Asus P35 'Bearlake' Motherboard Sneak Peek

In the next few weeks, Intel will be formally announcing their P35 chipsets that are part of a larger family of future products that currently go by the codename 'Bearlake'. At the moment, non-disclosure agreements are in place that prevent us from talking about and performance-related metrics, but we are able to tell you about the specifications and main features of P35.  We've also got some details regarding retail-ready P35-based motherboards from Asus that come in a variety of different configurations.

First, let’s talk about the P35 chipset itself. The P35 is manufactured on one of Intel's 65nm process nodes and is designed for upcoming Core 2 microprocessors that require a 1,333MHz front side bus frequency.  While many current P965 and 975X Express motherboards can hit FSB frequencies in this range, they do not officially support speeds above 1,066MHz.  Due to the fact that the P35 is manufactured at 65nm, it should require less power, generate less heat, and be more economical to produce that current chipsets.

Another major feature of the P35 is support for DDR3 memory, although it can support DDR2 in some configurations as well.  The main advantage of DDR3 memory is that it will be able to scale to much higher frequencies with lower voltages and better signal integrity than is typical with DDR2.  Once the platform has had some time to mature, desktop DDR3 memory running at 1333MHz should be commonplace, but initial offerings will run at 1,066MHz. Unfortunately, initial DDR3 memory kits are going to have relatively high latency requirements (think CAS 6 or CAS 7), which will hinder the platform's performance at the outset.

The P35 chipset's PCI Express lane configuration remains largely unchanged from the current P965. P35 motherboards can support multiple PCI Express x16 graphics slots, but only the primary slot will have a true x16 electrical connection. The second PEG slot will have an x1 or x4 electrical connection depending on the type of card installed. Also arriving with the P35 is the ICH9R Southbridge. The ICH9R has an additional six lanes of PCI Express connectivity (for x1 expansion slots or peripheral connections), support for up to 12 USB ports, and 6 SATA ports (with RAID), plus all of the functionality of the current ICH8R. An ICH9 is also planned, that will lack support for RAID.


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Asus P35 'Bearlake' Motherboards: P5K, P5K Deluxe, and P5K3 Deluxe

Asus has a number of P35 motherboards planned under the P5K brand. The P5K and P5K Deluxe are DDR2-based and differ mainly in their feature sets. Like previous offerings from Asus, the Deluxe model will sport a WiFi NIC, elaborate copper cooling, and an extensive accessory bundle. The P5K3 Deluxe, however, has basically the same feature set and layout of the P5K Deluxe, but it adds support for DDR3 RAM.  All three of Asus' initial P35-based motherboards are pictured above. Note the P5K3 Deluxe's orange DIMM slots that are keyed differently to support DDR3 RAM.

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In addition to the features inherent to the P35 chipset itself, Asus has a few more unique features to offer. A newly designed 8-phase power array will reportedly operate at much lower temperatures than previous designs and offer longer component lifespan and more stable power for overclocking. The new, pure-copper cooling apparatus also significantly reduces chipset and VRM temperatures versus last-gen product according to Asus.  Asus' P35-based motherboards feature the company's 'Stack Cool 2' technology as well, in addition to updated versions of their proprietary AI Gear 2, AI Nap, Q-Connectors and the other features common to Asus' AI Lifestyle branded boards.  Asus has even redesigned the I/O backplane for better placement of the USB ports to accommodate more oversized, or funky shaped connections and they've incorporated a new feature that tells users when an expansion card is properly inserted into a slot. When cards are fully seated, an LED lights up to indicate a proper connection.

You can expect full reviews of Asus' P35-based motherboards in the coming weeks here at HotHardware.  We've already got the boards in the lab and are testing them as we speak.