Mainstream Core 2 Duo platform

Intel is expected to launch a pair of new mainstream chipsets next week on July 3, 2006. The Intel 946GZ and 946PL will be updates to the current 945 Express family of chipsets. It will support Intel Core 2 Duo and Pentium D processors with front-side buses up to 800 MHz. This is perfectly fine for mainstream PC users as mainstream Core 2 (specifically the C2D E4200) and Pentium D processors are limited to an 800 MHz front-side bus. Dual-channel DDR2-533/667 memory is supported like previous 945 Express chipsets.

The difference between 946GZ and 946PL Express will be the integrated graphics core on the 946GZ Express. While Intel is ready to unveil its G965 Express with a brand new GMA X3000 graphics core the 946GZ will be stuck with the existing GMA 950. 946GZ and 946PL Express chipsets will also support one PCI Express x16 graphics slot.

Motherboard manufacturers are expected to pair the 946GZ and 946PL Express family of chipsets with the existing ICH7 instead of the ICH8 recently introduced with Broadwater. Intel Matrix Storage Technology with support for RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 will be supported across four SATA II ports.

With the announcement only a few days away, expect availability in the upcoming month or two. Pricing should be around $100, similar to current 945PL and 945G motherboards.

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