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Battle of the i845 Titans; MSI -vs- Soyo -vs- Gigabyte - Soyo P4I Fire Dragon LE

What happens when you take motherboards from MSI, Soyo and Gigabyte and mix them with an unlocked Pentium4 processor? How about some test results that will knock your socks off! Come join Cameron "Sov" Johnson as he takes a look at a trio of i845 based boards from these companies in a Battle of the i845 Titans. Let's see which will be the last one standing.

| Socket LGA 775 in Motherboards | Posted: May 1, 2002 4:00 am

Features of the Soyo P4I Fire Dragon LE

 

the Box

 

 

First on the Soyo P4I Fire Dragon board is the box. This box may look plain and ordinary to some people, but Soyo has actually done the box in the United Stated of America flag design; Stars and Stripes. This is not some advertisement gimmick, but is a memorial to the September 11th tragedy. Call me stupid or sentimental or even plain nuts, but what Soyo has done is to honor the memories of the workers and people who lost their lives in the terrible events on September 11th. Another gesture from Soyo is that for every board bought, US$5 goes to the Red Cross to help the families who were affected by the incidents. On behalf of the hardware community, we thank you Soyo.

 

Now that we have mentioned that, lets give you the low-down on what comes inside the box. First you get a motherboard (that's a good start), Drivers CD, the largest user manual I have ever seen, three IDE cables and a floppy cable and Soyo's EZ Box for P4IY class boards.

 

The board

 

 

Here we get our first look at the board. Like the box, the board itself is done in the American colors, Red PCB, White IDE and FDD controller connectors and Blue PCI slots.

 

 

Here we see the expansion layout. Like the Gigabyte board, Soyo has gone hardcore and added a 1 AGP, 6PCI in the lovely blue color and 0 Riser layout. This is more of what overclockers want, more room to expand.

 

 

Next comes everyone's favorite, RAID. Unlike MSI and Gigabyte, Soyo has gone all out and incorporated the Highpoint HPT372 RAID controller chip. Personally, I prefer this chip over the Promise one as it allows RAID and standard IDE functions without the need for separate BIOS settings and jumpers onboard to run in either mode. And with the great performance, it's definitely the superior controller.

 

 

With the release of many new high-speed external devices coming out, it is either recommended that a good motherboard either be (A) equipped with a USB 2.0 Controller, (B) be equipped with a Firewire Controller, or (C) Both. Well, sorry to disappoint you, you don't get both on this board, you get Texas Instruments' Firewire controller chip. With this chip you get two ports onboard; one via the EZ Box for external Firewire devices and Firewire networking and one internal port in the lower right hand corner. You can rig this up for external use or for internal Firewire HDD's and many new Firewire devices that are coming onto the market.

 

 

Like MSI, the P4I Fire Dragon comes with the C-Media CMI8738 audio controller chip with SPDIF support built in. You can see from the image that the bracket is included with the board, which allows you to use the rear speakers and center/sub speaker connectors external to the MIC and Line in connectors. In short, you don't have to give up the line in and mic connectors to use 5.1 speakers on this baby. Also provided by the bracket is SPDIF connectors; 1 optical/coaxial in and 1 optical/coaxial out connectors allowing you to connect many digital devices to your PC.

 

 

 

The images above shows the EZ box. This baby is a front panel expansion pod that places the extra 2 USB ports, Firewire and SCR at the front of the PC. You can either have it mounted in a 3.5 inch bay or with the supplied adapter for a 5.25 inch bay. The SCR, or Smart Card Reader, is one very handy utility. Not only can you read and write numbers to your mobile phone sim card as well as to do notes and just about anything else your mobile supports, but it comes with a Mighty Bolt Sim Card. Mighty Bolt is a boot-up protection program. When activated in BIOS you need to enter Windows, install the Mighty Bolt program and setup a password. Once this is done it is saved onto the Might Bolt Sim card. Now every time you boot into you need to have the SIM card in the reader to allow the PC to boot to the operating system. If you loose your card you can go into BIOS and disable Mighty Bolt. This will allow you to boot without the card but you'll need to use the password you entered when setting up Mighty Bolt to get the system to boot to the Operating System. This is beyond a great feature for the LANers who want security when they leave their PC's; just switch it off, take the SIM card with you and no one can get into your system at all. There is just no way.

 

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