P4 i845 SDRAM Motherboards from Asus and MSI

P4 i845 SDRAM Motherboards from Asus and MSI - Page 2


P4 i845 SDRAM Motherboards from Asus and MSI
The Asus P4B and MSI 845Pro2-R do battle

By, Dave Altavilla
September 24th, 2001



The Asus P4B
A closer look

There are a few interesting notables with respect to the Asus P4B.  This board also, like the MSI 845Pro2-R,  has 6 PCI slots for great expansion potential.  What is surprising and disappointing to us here at HotHardware, is that we have yet to see even one i850 based board with 6 PCI slots, with 5 being the default configuration.  Yet, both of the first two i845 boards we have seen have 6.  We hope this is a trend. 

Asus also goes the extra mile with pack-in features.  This time, in addition to the additional USB header, they have included an SPDIF output connector and header for full digital output.  If you intend to have your computer sit next to your TV, not only can you game on the big screen, with a Graphics card that has TV-Out, but you can also have full Dolby Digital Sound while playing DVDs and using the on board audio of the P4B.

As you can see, both of these so called "value" oriented boards have a wealth of expandability and features, the likes of which you typically don't see in the low end price segment.  Our hats off to both Asus and MSI for including the tools required to take full advantage of the i845 chipset's capabilities.

The Setup and BIOS - The MSI 845Pro2-R and Asus P4B
Underneath the hoods

Both boards have a fair amount of configurability in the BIOS and incorporate a "software" CPU setup.  Let's have a look at the MSI 845Pro2-R's setup.

MSI 845Pro2-R BIOS
From left to right: CPU Clocking, SDRAM Timing, Voltage Adjust and Integrated Peripherals

Although bus speed setting in 1MHz. increments are available, with the 845Pro2-R, things top out at 132MHz.  This may or may not prove limiting in the area of overclocking for some folks.  Let's face it, if you were to set a stock 1.5G Pentium 4 up at 132MHz. FSB, that would be a total of 1980MHz., a speed that we have seen no 1.5G P4 ever hit in the lab.  So, in short, 132MHz. top end FSB settings are most likely all you'll ever need.  That is, unless you have an unlocked engineering sample CPU that we typically get here in the lab for testing.

Asus P4B  BIOS
From left to right:
CPU Clocking, Memory Ratio, SDRAM Timing, Voltage Adjust and Integrated Peripherals

The P4B has a little bit more room to play within its BIOS.  It has a top end FSB setting of 200MHz. and a Memory Ratio setting that allows you to set the memory clock synchronously at a 1:1 ratio or asynchronously at 3:4.  This will tone down the memory settings quite a bit if you are running high FSB speeds. But then again, are FSB speeds in the 150MHz.+ range, really useful for the P4?  Most likely they're not.  Again, only if you have an unlocked CPU (which doesn't exist in the retail or OEM channel), will you be able to back down the multiplier, so that your overall CPU speed isn't way over the top.  We did manage to play around with our engineering sample 2GHz. Socket 478 CPU with both of these two board.

That brings us to our next section.

Overclocking The Asus P4B and MSI 845Pro2-R
It's in there

We won't spend much time in this section, since frankly we didn't get a chance to dig in too deeply with these boards with respect to overclocking.  However, we were able to take some preliminary measurements in ability and stability, while running these boards and the CPU that drives them, out of spec.

Both boards exhibited excellent stability while overclocking one of our 2GHz. processors in the lab.  In fact, the peak performance we achieved in our efforts, with either board was 2.24GHz.  This is really a function of the CPU more than anything.  At 240MHz. over stock speed, it is at its outer limit.  However, we would have to tip our hat to the Asus P4B for its wider range of options in overclocking with a higher FSB settings all the way up to a theoretical 200MHz. and the ability to set the memory clock ratio and keep memory timings within reasonable tolerances.

Let's stop tap dancing around the subject...  How do these two SDRAM powered P4 boards really perform versus a RDRAM setup or an Athlon with DDR?  That's what you most likely came here for and that's what we'll aim to deliver in the following pages.

Testing and Head To Head Comparisons


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