ASUS has decided to use the P965 “Mainstream Desktop Chipset” (as branded by Intel) for the Commando over the 975X “Performance Desktop Chipset”. If you take a look around you will see that some manufacturers use the 975X for their top-end overclocking-friendly motherboards (e.g. the
Abit AW9D-MAX we previously reviewed), while others have gone with the P965 instead, such as
Gigabyte’s GA-965P-DQ6.

The reason behind this is that the P965 is in fact a much newer chipset than the 975X. Despite being placed lower down in the (marketing) scheme of things, the P965 is actually not worse than the 975X, as you will see below.

975x  ASUS Commando P965

Comparing the P965 to the 975X is a rather tricky thing – The P965 is a step forward in terms of technology; it includes new features and improved performance (e.g. Fast Memory Access Technology, better USB and SATA performance). Yet some things seem to have taken a slight step back – Crossfire support is currently limited and works in x16/x4 lane configuration instead of x8/x8, the removal of Ultra ATA support completely is also debatable. Also, the overclocking capabilities of the chipsets are also the source of debate, with some believing in better overclocks with the 975X while others going for the P965. Take note also that older 975X-based motherboards may not have support for Core 2 CPUs.

p965  ASUS Commando P965

In case you found all of that confusing, we have presented briefly the differences between the P965 and the 975X below:

P965975X
ICH8ICH7
6 SATA ports4 SATA ports
No Ultra ATA/IDE Support2 Ultra ATA/IDE Ports
Supports DDR2-800Supports DDR2-667**
6 SATA ports4 SATA ports
10 USB ports on 2 controllers (Dual EHCI)8 USB ports on 1 controller
1 PCIe x16 lane and
1 PCIe x4 lane for Crossfire*
2 PCIe x8 lanes for Crossfire

* Only certain cards in the X19xx series currently supported; BIOS update from motherboard manufacturer may be neccessary. Graphics card compatibility table can be found here.
** Many manufacturers have included options for higher ratios (DDR2-800) in the BIOS, and most users should have no issues using DDR2-800 memory with the 975X.

ASUS using the P965 here is thus not such a surprise, considering that it is on par with the 975X, featuring newer technology, and actually better in some areas. We will soon find just how good the Commando really is, but first we are going to take a closer look at the board’s features and layout…