- Onboard Video
One of the key features ATI are pushing with this chipset is the onboard Radeon 9100 DX8.1 graphics which claim to provide the best onboard video experience over competition from Intel with their Extreme Graphics 2 (which 'ain't all that extreme when it comes down to it).
You are able to select the amount of memory you allocate for the onboard video to use. You can use anywhere from 16MB up to 128MB. The other handy thing about this onboard video we noticed when testing was the fact that you don't need to bother about disabling and enabling it. It automatically detects when you have a graphics card in the AGP slot and disables onboard video accordingly. The same applies in the reverse situation.
You are able to use screen resolutions up to 2048x1536 @ 32-bit color depth with anisotropic texture filtering and Full Screen Anti-Aliasing (FSAA) even though it might not handle it too well in modern games and definitely not in upcoming titles such as Doom 3 and Half Life 2.
We'll talk more about the performance of the Radeon 9100 onboard video performance later in the review. For comparison purposes, we borrowed an ATI Radeon 9200 SE low-end graphics card from a local distributor to compare the onboard graphics performance to an actual AGP alternative. The card we used is from GeCube and has 128MB of memory onboard.
The results can be found later on in the review.
- VIA Firewire
Strangely, despite the lack of Serial ATA support, FIC chose to include Firewire onboard for AV enthusiasts through VIA's proven and popular VT6307L chip. It probably would have been wiser to save the money on including Firewire and include an external SATA chip from VIA, Silicon Image or High Point.
- Realtek to the rescue!
Even though the Radeon 9100 IGP has integrated 3Com networking, for whatever reason FIC has chosen to ignore it and spend extra money by including the widely used RTL8100C 10/100 Fast Ethernet controller from Realtek. Why FIC didn't just use the high quality built-in 3Com controller is baffling.
Being ATI's first ever chipset, they are yet to implement audio into their chipsets - you can bet though that they are working on the very task as you read this, probably for inclusion in the newer IXP 250 Southbridge. As an alternative, FIC has decided to go with the 5.1 capable ALC655 AC'97 chip from Realtek which provides standard line in, line out and microphone in ports on the back of the motherboard for your speaker requirements. This audio chip from Realtek isn't too bad and provides good quality sound for the price.
Unfortunately FIC didn't include any overclocking options in their early revision BIOS of the P4M-RS300. This isn't to say the ATI chipset cannot overclock, it just reaffirms that FIC has never been big in the enthusiast department.
It would have been nice though to have the most basic of overclocking options - FSB adjustments. This is the first motherboard I have seen in a long time with not a single overclocking option.
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