Ever since Intel released the Pentium 4 in late 2001, it has been the most debated processor ever, and so has the very first chipset for the Pentium 4 platform; the i850. The most troublesome areas of the P4 release was its slower than expected FPU, 3dMark2000 scores lower than that of a 1GHz Pentuim 3 and the need for expensive peripherals made the Pentium 4 a no-no for the value builder. When I first got my hands on the P4 CPU and motherboard for testing, I was very disappointed with its less than average scores. Lately, my opinion on the P4 situation has greatly changed with cost effective solutions coming from SiS, VIA and even Intel. Before we go into the review let us explain why the i850 is such a money bender.
First off, the Chipset itself is optimised for a 6 layer PCB. While a few companies have made 4 layer PCB i850 boards, they look as if the components were placed by a drunken bluebottle. This is not a problem than is easily solved unless you got to the more expensive 6 layer PCB. Along with the PCB costs, you have the i850 chipset costs being more expensive than your average chipset.
Now we come to the real money sucker; RDRAM (Rambus). The i850 is designed to use RDRAM ONLY. There is no SDRAM or DDR SDRAM support. And since Rambus memory is a serial technology, you have to install the memory in pairs. Thats two RIMMs per channel, and having 2 channels means you either have to use C-RIMMS which gives you less bandwidth or buy another 2 RIMMs. Hows that for a money sucker?
With SDRAM solutions from VIA and Intel now being supported, and with new DDR sollutions from VIA, SIS and Intel you won't find many i850 boards from manafacturers as they are simply too expensive compared to i845, SiS 645 and VIA P4X266 solutions. With all these troubles, EPoX has decided to release its first Socket 478 i850 solution for you. If you're the type who just wants to have that P4 on the original i850 chipset (or can't refund that RDRAM), then let me introduce you to the EPoX 4T2A3 Motherboard.