Features of the 4SDA5+
The layout of the 4SDA5+ is similar to the original 4SDA+ motherboard that EPoX introduced. This board features a 1/6/0 (AGP/PCI/Riser) that has been very popular for quite some time now. The AGP slot is keyed for 4x and 8x video cards only. Similar to the i845 design, you can't use older 2x AGP cards in this board. This is a limitation of the AGP 3.0 specs that state you can only go back to AGP 4x when using 8x design. VIA P4X400 and KT400 both have this limitation as well so it is not changeable.
In general layout, the board could have done with a bit more thought. The Floppy disk connector is located down toward the bottom, just above the RAID ports. This has been a trait of EPoX for quite a few boards now that we would like to see fixed as it causes quite some cable clutter.
The Power connectors are also a bit in the way. The ATX 20-pin connector and ATX 12v connector are located to the left of the SiS 648 Northbridge, below the CPU. This is of great concern for overclockers as it will mean the power cables have to be draped over the heatsink and cause some problems with effective cooling. The ATX Backplane is designed similar to the EPoX 4G4A+ with 4 USB ports accessible from the back of the PC as well as the network connector.
SiS 648, Pentium 4 Powerhouse
Driving EPoX's latest creation is the SiS 648 chipset. We recently took a look at this chipset in our 533FSB Shootout Guide so we won't go into great detail over the chipset itself. Suffice to say, this chipset is the ultimate in Pentium 4 performance. Designed for DDR-333 and even DDR-400, the SiS 648 is able to drive even more performance out of 400 and 533FSB P4 processors. When using DDR-400 memory with a 400FSB processor, the P4 bus and memory bus are in exact bandwidth synchronization, 3.2GB/s. Fully optimal for Pentium 4, 533FSB processors give out 4.2GB/s so there is still a gap to be filled. In the meantime the SiS 648 fills in. Designed with AGP 8x interface, this chipset is able to take full advantage of ATi's Radeon 9700 video card @ 8x AGP, but how well it will run? Only time will answer that one.
Paired with the SiS 963 Southbridge you are given ATA-133 support, 6 USB 2.0 ports, AC'97 rev 2.2, SiS 900 PCI Ethernet and for the first time, Firewire built into the Southbridge.
Like all of EPoX's great boards, this one is equipped with a RAID controller and like all of the past boards, its been a Highpoint Controller. Driven by the HPT372 Controller you get ATA-133 IDE and RAID support for up to 4 IDE HDD's. What would have been nice would have been Serial ATA as it does allow for smaller cables and converters to use standard IDE drives on them like Abit and MSI do, however, its not an essential yet.
Audio on the Cheap
To keep things affordable, EPoX has included a simple AC'97 Alcatel ALC650 5.1 sound controller. Since most hardcore users will opt for an Audigy, you don't really need this sound, which is dismal at best.
Networking, Also on the Cheap
While it might be cheap, the SiS 900 Ethernet controller is the best of a bad bunch of integrated controllers. Using less CPU cycles than the Intel Pro100VE or the VIA Rhine II, the SiS 900 controller is a wise choice. Using the Realtek Interface controller only strengthens EPoX's approach to networking.
Firewire, First Ever Integrated
While we have seen Firewire controllers built onto motherboards in the past, this is the first one ever integrated into the Southbridge, meaning that it will cost no extra (or very, very little) to have Firewire on your SiS 648 motherboards. EPoX has even decided to include headers and a cable for two Firewire ports (we didn't get the cable with our sample, as ours was shipped before the cable was ready).