Articles: Mainboards

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Speaking of Intel chipsets from the fourth series we first of all imply boards on Intel P45 Express, which is in fact quite logical. Intel X48 Express chipset was the first one to appear, but it is pretty expensive, relatively hot and has only one significant advantage over iP45: it allows two graphics cards to work at full PCI Express 2.0 x16 speed. This chipset is used mostly for high-end mainboards for computer enthusiasts, so there are not that many of them available. Intel G41/G43/G45 Express and Q43/Q45 Express chipsets are pretty popular, like any other Intel chipsets with integrated graphics core. That is why they are manufactured in serious volumes, although the variety of mainboards on them is not very rich. The existing models are more than enough to satisfy the demand for office or budget home systems. Integrated graphics is not powerful enough for playing the latest games. Besides, microATX mainboards usually do not have much overclocking functionality, so gamers and overclockers have no interest in them of any kind.

We have just listed quite natural and evident factors that explain why mainboards on a functionally well-balanced Intel P45 Express chipset are so extremely popular these days. However, we still don’t know why Intel P43 Express got so overshadowed by its elder brother and what the key differences between them are. Let’s find out now!

Intel P45 Express vs. Intel P43 Express

To figure out the differences between Intel chipsets, you should better consult the manufacturer’s web-site. But we won’t need to look through bunches of technical documents: they have a very convenient and easy to use comparison tool that reveals the differences right away. Now let’s play a popular kid game called “find all differences”.

The first difference is fairly easy to notice: market positioning. Of course, this parameter is pretty relative, vague and may not be determinative. The proof is right in front of you: Intel P45 Express chipset is intended for high-performance systems as well as for the mass market. However, the second and the last difference is quite hard to notice. iP45 differs from the iP43 by allowing the 16 PCI Express 2.0 lanes to be split equally in two parts.

If we use only one graphics card, it works at full PCI Express 2.0 x16 speed. However, if we have two graphics cards in our system, the slots switch to PCI Express 2.0 x8 mode. Intel P43 Express doesn’t support anything like that. According to the official chipset specifications, the board based on it may be equipped with only one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot.

As you understand, this only significant difference doesn’t really matter for most users out there. There are not that many enthusiasts who would use two or more graphics cards in their systems. And at least half of them prefer Nvidia graphics accelerators, however, Intel’s 4th series core logic sets do not support Nvidia SLI. So, you can only use ATI graphics cards in CrossFire mode. Therefore, if we divide the initially not very big number by half, we will see that most users will not actually feel the difference between Intel P45 Express and Intel P43 Express chipsets.

Now it is even more unclear why Intel P43 Express chipset is so undemanded. By all means mainboards based on it should be almost fully identical to boards on Intel P45, but they should cost a little less. So why aren’t they popular? To answer this question we have to compare two products directly. However, it turned out not so simple even in the beginning. The thing is that mainboard makers do follow Intel’s recommendations. Once they were told that Mainstream PCs should be based on Intel P43 Express, they started making small, modestly featured mainboards, which even looked like no serious competitors to Intel P45 Express based platforms. However, we did find a solution that would be up to the challenge: Asus P5QL-E is as good as any of its alleged rivals, which you will soon see from our review.

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