Albatron's PX875 Pro Motherboard

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Albatron's PX875 Pro Motherboard - Page 2

 

Albatron's PX875 Pro Motherboard
Power, Performance, and Good Looks

By: Jeff Bouton
February 5, 2004



The Albatron PX875 Pro Motherboard
A Lot To Offer

The Board:

Upon first glance, there is no arguing that Albatron knows how to make a sharp looking product.  Their choice of colors make identifying the various components a little easier.  Aside from aesthetics, however, we felt that there were a number of puzzling things with this motherboard that contradicts its "Pro" branding.  Let's start off with some of the positives.

The PX875 Pro motherboard comes based on the Intel 875P chipset which offers a good feature set and Performance Acceleration Technology.  The placement of the board's various components were as good as we've seen.  We were impressed with the 20-pin ATX power position as well as the secondary 4-pin ATX connector.  All too often we see these two power connectors split across a motherboard, causing the cabling to span a bit of real estate.  In this case, the connectors were close to each other, on either side of the DIMM slots, allowing the power cabling to fall more naturally into place and out of the way of the CPU socket area.

The Northbridge sports a hefty, gold color heat sink to help control its temperature.  The design is heavily extruded, allowing for good airflow across the sink.  The board comes with a total of 4 DIMM slots supporting up to 1GB per slot, which should prove to be more than ample for even the most demanding user.  The board has a total of 5 PCI slots for expansion as well as an AGP slot with an interesting slide-lock mechanism.  The locking mechanism may not be as simple and effective as the popular hinge design, but it does the trick.

The rear ATX cluster is more of a legacy design than we would have expected in a "Pro" model motherboard.  The unit sports 2 PS/2, 2 USB and one 10/100 Ethernet connector.  Surprisingly,  Albatron chose to drive this board's Ethernet with a 3COM chip rather than using the native CSA (Communication Streaming Architeture) bus on the i875 along with Intel's Gig-E controller.   Also, the addition of a third party Ethernet chip still left them the option to make it Gigabit ready, but they unfortunately opted for 10/100.  Lastly, the board comes with 2 serial ports and 1 Parallel port for legacy support as well as a DB-15 joystick port and audio connections.

After going over the physical qualities of the PX975 Pro, we must admit we were a bit perplexed as to the "Pro" naming convention.  While the board is labeled a "Pro", when we compare the features of the PX875 Pro to the non-pro version, the only real difference between the two is the Pro version has 10/100 LAN and the other doesn't.  Does an Ethernet upgrade warrant the "Pro" name?  Apparently Albatron thinks so.  We would expect that a "Pro" model would have several features that the standard model doesn't, like perhaps better Audio, Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire and/or RAID.  But in this case it all comes down to 10/100 Ethernet which is a prerequisite for most motherboards these days anyway. 

The Bios:

The BIOS that lies at the core of the PX875 Pro is the Phoenix - Award Setup Utility.  This version of the popular BIOS is well equipped for modifying and optimizing system performance.  We found the selection of performance options quite good, with a good selection of overclocking options as well.  Along with setting the memory timings and the intensity of PAT, the board sported an ample collection of other advanced options.  The most generous by far was a FSB setting that ranged from 200MHz to 550MHz. 

When it comes to memory speed, the BIOS doesn't offer the common ratio or locked speed settings, but rather a multiple of the memory speed itself.  So when we boosted our FSB up to 260 for example, we set the memory to run at 1.6x or 208MHz (416MHz DDR).  These options could be set as low as 1.33x and as high as 2.5x Turbo.  The AGP/PCI/SRC settings were also numerous, giving a lot of flexibility for each component.

When it came to core voltages for the CPU, AGP and Memory, the values were represented as increases over stock voltage rather than actual voltage settings.  So, for example, we found the CPU voltage could be increased to +.3, +.2 or +.1v.  The AGP voltage options were the least impressive with the ability to increase it no more than .1v.  On the memory side of things, the DDR voltage could be increased just like the CPU, from +.3, +.2 or +.1v.

Overall, we liked the available options in this version of the Phoenix BIOS, although although we would have liked to see more voltage range for the CPU core adjustments.  Nonetheless, they get the job done with a fair amount to options to play with.  What do you say we start tinkering with some of these settings and see what surprises this motherboard has for us?
 

Overclocking the Albatron PX875 Pro Motherboard
Turning Up the MHz.

When it comes to overclocking, no processor is currently more gratifying than the Pentium 4 C @ 2.4GHz.  This little gem of a CPU has a ton of headroom, allowing some users to hit 3.2GHz with standard cooling.  So, naturally we were eager to see how ours matched up with the PX875 Pro.  To get things started, we immediately upped the FSB to 240MHz.  The system posted and booted into Windows without error.  Next we jumped to 250MHz and once again, no problems, although we did have to set the memory ratio to 1.6X, keeping our memory in the 400MHz range.  Without that adjustment, the system would not post because our memory couldn't run at 500MHz.  Next we set the FSB to 260MHz and still, the system posted and loaded Windows without error.  In one last effort to squeeze out the MHz, we set the FSB to 265MHz and rebooted.  The system booted, Windows began to load and then the screen briefly flashed a BSOD and rebooted.  So it looked like we were going to call the top speed at 260MHz.  Now we needed to run some numbers to show the gains we found.

Unfortunately, that is where the problems began.  As it turned out, the PX875 Pro was one of those motherboards that tended to corrupt a hard drive when overclocked too high.  Even after we set the FSB back to 200MHz, the system would repeat the same BSOD and reboot cycle.  Thankfully, we took a disk image beforehand just in case this happened, so we were able to restore and begin again.  Just to be sure that it wasn't a fluke, we booted at 265 FSB again and sure enough, we got a BSOD and reboot as well as hard drive corruption.  We restored once again, set the FSB to 260MHz and called it a day.  All in all, a 60MHz increase in bus speed on a motherboard with a quad pumped processor is a major boost.  In the pages ahead, we'll get a better idea of how this all adds up.

Time For Sandra & Futuremark's Finest

 


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