Intel's Core 2
Duo processor is a powerful little chip, and it has certainly breathed new life
into what was shaping up to be a pretty bad year for Intel... AMD had its 64-bit
compatible dual core socket AM2 Athlon64 X2 processors out en mass, and the
vintage aspects of the Intel Pentium D were certainly showing in the benchmarks.
However what will really propel the Core 2 Duo into the limelight are
inexpensive platforms based on the Intel 945 Express - the mainstream core logic
branch of the Express series (945, 965, 975).
The Gigabyte GA-945GM-S2
motherboard PCSTATS tested today retails for about $115 CDN ($100 US, £55 GBP),
making it a great multi-purpose platform for mainstream or value-oriented users.
Built on the passively cooled Intel 945G Express and Intel ICH7 chipsets, the
GA-945GM-S2 incorporates an onboard Intel GMA950 videocard and a concise (but
not jaw-dropping) set of expansion options.
While we've seen that the Intel GMA950 integrated
videocard fails miserably at current generation 3D games, it's more than
adequate for 2D applications and desktop programs. If you have no interest in
gaming and only intend on using your computer for work; surfing the 'net, email,
Word and similar Windows XP/Vista based applications, the GMA950 is totally
fine. If gaming comes into the cards a little further down the road, the
GA-945GM-S2 does at least have a PCI Express x16 slot into which you can install
a stand alone videocard that can tackle the processing load of a modern 3D game.
Incidently, overclocking is not supported in any way on this motherboard.
The feature list for the Gigabyte GA-945GM-S2
motherboard is pretty compact and pretty basic; 7.1 channel audio, Gigabit
networking, four SATA hard drive / one IDE hard drive support, and the onboard
graphics we've already mentioned. Expansion comes care of a PCI Express x1 and
PCI Express x16 slot, and two 32-bit PCI slots. With the ability to run up to
4GB of DDR2-667 memory, it's a good idea to install no less than at least 1GB
for the GMA950 graphics will allocate up to 224MB to itself.
The Gigabyte GA-945GM-S2 is definitely a well paced
mainstream motherboard when it comes to office oriented applications and
productivity software (Word, Excel, etc.). Compared to P965 Express based
motherboards in benchmarks like SYSMark2004 or Business Winstone 2004, the
Gigabyte GA-945GM-S2 motherboard holds its own. Of course the Core 2 Duo
processor has a lot to do with this, but the Intel 945G chispet still plays a
key role. With a stand alone PCI Express x16 videocard installed, the
GA-945GM-S2 becomes a satisfactory single-videocard gaming platform too.
If you're looking towards a computer upgrade and want a
PC packing the Intel Core 2 Duo processor, the Gigabyte GA-945GM-S2 is an
inexpensive mainstream motherboard well worth considering. It's moderately
priced, great for office oriented applications, and expandable for good gaming
performance which is always a nice, if not entirely necessary touch.
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