Asus and Albatron 848P Motherboard Review

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Intel 848P Motherboard Review - Page 2

Albatron PX865PE Lite Pro vs. Asus P4P800S-E
Budget boards take a bite out of the market

by Robert Maloney
November 20th, 2003

The Albatron PX865PE Lite Pro Motherboard:

  

Like most of their other boards, Albatron stuck with blue/teal PCB as the backdrop for the PX865PE Lite Pro.  A quick glance at the board shows it to be somewhat devoid of the bells and whistles that have been the mainstay of some of the newer motherboards.  These add-ons would raise the price, however, which would ultimately defeat the purpose of these value boards.  Instead of flashy LEDs and an active fan over the Northbridge, we've got a simple finned-type aluminum heatsink.  Popping this off reveals the I848P chip underneath, attached to the heatsink by a thermal pad.  The AGP slot is placed nearby, and is right in line with the DIMM slots, which could hamper removal of memory when a video card is installed. It's hard to imagine the placement of the AGP slot considering the ample amount of room between it and PCI slot 1.  Although it should allow for installing cards with oversized heatsink/fans such as the GeForce FX 5900 and 5950, one would tend to think that value-minded builders would steer clear of those pricey cards. AGP cards are "locked" in using a slider mechanism - simply insert the card, screw it down, and then move the slider to the left to keep the card in place.  It's a much easier and safer process than the levers found on many other manufacturer's boards, and we genuinely prefer this method. 

 
     
     

The main difference between the I848P and I865PE is the memory support, thus we find three DIMM slots instead of four, and all of the same color since there is no need to differentiate between "channels".  Up to 2GB of DDR400 RAM are supported using up to 3 single-sided or 2 double-sided modules.  There are but two IDE channels, IDE1 and IDE2, and two SATA ports nearby the ICH5 Southbridge.  The ICH5 does not support RAID, nor are there any secondary RAID controllers, so we're stuck using standard configurations here.  Still, the addition of SATA connections does allow for some creative configurations that earlier boards such as those based on the I845 would not have been able to handle.  For example, you could have two SATA hard drives and up to 4 IDE drives all natively supported.  It's a far cry from the dual RAID support on the 865PE Pro II, but again it's all about cutting costs here.

Although the IDE ports are placed in an optimal position, the floppy drive connector is far up on the edge of the board near the last PCI slot.  Although it is somewhat rare to find a system with all PCI slots occupied these days, it's placement begs for improvement, possibly in the open area near the front panel pins.  Five PCI slots as well as the AGP 8x slot are available for expansion, although the PX865PE does come with on-board audio and LAN solutions.  The audio is provided by Realtek's ALC655 chip, a 6-channel full-duplex CODEC.  Basically, the ALC655 is the same as the well-known ALC650, but with an impedance sensing capability, which can detect when a device has been connected to the input or output jacks.  LAN capabilities on the "Pro" model of the PX865PE Lite are provided by 3COM, in the way of the 3C910 chip set above the PCI slots.  It is capable of full/half duplex operation at 10 or 100 Mbps.  Along the back of the board are external connections for two PS/2 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, two serial and one parallel port, three audio jacks and a MIDI/Game port.

THE BUNDLE:

  

Keeping with the value-minded mentality of the board, the bundle doesn't have any unnecessary components, just the basics to get up and running.  There were two ATA100 IDE cables, one floppy cable, and one set of SATA cables, one for data and the other for power.  It might have been nice to include two sets, just to cover all of the ports on the board.  A bracket with four additional USB 2.0 ports is also included, which maxes out the 6 USB 2.0 ports that the I848P supports.  A User Manual contained all of the details of the PX865PE, but those familiar with building a new system will appreciate the quick and easy DIY Installation Guide as well as the settings decal for easy reference.  In the Appendix of the User Manual was a section titled "Overclocking" with examples on how to setup an overclocked system (and shows how far we have come from the days when manufacturers frowned upon the idea).  There was a driver CD with the drivers needed to update your operating system, and an Albatron case badge to adorn the chassis, but lamentably no I/O shield.

Specifications & Features of The Albatron PX865PE Lite Pro
Value board, but still with many features

CPU SUPPORT

  • Intel® Pentium® 4 Processor with Hyper-Threading Technology

  • Intel® P4 Northwood and Prescott processors (478-pin)

  • Supports 800MHz, 533MHz or 400MHz FSB

CHIPSET

  • Intel® 82848P Memory Controller Hub (MCH)

  • Intel® 82801EB I/O Controller Hub (ICH5)

SYSTEM MEMORY

  • Supports up to 3 184-pin DDR SDRAM

  • DDR266/333/400 support (400Mhz only with 800MHz CPU)

  • 2GB maximum system RAM (unbuffered)

BIOS

  • Phoenix - Award BIOS

  • Supports PnP, ACPI, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, STR

  • Wake on LAN, Wake on keyboard/mouse

  • 3Mb Flash EEPROM

  • Watch-Dog Timer

HARDWARE MONITOR

  • Monitors CPU/MB/ PSU temperatures

  • Monitors CPU/5VSB/VBAT/3.3V/5V/±12V voltages

  • Read back capability that displays temperature, voltage and fan speed

AUDIO FEATURES

  • Realtek ALC655 CODEC

  • AC '97 2.2 Compliant

  • 6-channel playback (Super 5.1 channel audio effect)

  • High performance CODEC with high S/N ratio (>90 dB)

ONBOARD LAN

  • 3COM 3C910 (Pro model only)

  • Supports 10/100 Mbps data transfer rates

  • Auto-navigation function of full/half duplex operation

ACCELERATED GRAPHICS PORT (AGP)

  • Supports 1.5V AGP 8x and AGP 4x for 3D graphics applications

  • (AGP 2x and 3.3V AGP cards are not supported)

  • Supports AGP 3.0 and AGP 2.0 spec.

PCI IDE INTERFACE

  • Supports up to 4 Ultra ATA33/66/100 hard drives

  • PIO Mode 4 Enhanced IDE (data transfer rate up to 14MB/sec.)

  • Bus mastering reduces CPU utilization during disk transfer

  • Supports ATAPI CD-ROM, LS-120 and ZIP

SATA INTERFACE

  • Compatible with SATA Specification 1.0

  • Supports 150 MB/sec transfers with CRC error checking

REAR PANEL I/O PORTS

  • 2 USB 2.0/1.1 ports

  • 1 RJ-45 LAN port

  • 2 DB-9 serial ports (16550 UART)

  • 1 DB-25 parallel port

  • 1 mini-DIN-6 PS/2 mouse port

  • 1 mini-DIN-6 PS/2 keyboard port

  • 3 audio jacks: line-out, line-in and Mic-in

  • 1 Game/MIDI port

I/O CONNECTORS

  • 2 connectors for 4 additional external USB 2.0/1.1 ports

  • 1 front audio connector for external line-out and Mic-in jacks

  • 1 internal audio connector (CD-in)

  • 1 S/PDIF in/out connector

  • 1 connector for IrDA interface

  • 2 Serial ATA connectors

  • 2 IDE connectors

  • 1 floppy connector

  • 2 ATX power supply connectors

  • 3 fan connectors for CPU fan, chassis fan and power fan

  • 2 5-pin system panel headers (Intel spec)

  • 1 3-pin Power LED header

EXPANSION SLOTS

  • 1 AGP slot, 8X AGP compliant (1.5V support only)

  • 5 32-bit PCI 2.3 Compliant slots

FORM FACTOR

  • 4 layers, ATX form factor

  • 30.5cm  x 21.8cm


The BIOS:

     
      

The PX865PE comes equipped with a Phoenix-Award BIOS, with many of the same options found in their Springdale variant, the 865PE Pro II.  Looking into the Advanced BIOS options, we found that Hyper-Threading is off by default, which we then enabled.  In the Advanced Chipset Features we were able to set the DRAM timings manually, raise the AGP aperture setting, and enable 'Performance Enhancement' mode. This performance enhancement is used to lower memory latency and combined with "Extreme timing" can be used to maximize system performance.  Unfortunately for us, we were unable to enable both settings, as this repeatedly led to system crashes upon boot.  We settled for keeping the PEM enabled, but leaving the Extreme Timing setting disabled.  Overclockers will find a treasure trove in the Frequency/Voltage Control.  All speed and voltage settings are changed and displayed on this one screen.  The CPU Host Frequency is entered manually starting from 200MHz, and going up as high as 550 MHz.  To keep the memory speeds in check, the DDR:CPU ratios consist of 1.33:1, 1.6:1, 2.0:1, 2.5:1, and 2.66:1.  The voltage options for both the CPU and DDR are default, +.1V, +.2V, and +.3V.  Decent boosts for use when overclocking, although we would have preferred for some finer tuning of the voltages. 

Overclocking: Albatron PX865PE Lite Pro
Similar boards, similar results

STOCK CPU SPEED
2.40GHz P4

CPU OVERCLOCKED TO
3.15GHz (12 X 263MHz)

 
The Springdale boards we reviewed back in July really took to overclocking our Pentium 4 2.4GHz, and we were curious as to how we would be able to get the similarly constructed I848P.  Raising the front side bus eventually required that we chose a lower DRAM to CPU ratio to keep the speeds under the DDR433 rating.  Using the stock Intel cooler, we were able to get Windows to boot while running as high as 270MHz, but could not get enough stability to make it meaningful.  We kicked back the speed 1MHz at a time and found that 263MHz was the highest stable overclock that we could complete a few benchmarks at.  This equated to the 2.4GHz P4 running at 3.15GHz with the CPU Voltage raised up two notches to 1.7V.  The DRAM speeds were brought up to 420MHz, and we also raised the voltages, in this case up the full .3V to 2.8V, which isn't too uncommon when maintaining tight timings on these GEIL sticks.

Comparing the Asus P4P800S-E  


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