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Intel officially unveils 800MHZ FSB, i875P chipset

First benchmarks show noticeable but small performance gain

Intel has announced its '800MHz' frontside bus, along with Pentium 4 chips and chipsets to go with it, as expected.

So, we have a 3GHz Pentium 4 that incorporates HyperThreading and the i875P chipset (formerly known as Canterwood), comprising the 82875P North Bridge and the ICH5 South Bridge.

The i875P brings in dual-channel DDR 400 support to deliver the same 6.4GBps throughput that the '800MHz' FSB provides. The bus actually operates at 200MHz, but data is 'quad-pumped', quadrupling the volume of data transmitted per clock cycle.

Intel is initially aiming the chipset at high-end multimedia and 3D applications. The i875P offers an AGP 8x interface, integrated USB 2.0 controller, Serial ATA support with RAID, and two independent DMA audio streams for music and Voice over IP apps.

The 3GHz P4 costs $417 in batches of 1000, which the i875P costs $53 with RAID, $50 without.

Among the hardware review sites, there seems a consensus that the 3GHz/P4/i875P combo provides a significant increase in PC performance. "Any chipset and CPU that can make me look at an ATI Radeon 9700 Pro as the weakest link deserves a ton of kudos," says HardOCP, just one of many reviewers praising Intel's latest offering.

However, the advantages will really only be felt in the multimedia and 3D applications - games too, natch - at which Intel is targeting the i875P. At the same time, while the benchmarks reveal the i875P to be the top performer, its lead isn't as great as you might imagine from the praise heaped upon the product by the reviewers. With the exception of some memory bandwidth tests, the improvement revealed by the benchmarks is typically just 3-8 per cent over the next best-performing solution, ignoring overclocked systems.

That has to make you question the value of upgrading from a 533MHz FSB system and/or a comparable clock speed, particularly given the i875P's price premium. It also doesn't bode well for Springdale, the upcoming 800MHz FSB chipset for 2.4-2.8GHz P4s.

But, as HardOCP notes above, the graphics sub-system may be providing a false, poorer picture of the overall i875P performance.

Beyond performance, many reviewers single out the i875P's Serial ATA implementation for its ease of use. Hexus is typical: "Speaking of RAID. Intel has dealt discrete RAID controllers a small blow by integrating RAID0 into the ICH5 ER Southbridge. It's fairly easy to setup and maintain, thanks to the easy-to-use Intel RAID program."

Providing eight USB 2.0 ports was given a thumbs-up too, but a lack of integrated 1394 drew some boos. ®

Related i875P Review Links

Tech Report
The Tech Zone
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