- What the North Bridge and South Bridge Do
- Mobo Integration Madness
- What We Look for When Testing Motherboards
- How We Test Motherboards
- Careful Considerations for New Mobos
- Our Top Pentium 4 Chipsets: Intel's 875P and 865PE
- Also Solid: ATI's Radeon 9100 IGP
- Pentium 4 Chipset Pretenders
- Our P4 Mobo Recommendations
- The Back Story: Summer of Athlon XP
- Enter the 64-bit Chipset
- Why Hasn't Intel Integrated the Memory Controller?
- Looking to Overclock?
- Looking Ahead: Future Chipsets & Mobos
- VIA Makes Its Move
- Prepare for BTX
- New Sockets Forthcoming
Pentium 4 Chipset Pretenders
Now let's look at the pretendersthe P4 chipsets you'll want to avoid at all costs. In our minds, Intel's 865G and 865P chipsets are the bastard children of the 865 family. The former offers a GeForce2 MX-level integrated graphics core, but lacks the raw performance of the 865PE, while the latter is restricted to frontside bus speeds of just 533MHz.
Albatron K8X800 ProII
Albatron didn't skimp on the features when it forged the K8X800 ProII motherboard. It sports FireWire by way of a VIA VT6037 controller, a dual-BIOS feature that lets you recover your board should you nuke it during a failed update attempt, and even 24-bit audio (well sort of).
Figure 3.8 The K8X800 sports a ton of features, a dual-BIOS feature, and 24-bit audio.
There's also a crapload of USB and FireWire headers on the board. Albatron even gives you a whopping six PCI slotsa pretty rare occurrence in motherboards these days. We're not sure what you'd fill them with, but hey, the more the merrier.
The board uses VIA's K8T800 chipset and VT8237 south bridge with SATA RAID. The VIA VT8237 also provides Serial ATA and RAID, but unfortunately lacks native SATA like Intel's 865/875 series. That means you'll need to have a floppy drive and a set of drivers ready when you install XP. With boards using the Intel south bridge, Serial ATA drives can be used as seamlessly as a parallel drive. Count this as a negative in the VIA chipset column.
The K8X800 ProII's biggest strength is its performance. In Lab testing, it solidly spanked the competition. Granted, we're talking small percentagesbut the K8X800 ProII clearly led the field in most of our tests.
The only snag we ran into with the K8X800 ProII was when we filled all its DIMM slots. It choked on three 512MB modules but mysteriously ran fine when we put 256MB modules in their place. We initially suspected a defective mobo, but later came to believe that the K8T800 chipset is far more finicky with memory then we expected. It appears that three 512MB modules are more than it can handle. Interestingly, MSI's K8T Neo had similar, albeit more severe, problems. More on that later.
Of the three boards here, the K8X800 ProII has the most sophisticated audio. Using an Envy24PT chip, the board supports up to 7.1 audio. The board is also the first we've seen to offer partial 24-bit audio. We say partial because the 24-bit only works on the SPDIF-out via a Wolfson CODEC. The multichannel analog is handled by a VIA VT1616 codec that caps at 18-bit audio. Bummer. This means no 24-bit 7.1 sound. We still haven't seen a full 24-bit audio implementation from a motherboard vendor but expect to later this year when Intel's next-generation audio technology, code-named Azalia, hits the streets.
Figure 3.9 MaximumPC verdict.
Originally published March 2004
Meanwhile, from outside the Intel camp come the VIA PT600 and SiS 655FX. Both are dual-channel DDR400 offerings with 800MHz FSB support, but neither can match the speed or robustness of Intel's finest.