Intel Springdale Showdown

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Intel Springdale Showdown - Page 2

The Springdale Showdown
Which board should you "spring" for?

Brought to you by Robert Maloney
July 10, 2003

The Abit IS7-G Motherboard:

    

The Abit IS7-G has a spiffy Orange PCB, in what appears to be Abit's new signature color.  Overall, the layout was good.  We didn't have any major complaints.  As with the BH7, the IDE connectors are angled on the front edge of the board, helping to reduce cable clutter and increase airflow.  The floppy connector is right where it needs to be, towards the front edge, so that the floppy cable can be tucked away nicely and not interfere with other cables.  The ATX power connectors are also in prime locations, to the far sides of the CPU and DIMM slots, and are readily accessible. The DIMM slots were a bit too close to the AGP slot, which made it harder to remove RAM when a larger video card was installed.  Also, the retention clip on the AGP slot is way too close to a couple of small capacitors.  It makes for a tricky job when removing a video card, as you don't want to bend or snap off the capacitors when applying some force to the retention clip.


     
     

The board was highlighted by an aqua heatsink / fan combo over the 865PE Northbridge, which ran relatively quiet, so no noise issues were noted.  Abit stuck with the tried and true Realtek ALC650 CODEC for the onboard audio solution, and as we have reported before, the sound quality was pretty good.  The ALC650 provides 6-channel audio output.  There are 5 audio jacks as well as digital in and out ports on the rear of the board.  We should mention that some users have had problems with noise on the Microphone input line on the IS7-G, but we did not have a problem with our sample.  All of the usual connectors and jacks were found here, as well as a FireWire port above two of the USB 2.0 ports.  The ICH5R South Bridge provides RAID 0 support for two SATA drive arrays, and there are an additional two SATA ports controlled by the Silicon Image SATA controller, which also supports RAID 0 and RAID 1 configurations.  Combined with the two standard IDE ports, the number of drive configurations seem endless.

THE BUNDLE:

  

Abit has provided a bit more in the bundle this time around then they have with the past few boards we have reviewed.  The literature included a User's Guide as well as a quick installation manual for experienced users.  Standard drivers came on the CD, while those using a SATA configuration can find the appropriate drivers on a floppy disk.  The rest of the bundle really has SATA drives in mind, as 2 SATA interface cables as well as 2 SATA power cables were included.  We also found a conventional IDE cable and floppy cable, as well as brackets for an additional 2 USB ports, 2 FireWire ports and the I/O shield.  Quickly doing the math, that's 6 USB 2.0/1.1 and 3 FireWire ports that come standard.  Our commendations go out to Abit for providing a well rounded, multimedia-ready package.

Specifications & Features of The Abit IS7-G
Speed, Stability, Power - more than just a motto, it's a way of life

      
      

CPU SUPPORT

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

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

  • Supports 800MHz, 533MHz or 400MHz FSB

CHIPSET

  • Intel® 82865PE Memory Controller Hub (MCH)

  • Intel® 82801ER I/O Controller Hub (ICH5R)

SYSTEM MEMORY

  • Supports 4 x 184-pin DDR SDRAM

  • DDR200/266/333/400 support (Dual Channel)

  • 4GB maximum system RAM (unbuffered)

  • DDR400 support only when using 800MHz FSB CPUs

BIOS

  • Features ABIT Softmenu III

  • Phoenix/Award BIOS, v6.00PG

  • Supports PnP, ACPI, DMI

  • Write-Protect, Anti-Virus function by Award BIOS

HARDWARE MONITOR

  • Monitors CPU temperature and overheat alarm/auto shutdown

  • Monitors CPU/1.5V/5VSB/VBAT/3.3V/5V/±12V voltages

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

  • CPU FanEQ Speed Control - sets percentage of CPU fan speed

AUDIO FEATURES

  • Realtek ALC650 v2.2 6-channel sound CODEC

  • Digital audio interface supports 24-bit S/PDIF optical in/out

ONBOARD LAN

  • Marvell 3COM 3C940 PCI Gigabit LAN

  • Supports 10/100/1000 Mbps operation

ONBOARD FIREWIRE (1394a)

  • Texas Instruments TSB43AB23 FireWire controller

  • Supports IEEE 1394a at 400/200/100 Mbs data transfer rate

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.

 

SERIAL ATA/RAID0 INTERFACES

  • ICH5R supports two SATA (Serial ATA) interfaces which are compliant with SATA 1.0 specification (1.5Gbps interface)

  • ICH5R supports RAID 0

  • Silicon Image SIL 3112AR chip supports two extra SATA devices

  • SIL 3112AR Supports RAID 0/1

PCI IDE INTERFACE

  • Supports ATA/33, ATA/66 and ATA/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

REAR PANEL I/O PORTS

  • 4 USB 2.0/1.1 ports

  • 1 RJ-45 LAN port (3COM PCI)

  • 1 FireWire (1394a) port

  • 1 DB-9 serial port

  • 1 DB-25 parallel port

  • 1 mini-DIN-6 PS/2 mouse port

  • 1 mini-DIN-6 PS/2 keyboard port

  • 5 audio jacks: front l/r, rear l/r, center/bass, line-in and Mic-in

  • S/PDIF-in and S/PDIF-out optical jacks

I/O CONNECTORS

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

  • 2 connectors for 2 additional FireWire ports

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

  • 2 internal audio connectors (CD-in and AUX-in)

  • 1 connector for IrDA interface

  • 4 Serial ATA connectors

  • 2 IDE connectors

  • 1 floppy connector

  • 2 ATX power supply connectors

  • 1 Wake-Up header

  • 5 fan connectors for CPU fan, NB fan, chassis fan and two auxiliary

EXPANSION SLOTS

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

  • 5 32-bit PCI slots

STATUS INDICATORS

  • 1 5VSB LED Indicator - lights when power supply is connected

  • 1 VCC Power on Indicator - lights when system power is on

FORM FACTOR

  • 4 layers, ATX form factor

  • 30.5cm (12.05") x 24.5cm (9.6")


The BIOS:

        
        

When it comes to tinkering with the BIOS, Abit usually stands out.  We felt at home with the usual blue Award BIOS.  Our first stop was to check into the SoftMenu, where the majority of the overclocking options reside.  While most manufacturers generally keep voltage and frequency settings as the last BIOS section, the SoftMenu is the first option.  Abit lets it be known that they are out to cater to the overclocking enthusiast.  In the SoftMenu, the different options are "x"ed out until the CPU operating speed is changed from the detected speed, to one determined by the user.  After this, DRAM and AGP ratios can be set, as well as fixing the AGP/PCI bus speed, an important step when overclocking.  Individual voltage settings for the CPU, DRAM, and AGP are grouped at the bottom of the screen.  Early versions of the BIOS "only" allowed FSB speeds of 300MHz, with the CPU voltage topping out at 1.65V.  Thankfully, in the BIOS version we used for testing, these levels were raised, as the top speed accessible to us now was 412MHz, with up to 1.85V available for the CPU VCore.  DRAM voltages were set in the range of 2.5-2.8V.  Some memory manufacturers are now recommending using 2.7V or 2.8V to get the best timings with their DIMMS, so these higher values are appreciated.

As we mentioned earlier, all of the manufacturers have had multiple BIOS revisions in the short time since the boards have been released.  Abit has highly publicized their "Game Accelerator" addition to the BIOS.  Using their IS7G_13.b03 revision, we found a few new entries in the Advanced Chipset Features that focused mainly on the RAM timings.  Of particular note was the item labeled Performance Mode.  Options within here were "Disabled", "Turbo", and "Ultra".  We settled in with the "Ultra" setting to further maximize our performance when testing, and did not run into any issues until we got to overclocking, which brings us to...

Overclocking: Abit IS7-G
To no one's real surprise, overclocking was easy

STOCK CPU SPEED
2.40GHz P4

CPU OVERCLOCKED TO
3.48Ghz (12 X 290MHz)

Abit's boards have a reputation for overclocking well.  Sticking with a 1:1 ratio between the CPU and Memory led to almost immediate failure.  Anyone interested in overclocking Springdale boards will become quite familiar with the DRAM ratios available on these boards.  Ratios are provided in 1:1, 5:4, and 3:2 formats, although the nomenclature may vary from BIOS to BIOS.  After setting the ratio to 5:4, we still had problems getting the system stable.  It was then that we noticed that the RAM speeds had not dropped, even using a lower ratio.  After some fiddling with the settings, we realized that when Performance Mode was set to "Turbo" or "Ultra", the DDR speed was always set to 200MHz, regardless of the ratio setting.  We disabled Performance Mode, and were able to move on quickly all the way up to a 265MHz FSB.  At this speed, we could not get back into Windows, and we had a feeling that the RAM may be at fault, as we were pushing 428MHz DDR.  Again, we entered the BIOS and went to a 3:2 ratio.  We then got as high as a 290MHz front side bus, but during benchmarking we saw a noticeable decline in the scores.  For example, at 275MHz, we had obtained 67.67 frames per second in the demo version of Comanche 4, but at 290MHz, the frame rate was only 61.84fps.  We tried running scores at various speeds, and it looked like a bell curve, with 275MHz producing the highest results.

And now presenting the Albatron 865PE Pro II

Tags:  Intel, WD, DOW, Show, SHO, spring

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