Intel 925X and Socket 775 Platform: PCIe and DDR2
Alderwood becomes the Intel 925X Chipset
The long announced and awaited chipset, known to the world for the better part of a year as Alderwood, is today officially released under its new name, the Intel 925X Express Chipset. The 925X is the high performance part of the wider 925X/915 chipset launch that today is actually bringing us.
This new chipset brings about the beginning of a very dramatic change in the way PC platforms are thought of. Everything from your graphics card, to your memory, and to your storage is about to be changed as far as Intel sees it.
This diagram demonstrates most of these platform changes in picture form. We'll go over the PCI Express and DDR2 changes a bit later in the article, so we'll briefly touch on the rest of the changes here.
The performance enhancements that are shown, are in a general, very similar to those that we saw in the Intel 875 chipset over the 865 chipset. These changes in the way the chipset handles memory data, and reorganizes them, give the 925X chipset a slight speed increase over the 915 chipset, which is otherwise the same logic.
You may get a better understanding of what this technology does (though to be honest, Intel was vague with me about it as well) by remembering the concept of data prefetch. Prefetching is responsible for getting data, that MAY be used very soon, to the processor before it asks for it so that it can avoid a long memory read cycle. Intel's performance increases attempt to help the prefetch processor by putting the data stored in memory, at the most quickly accessible locations on the memory modules. Now, this technology isn't going to give us huge performance gains, but it is something that the high end gamer and PC enthusiast is probably going to jump on.
The Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900 is Intel's new integrated graphics core on the 915G chipsets. It is there in an attempt to offer high quality, stable, and low cost graphics for business and what it calls 'emerging' applications. Intel is claiming a 1.5x increase in performance over their previous 865G integrated graphics. My review today doesn't use the 915 chipset at all, but our look at the 915G/P chipset will be coming in shortly after this one.
Intel High Definition Audio is an attempt to move past the days of AC'97 audio standards into one that supports 192 kHz, 24-bit 8-channel surround sound audio. This new format from Intel supports Dolby Digital Surround EX, THX, and DTS ES as well as attempting to improve voice over IP capability. They even included the ability for multi-streaming, which will allow you to send different audio streams to separate devices. Say, for instance, you have your home stereo connected to one output playing MP3s, you can still have someone in the PC room playing a game with a separate audio connector for headphones or another set of speakers.
One very interesting feature is the 4 SATA channels that Intel includes along with their new Intel Matrix Storage technology. While at first you may just by-pass new storage claims from Intel, this is one you should definitely look for. It offers two new features that I think will make an impact on storage devices and speed: native command queuing and the Matrix RAID.
Native command queuing improves storage device performance through a drive-based command reordering. You can think of this as a sort of 'compiler for your hard drive' where the commands for data accessing and writing are reorganized in order to give you the best performance possible. This can allow the hard drive to use fewer hard drive spins to do the same action, thus improving overall performance.
The other feature Intel is introducing is the Matrix RAID that allows you to have RAID 0 and RAID 1 volumes on only two hard drives. The best example I can give is a practical one: you have two 200 GB SATA hard drives and would like RAID 0 for increased performance but also RAID 1 for reliability — you don't want to lose all those vacation images, do you? But you don't want to spend the money for another two hard drives. With Matrix RAID, you can create four partitions on the drives, have two of them used in a RAID 0 format, and put your OS, applications, and games on it for faster loading and booting. Then you can use the other two partitions in a RAID 1 array that store your data, images, music, and anything else you consider critical and not recoverable.
Of course, if one of the drives dies, you lose all your data on the RAID 0 array, but anything on the RAID 1 array can be recovered by simply installing a new hard drive, installing an OS on it, and then accessing the remaining drive from the original array as normal.
Finally, the Intel Wireless Connect technology attempts to simplify home networking by making setup easier and also offering the ability to run the computer as an access point. By supporting 802.11b and 802.11g, coupled with an easy process to setup the access point with firewall, NAT and DHCP support, even beginning networkers should be able to set this system up on the first try. Note that the wireless cards are not built-in to the chipset, as you may guess, but require a supported wireless card — much like Intel's Centrino technology pitch.