- Soyo P4 Fire Dragon
Since we recommended a P4 processor, we obviously need a motherboard to suit. I've chosen the Fire Dragon because of its very long list of features, its excellent performance, and its excellent overclockability. The motherboard is running on the Intel 845 DDR chipset (i845D), which is a very competent competitor to the i850 running RDRAM.
The board itself includes 6 PCI slots, AGP Pro slot, 2 DIMM sockets, 4 USB ports (no USB 2.0 support though), a 100Mbit Ethernet controller, 2 Firewire ports onboard (it's called the Fire Dragon because of the Firewire ports), a Highpoint IDE RAID controller that supports ATA133 and RAID 0, 1, and 0+1, 5 fan headers with monitoring software, and an integrated 6 channel audio chip. In the box you also get four 80 pin ATA cables, drivers, manual and a chip card/reader. The PC will only boot if the chip card is inserted into the reader. A nifty security function, but it may get very annoying.
That a very nice list of features! The performance of this board matches its list of features. In benchmarks it is beating the Abit BD7, which itself is an excellent board. In many benchmarks this board comes out on top of every other board tested, whether they be using the same chipset or a different one. The overclocking ability of the card is also excellent. The BIOS is made by Award and contains the usual list of tweaks, including DIMM, AGP and CPU voltages, RAM tweaks and FSB overclocking in 1MHz increments from 100MHz to 250MHz FSB.
To cap it all off, US$5 from every sale of the board goes to the Red Cross to help families of September 11 victims.
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- EPoX 8KA3/8KA3+
This board is based on the relatively new KT333 chipset from VIA. The KT333 chipset is an evolution of the KT266A chipset, and it adds DDR 333 memory support. The market isn't as flooded as the KT266A market, but there are still quite a few boards to choose from.
The EPoX 8KA3/+ (+ signifies RAID) was chosen because of its reasonable amount of features, strong performance and good overclocking ability. The board contains 3 DIMM Sockets that support DDR 333 RAM (PC2700), an AGP 4x slot, 6 PCI slots, 2 USB ports (2 optional), support for up to 4 IDE devices including ATA-133, an ATA-133 RAID controller supporting RAID 0,1,0+1, and the usual Serial and PS/2 ports. The performance of the board is very similar to the other KT333 boards, usually not varying by more than a few frames. Nevertheless, the KT333 boards are the fastest Socket A boards on the planet at the moment, so you cant go wrong with it or any of the other KT333 boards.
The overclocking potential of this board is the selling point. There are options to move the FSB in 1MHz increments up to 200MHz, the important PCI/AGP dividers, the usual RAM tweaks, and the usual Voltage changes, and the board is very stable when overclocked.
The 8KA3's performance and overclocking ability lead to it being chosen here, but if you are after USB 2.0, the MSI KT3U will suffice, and if you want something different without legacy ports, go for the Abit AT7.
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