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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  • Olyros - Sunday, February 08, 2009 - link

    I noticed there's a mention in the article about searching for the perfect mini-itx case. The Nexus Psile case that I'm using for my Intel "DG45FC"-based computer is perfect for it I think. Especially if you are after stylish and quiet computers.
    Here are a couple of links for you to check it out if you want:
    www.psile.com
    http://www.3dgameman.com/forums/showthread.php?t=4...">http://www.3dgameman.com/forums/showthread.php?t=4...
    Reply
  • lubama - Tuesday, October 14, 2008 - link

    Quote from "Intel's G45 Motherboard round up

    "However, at various times after the system has gone to sleep it will wake back up without intervention for a few seconds and then shuts down. Sometimes this a few minutes after entering sleep mode, other times it occurred an hour or so later. The board requires a full power cycle to come back to life and does not always resume to Vista, instead we receive the error that Vista has been incurred an error after entering the OS."

    Have you found a solution to this problem, seems like you are the only person, other than me, who is catching this issue. I have posted in numerous DG45ID forums and this exact issue is non-existent and haven't received any answers.
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Sunday, October 12, 2008 - link

    Anand, G965/G35/GM965 has 8 EUs(Execution Units), but each of the EUs contain 2 cores, meaning it has 16 cores. Each cores can also process 2 threads, meaning it has a maximum of 32 thread capability. From that, its not comparable to Nvidia, nor ATI so Intel have their own performance metric.

    For G45, I assume its 10 EUs, 20 cores. Intel papers mention 50 threads.
    Reply
  • puddnhead - Wednesday, October 08, 2008 - link

    I second (thrid? fourth? fifth? 9th?) the call for the part 2 (what it's pretty obvious everyone is more interested in anyway, not this article).

    I wonder if you coudl at least give us an ETA of not the article itself? You know, if it's this week, this month, or ??? Thta doesn't seem too much to ask, I'm surprised you don't give that from the start.
    Reply
  • computerfarmer - Friday, October 03, 2008 - link

    Looking forward to part_2.

    I hope they are sooner than the promised reviews from these articles.

    AMD SB750 arrives on the Foxconn A79A-S...
    Date: July 21st, 2008
    Author: Gary Key
    http://www.anandtech.com/weblog/showpost.aspx?i=47...">http://www.anandtech.com/weblog/showpost.aspx?i=47...

    AMD's SB750: Enabling Higher Phenom Overclocks?
    Date: July 23rd, 2008
    Topic: CPU & Chipset
    Manufacturer: AMD
    Author: Gary Key
    http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...">http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...

    AMD 790GX - The Introduction
    Date: August 6th, 2008
    Topic: CPU & Chipset
    Manufacturer: AMD
    Author: Gary Key
    http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...">http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...
    Reply
  • computerfarmer - Friday, October 03, 2008 - link

    When is PART_2 coming out? Reply
  • duploxxx - Friday, October 03, 2008 - link

    Lots of talk of bringing a great roundup of chipsets...already for a few weeks now.

    Where does anand start? at the least interesting and the most garbage chipset for several years now.

    lets hope your global review is as good as people expect it to be.
    you started off already a bit better then you did in recent gpu reviews, you actually took a cpu that was rather common to be used, although a e7200 or Q8200 would be a much better fit for this kind of boards.

    Reply
  • whosthere - Tuesday, September 30, 2008 - link

    I didn't see any specifics on the Game Settings. Could you please post them...
    Thanks
    Reply
  • dutchroll - Monday, September 29, 2008 - link

    Yeah I was thinking much the same thing about the "fanboi" comments.

    Can they spell "hypocrite"? It really betrays your allegiance when you rant at Intel then go all wobbly and weak at the knees while mentioning AMD. AT are damned if they do, damned if they don't as far as reviewing either brand's offerings. They've already stated how good the 780G was. They've stated what bugs are in the G45. So what the heck is the problem?
    Reply
  • piesquared - Wednesday, October 01, 2008 - link

    The problem is, they promised a SB750 review 2 months ago. The problem is they promised a DFI LP JR. review 1 month ago. The problem is they go well out of there way to avoid any comparison of Intel's ITD, and AMD's IGP. So what if they obscure and bury a line inside an Intel article that gives credit to AMD hardware. They fail to give credit where credit is due, and it is glaringly obvious. And it's even more obvious when this article pops up suddently when Intel has a new driver. They were waiting on Intel's promises of a new driver that would improve performance, and show it's hardware in a better light. Doesn't matter if you crap in a plastic or paper bag, it's still a bag of shit though. I'll make a wager that none of the upcomming "promised" reviews will have any side by side comparisons of Intel's IDT, to any other IGP. Unless of course AT stalls long enough to allow Intle more time to produce yet another driver..... Reply

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