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PC Buyers Guide - October 2002 - Motherboards

You've all been waiting for it and now its here! Come join Nick Swan as he gives us the newest edition of the TweakTown Buyer's Guide. With some very interesting additions to the PC world this past month, it is time to see what was worthy to be added to the ranks of the best. Come see for yourself!

| Guides | Posted: Oct 12, 2002 4:00 am

Motherboards

 

- EPoX 4G4A+

 

Times on List: 3

 

EPoX website for this product

 

 

This motherboard scored a handy 10 out of 10 in a TweakTown review, and has nearly everything you would want on a motherboard, so its certainly a worthy addition to this guide. Visit here for the full review of the board. Seeing as there is a 9 page review of the motherboard, I will outline some of the more important features and if you're still interested, you can look for yourself.

 

The board is based on the i845G chipset, which is the latest i845 generation of motherboards (along with the i845E), and supports both the 100/133 (400/533)MHz FSB's P4's, which means it will be compatible with many future releases of P4's. The board comes with 6 PCI slots, a 1.5v AGP 4x slot, 1 CNR slot, 2 PS2 ports, 6 USB ports (USB 2.0 - 4 are rear accessible, and 2 need the expansion bracket), the usual serial and parallel ports, a Highpoint ATA-133 RAID controller, 3 DIMM slots (DDR RAM), Realtek Ethernet Controller and AC'97 sound. The overclocking potential of the board is also excellent. It has FSB adjustments of 1MHz from 100-255MHz (somehow I don't think you will be getting 255MHz FSB - That's a hefty 1.020GHz FSB!). The board also has VCore adjustments from 1.1v - 1.85v in 0.025v increments, AGP Voltage adjustments from 1.5v - 1.9v in 0.1v increments and DRAM Voltage adjustments from 2.5v - 3.2v in 0.1v increments.

 

Obviously for this board to score 10, it would need to have excellent performance, so there is no need to talk about it here. Overall, this board is feature packed, overclocks well, has excellent performance and supports the new 133MHz FSB P4's (and will support the super new 2.80GHz P4's with a BIOS update). What more could you want? Mind you, if you're after the most feature packed board on the market, go for the Abit IT72 (probably not quite released when this is published). It should have Serial ATA support, amongst a very long list of other features.

 

- Find the best price on EPoX motherboards!

 

- Asus P4T-533

 

Times on list: 2

 

Asus' website for this product

 

 

I won't say much about this board considering that I don't really recommend it; but I suppose I need to add it because it offers the best out of the box performance for the new 133MHz FSB P4's. Feature-wise, the board has 2 RIMM slots for up to 2GB of RIMM 3200 (PC800)/RIMM 4200(PC1066) RDRAM, which is 32-bit wide (note that its RIMM 4200 and not straight PC1066 RDRAM, which is basically two sticks of PC1066 RDRAM stuck together to give one 32-bit stick), which means you do not have to install the RAM in pairs. It also has 6 PCI Slots, AGP PRO (1.5 Volt cards only), ATA-133 and ATA-133 RAID support (RAID 0,1), 6 channel audio, USB 2.0 support, integrated NIC and a few other not so important things. BIOS wise, the board supports VCore changes up to 1.85v, but unfortunately no AGP or memory voltage options. There is also very limited memory tweaking options, but at least you can set the FSB in 1MHz increments to 200MHz.

 

Seeing as I have said I don't really recommend it, the reason it's on here is because with the very elusive RIMM 4200 (PC1066) RDRAM, it offers by far the best out of the box speed. However, RIMM 4200 RDRAM defines elusive, and currently in Australia, I have only seen it for sale in a bundle with this board, so forget trying to run 512MB of RAM.

 

If you're looking to do any overclocking or tweaking, I would recommend an i845E board like the Abit BD7 II or an i845G board like the EPoX 4G4A+ (above), as the features for overclocking and tweaking are very thin on this board. That said, if you're not a tweaker and want the best performance, this is for you.

 

- Find the best price on ASUS P4T 533-C motherboards!

 

- EPoX 8K5A3+

 

Times on List: 1

 

EPoX website for this product

 

 

This board is based on the KT333 chipset from VIA and is an evolution of the board that was previously here, the 8K3A/+. The EPoX 8K5A3+ was chosen over its older sibling (8K3A+) because of its added features (will get to this later), as well as a slightly redesigned PCB and a cool looking Northbridge heatsink (I like it!). Feature-wise, the board contains 4 (up from 3) DIMM Sockets that support a total of 4GB of DDR 333 RAM (PC2700), an AGP 4x slot, 6 PCI slots, 6 USB 2.0 ports (4 rear accessible, 2 more optional), quad channel RAID (Highpoint HPT374), as well as the usual IDE channels, 6 channel onboard sound, onboard LAN, and serial/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, but a little better than the 8K3A+ which was no slouch. However, to achieve really good performance from the two EPoX boards, you will need to fiddle a little, as the 8K3A+ was a little slow when running off default BIOS settings, but once the board was tweaked, it ran like a missile. The overclocking of the board continues EPoX's traditions in this area, and when it comes to overclocking, this is the board to get. The features are basically the same as the 8K3A+, so it has VCore of up to 2.2v and DIMM voltage of up to 3.2v. Add to that the usual options to move the FSB in 1MHz increments up to 200MHz, the important PCI/AGP dividers, the usual RAM tweaks, and a stable board when overclocked and you have an overclocking winner. The 8K5A3+'s overclocking and great performance after a little tweaking have led it to being named here, but if you're after features, don't look past the AT7 from Abit (or their new AT7 2 if you can find it).

 

Recently, VIA launched the KT400 chipset for the Athlon XP, which was supposed to make available a lot of new features, including AGP 8x support, and unofficial DDR 400 support. However, in a lot of cases, the KT400 boards were performing well below the KT333 boards levels, and the unofficial DDR 400 support was often not stable or would simply not work. As a result, I would recommend you stay away from any KT400 board until a new revision of the chipset, or at least a board that runs properly, is released.

 

On the horizon is the nForce 2 from nVidia. This board brings DDR 400 support to the Athlon XP, in both single and dual channel configurations, which on paper looks very promising, but in reality is rather less promising, although still very useful. As well as its dual channel DDR RAM abilities, the board is extremely feature packed, and has almost every feature you would want for your PC. The nForce 2 was released on October 1, and while it performed extremely well, beating the KT333/KT400, it was said to be quite a buggy chipset. If nVidia can fix the problems it has, no doubt the nForce 2 will be a big winner.

 

- Find the best price on EPoX motherboards!

 

Further Reading: Read and find more Guides content at our Guides reviews, guides and articles index page.

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