Lately, we have tested a great number of high-end motherboards priced at over $200. Today, we are reviewing a different product - the motherboard Intel D945GCPE which is aimed at assembly of low-end computers. The combination "low end" does not at all imply "poor" or "slow". The motherboard is based on the Intel 945GC chipset which is a modified version of 945G.
Originally, chipset of the 945 series were not meant to operate new processors of the Core architecture. In fact, that did not prevent some manufacturers from releasing motherboards with support for Core 2 Duo. That did not gain wide occurrence - most manufacturers concentrated on series 965 chipsets. Later, a very important event occurred in the IT industry: AMD acquired ATI. ATI used to be quite a large vendor of cheap integrated chipsets for the Intel platform. So as not to maintain the competitor, Intel had to present its own integrated chipset. The proven 945G was taken as the basis. Then, the new chipset acquired support for Core processors with FSB = 200 MHz (although in fact the support for Core is provided by the power converter that meets the VRM 11 specifications), but at the same time lost support for two memory slots (with the dual-channel architecture preserved). The integrated graphic core remained unchanged - this is Intel GMA 950.
While comparing the specifications of Intel D945GCPE versus those for Intel 945GC, we found that the board also supports Core CPUs with FSB = 266 MHz. That is a nice but somehow useless trait. Motherboards of this level are aimed solely at the cheapest CPUs - Celeron 4?? based on the Conroe-L core. As our tests showed, these CPUs provide quite a decent performance level which is comparable to that of top-end CPUs of the NetBurst architecture. In the end, the combination Intel 945GC and Celeron 4?? has proved to be both cheap and powerful at the same time.
As to the expansion options, they are all determined by the south bridge. Intel D945GCPE uses an ICH7 chip, which gives the user support for two SerialATA II lines (of four possible), one ParallelATA line, and eight USB2.0 ports. Besides, there is a 10/100 Mbit network controller onboard.
By the way, some part of the north bridge features has been cut down - in particular, no external support for the PCI Express bus has been implemented. That means a complete lack of PCI Express x16 and x1 expansion slots. Anyway, a value motherboard does not need them.
Intel D945GCPE Specifications
- Intel Pentium 4 (Prescott (2M)/Gallatin/CedarMill ) with the bus speeds 1066/800/533 MHz; - Dual-core Intel Pentium D/EE (Smithfield/Presler) with the bus speeds 800/1066 MHz; - Intel Celeron-D (Prescott/Conroe L) with the bus speeds 533/800 MHz; - Support for Intel Core 2 Duo (Conroe/Conroe-1M) with the bus speeds 800/1066 MHz; - Socket LGA775; - Support for HyperThreading processors;
- North bridge IntelR 945GC (MCH); - South bridge Intel ICH7; - Interbridge communication: DMI;
- Two 240-pin slots for DDR2 SDRAM DIMM; - Maximum memory capacity 2 GB; - Supported memory DDR2 533/667; - Dual-channel memory access; - Power indicator;
- Integrated graphic core Intel GMA 950;
- Two 32-bit PCI Bus Master slots; - Eight USB 2.0 ports (4 integrated + 4 additional); - Integrated HDA; - 10/100Mbit Gigabit Ethernet LAN controller;
- 1 line for UltraDMA100/66/33 Bus Master IDE (ICH7; with support for up to 2 ATAPI devices); - Support for SerialATA II (2 lines - ICH7); - Support for LS-120 / ZIP / ATAPI CD-ROM;
- 4Mbit Flash ROM; - Intel BIOS with support for Enhanced ACPI, DMI, Green, PnP Features;
- One port for FDD, COM port, ports for PS/2 mouse and keyboard; - Onboard power indicator; - STR (Suspend to RAM) ;
- Wake-up on modem, mouse, keyboard, LAN, timer, and USB; - Main 24-pin ATX power connector; - Additional 4-pin power connector;
- Monitoring the temperatures of the CPU, system, voltages, rotational speeds of the two fans;