Today Intel is officially unveiling its P45 and G45 Express chipsets. We've already taken an early first look at a couple of P45 motherboards from Asus, but now the chipset is, um, official. There's a press release and everything.
We'll start with the P45, since it's familiar territory, and ground on which enthusiasts are most likely to tread. In many ways, the P45 north bridge is quite similar to the P35 that preceded it. The chip supports front-side bus speeds up to 1333MHz, all but confirming that Intel has no plans to bump its mid-range Core 2 processors up to a faster FSB this year. A dual-channel memory controller that supports DDR2 and DDR3 memory also makes an appearance, but this isn't the same memory controller we saw in the P35. Intel says the P45's memory controller was redesigned to better take advantage of the additional bandwidth provided by 1333MHz front-side bus speeds. Support for DDR2 memory officially tops out at 800MHz, with DDR3 only endorsed up to 1066MHz. As they often do, though, motherboard makers are already offering BIOS options that allow for faster memory bus speeds.
On the connectivity front, the P45 trickles PCI Express 2.0 down to the mid-range. The north bridge serves up 16 PCIe lanes that can routed to a single x16 slot or split evenly between a pair of x8s for CrossFire. These sweet 16 lanes are all she wrote for PCIe 2.0, though; The P45 north bridge lacks extra lanes for auxiliary peripherals or additional expansion slots.
The rest of the P45's PCI Express payload is holed up in the ICH10R south bridge. There, you'll find six gen-one lanes, just like on the old ICH9R. The south bridge also features six Serial ATA RAID ports with eSATA and AHCI support, just like the ICH9R. And 12 USB ports, like the ICH9R. Noticing a pattern yet?
To us, the ICH10R looks like little more than a die-shrunk version of its predecessor—not that there's anything wrong with that. We're big fans of die shrinks done right. Intel is fabricating the P45 chipset using 65nm process technology, and based on our initial look at overclocking and power consumption, it looks like the transition to a finer process has been a smooth one.
If integrated graphics is more your style, Intel is also rolling out the new G45 Express chipset. Like the P45, the G benefits from a redesigned DDR2/3 memory controller optimized for faster front-side bus speeds. PCI Express 2.0 makes an appearance, too, in the form of a single 16-lane link.
Of course, the G45's crown jewel is its GMA X4500HD graphics processor. Intel says this graphics core is fully compliant with DirectX 10, Shader Model 4.0, and OpenGL 2.0. There seems to be a much greater focus on video playback performance this time around, too. The X4500HD boasts "full hardware acceleration" for MPEG2, AVC, and VC-1 decoding, promising buttery-smooth Blu-ray playback with low CPU utilization. To improve picture quality, the X4500HD adds advanced deinterlacing and post-processing algorithms that can be applied to standard- and high-definition content alike. Even more interesting is the G45's list of supported outputs, which includes not only DVI and HDMI, but also DisplayPort.
We don't yet know when motherboards based on the G45 Express will make their way to market. However, the trickle of P45 boards should soon become a torrent. Expect a full review of the P45 Express soon.