975X, Pricing, and Compatibility
Enter A New Chipset
It almost wouldn’t be a real technology launch without some sort of new platform from Intel. The 975X succeeds the enthusiast-oriented 955X, which was the first Intel chipset with dual-core processor support. Unfortunately, motherboards based on 955X aren’t able to deliver enough juice to the Extreme Edition 955 according to company representatives, so if you’re looking at the high-end chip, you’ll actually be required to buy a new motherboard. The margin must be close though, because 65nm Pentium Ds are said to work just fine in 955X and 945-based boards.
Other than the augmented power circuitry, there’s not much to differentiate 975X from the 955X chipset other than a more flexible PCI Express lane configuration. The 955X divided connectivity into one x16 slot and another x4. Intel’s 975X is able to split the lanes evenly into two x8s, ideal for running multiple graphics cards or supporting other high-speed peripherals in a workstation environment.
Everything else is largely the same, right down to the familiar ICH7-R controller with its extensive SATA RAID and HD Audio support.
Intel expects the Pentium Extreme Edition 955 to be available mid-way through January at a $999 price tag. Curious thing—Extreme Edition processors commonly sell for more, not less, than Intel’s suggested retail price. Moreover, we’re also expecting more competition from another processor manufacturer by then too, which will really put some heat under these new 65nm chips.
Compatibility and Overclocking
The D975XBX motherboard—Intel’s reference design—is a fantastic piece of kit, with all of the trimmings to be expected from a workstation-class, enthusiast-oriented board. We did run into some issues with it, though. Even with a production BIOS, our single-core 3.46 GHz and 3.4 GHz Extreme Edition samples simply wouldn’t boot up.
Still, the board is a definite improvement over some of Intel’s past offerings. It proved robust enough to accommodate our overclocking efforts, which consisted of getting Windows up and running at 4.26GHz with default voltages. There’s definite headroom in the 65nm process. We can only hope Intel will push the process further before doing away with NetBurst altogether.