The last few weeks have been an amazing time in the computer business. Conroe, or Core 2 Duo to use the formal name, has captured all our attention with a combination of stock performance, overclocking capabilities, and value that is nothing short of breathtaking. Once the excitement settled down a bit, however, we realized that all the "Intel" rules had changed with the launch of Conroe.

First is the fact that while Core 2 Duo is Socket 775, it won't work in almost any existing Socket 775 (Socket T) motherboards. With the move to 65nm, the reduced voltage Conroe was designed for, and the greater need for stable power that Conroe requires, boards had to be redesigned to work with Conroe. The first and only board that was Conroe friendly was the Intel BadAxe, which was part of the launch of the last two NetBurst processors - 955EE and 975EE. Even with BadAxe you were not home free, since we soon learned that only BadAxe Revision 0304 or later would work with Conroe. In fact, everywhere we turned we were asking, "Will this work with Conroe?" If there was hesitation or a maybe, the answer was generally "No".

If you are like most Enthusiasts you can't wait to get your hands on the new Core 2 Duo. We're excited too, but it's no fun to get burned or to go through RMA s because it won't work with Conroe. How do you know what will work with the new chip, which motherboards to buy, whether value DDR2 will work, the advantages or disadvantages of top-end DDR2, available video options, hard drives to choose, and on and on and on. This guide was put together to help you navigate the new Conroe landscape. It has a clear bent toward motherboards and memory, which are critical to a good Conroe experience, but we will also venture into other areas in a later installment to help you find the best parts for your new Conroe rig. We hope we can make those choices a little more pain free.

Because we are covering so much information in this Buyers Guide, it is easy to get lost in information overload. To help you navigate through all the reviews and recommendations in this Guide it helps to understand how it is organized. Page 2 is an overview of the chipsets that support Conroe, and a look at the only Conroe dedicated chipset at launch - the Intel P965 Express.

Pages 3-10 are one page reviews of eight motherboards that were tested with Conroe. Each page has a chart of features of that motherboard, a discussion of the good and bad things about that board's performance with Conroe, and test results from overclocking Conroe on that motherboard. Pages 11-14 provide details of how we compared performance of the eight tested motherboards, and comparative charts of General Performance, Standard Gaming, and High-Resolution gaming with CrossFire or SLI.

Memory for Conroe is the focus of the second part of the buying guide. On pages 15-16 we compare performance of six 2GB High-Performance DDR2 kits on Core 2 Duo. These memories are the fastest you can currently buy and all of them perform at DDR2-1067 or higher. Article pages 17-18 looks at the performance of Value DDR2 memory. We have tested seven 2GB DDR2 kits priced at less than $200 to see how they really compare to high-priced DDR2 on Conroe. You may be surprised by the results.

Page 19 summarizes what we learned in testing for the Conroe Buyers Guide. It also details our current recommendations. There will be an incredible number of new Core 2 Duo motherboard choices available in August and September, so we fully expect we will need to do an updated guide in a few months. The computer industry is never static, and any recommendations are just a snapshot in time.

Testing eight motherboards, six high-performance DDR2 kits, and seven Value DDR2 kits with the new Core 2 Duo consumed a lot of our time the last few weeks. When we first planned the Conroe Buyers Guide we had scheduled our testing around a July 27th launch date. The Buyers Guide was to also include power supplies, storage and Heatsink/Fans for Conroe. Then the Core 2 Duo launch date got moved forward two weeks to mid-July. To bring you the info as soon as possible we split the Guide into two parts. This Part 1 reviews and recommends motherboards and memory for Conroe that are available now. These are the two 'Core' (pun intended) components in any new Conroe system. In the next few weeks you will also see Part 2 of the Conroe Buyers Guide that examines power supplies, HSFs, and storage options for your new Core 2 Duo system.

The AnandTech staff spent many hours testing components and compiling data for this Conroe Buyers Guide. Please let us know what you think. We would also appreciate any recommendations you may have for Part 2 of the Conroe Buyers Guide.

Chipsets
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  • jonmcguffin - Friday, July 21, 2006 - link

    Actually, heck, I'm not much of an overclocker at all (I know that makes me the minority here). I'm looking at the Core 2 6600 at its native 2.4Ghz, 4Mb L2 Cache & 1066Mhz BUS Speed and figure that should be seriously fine for me.

    In regards to memory, I'd much rather purchase 2Gig's @ $180.00 than at $450.00 and since I'm not overclocking that shouldn't be a problem. But what I would have liked to have seen in this article were value sticks rated at DDR2 800Mhz as opposed to 667Mhz. So I anxiously await a "value-ram" roundup article of some sorts to not only show us what memory modules work well in the various mobo's but also which sticks can operate at those frequencies with low timing.

    Jon
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Saturday, July 22, 2006 - link

    The Buyers Guide shows all the Value Ram operating at DDR2-800 at 4-3-3-3 at around 2.2V. We also show the timings and voltage of the value Ram at 667, 533, and 400, in addition to 800. Reply
  • jonmcguffin - Sunday, July 23, 2006 - link

    Correct, but the ratings from the manufacture don't have those memory module's spec'd at DDR2-800. You were overclocking them essentially. Check out the

    Corsair 2Gb TWIN2X2048-6400 DDR2-800Mhz set. These two sticks are rated at DDR2, sell for $160 - $170 and run at 5-5-5-12-T1 timings at 1.9V.

    I would consider these a good starting point. Again, I'm not necessarily into running anything beyond the manufacture's claims, but for this price, it would seem these memory modules would fit the bill for a lot of users out there.

    Jon
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, July 21, 2006 - link

    All,

    I received a new beta bios from Abit today. I will be testing it later and will provide a quick update before we publish our final review on the board. Abit has spent considerable time this week testing this bios before release to us and hopefully it will fully address the memory setting issue we first reported in our preview issue.
    Reply
  • perpetualdark - Friday, July 21, 2006 - link

    I dont know where you priced your motherboards for this review, but I purchased the DFI 975x/g on july 18th from zipzoomfly for $187. It shipped the next day and I should see it today or Monday.

    Given that the DFI board is available for $62 less than your article shows, I think I made a good choice, since I dont need to overclock or run any high end graphics.

    Now I just need to get my hands on a cpu. This is for a work computer, but after things settle out around octoberish I will upgrade my home gaming setup with the conroe. I am playing titan quest right now, and even with a geforce 7950 the game hitches quite a bit in certain areas at most resolutions.. I figure increasing the cpu power will help substantially, at least thats my excuse for upgrading.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, July 21, 2006 - link

    The price was taken at the time the article written (17th) based on pricing from three different suppliers that had the board in stock. Now that ZipZoomFly (would assume others shortly) has it in stock at a price point (slightly below) that we had discussed with DFI I will update our article. The 7950GTX has not been qualified on this board yet so performance issues could occur since the required bios optimizations between the board and card are not completed. We really like this motherboard and for the $187 price, it is a great value now and one that should be seriously considered for purchase by early Core 2 Duo buyers. Although, we expected more in the way of overclocking, a very solild 375FSB is nothing to sneeze at and stock performance is excellent. Thank you for the price update! :) Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, July 21, 2006 - link

    Where is the edit button?

    a very solid.....
    Reply
  • Roy2001 - Thursday, July 20, 2006 - link

    I am looking for OC a E6600 with 4MB cache to 4Ghz with minimum budget and I never OC my system. So I don't know which value board/RAM would meet the target. I don't care about timing/latency. I would like to see anandtech to publish guides for high performance OCers and value OCers and help us to reach max speed.

    In addition, I can pickup DDR2-800 RAM priced similar to those 667 RAMs, I don't understand why they are not included in review?

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Thursday, July 20, 2006 - link

    We will have additional guides in the near future. As for the DDR2-800 memory, we will be looking those modules in a mid-range section and a couple of the lower end that we have tested did not do any better than the high end DDR2-533/667 from a timing viewpoint or a high speed. Getting a E6600 to 4GHz is not that easy with a minimum budget but your suggestions are noted for the next guide. Thank you for the comments. :) Reply
  • Roy2001 - Friday, July 21, 2006 - link

    I know minimum budget system won't be easy to hit 4Ghz speed. I am not too sensitive to the money, but I just don't want to spend $450 for best RAM while I can hit 4Ghz with $150 RAM. Same thing happens to motherboard. I don't care 1394 port, optical port, as long as it is stable @4Ghz, I just pick the lowest priced although I can afford a $250 mother board. Hope that helps as I think I am not alone. Thanks for your hard work! Reply

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