i845PE Motherboard Shootout - HotHardware

i845PE Motherboard Shootout

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The I845PE Motherboard Shootout
Clash of the Titans!

By Robert Maloney
December 11,  2002

   

The vast majority of motherboards for the Pentium 4 generally come in two varieties, those using RDRAM and others using DDR SDRAM clocked at 266MHz.  While the consensus was that RDRAM was the performance leader, pricing and availability issues forced more and more manufacturers and users to gravitate towards DDR SDRAM.  When VIA released the KT333 Chipset, it provided the first real support for what was then the fastest speed of RAM available, that being PC2700 or DDR333.  This provided a performance boost that sent many users over to the Athlon camp.  Intel, however, seemed to be waiting for just the right moment to update their chipset lineup with support for faster DDR RAM.  It appears that moment has arrived with the release of the Intel 845PE and 845GE chipsets. 

The Intel 845PE chipset was designed and optimized to work with Intel Pentium 4 processors supporting Hyper-Threading technology.  Hyper-threading is Intel's latest breakthrough, allowing the CPU to complete more tasks within a period of time and thereby maximizing its efficiency.  Dave has provided a complete overview of Pentium 4 CPUs with HT technology that you can review here.   Motherboards using the Intel 845PE chipset will also offer integrated USB 2.0 technology and onboard AC'97 audio allowing for 6 channel output.  By and large, however, the major addition to the new PE chipset is official support for DDR333 RAM, providing for more memory bandwidth and improved system performance.   Up for testing in the HotHardware labs today, we have three motherboards based on the Intel 845PE Chipset from some of the biggest names in the industry, MSI, Abit and Gigabyte.  Which one will reign supreme?  Let's find out...

Specifications & Features
Let's bring out the contenders!

MSI 845PE Max2-FIR
 

 

CPU
Supports Socket 478 Intel Pentium 4 processors
Supports 400/533MHz FSB
 

Chipset
Intel 82845PE MCH

Intel 82801DB ICH4

Memory
 Three DDR 2.5V DIMM sockets
 supporting up to 2GB DDR333/DDR266 SDRAM


IDE

Two PCI bus-mastering IDE ports
supporting Ultra DMA 66/100

Two ATA 133 IDE channels for onboard RAID 0/1/0+1 using Promise 20276 controller


Audio
On board CMI8738 MX audio chip
providing 6-channel sound

Supports optical and S/PDIF output

System BIOS
AMI BIOS with ACPI function

Expansion Slots
One 4X AGP 1.5V (Accelerated Graphics Port) slot
Six PCI v2.2 32-bit Bus mastering PCI slots
One CNR slot

LAN
Intel 82540EM Gigabit LAN Chip
supporting 10/100/1000 Mb/s

Internal I/O Connectors
One floppy port supporting two
1.2/1.44/2.88MB FDDs 
One IrDA connector
2 extra USB 2.0 ports
Three Firewire 1394 ports
Bluetooth connection
One CD-IN connection


Back Panel I/O
Two PS/2 connectors (keyboard and mouse)
One 9-pin Serial port
One 25-pin SPP/ECP/EPP Parallel port
Four USB 2.0 ports
3 Audio connectors (Line-out, Line-in, Mic-in)
One RJ45 LAN port

Miscellaneous

ATX form factor
30.5 cm x 24.5 cm (12" x 9.6")

Package Contents
MSI 845PE Max2-FIR Motherboard
Drivers and Utilities CD
RAID drivers floppy disk
Quick User's Guide
Quick Installation Manual
ATA 133 RAID Manual
SBracket (audio)
DBracket2 (USB and diagnostic LEDs)
Firewire ports bracket
ATA 133 IDE Cable
Floppy Cable
I/O shield
MSI Case Badge

 

Abit BE7 RAID
 

 

CPU
Supports Socket 478 Intel Pentium 4 processors
Supports 400/533MHz FSB

Chipset
Intel 845PE

Intel ICH4 (421BGA)


Memory
Three DDR 2.5V DIMM sockets
 supporting up to 2GB DDR333/DDR266 SDRAM


IDE

Two PCI bus-mastering IDE ports
supporting Ultra DMA 66/100

Two ATA 133 IDE channels for onboard RAID 0/1/0+1 using HighPoint HPT372 controller


Audio
On board Realtek ALC650 CODEC providing 6-channel sound

Supports optical and S/PDIF output

System BIOS
AWARD BIOS with ACPI function

Utilizes Abit's SoftMenu Technology

Expansion Slots
One 4X AGP 1.5V (Accelerated Graphics Port) slot
Five PCI v2.2 32-bit Bus mastering PCI slots

LAN
Realtek RTL8100B PCI Fast Ethernet Controller supporting 10/100 Mb/s

Internal I/O Connectors
One floppy port supporting
1.2/1.44/2.88MB FDD 
One IrDA connector
 USB 2.0 ports
One CD-IN and one AUX-IN connection

Back Panel I/O
Two PS/2 connectors (keyboard and mouse)
Two 9-pin Serial ports
One 25-pin SPP/ECP/EPP Parallel port
Two USB 2.0 ports
5 Audio connectors (Line-out, Line-in, Mic-in, Center/Sub and Back)
One S/PDIF Out connector
One RJ45 LAN port

Miscellaneous

ATX form factor
30.5 cm x 24.5 cm (12" x 9.6")

Package Contents
Abit BE7 RAID Motherboard
Drivers and Utilities CD
RAID drivers floppy disk
User's Manual
USB 2.0 ports bracket
Two ATA 100/133 IDE Cables
Floppy Cable
I/O shield

Gigabyte 8PE667 Ultra

 

CPU
Supports Socket 478 Intel Pentium 4 processors
Supports 400/533MHz FSB

Chipset
Intel 845PE

Intel ICH4 (421BGA)

Memory
Three DDR 2.5V DIMM sockets
 supporting up to 2GB DDR333/DDR266 SDRAM


IDE

Two PCI bus-mastering IDE ports
supporting Ultra DMA 66/100

Two ATA 133 IDE channels for onboard RAID 0/1/0+1 using Promise 20276 controller


Audio
On board Realtek ALC650E CODEC providing 6-channel sound

Supports optical and S/PDIF output

System BIOS
AWARD BIOS with ACPI function
Gigabyte patented DualBIOS

Expansion Slots
One 4X AGP 1.5V (Accelerated Graphics Port) slot
Six PCI v2.2 32-bit Bus mastering PCI slots
One CNR slot

LAN
IntelR PRO/100 VE LAN Chip
supporting 10/100 Mb/s

Internal I/O Connectors
One floppy port supporting two
1.2/1.44/2.88MB FDDs 
One IrDA connector
4 USB 2.0 ports
Memory Stick/Smart Card reader connectors
S/PDIF input/output (when using bracket)

Back Panel I/O
Two PS/2 connectors (keyboard and mouse)
Two 9-pin Serial ports
One 25-pin SPP/ECP/EPP Parallel port
Two USB 2.0 ports
3 Audio connectors (Line-out, Line-in, Mic-in)
One RJ45 LAN port
One Game port

Miscellaneous

ATX form factor
30.5 cm x 24.4 cm (12" x 9.6")

Package Contents
Gigabyte 8PE667 Ultra Motherboard
Drivers and Utilities CD
Installation Manual
Promise RAID manual
Quick PC Installation Guide
Motherboard connections decal
USB 2.0 ports bracket
Audio ports bracket
Two ATA 133 IDE Cables
Floppy Cable
I/O shield

Gigabyte Case Badge


Now that we've seen the specifications of each of the boards, what do you say we jump right in and take a closer look...

Let's check out the boards! 

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