Articles: Mainboards

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A Word on Mainboards and CPUs

Core 2 Duo proved the biggest triumph so far. This summer computer users have finally got a very fast, relatively economical and perfectly overclockable solution, so that the time has come to say no to the previous generation processors getting more and more outdated. I asked a few computer users in a hardware store what processors they have just purchased. Guess what? – Athlon 64… Celeron D… Athlon 64 X2… Sempron… Pentium 4… What was the matter? Were there no Core 2 Duo processors in this store? There certainly were. But why didn’t anyone we asked buy them? Why would anyone buy different processor models and overclock them if the Core CPU is often faster even in the nominal mode? It turns out that Core 2 Duo CPUs face numerous obstacles on the way to the end-user, and their price is definitely among the primary factors.

Overclockers usually go for the youngest processors in the family. This is totally correct approach, as the CPUs within the same processor family would normally overclock up to the same frequency, but the youngest models cost less and provide higher performance at the given frequency thanks to higher FSB speed. However, in case of Core 2 Duo processors this tendency didn’t work that well any more.

In order to overclock the youngest Core 2 Duo E6300 CPU with the x7 clock frequency multiplier, you need a mainboard that would work stably at 500MHz FSB frequency and DDR2 SDRAM that would hit 1000MHz speed. Solutions like that are quite expensive, besides, the CPU will cost you another $200, which is quite a lot. Especially, since 100% overclocking is not guaranteed at all. You have much better chances to overclock successfully the Core 2 Duo E6400 with the x8 nominal frequency multiplier. In this case you can hit the same 3.5GHz frequency with about 440MHz FSB speed. The mainboard and memory are more likely to run stably in these working conditions, but the CPU like that will cost you $240.

As for finding the proper mainboards for experiments like that, it is also a challenge. I will not discuss i975X based mainboards that may cost over $300. From the overclocking prospective, Intel P965 based mainboards are much more suitable for us. ASUS and Gigabyte were among the first ones to roll out their respective P5B and GA-965P mainboard families and these solutions are already available in stores. Although these mainboards cost around $250, even the best value model you can find will sell for about $200. Not a cheap product at all, isn’t it?

So, it looks like you will have to spend at least $400-$500 on a mainboard and CPU, and then you will also need memory, HDD, DVD or DVD-RW drive, a graphics card… by the way, if you are building a gaming system, then it is the graphics card that will affect the overall performance level most of all. Therefore, from the gaming prospective it would make much more sense to get an AMD Athlon 64 or X2, Intel Pentium D or Pentium 4 on CedarMill core and overclock them as much as possible. You can easily find a 100-150-dollar mainboard for this task. And you can spend all the money you save here on a much more expensive $300-$400 graphics solution. As a result, a gaming system like that will be much faster than a Core 2 Duo based system you can get for the same buck.

Well, we have just answered our question asked above. Although Conroe based CPUs are already selling freely, far not everyone has them inside their systems and users still often prefer previous generation solutions.

Cheaper Intel processors are scheduled to come only next year, so for now you’d better give up the idea of getting an Intel CPU with Core microarchitecture for $100-$150. As for the mainboards, they definitely deserve your special attention. Of course, you can easily get an i945 or VIA P4M890 based mainboard with Core 2 Duo support for something around $70-$100, however, you can forget about any overclocking in this case. Our dream product in this case would be a sub-$150 mainboard that would allow successful overclocking of Core 2 Duo processors, i.e. a solution based on Intel P965 chipset. Luckily, mainboards like that are already hitting the store shelves.

Today we are going to introduce to you one of these products – Gigabyte GA-965P-S3 mainboard.

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