Intel's 975X Express gets the "Bearlake" upgrade
Intel will unveil the high-end version of its Bearlake-family next month, the Intel X38 Express. The new Intel X38 Express replaces the 975X Express, which launched over a year ago with Intel’s Presler Netburst processors. The new chipset introduces new features to Intel’s high-end enthusiast and workstation platform such as PCIe 2.0 and DDR3 memory.
New to the Intel X38 Express is support for dual full-speed PCIe 2.0 x16 slots. The dual PCIe 2.0 slots are compatible with AMD’s CrossFire technology for multi-GPU graphics processing. Motherboard manufacturers are also free to equip Intel X38 Express based boards with a third physical PCIe 2.0 x16 for triple-play physics. Due to chipset limitations, the third physical PCIe 2.0 x16 slot has lesser lanes, with most manufacturers opting for four lanes.
DDR3 is the only officially supported memory for the Intel X38 Express. Intel touts DDR3-1333 memory for X38 Express motherboards. The Intel X38 Express also supports DDR3 ECC memory. DDR2 memory support has been removed officially from the X38 Express, however, the memory controller can still function with DDR2, just without Intel validation. The DFI LANParty X38-T2R will pair DDR2 support with the Intel X38 Express chipset.
The Intel X38 Express also supports upcoming Intel Penryn-family dual and quad-core processors with front-side buses up to 1333 MHz. The new Penryn family is Intel’s first 45nm processor family, expected to launch in Q1’2008 for consumer desktops. Desktop Penryn-family Core models will launch in early 2008.
ASUS, Biostar, DFI, Foxconn, Gigabyte, Intel and MSI have X38 Express-based motherboards on display at Computex 2007. ASUS plans to release an X38 Express-based workstation board. The upcoming ASUS P5E3 WS Professional pairs the X38 Express with the ICH9R south bridge. The board supports dual-channel DDR3-1333 memory, with no mention of ECC support. The P5E3 WS Professional does not have a third physical PCIe 2.0 x16 slot. ASUS opted for a vanilla orange PCB with the P5E3 WS Professional.
Biostar is preparing the TX38D3-A7 Deluxe with three PCIe 2.0 x16 slots. Two of the PCIe 2.0 x16 slots operate at full speed while the third slot has four lanes. Biostar also adds one PCIe x1 and two PCI slots into the mix. The TX38D3-A7 also features onboard power and reset buttons for the tweaking-inclined.
DFI has two X38 Express-based models in the pipeline – the LANParty X38-T2R and the X38-T3R. The two models differ in the memory support department. The LANParty X38-T2R supports DDR2-800 memory while the X38-T3R supports DDR3-1333. The upcoming X38-T2R and X38-T3R feature genius BIOS and CMOS Reloaded technologies. New to the LANParty X38-T2R and X38-T3R is the DFI Bernstein 8-channel theater-level audio solution.
Foxconn has the X38A on display with three PCIe 2.0 x16 slots. There are also two PCIe x1 and two PCI slots. The Foxconn X38A supports DDR3 and DDR2 memory on the same board. There are four DDR3 and two DDR2 memory slots. Users can only install DDR2 or DDR3, not both at the same time.
Gigabyte is taking the same route as DFI, with two X38 Express based motherboards – the GA-X38T-DQ6 and GA-X38-DQ6. Both boards have similar feature sets, with the GA-X38T-DQ6 offering DDR3 support while the GA-X38-DQ6 supports DDR2. Gigabyte takes DDR3 further than other manufacturers by claiming support for DDR3-1600 memory. Gigabyte has opted to equip its GA-X38x-DQ6 motherboards with two PCIe 2.0 x16 slots. New to the Gigabyte X38 Express-based motherboards is the Realtek ALC889A high-definition audio codec, offering a 106dB signal-to-noise ratio.
Intel also plans to join in on the X38 Express festivities with the successor to the D975XBX2 BadAxe2. The new DX38BT Bonetrail features three physical PCIe 2.0 x16 slots. The DX38BT is one of the few enthusiast X38 Express motherboards currently on the Computex show floor without an elaborate heat-pipe cooling setup. Instead, Intel sticks with a simple aluminum cooler.
Lastly is MSI with the X38 Diamond. MSI manages to squeeze four physical PCIe 2.0 x16 slots into the X38 Diamond. Two of the PCIe 2.0 x16 slots are full-speed while the other two slots are half-speed. MSI also squeezes in support for DDR2-800 and DDR3-1333 memory on the same board.
Expect Intel to officially launch the X38 Express next month, coinciding with the upcoming Core 2 Duo E6x50-series.
ASUS P5E3 WS Professional
Biostar TX38D3-A7 Deluxe
DFI LANParty X38-T3R
Intel DX38BT "Bonetrail"
MSI X38 Diamond
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