Intel i915P, G and i925X chipsets
Grantsdale and Alderwood rev up desktops
Review Usually little happens at weekends in the world of computers, but for some reason, Intel has today decided to launch a completely new PC platform. Today's launch will impact the way PCs work for the foreseeable future with a wide range of new technologies that will, over time replace many of the things we're used to seeing in a PC, writes Lars-Goran Nilsson.
What we have here is the biggest change since PCI appeared and with PCI Express set to replace both PCI and AGP as the future standard interface for add-on cards, it might just be time to get a new computer. This does of course mean new chipsets and Intel is ready with its 925X, 915P, 915G and 915GV chipsets, previously known as Alderwood and Grantsdale. I will go into more detail on these new chipsets a bit later on, but let's look at what else is new.
As well as the implementation of PCI Express, Intel has also seen it fit to change the CPU socket and memory in one fell swoop. The new CPU socket is known as Socket-T and the new processors will be of LGA775 type. LGA stands for Land Grid Array and means that there are no pins on the bottom of the CPU, although there are still contact surfaces - no less 775 of them. The CPU interface has been moved to the motherboard socket and this is a way for Intel to get fewer returns in terms of damaged CPUs due to bent or broken pins.
There is still a group of capacitors at the bottom of the CPU that can be easily damaged if you place the chip with the contact surface facing downwards, so it's best to rest the processor on its back if you have to place it on a desk or table.
The downside here is that with 775 tiny pads on the end, the chance of a damaged CPU socket on the motherboard has suddenly increased significantly. But for Intel this is a minor issue, since although Intel sells motherboards, most motherboards are from companies such as Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, Abit and every other Taiwanese board maker, and it's these companies that will end up with all the returns. But then what's a motherboard company going to do, not support Intel CPUs? That's hardly likely.
Intel does however state that the new CPU socket is good for 20 insertions before any wear and tear damage occurs. As long as you're careful when you insert the CPU there is little reason to worry. All the new Socket-T motherboards come with a socket protector that has to be removed before you fit the CPU. This is to prevent damage to the pins inside the CPU socket before the chip is inserted.
The socket itself has to be opened before the CPU can be inserted and is closed with a latch that holds the processor in place. With a socket change, new CPU coolers are needed and this time around the retention mechanism we've been so used to, has been completely removed. Instead the new coolers are attached with four push pins that go through four holes in the PCB. Now this might not seem like such a bad thing on the surface, but CPU coolers have become very heavy lately and the way these new ones attach to the motherboard concerns me slightly. With a very heavy CPU cooler attached to the PCB without a rear plate to clamp it to, we could see damaged boards in PCs during "bumpy" deliveries. As it is we've had many PCs arrive at our offices with detached heatsinks due to rough transit.
Apart from that, the new cooler design is vastly improved - for one, you don't end up with your processor stuck to the bottom of the heatsink if you remove it from the board, which again reduces possible damage to the CPU. The biggest change however is the new fan connector, which is now four-pin rather than three-pin - this allows the PC to automatically adjust the fan speed depending on the CPU temperature. This feature has been a long time coming and pretty much every PC owner will be glad of dynamic fan control as it will reduce the amount of ambient noise produced by the system.