This review is also available in German.
It's been a while since our latest platform review. Today we take a look at Intel's Ibex Peak platform. We would like to thank Mindfactory for providing the CPUs for our testing, because Intel was not able to supply us with samples.
For some reason Intel decided to split the 5th generation chipset into four distinctive models. The differences are so small that you can be sure it's just the same chip but with some functions fused off. While the P55 chipset is able to split the CPU integrated PCIe 2.0 x16 lanes into two x8 lanes, the H and Q brothers can't do that. Intel decided to fuse of two PCIe x1 lanes on the H55, so you get only six, while H57, Q57 and P55 support eight of them. These lanes are crippled, even if Intel states they are not. The lanes run at just 250MB/s which makes it impossible to attach a USB 3.0 controller with the required bandwidth directly, so some companies, for example MSI, are using a PCIe switch to combine two PCIe x1 lanes to connect the NEC USB 3.0 chip. With the next generation of chipsets this limitation will be lifted and PCIe 2.0 x1 lanes will run at full speed, but of course, you have to swap the entire system, because Intel thinks they need to grab your hard earned money and change the socket again. The standard H55 is also crippled by removing RAID support which can be done by software anyways.
So the reason for having three chipsets for the new CPUs is beyond our understanding, it's obviously just to confuse consumers and squeeze out more cash from them. While in the "good old days" you got two chips, northbridge and southbridge, this is now a single chip and it replaces the southbridge. But of course the price has remained the same, so the profits for Intel are nearly doubled out of thin air.
MSI 790GM-E65 (provided by MSI)
ASRock H55M Pro (provided by ASRock)
Intel Pentium G6950, Intel i3-530 (provided by Mindfactory)
AMD Athlon II X2 240e, 245 (provided by AMD)
AMD Athlon II X4 620 (provided by AMD)
Scythe Kama Angle (provided by Scythe-Europe)
G.Skill 4GB Kit PC3-12800 (provided by G.Skill)
1067MHz CL7-7-7-20 CR1T 1.30V for Athlon II X2, Pentium G6950
1333MHz CL7-7-7-20 CR1T 1.30V for Athlon II X4, i3-530
MSI R4850-2D1G-OC (provided by MSI)
PC Power & Cooling Silencer 500W (provided by PC Power & Cooling)
Samsung F1 1000GB RAID-Edition (provided by Ditech)
SilenX iXtrema Pro 14dB(A) (provided by PC-Cooling.at)
Cooler Master Stacker 831 Lite (provided by Cooler Master)
All tests are performed with XP SP3. As 64-bit software is still not very common, we stick with the 32-bit version. We will change to Windows 7 when we swap the graphics card for a DX11 capable one.