Intel Mobile 965 Express Chipset:
At Computex last year, Intel introduced the desktop version of its Broadwater chipset, which was eventually branded the 965 Express Chipset. The heart of Santa Rosa is the mobile version of this chipset, which comes in three different versions, depending on whether the notebook manufacturer wants to include a discrete graphics processing unit or not. This is very similar to the way that the desktop version of the chipset works too.
The GM965 Express chipset features an integrated GMA X3100 graphics processing unit with eight fully unified and programmable execution cores clocked at 500MHz. This is certified for Windows Vista Premium, meaning that you’ll be able to turn all of the Aero Glass effects on in Microsoft’s new operating system.
Intel tells us that its GMA X3100 graphics chip is DirectX 10 compliant, but you aren’t likely to get great frame rates in many of the upcoming DirectX 10 games. With that said though, if you’re buying a notebook with Intel integrated graphics, you’re unlikely to really care about its gaming abilities and it certainly wouldn’t be a dealbreaker!
GMA X3100 also supports Intel’s Clear Video Technology, which includes image quality enhancements like advanced de-interlacing algorithms, cadence detection and ProcAMP colour control. In addition, the chip delivers smoother playback in MPEG-2 and WMV9 content – this is nothing new in the grand scheme of things though, as both ATI and Nvidia have been able to do this with their respective video technologies for some time now. Of course, that’s not to say that it isn’t a welcomed inclusion.
There is currently no hardware acceleration for things like H.264 and VC-1 though, so you’re going to be stuck with high CPU utilisation if you’re looking to play either Blu-ray or HD DVD movies using Intel’s integrated graphics processing unit. Thankfully though, there are discrete mobile GPUs that are able to offload at least some of the decoding task from the CPU – we’ll come back to these shortly though.
The GMA X3100 supports an HDCP-compliant HDMI port that supports up to 1080p, meaning that you can connect your laptop directly to your HDTV and use it to play Blu-ray and HD DVD movies via your notebook. Probably more importantly, Intel has introduced another power saving trick with the chipset being capable of dynamically changing the display’s refresh rate. This essentially allows the display to switch between progressive and interlaced scan modes, depending on what is being displayed on the screen.
The PM965 Express chipset is very similar to the P965 Express chipset that we’ve seen at the heart of many great motherboards over the last ten months, in that it requires a discrete graphics processor in order to function. The PM965 Express Chipset will be used in notebooks either designed for gaming or in notebooks designed with high definition video playback in mind. It supports essentially the same set of features as the GM965, although obviously omitting the silicon used for the GMA X3100 graphics core.
The southbridge is a mobile version of ICH8, which is (not surprisingly) known as ICH8M. The chip supports a typical set of features, including 10 USB 2.0 ports (it’s unlikely that all 10 USB ports would ever be used though), three SATA 3Gbps ports, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, High Definition Audio and six PCI-Express x1 lanes.
ICH8M also comes with support for Intel’s Active Management Technology version 2.5 (AMT 2.5), which is a feature that is generally aimed at notebooks with the Centrino Pro branding. While touching on Centrino Pro, the requirements for certification are a little bit stricter than they are for Centrino Duo. In addition to the CPU, chipset and wireless network adapter, you also need an Intel 82566MM Gigabit Ethernet module (which supports AMT 2.5), as well as AMT compliant drivers, firmware and an AMT-capable BIOS.