Intel Springdale Showdown

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Intel Springdale Showdown - Page 4

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

Brought to you by Robert Maloney
July 10, 2003

The Chaintech APOGEE 9PJL Motherboard:

    

Out of all of the boards in this review, the Chaintech APOGEE 9PJL was arguably the best looking.  The combination of a dark, almost black PCB and the light blue used for all of the components gave the board a striking appearance.  The heatsink/fan over the North Bridge and the area around the external connections was overlaid in gold plating, something that Chaintech has done with a number of their products.  The layout of the board was similar to the others.  The only issues were the ATX/DIMM conflict (sigh, again) and the 20-pin ATX power connector placement.  The ATX power connector is located to the left of the floppy connector, on the edge of the board.  This means that the floppy cable and power cable must criss-cross each other in some cases.  A simple design twist that could have been easily avoided.  Similar to the Abit IS7, the placement of a small capacitor right at the edge of the AGP slot caused a little worry when trying to push the retention clip down to release the card.


     
     

Unlike their Canterwood offering, and the only board in this roundup to do so, Chaintech has eschewed the ICH5R South Bridge for the ICH5, meaning no RAID support is available for SATA drives.  The VIA VT6306 controller provides IEEE-1394a "Firewire" capabilities, but Chaintech again strayed from the beaten path and included Realtek's RTL8101L LAN controller, which "only" provides 10/100Mbps data transfers.

THE BUNDLE:

     

The Chaintech Apogee 9PJL came with one of, if not the best, bundle in the group.  The manual and drivers CD were labeled with the same design from the box, echoing the black, blue, and gold theme of the board.  Chaintech included light blue rounded cables for 2 IDE drives, a floppy drive, and even light blue SATA cables that perfectly match the ports.  The I/O shield has a colored overlay that matches the colors of the ports and devices, making setup just a bit easier for less savvy users.  There was also a gold plated bracket containing 2 FireWire ports, surround sound audio jacks, and a game port.  The coup-de-grace of the set is the CBox 2, shown in the picture on the right.  This can be installed in a vacant 5 1/4" bay, and gives the user front connections for 4 USB ports, an additional FireWire port, headphones, microphone, and even a diagnostic LED.

Specifications & Features of The Chaintech APOGEE 9PJL
Chaintech. reloaded and aiming to please

CPU SUPPORT

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

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

  • Supports 800MHz, 533MHz or 400MHz FSB

CHIPSET

  • Intel® 82865PE Memory Controller Hub (MCH)

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

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

  • Award BIOS

  • Supports PnP, APM, ACPI, DMI, & Multi-booting features

  • 4Mb Flash ROM

HARDWARE MONITOR

  • Monitors CPU/MB temperatures

  • Automatic shutdown at user defined temperature

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

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

AUDIO FEATURES

  • C-Media CMI8738 Audio

  • 6 channel audio support

  • 32 voice HRTF 3D positional audio

  • Supports DirectSound3D, Aureal A3D, EAX

ONBOARD LAN

  • Realtek RTL8101L LAN controller

  • Supports 10/100 Mbps data transfer rates

ONBOARD FIREWIRE (1394a)

  • VIA VT6306 1394a 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 INTERFACE

  • ICH5 supports two SATA (Serial ATA) interfaces which are compliant with SATA 1.0 specification (1.5Gbps interface)

  • NOTE: RAID configurations are not supported

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

  • 2 DB-9 serial ports

  • 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

I/O CONNECTORS

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

  • 3 connectors for 3 additional FireWire ports

  • 1 front audio connector for external line-out and Mic-in jacks to be used with CBox2

  • 3 internal audio connectors (2x CD-in, AUX-in)

  • 1 sub-woofer connector for surround and center/subwoofer jacks

  • 1 Front panel connector

  • 1 connector for IrDA interface

  • 1 Game/MIDI port connector

  • 2 Serial ATA connectors

  • 2 IDE connectors

  • 1 floppy connector

  • 2 ATX power supply connectors

  • 1 Wake-on-LAN connector

  • 1 CBox2 DigiDoc System Display connector

  • 4 fan connectors for CPU fan, NB fan and 2 chassis fans

EXPANSION SLOTS

  • 1 AGP slot, 8X AGP compliant

  • 5 32-bit PCI 2.2 slots

FORM FACTOR

  • 4 layers, ATX form factor

  • 30.5cm (12.05") x 24.4cm (9.6")


The BIOS:

     
      

Again, we found an Award-based BIOS at the heart of the 9PJL.  We've covered the major parts of this particular BIOS on the other pages, but we will quickly go over a few points.  In the Advanced Chipset Features were the settings for adjusting the memory timings and latencies.  There were options for caching the System or Video BIOSes and a ratio option for the DRAM, with AUTO, 400, 320, and 266MHz choices available.  When we got around to overclocking, the Frequency/Voltage Controls was where we got started.  The clock speeds and voltages can be adjusted individually for the AGP, CPU, and DRAM.  CPU voltages ranged as high as 1.675V, which was not as high as some of the other boards, but should give us some room for overclocking.  The AGP and DRAM voltages allowed for a maximum of +0.30V for each device.

The Chaintech 9PJL was the only board we tested that did not have some kind of memory performance enhancement, at least not in the BIOS version we used for testing, dated 5/12/03 (which, as of today, is still the "newest" BIOS available on Chaintech's website).  After discussions with their support people, we were sent a later revision dated 6/03 that was supposed to increase performance, but repeated attempts to flash the board failed.   This immediately put the Chaintech 9PJL at a disadvantage, readily seen in the benchmarks that follow.

Overclocking: Chaintech APOGEE 9PJL
Turning Up the Juice

STOCK CPU SPEED
2.40GHz P4

CPU OVERCLOCKED TO
3.36GHz (12 X 280MHz)

 
Using the stock Intel cooler, we quickly ran the front side bus up as high as 280MHz with a DRAM ratio of 5:4 (320MHz).  The memory timings were still set at aggressive 2-5-2-2 timings, with the DRAM voltage set at the maximum raise of +0.30V allowed.  While we were able to get into Windows safely, none of the benchmarks would even launch, leaving us at the desktop.  We lowered the FSB 1MHz at a time until we reached a completely stable testing environment at 268MHz, equaling 3.21GHz for the CPU.  Not quite as high as the other boards, but still a great overclock, over 800MHz faster than stock speed.

And Finally, the MSI 865PE Neo2-FISR

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

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