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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  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    Erm... onboard sound isn't "legacy". As for the others, the instant you release something without floppy support, someone is going to want to install an OS that needs drivers on a floppy (XP). I still find BIOS updates to be far more successful when done from a floppy as well. Give it another year and the floppy might truly start to disappear; we just need better support for USB storage devices. Reply
  • Makaveli - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    Could u elaborate little more on the painful part of going from the AMD system to the conroe. Reply
  • rjm55 - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    What they said in the recommendations was pretty clear: "Most of our Reference systems have been based on AMD/AM2 for the last couple of years. To be honest, going back to some of those same systems after our Conroe testing, the differences are more obvious and painful than you might think. Conroe is clearly the faster platform - and not by small, barely measurable differences."

    They said it was painful going back to the slower AMD systems for some testing after working with all these Conroe boards.
    Reply
  • phusg - Thursday, July 20, 2006 - link

    I think Makaveli's point is how is is slower? Gaming, switching apps, overall? I'm interested in some elaboration on this point too. Reply
  • mine - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    missed the abit ab 9 pro
    only 965 board so far that showed some improvements in real wotld apps. over the 975.

    but great review so far ...wait for more ..
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    We really wanted to include the Abit AB9 Pro, however we did not have time to fully test the latest bios that unlocks the memory timings. We did not feel it would be fair to the readers or Abit to publish numbers until we had a shipping bios for review. I will not go through another a review of system with a bios that is not going to be released. ;-) We will post a follow up once we have concluded our testing. Reply
  • DeathSniper - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    On page 3:
    quote:

    However, the P5W-DH only extends to 2.4V compared to the 2.5V on the M2N32-SLI and granularity of the adjustments is a pretty course 0.5V compared to 0.2V on the M2N32-SLIl.


    I'm thinking you wanted to use 'coarse'? :D
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    Our grammar checking software needs an education :D Fixed. Reply
  • archcommus - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    Once again you guys continue to impress me. Can't think of another site that delivers this much (and this high quality) content.

    Thanks for keeping us informed!
    Reply
  • vmsein - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    Hello gentlemen and thanks for the informative article. Could you let us know which BIOS version was used for testing on the P5W-DH? Thanks in advance! Reply

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