Layout wise, the ASUS P4B266 is well equipped for all of your expansion needs. Boasting a 1/6/1 (AGP/PCI/Riser) layout, the P4B266 is designed like its little brother, the P4B, which we reviewed a while ago. Designed with the AGP 4x 1.5v only AGP slot, older AGP 2x cards will be out of luck on this board. However, 99% of users who can afford a P4 can afford a Geforce2 MX200 or above which is 100% compatible with the 4x 1.5v standards. Using a CNR slot, the ASUS board is limited to network, audio, and modem riser cards with the more advanced new 5.1 Dolby digital and Software DSL expansion cards going to the ACR. Intel has not adopted the ACR standard yet, most likely heading towards a new standard to replace the CNR/AMR slots.
The control of the ASUS P4B266 is the Intel i845 D-Stepping chipset. This is nothing more than the Intel i845 with official DDR SDRAM support. While the older i845 did have the DDR controller built in, specs on how to set up the pinouts for DDR still remained a mystery and vendors could not begin i845 DDR solutions until early 2002. Like the i815, the i845D supports four banks of memory for 2 DDR DIMMs, supporting a max of 2GB DDR-200 or DDR-266 memory. While Intel has limited the DDR support to four bank memory rather than 6 or 8, you are still given more memory capacity than Intel's other cut-downs that have been released in the past.
ASUS Added Goodies
Like the ASUS P4B and the P4S333 (which we reviewed earlier), the P4B266 comes with some extra added features. Firstly is the SmartCard reader. If you have any digital cameras but don't have a SmartCard reader, then you are in luck because ASUS has an optional reader that fits into a spare 5 1/4 inch drive bay. This then plugs directly into the motherboard for read/write access to the memory card. The only problem about this is that the reader module is connected into COM2, which leaves you with 1 less COM port and a slow transfer time if you decide to do it this way.
Like ASUS' other P4 offerings, they have added its new EZ-Plug connection system. In case you have missed what EZ-Plug does, here is a quick rundown. The P4B266 comes with your standard ATX-20 pin connector and the 12v 4-pin connector for Pentium 4 power supply. However, if you don't happen to have a P4 PSU and don't want to go out and buy one, ASUS has placed a 4-pin HDD connector on the motherboard. This allows you to connect a standard 4-pin HDD connector into the motherboard to supply the extra power that the P4 needs in order to run properly.
While Intel's ICH2 chip supports the AC'97 Audio CODEC, many motherboard companies have learned that the consumer is more than unhappy with sub-standard audio. That is why ASUS has added the C-Media CMI-8738 6-channel Audio chip. This chip provides audio quality 100% better than the AC'97 CODEC can provide, and with 6-channel audio, you can run those DVDs to their fullest advantage.
Well, this is a first for the ASUS motherboards. Here we have ASUS adding then NEC USB 2.0 PCI controller chipset to their motherboard. Seen on MSI's K7T266 Pro2-UR motherboards and a few USB 2.0 PCI cards, this new baby adds 4 USB2.0 ports for up to 400mbps data transport. The two blue pin connectors you can see are for the USB 2.0 ports while the white connector is for ASUS' standard USB bracket. Very nice to see this addition to the ASUS board.
Like so may of the ASUS line, the P4B266 includes overclocking features. Adjustments for the CPU multiplier (if you are lucky enough to get an unlocked P4) are possible from 14x up to 24x. CPU FSB is adjustable by BIOS or dipswitches. BIOS control of the FSB allows for changes from 100Mhz up to 200Mhz in 1Mhz increments, while the dipswitches are for OEM's with 100, 110, 120 and 133Mhz being the only options available.
Vcore is selectable up to +1v above standard for both Willamette and Northwood CPU's. Intel's i845 in the past has been the best overclocker chipset for the Intel Pentium 4, and this hasn't changed. We managed to run our unlocked P4 2Ghz at 167Mhz FSB with the memory running at HCLK.
Now lets see how she fairs compared to i850 and i845 SDRAM models…