by Aleksey Razin
04/25/2006 | 06:00 PM
Although Intel claims that i975X chipsets as well as the not yet announced i965 chipsets should all support Conroe processors, the mainboards based on the former one that are available in stores these days may be incompatible with the promising CPUs. As we have already told you earlier the problem lies with the new modified voltage regulator circuitry that the mainboard need (to meet the VRM11 requirements). Luckily, the mainboard vendors decided to get ready for the upcoming processors in advance, so some of them are already able to offer the users their Conroe-ready solutions.
The first one to acquire the desired Conroe compatibility appeared the D975XBX mainboard from Intel. It has been recently modified to support the upcoming Conroe: the corresponding mainboard revision is marked as 304 (D27094-304). You should remember though that neither 302 (D27094-302), nor 303 (D27094-303) mainboard revisions ensure compatibility with Conroe processors. The Intel D975XBX mainboard revision 304 started shipping on April 16, 2006.
The main differences made to the new revision of the Intel D975XBX mainboard are the following:
The second issue is the most intriguing, as it indicates that this platform should support processors based around new architecture. Besides that the mainboard has also acquired 10 new resistors and two capacitors. This change is most likely connected with the power subsystem modification.
We can also share some details about the upcoming modification of the MSI 975X Platinum mainboard based on i975X chipset. It is currently available as revision 1.0 and doesn’t support Conroe processors. Revision 2.0 is scheduled to arrive in June. This is when MSI 975X Platinum mainboard starts supporting Conroe processors.
In other words, if you are going to buy an MSI 975X Platinum mainboard any time soon, then you’d better wait for revision 2.0 to come out, because it will support the upcoming Conroe processors. I also suspect that the new mainboard revision will also boast better overclocking-friendly features. As we have already seen, the mainboard should allow raising the system bus frequency beyond 350-400MHz for successful Conroe overclocking.
ASRock Company famous for its non-standard solutions is following close behind Intel and MSI. Their ASRock 775i65G mainboard on the integrated i865G chipset is claimed to support Conroe processors starting with revision 2.0. A while back ASRock taught i865PE chipset to support not only dual-core Smithfield processors, but also Pentium XE 955 (3.46GHz) with 1066MHz bus. Now they are doing even more by introducing the Conroe support on the chipset that has never been listed as the one compatible with the new generation CPUs. It actually proves that absolutely different chipsets can learn to work with Conroe processors after some special training. Unfortunately, this cannot be done in a home lab: the mainboard should be designed with Conroe in mind from the very beginning.
It is important that ASRock 775i65G also supports AGP 8x graphics cards: no one else out there has offered a feature like that yet. If your system is working with the integrated graphics core of the i865G chipset, then you can only use CPUs supporting 533MHz or 800MHz bus. If you switch to a discrete graphics card with AGP 8x interface, the mainboard will be able to handle CPUs supporting 1066MHz bus. These limitations seem to be coming from the absence of official 1066MHz bus support by i865G chipset.
By the way, we cannot yet promise that this mainboard will work with Conroe processors supporting 1066MHz system bus. For example, the budget i946PL chipset can only work with those Conroe processor models that use 800MHz bus, and there will really be very few of those at first: just the Core E4200 (1.6GHz). On the other hand, we could also expect ASRock to introduce 1066MHz bus support for Conroe processors. This mainboard has already started selling, although we don’t know yet when the due date for revision 2.0 is.
Moreover, ASRock is also rumored to be introducing a Conroe-friendly mainboard on ATI Radeon Xpress 200 chipset. The second revision of this ASRock 775Twins-HDTV mainboard will support Conroe. Note that the Radeon X300 graphics core integrated into the mainboard chipset supports DirectX 9.0 and Pixel Shader 2.0 and can use up to 128MB of system memory for its needs. The PCI Express x16 slot laid out on this mainboard will also allow you to use a discrete graphics accelerator. It is remarkable that ASRock 775Twins-HDTV supports DDR2-533/667 memory as well as DDR 266/333/400 SDRAM. In the first case two DIMM slots can accommodate up to 4GB of RAM, and in the second case the other two DIMM slots allow installing up to 2GB of RAM. Intel’s own chipsets do not allow combining Conroe processors with DDR-I memory, and the solution from ASRock helps upgrade the memory subsystem gradually.
We will certainly learn more about a lot of other mainboards supporting Conroe processors in the near future. Such mainboard giants as ASUS and Gigabyte are still keeping silent about the Conroe support, although they are surely working on something exciting in their labs. However, despite this fact there is not so much hope left that the owners of i975X based mainboards will ever be able to acquire Conroe support with a simple BIOS update. Looks like hardware modification is inevitable.