- MSI 845 Ultra ARU
Times on list: New
MSI's website for this product
While the P4 Fire Dragon recommended here last guide is certainly a quality board, the MSI 845 Ultra ARU featured in this comparison, (reviewed here) is an even better quality board. In fact, it managed to beat the two other boards in the test, and those boards certainly aren't slouches.
Like the Fire Dragon, the MSI is based on the i845D chipset that supports DDR RAM and an FSB of 100MHz. The MSI supports 5 PCI slots, an AGP 4x slot, a CNR slot, even though it's useless, 3 DIMM slots, 2 USB 1.1 ports, with two more supplied on a bracket, 4 USB 2.0 ports, of which all are on a bracket, a Promise ATA-133 RAID controller supporting normal ATA-133 and RAID 0 and 1, a C-Media 6 channel sound chip, which is vastly superior to the AC'97 found on many boards, active chipset cooling, a cool looking box, numerous software goodies, cables and a very thick manual.
As I said before, the performance of this board is superior to last guides recommended board, the Fire Dragon. In all but two tests the MSI board comes out on top of the opposition, so its fairly obvious the board runs very well.
The overclocking of the board is also quite impressive. There are the usual FSB controls for 1MHz increment overclocking, CPU multiplier changes in the unlikely event you have an unlocked P4, the usual memory tweaks such as CAS latency, Bank Interleaving etc, and some slightly dubious Voltage controls. While the board supports CPU, RAM and AGP voltage changing, the voltage limits are reasonably low. The maximum the Core voltage could be raised to is 1.85v if you're using a Willamette processor, and a low 1.7v for a Northwood. The RAM voltages are limited to 2.5-2.7v, which again is quite low. At least the AGP voltage controls were reasonable, going from 1.5-1.7v.
With the P4 533MHz FSB's release impending, and passed in some countries, you may want to invest in a board that supports the 133MHz FSB. However, this board was able to be overclocked from the default 100MHz to 146MHz FSB, which means the board will run the new processors without fail.
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- EPoX 8KA3/8KA3+
Times on List: 2
EPoX's website for this product
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 chose 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 can't 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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