Conroe Motherboards Arrive

Everyone in Taiwan is pretty much excited about the same thing: Conroe. Intel has a major Conroe launch in Taiwan later this week, and all of the motherboard manufacturers are demonstrating their entire line of Conroe ready LGA-775 motherboards. Although Intel's brand new Broadwater chipset (965 series) is being positioned as the platform for Conroe, motherboard manufacturers have been building 975X and 945 based motherboards with Conroe support as well. Unfortunately due to changes in the VRM requirements for Conroe, no current LGA-775 motherboards will work with the new processor.

Motherboard manufacturers are particularly interested in releasing 945 based motherboards with Conroe support simply because the performance is apparently close to 965 platforms, but at a much lower cost.

Much to our surprise, ATI recently informed all of the motherboard manufacturers that CrossFire is currently not supported on 965 (Broadwater) platforms. Apparently the chipset lacks support for peer to peer writes, which are necessary for CrossFire to function. ATI is investigating if a workaround is possible but for now the only option for CrossFire on an Intel chipset with Conroe support is using the 975X platform.

We have also heard rumors of Intel working on a revised version of the 965 chipset with support for two PCI Express x8 slots, instead of the current x16 + x4 configuration. A 965 revision with balanced PCIe slots would make the job of running a multi-GPU configuration much easier, although the imbalance in PCIe lanes is not the reason why CrossFire currently doesn't work on the 965 as mentioned above.

While Conroe is the talk of the town, a few motherboard manufacturers have already received Kentsfield samples from Intel. Kentsfield is a quad-core version of Conroe, still for the desktop market, due out in the first quarter of next year. The motherboard makers that are fortunate enough to have Kentsfield have already confirmed that it is up and running on current P965 and 975X platforms.

The excitement about Conroe is also impacting the forecasts for motherboard shipments later this year. All of the motherboard manufacturers we've spoken to have indicated that they expect to ship even more Intel based motherboards by the end of this year than they currently do. We were also able to get some statistics on the breakdown of shipments according to processor type from a handful of manufacturers:

Manufacturer

AMD Shipments

Intel Shipments

Albatron

30%

70%

ASUS

32%

68%

ASRock

20%

80%

DFI

95%

5%

ECS

25%

75%

Foxconn

30%

70%

Gigabyte

30%

70%

MSI

50%

50%

The majority of manufacturers are shipping more Intel than AMD platforms, and they all expect the split to begin to shift even further in Intel's favor by the end of this year. The two notable exceptions were DFI, whose enthusiast line of motherboards are almost exclusively AMD, and MSI whose shipments were balanced between the two manufacturers.

The other item that's driving Intel motherboard shipments are the July price cuts, which are nothing short of significant. The Pentium D 805 we reviewed not too long ago will drop to an extremely low $93, which is amazing for a dual core processor. The Pentium D 900 series will also see significant price cuts, with the Pentium D 950 falling to $224 and the lower clocked cores all dropping below $200. The price cuts are of course needed in order to help move Pentium D and Pentium 4 processors after Conroe's introduction.

There is a lot of concern about the availability of Conroe, as Intel has only committed to around 25% of its mainstream and high end desktop processor shipments being Conroe by the end of this year. After Dell and HP buy up all the Conroes they will want for their systems, there simply may not be any left for the end user to buy in the channel market. Alternatively, there may end up being some supply in the channel market but at significant markups due to a shortage. It's availability that AMD is counting on to dull the impact of Conroe's launch.

Since AMD moved up its AM2 launch to before Computex, there really wasn't much to talk about with regards to AMD. While most motherboard manufacturers are showing off Socket-AM2 platforms, with no tangible performance improvement over their Socket-939 offerings the interest just isn't there. We've also encountered some frustration from motherboard manufacturers with AMD because they claim that AMD's availability of Socket-AM2 CPUs simply isn't as great as AMD had originally promised.

Interestingly enough, despite AMD's recent announcement of its new 4x4 platform none of the motherboard manufacturers we spoke to had heard of it, much less had a design ready to go. We definitely got the impression that 4x4 was a last minute effort to compete with Conroe on the high end.

The final motherboard-related item we noticed while in Taiwan was that the popularity of passively cooled motherboards has gone up tremendously. Just about every motherboard we were shown either lacked a fan or was about to be redesigned to use passive cooling only. We couldn't be happier.

Index The Switch to DDR2
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  • mindless1 - Wednesday, June 07, 2006 - link

    Nice coverage. These new toys leave me drooling. Now off I go to find a smallish nuclear reactor to power everything. LOL. Reply
  • sri2000 - Friday, June 09, 2006 - link

    You just need to get yourself a "Mr. Fusion" and you'll be all set.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Fusion">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Fusion
    Reply
  • bespoke - Tuesday, June 06, 2006 - link

    Too bad the new DFI boards still have that hideous fan on the NF chipset - that little bugger runs at 4,000 to 5,000 and is terribly loud.

    I can't wait to upgrade to Conroe, ditch NF4 and get back to a quiet (yet nicely performing) PC.
    Reply
  • Griswold - Wednesday, June 07, 2006 - link

    Duh.. newsflash, there are also NF4 boards without fans - just not from DFI. What really sucks about the fan on the DFI board is, that it breaks after 3 months and you end up replacing it with a better fan. Reply
  • Stele - Wednesday, June 07, 2006 - link

    quote:

    there are also NF4 boards without fans - just not from DFI

    Although that's not much of a use if you're aiming to get a DFI board - which I think is where he was coming from. :)

    For one reason or another DFI does not seem to be interested, or at least eager, to implement more/more effective passive cooling solutions on their products. Besides the lack of noise, passive cooling's greatest advantage is the fact that it doesn't have moving parts that are prone to failure like fans... as you found out.

    At least they did take a unique step in implementing a digital integrated VR design on their board... its remarkable compactness and 'clean' layout without large electrolytic capacitors makes it really worth looking at for motherboard power circuits. Can't wait till more details of their implementation and tests thereof surface.
    Reply
  • R3MF - Tuesday, June 06, 2006 - link

    was the ECS miniITX A64 motherboard with an nForce chipset.

    i would love to see a AM2 MCP61-S variant with two dimm slots and PCI-E 16x card!
    Reply
  • bldckstark - Tuesday, June 06, 2006 - link

    Dual redundant power supplies in the Asus 1U server would seem to indicate that there are three or four power supplies housed within, but I believe the actuality is that there are only two right? Redundant means secondary as I understand it. Dual redundant means two secondaries. Therefore dual redundant PS's include a backup power supply and then a backup of the backup power supply. Which is it? Are there 2 or 3 power supplies in that thing? Reply
  • hoppa - Tuesday, June 06, 2006 - link

    God I am so sick of hearing about x new card that is "even better than" the already $500 dual x1950.9 XFIRE XLI+ v2.0 Z

    I miss the days when those cards, the best cards, maxed at $300, the awesome stuff was at $200, and you could do quite well for $150. Now $150 is a joke.
    Reply
  • One43637 - Tuesday, June 06, 2006 - link

    is it just me or does the GB motherboard offerings remind you of the Asus motherboards (A8N32 & P5N32) that were released last year... Reply
  • Griswold - Tuesday, June 06, 2006 - link

    High time the dorks at Nvidia and ATI start working on the power saving front. At least they seemm to have that in mind for the follow-up generations... This only means that R600 and G80 wont make it into my computer until the following cards reduce the power envelope by quite a bit.

    *shakes fist*
    Reply

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