i875 Motherboard RoundUp MSI, DFI & Chaintech

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3-Way i875P "Canterwood" Shoot-Out
MSI, DFI & Chaintech Square Off...

By, Marco Chiappetta
June 18, 2003

         

Intel's i875P "Canterwood", as well as the i865 "Springdale" chipsets, have generated quite a buzz within the enthusiast community and for good reason!  It has been almost three years since the release of the i850 chipset, and only now is there a viable alternative for users seeking peak performance from their Pentium 4 systems.  Sure, there was the i850E and Intel's first dual-channel DDR266 chipset the E7205 "Granite Bay", but neither one of these chipsets were terribly exciting.  The i850E was basically a rehash of the i850 but with "official" 533MHz bus support and the "Granite Bay" didn't have truly dominant performance, trading benchmark victories with the i850.  In fact, a few popular manufacturers like Abit and Soyo passed on these chipsets altogether, never releasing products based on either one.  All the while, the AMD camp had been blessed with a slew of cool next generation chipsets from VIA and NVIDIA.  So, where was Intel?  Well, they weren't sitting on their hands waiting for RAMBUS to deliver faster RDRAM.  They were hard at work designing the i875P "Canterwood" chipset, that powers the three motherboards we'll be looking at today. 

We have already taken a look at a few boards based on the i875P chipset and can safely say Intel has a winning combination on their hands.  Intel not only raised the performance bar with the i875P, but they integrated a myriad of new features as well.  Intel has finally given Pentium 4 fans a reason to get excited about a new chipset release.  As as result, virtually all of the major OEMs have since introduced products based on the i875P.  In this article we'll be looking at three full-featured "Canterwood" boards, the 875P Neo-FIS2R from MSI, the LANPARTY Pro875 from DFI and Chaintech's 9CJS.  All three of these products offer some intriguing, relatively unique features.  What do you say we nix the "small talk", bring an end to this prologue and see what these bad-boys are made of?  We thought you'd like that...


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Specifications of the Intel i875P "Canterwood" Chipset
Intel's Best Yet...

We have already covered the i875P "Canterwood" chipset in detail, so we won't spend too much time on it here.  The i875P's main attractions are its Dual-Channel DDR400 capable memory controller, PAT (Performance Acceleration Technology), full AGP8X support, CSA (Communication Streaming Architecture) network bus technology, native SATA interface (with RAID 0 and soon RAID 1 on the ICH5R) and official 800MHz system bus support.  The Dual-Channel DDR400 memory controller with "PAT", which offers up to 6.4GB/s of total bandwidth at default clock speeds, is the main reason for the i875P's high end performance, but each of the features listed above increase overall performance on their own merits as well.  The "CSA" gives the Gigabit Ethernet controller a direct 266MB/s link to the Northbridge, alleviating the 133MB/s PCI bottleneck and the native SATA drive interface increases theoretical peak data transfer rates to 150MB/s.


The Bundles:

MSI 875P-NEO FIS2R 
        

MSI - The MSI 875P Neo-FIS2R came with the most "traditional" bundle.  There may not have been any flashy items like a remote control or PC tote, but the bundle was very complete nonetheless.  Inside the box, we found four SATA cables, two SATA-to-Molex power adapters, a standard floppy cable and a single rounded 80-Wire IDE cable.  A user's manual and SATA RAID guide are also included, along with a custom I/O port shield, a case badge and three case brackets, one with digital audio connectors, one with dual IEEE-1394 ports and the last with two USB 2.0 ports and diagnostic LEDs.  A driver CD-ROM and floppy disks with drivers for both on-board RAID controllers shipped with the board, as well as a utility CD containing Adobe Photoshop Album SE, WinDVD 4, WinRIP 2, Virtual Drive 7, Restore IT! 3 and Media Ring.
 

DFI "LANPARTY" PRO875
        

        

DFI "LANPARTY" - DFI bundles their "LANPARTY" Pro875 with an impressive list of goodies, that are designed to appeal to LAN gamers who frequently move their systems from one location to another.  Included with the board, we found two rounded 80-Wire IDE cables, a single rounded floppy cable and two SATA cables.  Unfortunately, DFI only bundled a single SATA-to-Molex power adapter.  There is also a Quick Reference poster included, in addition to a case badge, a large "LANPARTY" decal, a custom I/O shield and two case brackets for a game port and digital audio connectors.  Driver floppies and a driver CD-ROM are also bundled with the board along with a copy of Intervideo's WinCinema video editing software.  Lastly, DFI included a set of FrontX Multimedia ports, that bring audio and USB connectors to the front of your system, and a "PC Transpo" that makes carrying a system and its accessories much easier.
 

CHAINTECH 9CJS
        

  

CHAINTECH - The Chaintech 9CJS had, what we consider to be, the best bundle of the group.  Chaintech included a case badge, a 4-in-1 screwdriver, a custom I/O shield, two rounded 80-Wire IDE cables, a rounded floppy cable, an optical audio cable, two SATA cables and two SATA-to-Molex power adapters.  A riser card, with IEEE-1394 "Firewire" and digital audio connectors, was included as well.  Three CDs were also bundled with the board, one with drivers and utilities, one with the user's manual is digital form and another with copies of Norton Antivirus 2002, Adobe Activeshare and Adobe's Acrobat and eBook readers.  The most interesting accessories were Chaintech's "Handigator" and C-Box3.  The C-Box3 adds a myriad of valuable features to the 9CJS, namely a 6-in-1 card reader and front mounted IEEE-1394, USB and audio connectors.  The C-Box3 also has a diagnostic LED readout, similar to the on-board P80P Debug (POST) controller found on motherboards like the EPoX 8K7A and Abit TH7-II.  The "Handigator" remote control was another welcome addition.  With the Handigator, users can power their systems on or off and control applications like Internet Explorer, WinDVD or WinAMP, among others.  The remote control also doubles as wireless mouse.  Our only gripe with the Handigator is that it is an IR remote, so it works only when pointed directly at the IR sensor on the front of the C-Box3.

Let's Take A Look At The Boards...

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