The VIA P4XB is equipped with
the very popular Award BIOS, that we've seen on the vast
majority of motherboards that pass through our labs.
We were very pleased to see options to adjust virtually
every aspect of the board's integrated peripherals, memory
and CPU timings.
VIA even opted to include a
very complete "Frequency / Voltage Control" section which
allows users to tweak their CPU's FSB, VCore voltage and
DRAM voltage. On the rare chance you're lucky enough
to have an unlocked Intel CPU in your possession, the
multiplier can be adjusted as well.
If you take a look at the two
screenshots above you can see a "close-up" of the
"Frequency / Voltage Control" section of the BIOS.
From within this menu, the CPU VCore voltage can be raised
a full 1/10 of a volt in .025v increments. The FSB
maxes out at 199MHz, adjustable in 1MHz. increments, the
DDR DRAM voltage can be set between 2.5V and 2.65V in .5V
increments, and the multiplier has a selectable range of
8X - 24X.
In an attempt to overclock our
1.9GHz. CPU, we experimented with a variety of FSB (Front
Side Bus) frequencies, raised the voltage to our CPU and
RAM to the maximum settings and were able to hit a
completely stable speed of 2.08GHz. (19x109MHz.), with our
memory set to the most aggressive timings. Keep in
mind that at the "+33MHz" memory setting, with a 109MHz
FSB, our memory was actually running at 142MHz. We
could have taken our CPU even higher, but opted not to do
so because we had to set our memory with less aggressive
timings to keep things stable.
What's to see?
As we do with every
product that passes through the H.H. lab, we gave the VIA P4XB
a complete physical inspection before installing it into
our test system.
Looking at the external case
connectors doesn't reveal anything wild or out of the
ordinary, unless you get all hot and bothered over
on-board AC'97 audio! The slot configuration was
decent, with 5 PCI slots, 1 AGP slot and a CNR slot making
an appearance. While we understand the merits of a
CNR slot, I don't think I've ever seen one used. We
would have preferred to see the CNR slot dumped in favor
of a sixth PCI slot. Then again, I don't remember
the last time I saw a system with five PCI cards installed
either! Pay close attention to the back of the AGP
slot. The slot is extended a bit, which helps hold a
video card in place if the system is moved around.
Just behind the CNR slot you can see the extra USB
headers. Six total USB connectors are available.
Around the tiny Socket 478,
you'll find the customary plastic heatsink bracket. While
these brackets may look cheesy, I think they're great.
Installing and removing coolers on the new P4s is a piece
of cake, and you don't have to worry about jamming a
screwdriver through your PCB if you slip! Also
visible around the socket are 11 capacitors for cleaning
and stabilizing the current flowing to the CPU, and they
do their job well. Clean, smooth power flow is
necessary for stable computing and the P4XB was just
that...stable. The Northbridge is "cooled" by a
chrome, passive heatsink labeled, "P4X266", but don't
fret! There is a P4X266A under there! The
heatsink is mounted with thermal tape (which is very
unpopular around the H.H. lab), but the P4X266A
Northbridge runs so cool, its not a problem. Throughout
testing, the heatsink barely got warm to the touch.
Just between the fourth and fifth PCI slots you can see a
buzzer, which eliminates the need for a speaker in your
case. This is a simple, often overlooked addition to
some boards, but anything that reduces the amount of wires
and clutter in a case is OK in my book!
The VIA P4XB is equipped with
3 DIMM slots, which thankfully were placed far enough away
from the AGP slot to allow us to install DIMMs without
having to remove our video card. IDE and Floppy
connectors are also well placed behind the DIMM slots,
perpendicular with the upper edge of the board, out of the
way of any other components. In the adjacent corner
you can see locations where a RAID controller and it's
connectors could be placed. (There is also a model
P4XB-R available that adds an on-board Promise controller
as well as better C-Media on-board sound.) One thing
that turned us off a bit was the lack of fan headers.
There are only two available on the board, one of which
will be used by your CPU cooler.
installing the P4XB was a
piece of cake. Because of the board's jumperless
nature and ATX compliance, installing the board was just a
matter of tightening a few screws and plugging in our