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Intel 845GE Based Mainboard Roundup

February 24, 2003



After the recent publication of the comparative review of 15 boards on the i845PE, it's hard to find anything new about the integrated version of the same chipset. Our faithful readers have certainly defined the market position of the latest series of the Intel's uni-channel chipsets, estimated functions of the i845PE based solutions and now can easily apply it to the new models. 

Beside the official support of the DDR333 memory that worked well in our tests, the i845GE adds a higher frequency of the graphics core to the advantages of the predecessor i845G. You can estimate the performance in the comparison of the modern integrated chipsets, and here I can describe it as a rather good chipset for games which are 3-5 years old but unacceptable for modern and future games. However, I doubt that owners of i845GE based models will all use the integrated core for games - most of them will be satisfied with the decent 2D quality. 

Test conditions

Testbed: 

  • Processor: Intel Pentium 4 2.8 GHz (21x133 MHz), Socket 478 
  • Mainboards on i845GE: 
  • Memory: 2x256 MB PC3200(DDR400) DDR SDRAM DIMM Winbond, CL 2.5 (used as DDR333 with CL 2) 
  • Video card: Palit Daytona GeForce4 Ti 4600 
  • Hard drive: IBM IC35L040AVER07-0, 7200 rpm

Software: 

  • OS and drivers: 
    • Windows XP Professional SP1 
    • DirectX 8.1 
    • Intel chipset software installation utility 4.00.1012 
    • Intel Application Accelerator 2.3 
    • NVIDIA Detonator XP 40.72 (VSync=Off) 

  • Test applications: 
    • VirtualDub 1.4.10 + DivX codec 5.02 Pro 
    • WinAce 2.11 
    • MadOnion 3DMark 2001 SE build 330 
    • Gray Matter Studios & Nerve Software Return to Castle Wolfenstein v1.1 
    • Croteam/GodGames Serious Sam: The Second Encounter v1.07 

Here are the brief comparison characteristics of the tested boards:
 

Board ABIT BG7E ASUS P4GE-V Gigabyte 8GE667 Pro Intel D845GERG2 QDI PlatiniX 8/333 Soltek 85MR3-R
Links ABIT BG7E ASUS P4GE-V Gigabyte 8GE667 Pro Intel D845GERG2 QDI PlatiniX 8/333 Soltek 85MR3-R
Chipset Intel i845GE (RG82845GE + FW82801DB)
Processor support Socket 478, Intel Pentium 4, Intel Celeron
Memory slots 3 DDR 3 DDR 3 DDR 2 DDR 2 DDR 2 DDR
Expansion slots AGP/ 5 PCI AGP/ 6 PCI AGP/ 6 PCI AGP/ 3 PCI AGP/ 6 PCI AGP/ 6 PCI
I/O ports 1 FDD, 2 COM, 1 LPT, 2 PS/2 1 FDD, 2 COM, 1 LPT, 2 PS/2 1 FDD, 2 COM, 1 LPT, 2 PS/2 1 FDD, 1 COM, 1 LPT, 2 PS/2 1 FDD, 2 COM, 1 LPT, 2 PS/2 1 FDD, 2 COM, 1 LPT, 2 PS/2
USB 2 USB 2.0 + 2 connectors with 2 USB 2.0 each 4 USB 2.0 + 1 connector for 2 USB 2.0 2 USB 2.0 + 2 connectors with 2 USB 2.0 each 4 USB 2.0 + 1 connector for 2 USB 2.0 2 USB 2.0 + 2 connectors with 2 USB 2.0 each 2 USB 2.0 + 2 connectors with 2 USB 2.0 each
FireWire - 2 connectors on 1 port - - - -
Integrated IDE controller ATA100
External IDE controller - Promise PDC20376 - - - Promise PDC20376
Sound AC'97 codec, Avance Logic ALC650 AC'97 codec, Analog Devices AD1980 AC'97 codec, Avance Logic ALC650 AC'97 codec, Analog Devices AD1980 AC'97 codec, Avance Logic ALC650 AC'97 codec, Avance Logic ALC650
Integrated network controller Realtek RTL8100B Broadcom BCM5702CKFB (Gigabit Ethernet) Intel i82562EZ 10BaseT/ 100BaseTX - -
Card Reader support - - SMC - - -
I/O controller Winbond W83627HF-AW ITE IT8708F-A ITE IT8712F-A SMSC LPC47M172-NR Winbond W83627HF-AW ITE IT8712F-A
BIOS 4 Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG 4 Mbit Award BIOS v6.0 3 Mbit Award BIOS v6.00PG 2 Mbit Intel BIOS v6.00 2 Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG 3 Mbit AMI BIOS v3.31a
Form-factor, dimensions ATX, 30.5x22.5 cm ATX, 30.5x23 cm ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm  mATX, 24.5x21 cm ATX, 30.5x23.5 cm ATX, 30.5x23 cm
Set of accessories ordinary good ordinary ordinary ordinary ordinary
Adjustment and overclocking settings rich rich average minimal average rich

 

Test results

The MPEG4 encoding and WinAce archiving make possible to estimate the difference between the boards in the speed of operation with memory, i.e. where it depends on BIOS and other things peculiar to a certain model. The ASUS P4GE-V takes the lead, the Gigabyte 8GE667 Pro is a leader in the middle team and Intel and Soltek are a little behind. The maximum gap is 5-6% with the leaders and outsiders being 3% on average away from the main group. 

The difference between the boards will be noticeable only in applications where the performance depends mostly on the memory. Other applications which, for example, depend more on the CPU's efficiency (like final rendering in 3ds max) may show difference between these mainboards. 

A good example is modern games with dynamic interactive scenes in 3D which require a high memory transfer rate but which show almost no difference between close processors and close chipsets when used with modern video accelerators even in the lowest (not gaming) resolutions. It's waste of time to single out leaders and outsiders because the difference in the scores do not exceed the measuring inaccuracy. 

If you compare the figures obtained with one of the i845PE based boards, you will see that the range in values of the today's six coincide with that shown by 15 models based on the discrete chipset version. In operation with the external video accelerator it's not the chipsets that differ but the boards, and the gap is too small after all. 

Conclusion

Well, only the ASUS P4GE-V operates faster than the others in some tests. The Intel D845GERG2 board is a little slower than its counterparts, though the difference is intangible. But the most important conclusion is that all manufacturers admit that the i845GE is a budget, office solution and they made cheap products free from modern controller interfaces and other frills. In such conditions the performance difference is not important, and the price seems to be a determining factor. 

The accessory packs are not impressive, and although the pack of the ASUS P4GE is the best among the today's contestants, it is still rather scarce according to the standards. The functions can be compared in the table above; and as to overclocking potential and adjustments, the ASUS and ABIT BG7E look a bit better in this respect. 
 
 
  


Dmitry Mayorov (destrax@ixbt.com
Sergey Pikalov (peek@ixbt.com

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