iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






6 Intel 845E Based Mainboards Roundup

The i845E chipset is on the top, at least until the fall's series of the Intel's chipsets supporting DDR333. The i850x line is taken out of the roundup, and the support of a 533MHz processor bus, DDR200/266 memory and operation together with ICH4 provides the best functionality exactly for the i845E. At the same time, the chipset is not burdened with an integrated entry-level graphics core, unlike the i845G, that is why anyone who wants to assemble a Pentium 4 based system which will sometimes be used for modern 3D games is not forced to overpay for unnecessary functions. 

The DDR333 support is a separate story: it can unofficially be included into i845G chipsets, but the tests show that it either doesn't work or works awfully. Some companies were able to develop models compatible with the certified PC2700 modules, but they seem to be an exception. The lovers of overclocking should take a look at the Albatron PX845E Pro II which allows setting the memory speed at 178(356) MHz - although there is no such memory standard, high-quality DDR333 modules (or so called DDR400) will probably be able to work at it. It's clear that it's inappropriate to make any claims to manufacturers of the mainboard and memory in case of failures. 

So, the i845E based boards are probably the best choice for those who want to use Pentium 4 processors coupled with an Intel's chipset and who don't need any embedded graphics video accelerator. The expected popularity of the i845E made many companies develop their own boards on this chipset. Today we will test the first 6 boards; the second part will appear a little later. 

Test conditions

Testbed:  Software: 
  • Windows XP Professional 
  • DirectX 8.1 
  • Intel Inf 4.00.1013 
  • Intel Application Accelerator 2.2 
  • NVIDIA Detonator XP 29.42 (VSync=Off) 
  • VirtualDub 1.4.10 + DivX codec 5.02 Pro 
  • WinAce 2.11 
  • BAPCo & MadOnion SYSmark 2002 Internet Content Creation 
  • BAPCo & MadOnion SYSmark 2002 Office Productivity 
  • SPECviewperf 7.0 
  • 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 brief characteristics of all boards tested today:

Board Abit BD7II-RAID Abit IT7 Albatron PX845E Pro II ASUS P4B533-E Jetway 845EDAK QDI PlatiniX 2E-6A
Links Abit BD7II-RAID Abit IT7 Albatron PX845E Pro II ASUS P4B533-E Jetway 845EDAK QDI PlatiniX 2E-6A
Processor support Socket 478, Intel Pentium 4 (400/533 MHz), Intel Celeron
Memory slots 3 DDR 3 DDR 3 DDR 3 DDR 2 DDR 2 DDR
Expansion slots AGP/ 5 PCI AGP/ 4 PCI AGP/ 6 PCI AGP/ 6 PCI/ CNR AGP/ 5 PCI/ CNR AGP/ 6 PCI/ CNR
I/O ports 1 FDD, 2 COM, 1 LPT, 2 PS/2 1 FDD, 3 IEEE1394 1 FDD, 2 COM, 1 LPT, 2 PS/2 1 FDD, 2 COM, 1 LPT, 2 PS/2, 2 IEEE1394 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 for 2 USB 2.0 6 USB 2.0 + 2 connectors for 2 USB 2.0 2 USB 2.0 + 2 connectors for 2 USB 2.0 4 USB 2.0 + 1 connector for 2 USB 2.0 2 USB 2.0 + 2 connectors for 2 USB 2.0 2 USB 2.0 + 2 connectors for 2 USB 2.0
Integrated IDE controller ATA100
External IDE controller HighPoint HPT372 HighPoint HPT374 Promise PDC20276 Promise PDC20276 Promise PDC20275 -
Sound AC'97 codec, Avance Logic ALC650 AC'97 codec, Avance Logic ALC650 AC'97 codec, Avance Logic ALC650 PCI Audio, C-Media CMI8738/PCI-6ch-MX AC'97 codec, Avance Logic ALC650 AC'97 codec, Avance Logic ALC650
Integrated network controller Realtek RTL8100B Realtek RTL8100B 10BaseT/ 100BaseTX 10BaseT/ 100BaseTX - -
I/O controller Winbond W83627HF-AW Winbond W83627HF-AW Winbond W83637HF-AW ITE IT8708F-A Winbond W83627HF-AW Winbond W83627HF-AW
BIOS 4Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG 4Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG 3Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG 4Mbit Award BIOS v6.0 2Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG 2Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG
Form-factor, dimensions ATX,
30.5x21.5 cm
30.5x24.5 cm
30.5x24.5 cm
30.5x24.5 cm
30.5x24.5 cm
30.5x22.5 cm
Set of accessories ordinary good ordinary good ordinary ordinary
Adjustment and overclocking settings rich rich rich rich rich average


Test results

In the MPEG4 encoding with its strong stream load on the memory subsystem all boards perform equally: the scores do not exceed 3%. The Albatron's and ASUS's models look a little better, while the QDI's board falls behind by 7%. 

The situation is the same in the WinAce archiving: we have a tandem of 5 boards with the maximum gap of 2%, the Albatron takes the crown, the QDI's solution is behind (the gap is narrower now - 4%). 

In the synthetic test SYSmark 2002 which simulates simultaneous operation of typical business applications and Internet content creation ones the difference between the contestants vanishes away: it makes less than 4%; still, the ASUS's and Abit BD7II-RAID models score the best results. 

In the SPECviewperf packet which estimates performance in professional OpenGL applications the video accelerator has a great effect, that is why the maximum difference reached is 2%. The boards from Albatron and ASUS are leading by a petty margin. 

In games it isn't worth even calculating the difference - the bars are equally high. 


If you want to get the 2-3% gain in speed go with the Albatron PX845E Pro II and ASUS P4B533-V. And while it's typical of ASUS to be a champion, the newly-born Albatron looks very pleasing, especially considering its rich functions, though not so luxurious as of the Abit IT7 and ASUS P4B533-V, and excellent adjustment and overclocking tools. By the way, the second special Abit's board (the first is AT7) doesn't break performance records - probably right because of such fluffy functionality - but it will certainly sell well not just because of its speed. 

The general recommendations of choosing an appropriate system is to look through brief characteristics of the boards and then read descriptions of the models you like. After that, ignoring insignificant performance difference you should make your final choice taking into account the prices. 

Remember that this is just a first part of the tests; the second will come with interesting models from EPoX, a new model from Biostar and, certainly, from our grands: Chaintech, Gigabyte, Soltek and others.   

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

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