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Intel 945/955 Express Chipsets — Brief Specifications



In comparison with revolutionary changes in desktop system features, provided by Intel 915/925 Express chipsets, the launch of the new i945/955 Express series looks pale. Minor improvements actually had to do only with faster interface speed, the main objective of the new products is to provide grounds for recently announced dual core Intel processors. Unfortunately, we haven't yet completed our tests to publish a sterling review of this series and a comparison with the competition. This article will just list brief specifications and will evaluate i945/955 features to understand the complete functionality of solutions based on these chipsets. We shall thoroughly analyze characteristics of the new series in future.

Intel 955X/945P/945G Express

Like the first generation of Intel Express chipsets, the new series is represented by three products: top (i955X — without integrated video, with crippled support for old solutions, with several peculiarities typical of high-performance systems), integrated (i945G) and basic (i945P) solutions. Let's start by seniority:




  • 955X Northbridge:
    • Supports Intel Pentium 4, Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, Pentium D, and Pentium Extreme Edition with 800/1066 MHz FSB
    • Dual channel DDR2-533/667 memory controller supporting up to four DIMM modules, up to 8 GB in total (you can use modules with or without ECC)
    • PCIEx16 graphics interface

  • DMI bus (~2 GB/s bandwidth) to the ICH7/R southbridge
  • ICH7/R Southbridge:
    • Up to four (ICH7)/six (ICH7R) PCIEx1 ports
    • Up to six PCI slots
    • Up to two (1 channel) ATA100 devices
    • Up to four Serial ATA ports for four SATA300 devices (SATA II, the second generation of the standard) supporting AHCI and functions like NCQ
    • Supports RAID 0, 1, 0+1 (10) and 5 formed by SATA disks
    • Up to eight USB 2.0 devices
    • High Definition Audio (7.1) or AC'97-audio (7.1) and MC'97 modem
    • Special interface to connect Intel's proprietary 82562-series 100 megabit network controller
    • Binding for low-speed and outdated periphery, other things.

As southbridges are common for the entire series, let's confine ourselves to the functionality of the i945G and i945P northbridge:




  • 945G Northbridge:
    • Supports Intel Celeron D, Pentium 4, Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, Pentium D, and Pentium Extreme Edition with 533/800/1066 MHz FSB
    • Dual channel DDR2-400/533/667 memory controller supporting up to four DIMM modules without ECC, up to 4 GB total
    • PCIEx16 graphics interface
    • GMA 950 integrated graphics core

  • 945P Northbridge:
    • Supports Intel Celeron D, Pentium 4, Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, Pentium D, and Pentium Extreme Edition with 533/800/1066 MHz FSB
    • Dual channel DDR2-400/533/667 memory controller supporting up to four DIMM modules without ECC, up to 4 GB total
    • PCIEx16 graphics interface.

And now what concerns brief characteristics and differences between the new chipsets and their competitors. The i955X lacks support for low-clocked processors (with 533MHz FSB) and memory (DDR2-400), but it supports large memory capacity, ECC, and proprietary memory boost technology (Memory Pipeline). The i945G is like the i945P, but it has integrated video. In comparison with previous Intel chipsets there was added support for DDR2-667 (whether it's necessary is another question) and 1066 MHz FSB (but it appeared already in the i925XE).

The new line of south bridges is represented by only two models (the last-year experiment with wireless LAN support was a failure). ICH7 differs from ICH6 only by the faster Serial ATA interface — it's now 300 MB/s as in the SATA-II standard, but without AHCI. The ICH7R modification adds RAID support for SATA drives, but this support is enhanced compared to ICH6R: now 0+1 (10) and 5 levels are added to RAID 0 and RAID 1. Besides, the ICH7R modification has two extra PCIEx1 ports, a useful addition considering the opportunity to use four main ones for the PCIEx4 slot (which may come in handy to combine two PCIE video cards into SLI).

In comparison with competing solutions, the most interesting of which is NVIDIA nForce4 SLI Intel Edition, i945/955 is outscored in the number of supported ATA devices (still important to many users), USB ports, and its SLI scheme is no so good. Its pros are HDA support, integrated video in i945G, more interesting RAID modes (less flexibility in the choice of devices for RAID).




Sergei Pikalov (peek@ixbt.com)
May 27, 2005.


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