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Intel 845E Based Mainboards Roundup

October 20, 2002



 

Two Intel's chipsets supporting DDR333 memory are already announced, and mainboards on them are going to glut the market very soon, but certainly, there are not many customers out there who will be charmed with such pricey cuties as there are almost identical models (and even with richer accessory packs) but coming on the old but time-proved i845E. Boards on this chipsets can be recommended right now instead of the older Intel's chipsets as they support USB 2.0 and other pleasant trifles of the ICH4 south bridge at the same or lower price. 

The prospects of upgrade of the i845E based models are not impressive at present but if you want a bird in the hand rather than two in the bush, they can be a good choice for you. For such users we offer today to take a look at the results of the second part of the roundup of the Intel 845E boards; the first part can be found here

Test conditions

Testbed: 
  • Processor: Intel Pentium 4 2.53 GHz (19x133 MHz), Socket 478 
  • Mainboards: 
  • Memory: 512 MB PC2700(DDR333) DDR SDRAM DIMM Samsung, CL 2 (used as DDR266 with CL 1.5) 
  • Video card: Palit Daytona GeForce4 Ti4600 
  • Hard drive: IBM IC35L040AVER07-0, 7200 rpm
Software: 
    OS and drivers: 
    • Windows XP Professional 
    • DirectX 8.1 
    • Intel chipset software installation utility 4.00.1013 
    • Intel Application Accelerator 2.2 
    • NVIDIA Detonator XP 29.42 (VSync=Off) 
    Test applications: 
    • 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 
The PC2700 memory was used in the tests as PC2100 with lower timings except in case of the Soltek 85DR2 as this board doesn't allow for CL 1.5 and we had to set CL 2, though it didn't have a great effect on the comparative performance of this model. 

Here are brief characteristics of all the boards of this round:

Board AOpen AX4B-533 Tube Chaintech 9EJL0 Chaintech 9EJL1 EPoX 4BEAR EPoX 4BEAV Gigabyte 8IEXP Soltek 85DR2
Links AOpen AX4B-533 Tube Chaintech 9EJL0 Chaintech 9EJL1 EPoX 4BEAR EPoX 4BEAV Gigabyte 8IEXP Soltek 85DR2
Chipset Intel i845E (RG82845E + FW82801DB(ICH4)) Intel i845E (RG82845E + FW82801BA(ICH2)) Intel i845E (RG82845E + FW82801DB(ICH4))
Processor support Socket 478, Intel Pentium 4 (400/533 MHz), Intel Celeron
Memory slots 3 DDR 2 DDR 2 DDR 3 DDR 3 DDR 3 DDR 2 DDR
Expansion slots AGP/ 3 PCI AGP/ 6 PCI/ CNR AGP/ 6 PCI/ CNR AGP/ 6 PCI AGP/ 5 PCI AGP/ 6 PCI/ CNR 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, 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, 3 IEEE 1394a 1 FDD, 2 COM, 1 LPT, 2 PS/2
USB 2 USB 2.0 + 2 connectors 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 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 2 USB 2.0 + 2 connectors for 2 USB 2.0
Integrated IDE controller ATA100
External IDE controller - - - HighPoint HPT372 - Promise PDC20276 -
Sound AC'97 codec, Avance Logic ALC650 PCI Audio, C-Media CMI8738/PCI-6ch-LX PCI Audio, C-Media CMI8738/PCI-6ch-LX AC'97 codec, Avance Logic ALC650 AC'97 codec, Avance Logic ALC201A PCI Audio, Creative CT5880-DEC AC'97 codec, Avance Logic ALC650
Integrated network controller 10BaseT/ 100BaseTX Realtek RTL 8100B Realtek RTL 8100B - - 10BaseT/ 100BaseTX -
I/O controller Winbond W83627HF-AW ITE IT8712F-A ITE IT8712F-A Winbond W83627HF-AW Winbond W83627HF-AW ITE IT8712F-A Winbond W83627HF-AW
BIOS 4Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG 2Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG 2Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG 2Mbit Phoenix AwardBIOS v6.00PG 2Mbit Award BIOS v6.00PG 4Mbit Award BIOS v6.00PG 2Mbit AMI BIOS v3.31a
Form-factor, dimensions ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm ATX, 30.5x23 cm ATX, 30.5x23 cm ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm ATX, 30.5x24.5 cm ATX, 30.5x22 cm
Set of accessories ambiguous ordinary good ordinary ordinary good ordinary
Adjustment and overclocking settings average average rich rich rich rich rich

Test results

The difference in the MPEG4 encoding speed is intangible in spite of a great load on the memory subsystem. The Gigabyte's solution looks a little more efficient, but the outsider (AOpen) is only 2% behind. 

In case of the WinAce archiving which puts a greater load onto the memory and uses a different algorithm, the difference between the boards is more considerable - the leaders here are EPoX and Chaintech 9EJL1 (which justifies the name of the series :)). The maximum gap is 5.5%, the typical one is a little over 3%. 

The scores in the SYSmark 2002 differ a lot, which can be explained by the nature of the benchmark and by deep differences in functioning of the boards. On the top we have two Chaintech's models and EPoX 4BEAV, while the boards from AOpen and Gigabyte fall into the last positions. 

The SPECviewperf packet estimates performance of professional OpenGL accelerators and looks for flaws in realization of the AGP and problems with the memory throughput. It seems that in this case any such flaws are missing, and the leading Chaintech 9EJL1 and EPoX 4BEAV outscore the others by only 2%. 

The situation is the same in the 3D games and gaming benchmarks: the gap between the champions and the losers is just 3%. 

Conclusion

In these tests I'd like to marks out the Chaintech 9EJL1 (which didn't disgrace the name of the Apogee series) and EPoX 4BEAV which, under the greatest load on all system components, looked a little better than their rivals. Taking into account the excellent combination of the accessory pack and tuning/overclocking capabilities of the Chaintech's model, we thus get an informal leader of the second round of the tests. Also, I'd like to note that the Gigabyte's solution got excellent scores in the take-me! contest, and the AOpen's board has an intriguing set of accessories in spite of its not the fastest performance. 

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

In the third part you will have the honor to meet the i845E based models from Intel, Tyan and some other less-known companies.  


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

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