With the Dual-Core processor push in full effect, prospective upgraders now have a whole new line of products to consider before making a purchase. From the Intel side you have the Intel Pentium D series, which offers two non-HyperThreaded cores in a single package and the Pentium Extreme Edition with its dual-HyperThreaded cores. While Intel's Pentium D processors do have an attractive price point, the newer CPUs require an upgraded chipset to function. This adds to the overall cost of upgrading since most users will need a new motherboard to go along with a new dual-core CPU. Conversely, there is the pricier AMD X2 processor line. AMD's price point is currently less attractive than Intel's, but it's balanced out with the fact that the processor works with existing hardware, requiring a simple BIOS update to the motherboard.
When we first reviewed the Pentium D 820 processor in June, we found the relatively economical CPU to be a decent contender for those looking for a better multitasking experience. There was no clear advantages with single threaded application performance, however, with support for 64-Bit computing and the eventual growth of multithreaded software, the Pentium D is a viable option to those on a limited budget.
Today, we are going to take a look at two new Intel 945P motherboards designed for the Pentium D series of processors from Foxconn and Gigabyte. Both Foxconn and Gigabyte have delivered interesting 945P series options with a lot of features. We're going to weigh each board's options and performance, comparing them to the Intel reference motherboard used in our Pentium D 820 release. By the end, we hope to highlight the virtues of both pieces of hardware and see if either has a major advantage over the other. First, let's summarize each package's retail bundle, then we'll cover each board in more detail in the coming pages.
The Gigabyte GA-8I945P-G
The Gigabyte GA-8I945P-G included a series of rounded IDE and Floppy cables of a braided design, which is much more flexible than the vinyl type we've seen in the past. Gigabyte also included a single SATA cable and custom I/O shield fitted to the board's rear port configuration. Two manuals were provided, one being a detailed user's guide and the other a RAID installation manual. Lastly, Gigabyte included a fold out quick installation guide with pictures and easy to read text for the novice PC builder. Notably missing was a Setup CD and RAID drivers on Floppy Disk, both of which are expected to be a part of the full retail package (we tested an early pre-production sample).
Being a part of their "Intense Series", the Foxconn 945P7AA-8EKRS2 package was a complete retail box including a good complement of extra materials. We found two IDE cables and one Floppy cable provided, as well as two SATA cables. Foxconn included an I/O shield along with two Molex to SATA adapters that converted a single Molex power lead into two SATA power leads. Foxconn also provided a Setup CD as well as two floppies including RAID drivers needed during Windows installation. The user's guide was very clear and well organized as was a Quick Installation poster that covered the basics of board installation.
Overall, both Gigabyte and Foxconn offered similar bundles with their respective hardware. Each company provided ample cabling and instructions for a successful installation of the hardware. Next, we'll take a closer look at each product, highlighting its features and attributes. We'll start things off with the GA-8I945P-G from Gigabyte.