In spite of such a good success of SiS on the arena of high-performance chipsets gained during the last several years the company keeps on reaping the fruits of the "lost 90s". Its image has recently fallen down to the ALi's level and now it's ought to restore it with great difficulties. Although SiS648 is proved to be the most efficient chipset among those designed for Pentium 4 with DDR support, and SiS645DX was one of the best solutions in its category, the developers consider these chipsets just a cheap alternative to the Intel's brand.
And the consequences are the following: all manufacturers provide standard functions for their solutions based on the SiS chipsets: instead of normal audio controllers or expensive codecs they mount something cheaper, a network interface is obligatory, and other features are provided only if they are supported on the chipset's level. Although there are no rules without exceptions, the general situation looks like the described above, which is proved by a narrower width of such boards which is typical of office products. Besides, such boards usually have a no-frills design, i.e. there is no a model row where the boards could differ in controllers and connectors.
So, SiS products still bear a label of average inexpensive solutions, and the manufacturers still consider them cheap products which, without added functions, will remain only budget chipsets. We hope that our regular readers are able to give a just mark to SiS's products and choose a high-performance, feature-laden and inexpensive board based on the SiS645DX or SiS648.
Given to the early release of the SiS645DX chipset and an unstable operation of boards based on it with the PC3200 memory, most board makers didn't provide support for that memory speed, that is why we used DDR400 modules as DDR333 with lowered timings. For the SiS648 based models we used the memory in its rated mode with the increased timings. Which approach bears more fruit will be shown in the test results and now take a look at the characteristics of the today's contestants:
Test resultsI'm setting off with the synthetic memory test Wstream to explore the difference between the chipsets.
Well, even with the increased timings the flow throughput of the DDR400 is greater by around 200 MB/s than that of the DDR333. As the test is synthetic we are not going to compare the boards.
In the MPEG4 encoding which also uses a flow memory load, only the ASUS's board (on SiS648) gained a marginal breakaway, and the scores of the other participants make a regular staircase (the difference between two its ends is 3%), and all the SiS645DX based boards go last.
The WinAce archiving is one more test which shows how the boards work with memory, and here the boards on the different chipsets are mixed up because the memory speed is more important factor here. The leaders are the boards from ASUS and Gigabyte, and the outsider is the FIC VI11, the gap between the other samples reaches 5%.
The SYSmark 2002 benchmark doesn't let us say that the SiS648 is definitely a winner (its real business applications doesn't need much memory), and the MSI 645 Max2-LRU looks excellent, though the performance crown still belongs to the board coupled with DDR400 - ASUS P4S8X.
In the 3D games the contest looks more intriguing than ever. Remember that in low resolutions in the low detailing mode the test turns into a competition of the processor-memory bundles (with some deviation depending on the game engine), that is why this test looks more theoretical, like the Wstream. We can see, however, that in the heavy conditions we took measurements in the difference between the chipsets/memory types is still noticeable and the performance is not limited by a video accelerator (it will be limited in higher resolutions and with more complicated graphics). So, even the fastest 3D accelerator can be coupled today with a SiS648 based board and used with the DDR400 for games. The models from ASUS or Gigabyte will be quite a good choice (their scores are a little higher compared to the rest).
ConclusionThe SiS648 based board with the DDR400 will be a justified purchase if you believe in SiS and want a high-performance base for a Pentium 4 system. Also remember that the SiS648+DDR333 bundle is no better compared to the SiS645DX.
If you want my advice on what to choose among to today's contestants, take a look at the ASUS P4S8X and Gigabyte 8SG667; besides, the ASUS, MSI 648 Max and Shuttle AS45GTR have a nice set of components and rich functions; and the ABIT SR7-8X and MSI 648 Max provide decent adjustability and plenty of room for overclocking .
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.
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