Talking chips

Which desktop CPUs work with which mainboard sockets? Windows Middle East explains all you need to know...

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By  Matthew Wade Published  August 2, 2006

|~||~||~|Our WinLabs team receives a lot of e-mails from intermediate-level enthusiasts who are looking to put together their first systems from scratch. However, while the majority of you say you enjoy our step-by-step PC building guides, there’s still one topic of confusion that raises its head again and again, and that’s processors and motherboard sockets. Let’s chat through it then, slowly and clearly, starting with Intel’s latest desktop CPUs. From the beginning In terms of Intel’s very latest dual-core desktop CPUs, the firm has recently launched its ‘Core 2 Duo’ branded models (in fact we test one on page 18) along with the Pentium Extreme Edition 955 just before that. Core 2s should be hitting stores by the time you read this, while Intel’s other dual-core desktop offerings, Pentium Ds and the CPU, have been available since the end of last year. Starting with the newest products first, Core 2 Duo CPUs (code-named Conroe) include: the X6800 (2.93GHz), E6700 (2.67GHz), E6600 (2.4GHz), E6400 (2.13GHz) and the E6300 (1.86GHz). The first three of these feature 4Mbytes of level 2 cache, while the remaining three pack in just two megabytes. All these models feature 1066MHz front side bus speeds and in terms of sockets, all of these are designed to fit in the LGA775 motherboard socket. Expect to pay a maximum of around a thousand dollars, down to $200 for the E6300. Meanwhile, Pentium D models include: the 960 (3.6GHz), 950 (3.4GHz), 945 (3.4GHz, which doesn’t include virtualisation technology (VT), 915 (2.8GHz, again no VT), 820 (2.8GHz) and the 805 (2.66GHz). All of these Pentium D CPUs feature FSB speeds of 800MHz, except for the 805 model, which manages 533MHz. Like the Core 2 Duo CPUs, Pentium D’s and the Extreme Edition 955 CPU (EE) sit in socket LGA775 on the mainboard. However, there’s more. In fact there’s a key difference between the type of motherboard you need to use with these processor types. You see whilst they both sit in LGA775 socket motherboards, Core 2 Duo CPUs will only currently work with LGA775 boards that feature the very latest version of Intel’s 975X chipset (which fully supports the Core architecture) and the newly launched mid-range 965 chipset, whereas Pentium D CPUs and the EE will work in any LGA775 motherboard (which could feature chipsets by Intel or nVidia, ATi, SIS, VIA etc.). The moral of this tale being that if you’re planning to go the Core 2 Duo route, be sure to check this chipset requirement before buying a board. Single core Intel CPUs meanwhile are now in the process of being phased out. If your budget is tight however and you do come across a cut-price Pentium 4 that you can’t say no to, the info you need is the same as that given above for Pentium D components. Now over to AMD... AMD’s newest dual-core CPUs are its Athlon 64 AM2 family. Only two models from this new family have been released to date, which are the 5000+ (as found again on page 18) and the higher-end FX-62. These should both be in stores by the time you read this. Both these AM2 CPUs live in the motherboard on ‘socket AM2’ (a.k.a socket 940). These two CPUs are not compatible with any other existing AMD motherboards on the market. Slightly older AMD dual-core CPUs, which have been on the market since last year, use almost identical naming conventions and can only be truly 100% distinguished from their brand new counterparts based on the socket they are designed for (if in doubt, check a CPU’s retail box before buying). For instance, the Athlon 64 4000+ that has been on sale for months now will only slot onto a socket 939 motherboard. This socket applies to all this last generation of AMD dual-core desktop processors (the 3800+, 4200+ and so on). Similarly to Intel, with the continued roll-out of dual-core AMD chips, you can expect the firm’s single-core CPU offerings to dry up very soon. However, if you find a single-core AMD in a store today, it’s likely to be a Athlon 64 3000+, or maybe a 3200+. Both of these inhabit the same socket 939 described above. If you still have questions, hit us on Otherwise, get building! ||**||

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