The launch of the Intel X38 chipset is just a few days away (after several delays, 9/19 update - Launch is moved to October 11th) and we have a feeling the product managers and press relations personnel in and around Santa Clara are a bit nervous at this point. While the P35 launch was a bit convoluted as product was available on the street before the launch date, the X38 launch is heading down a slightly different path.

Everyone we spoke to just over a month ago expected the same launch situation that we had with the P35. Boards would be hitting certain distribution channels before the press launch date and everyone would be scrambling to figure out which board best met their needs. Well, it's not going to happen that way now. In fact, most manufacturers are scrambling at this point to get boards ready for the press activities on Monday. At this point, they are wondering if there will even be sufficient quantities of product in the distribution channel for a smooth launch. So, what happened?

It seems the X38 was not exactly ready for a grand debut on the 24th after all. We thought it was ready based on what was supposed to be final board designs a couple of weeks ago, but it turns out a few technical issues arose during final QA testing and Intel had to respin the X38 chipset. The chipset has passed the final quality hurdles and is now in full production with quantities being delivered to the major manufacturers. That's the good news, but many manufacturers are still scrambling to get boards ready.

Click to enlarge

After discussions this evening, it does appear that retail boards should arrive from a few motherboard manufacturers by early next week, but we do not expect the channel to be full until sometime in October now. This includes additional designs from the launch partners and competing solutions from other suppliers. While that is disappointing to us, we understand the situation and applaud Intel for making sure the chipset is actually ready for the market before releasing it. It appears they have learned their lessons after the rough P965 debut last year, at least.

In the meantime, we have been testing one of the first X38 boards with DDR3 capabilities for the past couple of weeks. ASUS sent us their new P5E3 Deluxe for an early look at the board design, performance, and new features that will be included when this board is released shortly. Although it turns out this board is not based on final silicon, the performance and stability have been excellent in testing to date, and it comes with a very nice feature set.

With that in mind, we are going to provide a very early look at the feature set and a few benchmarks that show its potential. The BIOS is still maturing and based upon the improvements we have seen over the last five releases, this chipset is looking more and more like a winner, especially in a DDR3 configuration. We just hope retail boards make it in time for the launch date; if not, we will have a lot of nice graphics to look at and will then move on to a very interesting product launch from the guys in green on the 25th.

Let's take a look at the feature set of the ASUS P5E3 Deluxe and check out preliminary performance in a handful of benchmarks.

ASUS P5E3 Deluxe: Board Layout and Features
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  • Gary Key - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    We do not disable services as we try our best to mimic the user experience. Obviously, clearing the Prefetch folder does not allow that to happen but it is the only way to get consistent results. Over time we have seen the benchmark scores move up to 3% when leaving Prefetch enabled, does not sound like that much, but we try our best to keep the benchmark variables under 0.5% within the test suite. Also, Vista has just about doubled the time it takes to run the benchmark test suite, if you ever had an issue sleeping, just watch WorldBench 6.0 run five times in a row. Reply
  • FireTech - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    Gary where are the promised µATX and P35 round-ups?
    After 6+months, you've run out of credit at the excuses bank. It's time to deliver on your promises, then you can get back to the Intel launch parties....
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    µATX G33 will be next Wednesday and will include the NV MCP73, the first P35 series will start this Friday with the Foxconn MARS board and the abit/Gigabyte mid-range boards late next week. The AMD µATX is scheduled on 10/2 with the budget P35 boards following on 10/5. Reply
  • FireTech - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    Sorry Gary but these similar words are still fresh in my memory:
    quote:

    Our Editorial Calendar underwent a couple of changes today due to article changes for tomorrow and Wednesday. The first uATX board overview goes up on 8/23 in the afternoon or that night for Friday the 24th, the next part is up on 8/29 followed by another one on 8/31. Somewhere in the middle of all that is the first of two P35 articles and the start of the GPU/IGP image comparisons.

    Are these new dates set in stone?
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    Still fresh in my memory also. ;-) Yes, the dates are set, the only one that might move a day or so is the second P35 article for late next week. AMD is going to have a Phenom/RD790 preview that I might have to attend next Thursday. Otherwise, the dates are good this time. Email me and I will explain the situation. Reply
  • JKing76 - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    New chipset, great. Are we ever going to see the fucking micro-ATX roundup? And no, I don't count that bullshit "dedicated video is faster than integrated video" part 1 fluff. Reply
  • Nickel020 - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    Hey, thanks for throwinf us a bone Gary! ;)

    I was wondering what the max FSB of the exact CPU used in the tests was when using P35 boards? Thats one of the biggest hopes that people have for teh X38, that it will allow higher FSBs for quads, because as of now, most people can't get over around 450 FSB on a P35 when using a quad.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, September 18, 2007 - link

    The max (stable) FSB of the Q6600 on the Blitz Extreme was 468, on the DFI P35-T2R (is an absolute knock out with the 9/13 beta bios) was 470, P5K Deluxe is 464, and abit IP35-Pro was 462. The X38, once mature, will really improve overclocking of the current processor lineup (until you hit the CPU FSB wall) but is really designed to shine with Penryn.

    However, I believe Intel has just about reached the limits of what they can do with the memory controller based on what we are seeing now, so stock performance is not going to vary that much from a P35 or even 680i/975x in most situations. It appears the BIOS spins are going to need a month or two to really extract the best performance out of the chipset, and DDR2 performance is not that impressive at this time. We will show numbers with DDR2-800 at 3-4-3-9 as a base and a really good P35 board is going to give some of these X38 boards a run for their money until you get the DDR2 speeds up around 1100.

    My personal opinion is that the DDR2 X38 boards will quickly replace the upper end P35 boards in the market since the price points will be the same after the launch hysteria is over. Expect to see the P35 drop to the $75~$150 market only by early next year.
    Reply
  • Nickel020 - Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - link

    Thanks a lot for the reply Gary!

    You got me thinking again though, I was just going to sell my P35 DS3 and keep the P35 DQ6 for Penryn. But maybe I should sell the DQ6 now as long as it's worth something and use the DS3 until X38 Boards are somewhat mature and then upgrade (and sell the DS3).

    Do you think X38 DDR2 Boards will have a significant overclocking & performance advantage over P35 boards with Penryn?
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Thursday, September 20, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Do you think X38 DDR2 Boards will have a significant overclocking & performance advantage over P35 boards with Penryn?


    They are showing around a 5%~9% improvement currently, but I have not received a P35 optimized BIOS for Penryn yet, but then again, the X38 BIOS releases are still immature. We will know more in a couple of weeks I think but right now, unless you go DDR3, not seeing any real performance improvements with DDR2 on the retail X38 boards, a couple of percent here and there but the DFI P35-TR2 board is faster than the X38 DDR2 boards I have right now for single card GPU situations. Still waiting on another BIOS release or two before publishing the final numbers. ;-)
    Reply

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