The GMCH/ICH Showdown: What's New in the 4-Series

The role of the chipset in a modern PC has changed considerably over the years, mostly due to AMD's integration of the main memory controller onto its CPU die. Intel won't do the same until Nehalem, so the role of its chipsets remain relatively unchanged despite taking on additional functionality over the years.

The role of a chipset is to connect everything in your system to one another; it's the controller logic that connects your CPU to your graphics card, Ethernet, hard drives, USB peripherals, etc.., and connects all of them to main memory. For all of modern desktop chipset history, most chipsets have been two chip solutions - normally known as a North and South Bridge. The North Bridge generally housed the memory controller and AGP or PCI Express interface, while the South Bridge took care of less bandwidth intensive things like PATA/SATA ports, LAN, USB, sound, etc...

Intel came up with its own terms for North and South Bridge back in the late 1990s with a move to its "hub architecture". The North Bridge became the Graphics and Memory Controller Hub (GMCH) while the South Bridge became the I/O Controller Hub (ICH). The GMCH is technically only present when it's a chipset with integrated graphics, otherwise it's simply a MCH.

The 4-series GMCH, which is used in the G45 chipset as well as the P45 chipset (just a MCH there) is honestly not much different from the 3-series (G)MCH used in the G35/P35 chipsets:

  4-series GMCH 3-series GMCH
Manufacturing Process 65nm 90nm
FSB 800 / 1066 / 1333MHz 800 / 1066 / 1333MHz
IOQ Depth 12 12
Memory Controller 2 x 64-bit DDR2/DDR3 channels 2 x 64-bit DDR2/DDR3 channels
Memory Speeds Supported DDR2-800/667
DDR3-1066/800
DDR2-800/667
DDR3-1066/800
PCI Express 16 PCIe 2.0 lanes 16 PCIe 1.1 lanes
Graphics GMA X4500

GMA X3500

Core Clock 800MHz 667MHz
Shader Processors 10

8

Full H.264/VC-1/MPEG-2 HW Decode Yes No
Pin-out 1254-ball 1226-ball

 

The pinout is different, thus requiring new motherboard designs but the performance characteristics of the two GMCHs are basically identical. The 4-series chipsets added PCIe 2.0, but the biggest performance impact is the improved graphics core in the 4-series GMCH. If you've got a 3-series motherboard today, the 4-series equivalent shouldn't be any faster in non-gaming/video decoding applications (although it will use less power thanks to the 65nm manufacturing process).

The ICH comparison is even more tame, there's honestly no change between ICH10 and its predecessor: ICH9.

  ICH10 ICH9 ICH8
PCI Express 6 x1 PCIe 1.1 6 x1 PCIe 1.1 6 x1 PCIe 1.1
USB 12 ports 12 ports 10 ports
SATA (300MB/s) 6 ports 4 ports (ICH9 base)
6 ports (ICH9R)
4 ports (ICH8 base)
6 ports (ICH8R)
RAID* RAID 0/1/5/10 RAID 0/1/5/10 RAID 0/1/5/10
HD Audio Interface Yes Yes Yes
Ethernet Intel Gigabit LAN Intel Gigabit LAN Intel Gigabit LAN
G/MCH Interface DMI 10Gb/s each direction, full duplex DMI 10Gb/s each direction, full duplex DMI 10Gb/s each direction, full duplex
Voltage 1.1V 1.05V 1.05V
Release Date 2008 2007 2006
*RAID is only supported on -R derivatives

 

Even going back to ICH8, there's hardly a difference here (you do get some more USB ports with ICH9/10). There are some minor differences, for example the base ICH10 features 6 SATA ports while the base ICH8/9 only featured 4. The take away point is that feature-wise, there's not much new.

Index The Last "Discrete" Intel Integrated Graphics Chipset?
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  • Butterbean - Wednesday, September 24, 2008 - link

    I'm not sure why this board is measured/reviewed for its gaming ability (or lack of). A lot of HTPC peeps get these because they are quiet and can play DVD's without the noise /heat. Not many people really expect to play Oblivion on it. Reply
  • 8steve8 - Wednesday, September 24, 2008 - link

    the dg45id has the unique ability to ouptut simultaniously to two displays with a digital interface.

    imo its the prefect board for non-gamers with dual-monitors..

    seriouosly.. analog sucks.

    should be listed in the pros/cons.
    Reply
  • CSMR - Wednesday, September 24, 2008 - link

    Yes, a very important feature for a work system with integrated graphics. Presumably common to all G45 boards with DVI and hdmi? Reply
  • yehuda - Saturday, September 27, 2008 - link

    No, the Gigabyte board can't do that even though it has both ports.

    http://download.gigabyte.ru/manual/motherboard_man...">http://download.gigabyte.ru/manual/motherboard_man... (p. 8, footnote 1)
    Reply
  • npp - Wednesday, September 24, 2008 - link

    SPCR measured the power consumtion of the same mini-ITX G45 board and found it to consume 35W at idle with an E7200 CPU installed (which should consume a tiny bit more than a 5200, given it works at higher FSB speeds and has more cache).

    Your figures showed something like 57W; one would say, hey, no big deal, we're talking about only 22W here. But if you take this as relative difference - it turns out to be 60%! SPCR used only one DIMM, but I doubt this can explain the discrepancy. The PSU was a 400W model, so I guess it has similar efficiency curve as the Corsair model you used.

    Given the strange results of you power consumption measurements recently, I have reasons to doubt that something simply isn't right out there.
    Reply
  • CSMR - Wednesday, September 24, 2008 - link

    SPCR people will make more efficient choices. Efficient PSU, notebook hard drive, non-overclocked RAM. 57W is a good result for a mainstream review. Little things can add up to 22W, especially PSU efficiency. Reply
  • MadDogMorgan - Wednesday, September 24, 2008 - link

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    I am about ready to GO INSANE reading your site. You CAN'T POSSIBLY be making any MONEY off those things, they are too INCREDIBLY ANNOYING for anyone to ever THINK about watching one or clicking one.

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    Reply
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    Reply
  • zagood - Wednesday, September 24, 2008 - link

    Wow, thank you! Now how do we do that on DT? Reply
  • MadDogMorgan - Wednesday, September 24, 2008 - link

    Thank you VERY MUCH for providing this option.

    Also, please keep up the good work and I appreciate you spending some time in the HTPC area. It seems to me there is a decided lack of good technical coverage in this arena. The kind of in-depth coverage that only your and a couple of other notable sites provide.
    I would like to see some TV Tuner card reviews from your site comparing the technical details of the latest offerings from Hauppauge, ATI and any other popular ones. Toss in a review of a few PVR apps like GB-PVR, SageTV, MythTV and BeyondTV and (HTPC) life would be complete. Don't forge to address the difficulty of getting the channel listings when using a freebe like GB-PVR, or the ins and outs of getting scheduled recordings to actually WORK when the app uses the Windows Task Scheduler.

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    Reply

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