The last few weeks have been an amazing time in the computer business. Conroe, or Core 2 Duo to use the formal name, has captured all our attention with a combination of stock performance, overclocking capabilities, and value that is nothing short of breathtaking. Once the excitement settled down a bit, however, we realized that all the "Intel" rules had changed with the launch of Conroe.

First is the fact that while Core 2 Duo is Socket 775, it won't work in almost any existing Socket 775 (Socket T) motherboards. With the move to 65nm, the reduced voltage Conroe was designed for, and the greater need for stable power that Conroe requires, boards had to be redesigned to work with Conroe. The first and only board that was Conroe friendly was the Intel BadAxe, which was part of the launch of the last two NetBurst processors - 955EE and 975EE. Even with BadAxe you were not home free, since we soon learned that only BadAxe Revision 0304 or later would work with Conroe. In fact, everywhere we turned we were asking, "Will this work with Conroe?" If there was hesitation or a maybe, the answer was generally "No".

If you are like most Enthusiasts you can't wait to get your hands on the new Core 2 Duo. We're excited too, but it's no fun to get burned or to go through RMA s because it won't work with Conroe. How do you know what will work with the new chip, which motherboards to buy, whether value DDR2 will work, the advantages or disadvantages of top-end DDR2, available video options, hard drives to choose, and on and on and on. This guide was put together to help you navigate the new Conroe landscape. It has a clear bent toward motherboards and memory, which are critical to a good Conroe experience, but we will also venture into other areas in a later installment to help you find the best parts for your new Conroe rig. We hope we can make those choices a little more pain free.

Because we are covering so much information in this Buyers Guide, it is easy to get lost in information overload. To help you navigate through all the reviews and recommendations in this Guide it helps to understand how it is organized. Page 2 is an overview of the chipsets that support Conroe, and a look at the only Conroe dedicated chipset at launch - the Intel P965 Express.

Pages 3-10 are one page reviews of eight motherboards that were tested with Conroe. Each page has a chart of features of that motherboard, a discussion of the good and bad things about that board's performance with Conroe, and test results from overclocking Conroe on that motherboard. Pages 11-14 provide details of how we compared performance of the eight tested motherboards, and comparative charts of General Performance, Standard Gaming, and High-Resolution gaming with CrossFire or SLI.

Memory for Conroe is the focus of the second part of the buying guide. On pages 15-16 we compare performance of six 2GB High-Performance DDR2 kits on Core 2 Duo. These memories are the fastest you can currently buy and all of them perform at DDR2-1067 or higher. Article pages 17-18 looks at the performance of Value DDR2 memory. We have tested seven 2GB DDR2 kits priced at less than $200 to see how they really compare to high-priced DDR2 on Conroe. You may be surprised by the results.

Page 19 summarizes what we learned in testing for the Conroe Buyers Guide. It also details our current recommendations. There will be an incredible number of new Core 2 Duo motherboard choices available in August and September, so we fully expect we will need to do an updated guide in a few months. The computer industry is never static, and any recommendations are just a snapshot in time.

Testing eight motherboards, six high-performance DDR2 kits, and seven Value DDR2 kits with the new Core 2 Duo consumed a lot of our time the last few weeks. When we first planned the Conroe Buyers Guide we had scheduled our testing around a July 27th launch date. The Buyers Guide was to also include power supplies, storage and Heatsink/Fans for Conroe. Then the Core 2 Duo launch date got moved forward two weeks to mid-July. To bring you the info as soon as possible we split the Guide into two parts. This Part 1 reviews and recommends motherboards and memory for Conroe that are available now. These are the two 'Core' (pun intended) components in any new Conroe system. In the next few weeks you will also see Part 2 of the Conroe Buyers Guide that examines power supplies, HSFs, and storage options for your new Core 2 Duo system.

The AnandTech staff spent many hours testing components and compiling data for this Conroe Buyers Guide. Please let us know what you think. We would also appreciate any recommendations you may have for Part 2 of the Conroe Buyers Guide.

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  • Gary Key - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link


    "The board was very stable with our X6800 and X6600 Core 2 Duo processors ..."

    I am surprised I did not see this posted on a news site somewhere announcing Intel has a X6600. ;-) The line was corrected this morning to (X6800, E6700, E6600) although late last night my mind was probably thinking unlocked E6600 equals X6600 for some reason. Thanks for the notice! :)
  • drarant - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    In recent months the memory market has moved from a 1GB kit to a 2BG kit being the common memory configuration.


    Excellent article, I'm assuming the OCing results were default voltages on the chipsets and/or the cpu?
  • drarant - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    page 11, 2nd to last sentence*
  • Patsoe - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link


    If you compare the new board to the earlier P5WD2-E you will find the board is virtually the same.

    To be honest, I would say it's quite different!

    The storage controllers have been changed a lot... there is now a port-multiplier type of SiI chip that connects to one of the ICH7 ports, which provides driverless (!) RAID. Also, the previous board had a Marvell SATA/PATA controller instead of the JMicron controller.

    For another difference: the new board is missing the PCIe 4x slot, too.

    Anyway, thanks for the great overview! And it's amazing how fast after launch you got this up.
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    Thanks for your comment. We added information to the P5W-DH page with a little more info on the differences from the earlier board.
  • nicolasb - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link what is the actual impact on system performance of different memory speeds and timings? Possibly you guys actually derive a direct erotic thrill simply from knowing that your memory timings are 4-3-3-9 ;-) but what the rest of us care about is whether any given timings actually provide a tangible improvement to running applications. If I spend an extra £200 on memory, am I going to get an extra 10fs in a certain game, or just an extra 1fps if I'm lucky? That's what I want to know.

    Conroe is a new chip and it is by no means obvious (to me, anyway) whether the speed/latency of the memory will have a greater or lesser impact on the performance of the system than is the case for Netburst or A64 chips.

    So, how about re-running some of your benchmarks on one particular board and producing results for different memory speeds and latencies?
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    The original plan was to publish a Conroe memory article prior to this huge motherboard and memory roundup. The move forward of the Conroe launch by two weeks shifted our schedule quite a bit, as we discussed in the Buying Guide. we have found the timings DDR2 memory can achieve give a rough idea of the performance hierarchy on Conroe. That is 1067 at 4-4-4 is a bit faster than 800 at 3-3-3 is faster than 667 3-2-3. 667 is generally faster than nything slower regardless of timings.

    With 13 DDR2 kits it was impossible to do proper and complete performance testing on all the memory on Conroe and still deliver an article when you want to read it. There will definitely be followup reviews of memory on Conroe anwsering your questions in detail. We knew there would be complaints from some, but we also hoped you could understnad the roundup is posting 4 days after an early Conroe launch - and you can't even buy Core 2 Duo until 7/27 or later.

    We wanted to provide solid info as soon as possible for those planning a Conroe purchase. We thought our finding that almost any Elpida value DDR2 will do DDR2-800 4-3-3 at about 2.2v was big news you would want to know, we will fill in the rest of the performance data as soon as we can.

    As it is the roundup is over 15,000 words and one of the largest articles ever published at AT - in word length - and we really tried to be brief in each review. We really like giving our readers exactly what they want, but sometimes the realities of time and volume shift our priorities.
  • Tanclearas - Thursday, July 20, 2006 - link

    Although I can understand what you're saying, maybe the following should not have been included in the introductory page.


    We have tested seven 2GB DDR2 kits priced at less than $200 to see how they really compare to high-priced DDR2 on Conroe. You may be surprised by the results.

    I guess the only surprise was that the comparison wasn't there. :P

    Honestly, I tried to jump right to that section only to find rather useless comparisons of ridiculously expensive memory (which I won't buy) and "value" (read cheap) memory (which I won't buy). Also, can you really tell me that it was much of a surprise that the expensive memory all topped out at roughly the same speed (~1100, 5-5/4-5-15)? Nor am I particularly surprised the value memory could overclock reasonably well, but how about tests of the memory that I think most of your readers are likely to buy? I've been looking at DDR2, and you can get memory rated at DDR2-800 for a little more than the DDR2-667/533 variety, and still a lot less than the DDR2-1000 modules.

    I know that you were pressed for time, especially with the launch being pushed forward. I just think (and it is only an opinion) that other tests should have been given priority over the ones you've completed.
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    Also, what motherboard was used for the DDR tests? Often, value RAM is paired with a "value" motherboard. Value RAM may not look so well when paired with a value motherboard. I'm wondering how cheap we can go for reasonable peformance :)
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link


    So, how about re-running some of your benchmarks on one particular board and producing results for different memory speeds and latencies?

    We stated at the end of page 18 that we will be publishing performance results of the value memory roundup shortly. The amount of time required to test these seven modules at four different settings in several different applications was incredible and warrants a separate article update.

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