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ECS P4IBAD versus Transcend TSABR4
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Date: Mar 27, 2002
Section:Motherboards
Author: HH Editor
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ECS P4IBAD versus Transcend TSABR4 - Page 1

ECS P4IBAD versus Transcend TS-ABR4
Budget i845s Do Battle!

By, Marco Chiappetta
March  28, 2002

When the Pentium 4 was initially introduced, the only motherboards available were based on the Intel i850 chipset, which required the use of relatively expensive (at the time) RDRAM.  While the performance of an i850 / Pentium 4 combo was excellent, the price was prohibitive and kept Intel's new CPU out of the hands of many users.  Intel took too long to ready an alternate chipset that used less expensive memory types, which opened the door for companies like SiS and VIA to snatch up some of the Pentium 4 chipset market.  A Pentium 4 coupled with a SiS 645 or VIA P4X266A and some quality DDR RAM proved to be competent, high performance platform, at a significantly lower cost than the i850 with RDRAM.  This scenario prompted Intel to hasten the release of their DDR enabled chipset, the i845, which is the foundation of the two motherboards we'll be looking at today.

The ECS P4IBAD and Transcend TS-ABR4 are entry level motherboards designed to bring the performance of DDR memory to the Pentium 4, without the higher cost associated of legacy RDRAM based platforms.  We ran these two boards through our usual battery of test and compared them to one another throughout.  What do you say we find out how they fared...

Specifications / Features of the ECS and Transcend i845s
Bits and Pieces

Click any Image for an Enlarged view...

ECS P4IBAD

PROCESSORS:
Socket 478 supports the Intel Pentium 4 processor

CHIPSET:
Intel 82845 & 82801BA -- Memory Controller Hub (MCH), I/O Controller Hub 2 (ICH2) & Firmware Hub (FWH)

FEATURES:
Supports 4X AGP (AGP 2.0 Specification), 1.5V only
LPC I/O: ITE 8712F
HPT372 IDE RAID Controller with UDMA133 support (optional)
AC97 Audio Codec
Compliant with AC97 2.2 specification

MEMORY:
Two 184-pin DDR DIMM sockets for 2.5V DDR SDRAM (DDR266/DDR200)
Maximum: 2GB

SYSTEM BIOS:
Award BIOS with Flash ROM in Firmware Hub (FWH)
Supports Plug and Play 1.0A, AMP 1.2, Multi Boot, DMI
Full support for ACPI revision 1.0A specification

I/O INTERFACE:
Supports Plug and Play function
PS/2 keyboard and PS/2 mouse connectors
Dual USB Ports
One - EPP/ECP mode parallel port
Two - 16550 high-speed serial I/O port
Audio Ports (Line-in, Line-out, Mic-in, CD-in and game port)
Supports 360K~2.88M Byte, 3 Mode FDDs or LS120
Support eight ATA/ATAPI devices (four optional)
Standard: Dual PCI IDE interfaces - support four IDE devices (PIO Mode 4, DMA Mode 2, Ultra DMA66/100)
Option: Two independent ATA channels for another four IDE devices (PIO Mode 4, DMA Mode 2, Ultra DMA66/100/133)
ATX Power Supply Connector

PORTS HEADERS AND OTHERS:
IrDA header
Additional two USB ports (LUSB1 or USB2)
Front Panel MIC/Line-Out header
Chassis open detector header
Smart Card Reader header
HDD LED, ACPI MSG LED, Reset Switch, Power Switch headers
CPU, Power and Case Fan headers
LAN Card Wake Up / Internal Modem Ring Wake Up headers
RTC & BATTERY
Intel I/O Controller Hub 2 (ICH2) included
256 bytes of CMOS SRAM
With CMOS SRAM hardware clear jumper

EXPANSION SLOTS:
6 PCI slots
1 AGP slot
1 CNR slot

FORM FACTOR:
ATX (304mm*244mm)
4 Layers

 

Transcend TS-ABR4

PROCESSORS:
Intel Pentium 4 socket 478 CPU

CHIPSET:
Intel 845

SYSTEM BUS:
FSB 400 MHz

SYSTEM MEMORY:
2 x 184-pin DDR SDRAM support up to 2 GB
Support 1GB DDR SDRAM at 200/266 MHz

IDE:
2 x PCI Bus Master IDE Ports, support up to 4 devices
Supports DMA mode 2, PIO mode 3/4
Ultra DMA 33/66/100

ON-BOARD AUDIO:
Built-in AC97 CODEC audio control

EXPANSION SLOTS:
1 x AGP Pro 4x slot (1.5V AGP only)
5 x PCI slots (PCI v2.2 compliant)

I/O PORTS:
1 x FDD port (3 mode, 1.2/1.44/2.88MB FDD, LS120 )
1 x PS/2 Mouse port
1 x PS/2 Keyboard port
1 x Parallel port (SPP/EPP/ECP)
2 x RS232 port(16550 Fast UART compatible)
4 x USB ports (2 by cable)
1 x Audio Line-out/Line-in/MIC-in jack
1 x Game/MIDI connector
1 x IrDA port
PC99 color coding compliant

BIOS FUNCTIONS:
ezBIOS Live update, Anti-Virus, BIOS Protect, Linear Overclocking and ezLOGO
Award BIOS with Green, APM, Plug and Play, DMI functions
Enhanced ACPI Feature

SYSTEM HARDWARE MONITOR:
System voltage, temperature & fan status monitor
2 x fan status monitors with F/W programmable fan speed
CPU overheat alarm

OTHER FEATURES:
Alarm/Modem ring on
Software power off control
PC99/PC2001 compliant
Wake on LAN
Boot-up virus warning
Suspend to RAM (STR)
Power failure resume
CPU Core voltage adjustable

FORM FACTOR:
ATX Form Factor
4 layers PCB
9.5" x 12" (24.5cm x 30.5cm)

 
THE BUNDLES:

The ECS P4IBAD and Transcend TS-ABR4 both ship with what we'd consider a minimal bundle.  Inside their boxes, you won't find multiple UDMA/100 IDE cables, supplemental USB connectors, or plates for external Digital Audio outputs.  These boards weren't brought to market to impress you with their bundles though.  With these products, it's all about cost.

    

Packaged with both boards we found User's Manuals, single UDMA/100 IDE cables, floppy cables and a CD contain all of the necessary drivers and software to get the boards up and running.  The bundles may be a far cry from what a company like Soyo is offering, but they are adequate and don't require buyers to purchase anything extra, that is unless you want to utilize the secondary USB header.

ECS, the BIOS and the Board...

 
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ECS P4IBAD versus Transcend TSABR4 - Page 2

ECS P4IBAD versus Transcend TS-ABR4
Budget i845s Do Battle!

By, Marco Chiappetta
March  28, 2002

THE BIOS:

The ECS P4IBAD is equipped with a version of an Award BIOS that is similar to the vast majority of boards currently available.  If you take a look at the screenshots below, you'll probably be familiar with most of the items listed.

We did not find anything new in the P4IBAD's BIOS, but there was a full compliment of options to manipulate and tweak all of the on-board components and other features.  In the "Frequency / Voltage Control" section we found all of the overclocking options...

OVERCLOCKING OPTIONS:

As we browsed through the "Frequency / Voltage Control" section of the BIOS, it was obvious to us that ECS did not have serious overclockers in mind when they were designing the P4IBAD.  That's not to say you won't be able to overclock your CPU though.  In the "Frequency / Voltage Control" section, users have the ability to adjust the CPU core voltage from 1.1 to 1.85 volts, in .25 volt increments.  Users are also able to adjust the Front Side Bus from 100MHz. to 130MHz., in 2 or 3MHz. increments. (Look at the last screenshot for the exact FSBs available).  Missing from the BIOS is the ability to adjust the DDR and AGP voltages though, and we would have liked to have seen the FSB adjustable in 1MHz. increments.  While overclocking with the P4IBAD, we were able to a maximum FSB of 111MHz. (at default voltage) with our 2.2GHz. Pentium 4, brining our top overclocked speed to 2.442GHz.

The ECS P4IBAD Layout
Nice and Clean!

We were pleased with many of the physical attributes of the ECS P4IBAD.  The most obvious "feature" of the P4IBAD, was it's lavender PCB.  I know some of you might think the color is a little feminine, but I think it's really cool. In any case, it's far more appealing than the boring green we've been forced to endure over the years!

     

The 6 PCI / 1 AGP / 1 CNR slot configuration was also a pleasant find, and we wish that other manufacturers would adopt it.  This slot configuration offers the most expansion possibilities with virtually no drawbacks.  The AGP slot had a locking mechanism that will help keep your video card locked in place while your machine is in-transit.  Next to the AGP slot, we can see the passive heatsink mounted to the Northbridge.  We prefer active cooling be applied to the Northbridge, but throughout testing the heatsink barely got warm.

     

The P4IBAD had two DIMM slots allowing for a maximum of 2GB of memory.   Also visible in the picture are the floppy and IDE connections, which are all grouped together, and mounted parallel to the edge of the board. In the second picture we can see the locations where the third and fourth IDE connectors would be, should you opt for the version of the P4IBAD that is equipped with on-board RAID.  The only thing we didn't like about the P4IBAD's layout was the ATX power connector placement.  Its mounted right behind the external connectors, way down near the AGP slot.  Looking at the external connectors, the only things worth pointing out are the game port and audio connectors.  The P4IBAD may not be loaded with extras, but it does have on-board AC'97 compliant sound!  It's not Hercules Game Theater, but it's better than nothing! :)



The TS-ABR4 Up Close...

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ECS P4IBAD versus Transcend TSABR4 - Page 3

ECS P4IBAD versus Transcend TS-ABR4
Budget i845s Do Battle!

By, Marco Chiappetta
March  28, 2002

TESTING METHODOLOGY:

As we've mentioned in previous reviews, because we have seen quite a variation in benchmark scores from one site to the next, we feel it is necessary to explain exactly how we configure each test system before we run any benchmarks. The first thing we did was enter the system BIOS and set the board to it's "High Performance Default" settings. We then set the Memory frequency to 133MHz, and set the CAS Latency and other memory timings to 2-7-2-2. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows XP Professional was installed. After XP was completely installed, we hit the Windows Update site and downloaded all of the available updates, with the exception of Windows Messenger. Then we installed all of the necessary drivers, disabled Windows Messenger, disabled Auto-Updates, set a 768MB swapfile and disabled System Restore. Lastly we set the Visual Effects to "best performance", installed all of the benchmarking software, defragged the hard drive and ran the tests at the CPU's default and overclocked speeds.  Now, on with the results...

The Hot Hardware Test Systems
It took 30 years to hit 1GHz, and 18 months to hit 2GHz!

 
HARDWARE USED:
Pentium 4 2.2GHz (2200MHz. Northwood Core)

 

ECS P4IBAD i845D S478 Motherboard

Transcend TS-ABR4 i845D Motherboard

 

256MB Crucial PC2100 DDR SDRAM

30GB IBM 75GXP 7200 RPM Hard Drive

On-Board AC'97 Sound

Linksys 10/100 NIC

GeForce 3 Ti500 (240MHz. Core / 500MHz. Memory)

16X Acer DVD-ROM Drive

Standard 3.5 Floppy Drive

 

SOFTWARE USED:

Windows XP Professional

DirectX 8.1

NVIDIA Reference Drivers 27.50

Intel Chipset Drivers v3.20
 

Performance Comparisons
Time for some numbers...

SiSOFT SANDRA:

We began our testing with four of the built-in sub-system tests in SiSoftware's Sandra 2002 suite (CPU, Multimedia, Memory and File System), running at the CPU's default clockspeed of 2.2GHz (22 X 100MHz FSB). 

ECS P4IBAD
CPU @ 2.2GHz.

Transcend TS-ABR4
CPU @ 2.2GHz.


ECS P4IBAD
MM @ 2.2GHz.


Transcend TS-ABR4
MM @ 2.2GHz.


ECS P4IBAD
HARD DRIVE


Transcend TS-ABR4
HARD DRIVE


ECS P4IBAD
MEMORY @ 2.2GHz.


Transcend TS-ABR4
MEMORY @ 2.2GHz.

As you can see, both boards performed very similarly in all of these tests, as well they should!  Because both boards are based on the exact same chipset, with a similar BIOS and were using all of the same "supporting" hardware, we expect their performance to be within a few points of one another.  When compared with the reference systems in SiSoftware's database, we find that the ECS P4IBAD and Transcend TS-ABR4 performed at proper levels.  In CPU and Multimedia tests, both boards scored very well, but lagged just a bit behind similar systems on the Memory Bandwidth and Files System (Hard Drive) tests.  In the very important Memory Bandwidth tests, the Transcend TS-ABR4 edged out the ECS board by the slimmest of margins.

OVERCLOCKED:

ECS P4IBAD
CPU @ 2.442GHz.

 

Transcend TS-ABR4
CPU @ 2.442GHz.

 

ECS P4IBAD
MEMORY @ 2.442GHz.

Transcend TS-ABR4
MEMORY @ 2.442GHz.

While both of these boards were not designed with overclocking as a top priority, we did have decent luck squeezing a few more MHz. out of our CPU.  Earlier, when we spoke about overclocking in the BIOS sections.  We mentioned that the maximum FSB we were able to hit with both boards at default voltage was 111MHz, for a top overclocked speed of 2442MHz (22 x 111MHz.)  While we had the machines overclocked, we ran the CPU and Memory Bandwidth tests again.  Both boards showed significant gains while overclocked, and once again the Transcend board scored every so slightly higher.

Performance Comparisons
Time for some numbers...

VIDEO 2000 MPEG ENCODE:

We also ran the MPEG encoding test embedded in MadOnion's Video 2000 benchmark.  This test uses the host CPU to encode a short clip of video.  The scores posted by the ECS P4IBAD and Transcen TS-ABR4 were virtually identical and well with the "margin of error" for this test. 



More Gaming and the Stones...
 

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ECS P4IBAD versus Transcend TSABR4 - Page 4

ECS P4IBAD versus Transcend TS-ABR4
Budget i845s Do Battle!

By, Marco Chiappetta
March  28, 2002

Now for the benchmark that has been run numerous times by so many reviewers across the world, I think we all may have some sort of "repetitive stress" disorder in a few years, Quake 3 Arena.

Some OpenGL Performance
This is the Benchmark that never ends!

QUAKE 3 ARENA:

To "isolate" CPU performance when running a timedemo in Quake 3, we set the resolution to 640x480, the color depth to 16-Bit and lowered the geometry and texture detail.  As you can see, both boards performed within 1% of each other.  While physically the ECS P4IBAD and the Transcend TS-ABR4 don't have much in common, as far as performance is concerned to this point, they're almost identical.
 

More Performance
More of the Good Stuff!

Next we ran ZD Labs' Business Winstone 2001 benchmark on both the P4IBAS and TS-ABR4.  For an explanation of what this test entails, we'll quote ZD's eTestingLabs website:

"Business Winstone is a system-level, application-based benchmark that measures a PC's overall performance when running today's top-selling Windows-based 32-bit applications on Windows 98 SE, Windows NT 4.0 (SP6 or later), Windows 2000, Windows Me, or Windows XP. Business Winstone doesn't mimic what these packages do; it runs real applications through a series of scripted activities and uses the time a PC takes to complete those activities to produce its performance scores."

The tests include:

  • Five Microsoft Office 2000 applications (Access, Excel, FrontPage, PowerPoint, and Word)

  • Microsoft Project 98

  • Lotus Notes R5

  • NicoMak WinZip

  • Norton Antivirus

  • Netscape Communicator

BUSINESS WINSTONE:

In the Business Winstone tests, the ECS P4IBAD holds only a slight performance lead over the Transcend TS-ABR4.  However, the "office type" applications used in this test no longer stress the CPU and other subsystems enough to show huge differences from one similarly equipped system to the next, when a high-end processor is used.  On the other hand, Content Creation 2002 is intense.  What do you say we run that one next?

CONTENT CREATION WINSTONE 2002:

Content Creation Winstone 2002 runs a series of scripted activities as well, but consists of more "bandwidth hungry" applications like:

  • Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1

  • Adobe Premiere 6.0

  • Macromedia Director 8.5

  • Macromedia Dreamweaver UltraDev 4

  • Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 7.01.00.3055

  • Netscape Navigator 6/6.01

  • Sonic Foundry Sound Forge 5.0c (build 184)

Here the tables are turned and the Transcend TS-ABR4 bests the ECS P4IBAD by a bit.  The performance difference is miniscule though and would be imperceptible to the end-user. 

CONCLUSION:

We were pleasantly surprised by the performance and stability of both the ECS P4IBAD and Transcend TS-ABR4.  While both of these boards may not have been packed to the gills with features, they did what they were designed to do and did it well.  The performance levels of both boards was on-par with other products in their class and throughout our testing neither board exhibited any instability whatsoever.  We wouldn't recommend either of these boards to our hardcore readers but users looking to build an inexpensive Pentium 4 system for "everyday" use, will be pleased with either product.  As of the time of this writing, both the ECS P4IBAD and Transcend TS-ABR4 can be found for less that $100 US.  Because of their similarities in features and performance, we won't be rating these boards individually.  Based on their good stability, performance and rock bottom prices we'll give both the ECS P4IBAD and Transcend TS-ABR4 Hot Hardware Heat Meter Ratings of... 

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