The Intel Pentium 4 platform has progressed at a rapid pace over the last two years. We have seen many chipset changes; memory architecture adoption changes as well as the P4 CPU itself take on a new form.
Since the introduction of the I845 chipset back in January 2002, Intel has seen sales of the Pentium 4 line go through the roof. With the only option being RDRAM I850, the limited availability of PC800 RIMM modules and the high cost of the CPU, memory and boards based on the I850 chipset, the Pentium 4 seemed set for an early and shameful burial.
Intel's solution (well part there of) was to bring the I845 chipset to the market. This chipset was designed to run the Intel Pentium 4 on PC133 SDRAM modules. While being less than optimal for the P4 CPU, it did allow for a much cheaper solution to the P4 vs AMD price war of its time.
With legal issues between Intel and Rambus, it took some time for Intel to be released from their contract to produce RDRAM chipsets only for their line of CPU's and avoiding DDR-SDRAM. While the original I845 chipset incorporated a DDR SDRAM controller onboard, it was not utilized until Intel released the I845 B-Step chipset with official DDR-266 support.
This led to the future released of the 533FSB supporting I845E and I845G (with the G series supporting onboard graphics). While still only supporting DDR-266 memory, some companies utilized the 4:5 memory divider Intel provided onboard for DDR-333. This was totally unofficial support.
With DDR-333 and 400 being more suited to Intel platforms than AMD, it is a wonder why Intel has taken so long to introduce its own DDR-333 offering, now it seems the time is right, DDR-333 modules are more mature and ready for Intel's quality testing procedures. Intel now introduces to us the I845PE and I845GE chipsets.
With these two chipsets taking the mainstream position, we now have manufacturers producing platform solutions with these new chipsets. Today we are looking at two new I845EP motherboards from two of the biggest companies in Taiwan, ASUS with their P4PE and Gigabyte with the 8EP667 Ultra.