HD3870 Crossfire Scaling: P35 vs X38

Overall Score

With the current price to performance ratios on midrange graphics cards like the ATI HD38x0 series and nVidia’s 8800GT/GTS-512, there’s never been a better time to consider a dual graphics setup. Running two nVidia cards will require an nVidia chipset motherboard, so that’s not the topic of this article. This is all about figuring which Intel chipset is right for you to run Crossfire and get the most out of your CPU and your money at the same time. By now most are familiar with the Intel X38 chipset, featuring dual PCIe 2.0 x16 support. In addition, the popular P35 chipset offers dual graphics support on many midrange and above boards, but limited to one PCIe x16 slot and one PCIe x4 slot. Does the P35 have enough bandwidth to keep the graphics cards working at their potential? Let’s find out using a combination of synthetic benchmarks and some popular graphically intense games.

With the arrival of the new 45nm Intel CPUs and their relatively low multipliers, excellent FSB support on a motherboard is more important than ever. For overclocking the quad core variants in particular, nothing else in the Intel stable can match the P35 and X38 chipsets, so the aging 975X with its dual x8 Crossfire support is left out of this comparison. In addition, the Asus Blitz P35 boards offered a special Crosslink feature which could split the main PCIe x16 slot into dual PCIe x8 slots for Crossfire. However, these boards are no longer available so the comparison will be limited to the common x16 + x4 configuration for the P35.

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