Intel D865GBF 865G Motherboard Review
Springdale Goes Mainstream, With Graphics

By: Chris Angelini
and Dave Altavilla
May 21st, 2003

 

Board Layout and BIOS of the D865GBF
Features, Performance, and Value, Oh My!

Intel has, as we'd expect, done a fair job at laying out components on the D865GBF.  Ten electrolytic capacitors flank the Socket 478 processor interface and the 865G MCH is passively cooled with a large aluminum heat sink, but for the most part, there is plenty of room to work around the board.  The memory slots are positioned parallel to each other and are labeled to ensure that the user enables dual-channel memory operation.  The 4-pin auxiliary power connector isn't in an optimal location, but Intel's choice for the 20-pin ATX connector was much better.  You'll also notice that there is a lot of excess space at the bottom of the D865GBF, due in part to the number of features Intel has integrated into the ICH5.  At the back of the board, Intel has included four USB 2.0 ports, an RJ-45 port with Gigabit Ethernet compliance, a 15-pin VGA output, one serial port, a parallel port, PS/2 connections and three, 1/8" mini-plugs for audio. 

     

 

When Intel's E7205 chipset launched, the big news was that the platform utilized dual-channel DDR266 memory for a combined 4.2GB per second of bandwidth.  This go 'round, Intel has incorporated dual channel DDR400 support to compliment the 800MHz front side bus.  The 875P chipset includes similar capabilities; the main difference between the two is that 875P also comes equipped with Intel's Performance Acceleration Technology, purportedly giving it a performance edge.  But even while Intel cites DDR400 compliance for its 865G platform, we were unable to boot the board using programmed SPD settings.


One AGP 8x and six PCI slots


Integrated SATA Controller


Even though the D865GBF can technically be viewed as a mainstream product, Intel has forsaken the CNR slot normally found at the bottom of its boards.  Instead, Intel includes integrated audio and Gigabit Ethernet, which comes compliments of Intel's new CSA bus, as previously mentioned.  The board sports a total of six PCI slots and a single AGP 8x slot.  Fortunately, none of the AGP problems we ran into with the E7205 chipset and RADEON cards ever materialized, and it seems that Intel has patched up the erratum previously responsible for random rebooting.  

Back when we reviewed Intel's D845PEBT2 i845PE board, we noticed that the memory slots came a bit close to the installed AGP card and the same potential hazard exists with the D865GBF.  If you're looking to perform a memory upgrade, the graphics card will certainly have to come out first.  Of course, the new ICH5 lends the board native support for Serial ATA.  Proponents of Serial ATA RAID will have to look elsewhere, though, since only the ICH5-R includes that feature.  Intel's D865PERL is one alternative with software-based RAID 0.

  

The BIOS:

There are more than a few third-party motherboard manufacturers that have developed reputations for building high-quality boards and then including capable BIOS options to unlock the hardware's potential.  Intel, for the most part, has historically opted to equip its boards with more conservative settings, the sort that business and OEMs favor for ease of use.  Let's face it: without the option to overclock, frying processors becomes significantly more difficult.  But Intel's staunch anti-overclocking stance has loosened up as of late.  The D865GBF includes a special Burn-In mode that facilitates, at maximum, a four percent overclock.  So, our 3GHz engineering sample was bumped up to a comfortable 3120MHz.  Additionally, the board features several options for adjusting memory timings, many of which were incidentally too aggressive for the board itself (our XMS3200LL modules work at 2-2-2-5 on several other boards).  Beyond the "enthusiast" features, the D865GBF's BIOS has a few AGP and USB configuration settings.

  

  

  

A standard hardware monitoring screen shows voltages, fan speeds and temperature readings on the board, though there are no adjustable voltage options within the BIOS.  Intel also offers a software utility that displays these same readings from within Windows.  The main BIOS screen contains general system information, as well as a switch for Hyper Threading (in the case of applicable processors, like the newly released 2.4, 2.6, and 2.8GHz Pentium 4 chips). 

Intel Extreme Graphics 2:

One of the more significant selling points for Intel's D865GBF is its integrated graphics, based on the 266MHz core previously found in the i845GE MCH and updated with AGP 8x support.  We'd suppose that Intel is adding a "2" to its Extreme Graphics moniker because the 865G provides for more graphics bandwidth, thanks to the dual-channel DDR400 memory configuration.  Even still, the graph above speaks for itself.  Intel will need a lot more than extra memory bandwidth if it wants to compete with some of the other integrated graphics products we've been hearing about.  Intel's 865G does provide impressive 2D image quality.  But, if you are going to venture into 3D, pick up a RADEON 9000, at the very least.

     

  
Intel Extreme Graphics 2 Driver Properties

 

PC Mark 2002, XMPEG and Unreal Tournament 2003