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.

Chipsets
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  • mongoosesRawesome - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    Im curious, can you go into some detail as to how you determine each memory's stable speeds at the various timings you reported?

    Did you test any of the value ram up to 1067 or would they not work at all?
    Reply
  • shabby - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    Too bad you guys didnt test the asrock conroexfire, its basically similar to the one you tested now but with a 16x pcie slot and only ddr2 support. Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Too bad you guys didnt test the asrock conroexfire, its basically similar to the one you tested now but with a 16x pcie slot and only ddr2 support.


    We have more boards coming, the flood gates are getting ready to open from the motherboard suppliers over the course of the next four weeks. Although the press embargo release was moved up to last week, the motherboard suppliers were still targeting 7/27 for hardware releases into the market. We will review and post articles on Conroe capable boards as soon as we receive them. We still have some very good AM2 boards to review also. ;-)
    Reply
  • jones377 - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    Can you guys run a few benchmarks with DDR1 on this board? It doesn't have to be the full suite, just some to get an idea of DDR1 performance with Conroe. Thanks! Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Can you guys run a few benchmarks with DDR1 on this board? It doesn't have to be the full suite, just some to get an idea of DDR1 performance with Conroe. Thanks!


    We are testing another DDR1 board shortly and will have those results up in the near future. Bios version 1.3 on this board improved DDR1 performance and we are expecting another bios spin shortly.
    Reply
  • jones377 - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    quote:

    We are testing another DDR1 board shortly and will have those results up in the near future. Bios version 1.3 on this board improved DDR1 performance and we are expecting another bios spin shortly.

    What board is that? Another ASROCK? They have quite a few Conroe compatible ones based on VIA, ATI and the i865G chipsets.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    Yes, we will be testing the ASRock 775i65G, there might also be a i865 board coming from PC Chips. We should see some additional value based boards in the near future from other suppliers based on the 946PL and SIS662 chipsets. Reply
  • yacoub - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    Lists chipset as: Chipset Intel 975X + ICH8R

    I thought it was 965?
    Reply
  • yacoub - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    And on the same page:

    "Despite the similarity of the ASUS 975X and 965 top boards, a closer look at options does tell you 965 is targeted a bit lower than 965. "
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 19, 2006 - link

    Fixed - as you can imagine given the length, there will probably be a few more typos than normal. Our heads are all spinning a bit after putting this together. ;) Reply

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