. I think the use of .NET is entirely appropriate in this case.
      t_mohajir