Dual-core-capable Pentium platforms compared

Seven paths to single-socket SMP bliss

THE AVAILABILITY OF INEXPENSIVE dual-core Pentium D processors has some enthusiasts seriously reconsidering the Intel platform, and for good reason. SMP's creamy smoothness is hard to resist, and once you're hooked, there's no going back. AMD may have a better dual-core design and superior performance in many applications, but even the least expensive Athlon 64 X2 costs 50% more than a Pentium D 820. Heck, even the Pentium D 830 is cheaper than the X2 3800+. Oh, how times have changed.

Intel's dual-core chips may be cheap, but they won't plug into just any LGA775 motherboard. The processors require a chipset from Intel's 955/945 family or NVIDIA's nForce4 SLI Intel Edition, so upgrading is more involved than simply buying a new CPU. Fortunately, motherboard manufacturers have flocked to Intel and NVIDIA's new chipsets, so there's no shortage of dual-core-compatible motherboards from which to choose.

To help prospective Pentium D purchasers get a handle on the platforms available to them, we've rounded up half a dozen motherboards and a small form factor system that support Intel's dual-core chips. Several chipsets are represented among the competitors, and we also have entries from a number of different manufacturers, including Abit, Asus, Gigabyte, and Shuttle. Read on for an in-depth comparison of these dual-core-capable platforms.

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