Intel has certainly been on a roll for the past year, and from all indications there's a good chance this will continue for the foreseeable future. Even though they are looking down the barrel of AMD's K10 gun, with Barcelona scheduled to launch next week and Phenom later this year, they are continuing to release product at a brisk pace and seem unfazed by what their competitors are planning. It is this focus that has brought us the Core 2 processor family and a string of new chipsets since June of 2006.

Instead of taking a breather or resting on its laurels, we will see several new chipsets and processor families over the course of the upcoming year as Intel continues to march to the beat of a company looking to annihilate everyone and everything in its way. While you can debate the merits of their product lineup, potential performance improvements, costs, or what it all really means for the consumer, you cannot deny their tenacity in trying to address just about every sector of the market they serve with a class leading product.

One of those market sectors consists of a very loyal and very vocal group: the computer enthusiasts whose lust for the latest and greatest technology often drives the market to innovate at a pace faster than it normally would. The next chipset on Intel's product road map is designed specifically for this group, but it should also find its way into the workstation market in a short time.

This chipset is the Intel X38 that will replace the venerable 975X as Intel's performance oriented offering in the enthusiast market. The P35 has been an excellent chipset, serving user needs across a broad range of products starting with boards like the budget-priced/performance-oriented abit IP35-E up through the midrange Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R and beyond that to the über-expensive and tweakable DFI LANParty UT P35-T2R in the DDR2 sector. The P35 has also been shown to be an admirable performer when matched with high speed/low latency DDR3 in boards such as the Gigabyte GA-P35T-DQ6 and ASUS P5K3-Deluxe.

Intel designed the P35 with the mainstream market in mind and always planned on the X38 being the chipset that would offer the next step in performance, whether that was in a multi-GPU situation with dual x16 capability and enhanced throughput, improved memory/chipset performance, or as a great overclocking platform for a wide range of Core 2 processors including the upcoming Penryn series.

We will go into detail about the X38, its range of capabilities, and design aspects when the chipset officially launches on September 24th, but for now we will provide a very early look at its performance with the Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6. In fact, this preview is based on an engineering sample board and BIOS, but we felt like the progress of the X38 chipset on this particular board warranted a sneak peek of its performance capability - or in this case more like its potential.

Our testing today is centered on a select group of synthetic and application benchmarks that will provide a general indication of how the X38 currently performs with beta hardware. We will follow up shortly with results from a retail board/BIOS combination that will focus on CrossFire (sorry, as of now there's no official SLI support), overclocking, power consumption, and additional application benchmarks.

Let's take a quick look at the performance of the Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6 against one of the better P35 boards on the market today.

Test Setup
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  • jay401 - Tuesday, September 04, 2007 - link

    How does it compare to the previous gen motherboards almost everyone is running?
    Is it really worth an upgrade from 650i/680i/P965/975X?

    That's really what matters.
    Reply
  • TA152H - Tuesday, September 04, 2007 - link

    The chart "Media encoding - Sony Vegas" makes no sense. I think you got the stock performances twisted.

    Also three to five percent over the P35 sounds incredible, as in not credible. Especially with the Penryn (with it's bigger cache). When the motherboard makers talk this, you should try to find out what processor they are talking about. Maybe on a 512K processor it can reach it, but on a 4 MB processor, on most benchmarks, it doesn't sound realistic at all. Well, it also depends what they are comparing it to. It says the P35, but maybe they meant the 975X, which is much more likely. Crossfire, of course, will be much higher, but how many people are actually using this? It's a very, very low percentage. So, I think people are going to be disappointed again, like they were with the Penryn, because of misguided expectations. Penryn, like x38, is a great product, it's a shame people lose that because of these unrealistic expectations. Still, anything is possible, but if it averages 4% on most applications against the P35, on a Penryn (will enthusiasists buy the Conroe when it comes out?), I'd be very surprised.

    One suggestion, when you do the final review, run it with a Conroe-L as well. Why would an enthusiast site run this as well? Well, if I needed a machine, right now (as in I had one computer and it died), I would buy it for $40 and then buy a Penryn when it became available, or cheap, and then use it in a low power computer. You might see the 3-5% claim have a chance on a small cache processor. That's probably what they were talking about, without actually wanting to say it.
    Reply
  • phusg - Tuesday, September 04, 2007 - link

    quote:

    , run it with a Conroe-L as well. Why would an enthusiast site run this as well? Well, if I needed a machine, right now (as in I had one computer and it died), I would buy it for $40 and then buy a Penryn when it became available, or cheap, and then use it in a low power computer.


    Sounds an interesting upgrade path. But aren't Conroe-L's the Celeron 4xx's which are socket 478? Do we even know what socket Penryn will be?
    Reply
  • TA152H - Tuesday, September 04, 2007 - link

    Conroe-L is LGA 775, same as Penryn will be. I suspect almost any motherboard being made now will work with the Penryn, or whatever the desktop version is called, really. I can't keep up with these stupid names AMD and Intel come up with for their processors. The ass that thought of Barcelona should be sterilized. What an absurd name. If they had any brains they might make code names and add something like -L for light, -M for mobile, -S for server, -QM for Quad Mobile, etc...

    Instead, they have these horrendous code names, which are suitably replaced by horrendous model numbers. I really can't keep track. Pentium III 1 GHz was so much easier to remember.
    Reply
  • Guuts - Tuesday, September 04, 2007 - link

    Gary,

    Page 2: Third paragraph from the bottom, should have (DDR2-1066) and not (DDR-1066).

    Page 3: Missing graphic at the top of the page, text starting off with "memory-lg.png memory-sm.png" is probably the cause?

    Page 5: Chart 2 (Sony Vegas) either has the stock speed bars' labels reversed, or your text summary is incorrect, as the chart doesn't show the Gigabyte board ahead in both stock and overclocked speeds.

    Page 7: Second paragraph, last sentence, "...better than several retails boards" should just be "retail".

    Good article overall, though I was expecting a bit more of an improvement over the P35. I bet there will be a nice boost over the 975X when we see the full review, however. Thanks for the early look, Gary.

    Now...where is the P35 board roundup? :-p
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, September 04, 2007 - link

    Hi - sorry about the graph missing... that was my mistake. You can blame me for a few other missed typos as well if you'd like. I'm not sure on the Sony Vegas chart if there's some sort of labeling error or if we need to correct the text, so I'm leaving it alone.

    --Jarred
    Reply

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