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New Chipsets

Since we have already agreed that the Increase in the Pentium 4 clock frequency increase is not the most important thing for today, let’s start with the new chipsets. In fact the major technological innovations Intel revealed today with the launch of the Alderwood and Grantsdale platforms are not so few. Among them are:

  • Dual-channel DDR2 SDRAM support, which provides higher data throughput than the common DDR SDRAM;
  • Support of the PCI Express x16 bus for external graphics accelerators, which also guarantees faster data transfer rate than the AGP 8x bus we have been using before;
  • Support of the PCI Express x1 bus for external devices. This bus also ensures faster data transfer rate than the regular 32bit 33MHz PCI bus;
  • New integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900 core with higher performance and improved architecture. No additional comments are necessary here, I suppose: the previous graphics core from Intel didn’t please us with its performance as well as with its features. The new core is definitely a significant move forward in this respect;
  • New high-quality Intel High Definition Audio, which provides much more advanced features than the traditional AC97, namely playback of multi-stream sound, support of multiple channels and much better overall sound quality;
  • Intel Matrix Storage Technology, which ensures expanded functionality in terms of Serial ATA hard disk drives support and much higher flexibility when working with RAID arrays;
  • Intel Wireless Connect Technology, which implies the introduction of 802.11b/g wireless network connections support.

All these technologies have been implemented in both new chipset families: Alderwood and Grantsdale. The major difference between these two chipset families lies in their marketing positioning in the first place. The Alderwood chipset is targeted for high-performance computer systems, where Intel expects it to be used together with either the new Pentium 4 3.6GHz or the new Pentium 4 Extreme Edition. And the other one, Grantsdale, is intended for the mass market. According to these positioning differences, Alderwood and Grantsdale got their official codenames. The high-performance Alderwood is called Intel 925X Express, while the mass Grantsdale chipset family is also known as Intel 915 Express. In fact, the codenames differences indicate very clearly that i925X Express and i915 Express do not differ from one another any greater than i875P and i865E.

If we delve a little bit more into details here, we should say that i925X Express features a slightly faster memory controller than i915 Express. However, the way this advantage is actually implemented is different from the way the well-known PAT technology in i875P works. As a result Intel claims that the mainboard makers will not be able to increase the performance of i915 Express up to the level of i925X Express with any of the existing tricks. In other words, we can hardly expect that the mainboard makers will find any undocumented ways of speeding up the boards based on the mass i915 Express, just like they did with i865PE. The advantages of the memory controller built into the i925X Express chipset result from the minimization of the memory latencies during memory addressing.

This minimization is possible because the data saved in the memory is rearranged in the most optimal way and also because the service commands have been integrated into the data stream. As the data is rearranged in the channels and memory banks, the access time during data extraction gets lower. The integration of the service commands into the data stream allows managing the entire memory subsystem in a more flexible way during data transfer, while most sets of core logic (including the new i915 Express) at first send only data managing commands and only in the end get to service commands.

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