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Abit vs. Gigabyte: Tier 1 i865PE Head to Head

Many folks are not aware that component manufacturers are broken down into groups. These groups, called "Tiers", are a means to tell us how high a company ranks on the food chain. The upper levels will be those generating the most revenue and generally having a larger market share, but that doesn't always mean they have the best product. Come join Cameron "Sov" Johnson as he begins a journey of comparison. He'll start off with a pair of Tier 1 motherboard manufacturers in a head to head contest. Later articles will compare Tier 2 and Tier 3 companies so we can see the entire spectrum of the playing field. So sit back and enjoy as we begin this quest with Abit vs Gigabyte. We shall see firsthand who has what it takes to be considered the best of the best!
@TweakTown
Cameron Johnson
Published Sun, Aug 17 2003 11:00 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:25 PM CDT
Manufacturer: none

Abit vs. Gigabyte - Introduction

IntroductionBy now most of us know of Intel's latest introduction to the Pentium 4 platform, the i865 chipsets. These new chipsets are designed to take on certain sectors, including super low budget, integrated solutions and mainstream desktop. While Intel planned for the i875P to take the gold, to the market's surprise i865PE chipsets have proven to be just as fast. And with all the major features of the i875P such as support for Serial ATA RAID, CSA networking and Dual Channel DDR-400 memory, it is no wonder that the i865PE has become the weapon of choice.Today at TweakTown we have been looking at the market and have noticed that different motherboard manufacturers produce different styles and quality of boards. Looking further, motherboard manufacturers are divided into tiers. ABIT, ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI take up the Tier 1, top line boards. EPoX, Soyo and Shuttle (amongst others) make up Tier 2; cost effective yet powerful boards. ECS, Albatron, PCChips, Asrock and FIC make up Tier 3; low-end motherboards. This month, we will be putting the best of Tier 1, best of Tier 2 and best of Tier 3 motherboards head to head. Today we are doing Tier 1, ABIT vs. Gigabyte. From ABIT, we have acquired the IS7-G; the top of the line i865PE board from the well known overclocking kings. In the other corner, we have Gigabyte's 8PENXP, the successor to the 8KNXP Canterwood board with just as many features. Who will take out the gold? Let's find out.

Abit vs. Gigabyte - Specifications

Specifications of the ABIT IS7-GCPUSupports Intel Pentium 4 1.4GHz ~ 2GHz mPGA 478 CPU WillametteSupports Intel Pentium 4 2.0GHz ~ 2.8GHz mPGA 478 Northwood (400FSB)Supports Intel Pentium 4 2.2GHz ~ 3.06GHz+ mPGA 478 Northwood (533FSB)Supports Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz ~ 3.2GHz mPGA 478 Northwood (800FSB)Supports Intel Celeron 1.7GHz ~ 2.8GHz mPGA 478 Northwood (400FSB)ChipsetIntel i865PE with HT i82865PE Northbridgei82801ER SouthbridgeIntel Hub Architecture @ 266MB/sBus Frequency100/133/200MHz Internal400/533/800MHz ExternalNetburst Micro ArchitectureExpansion Slots1 AGP 4x, 8x5 PCIExpansion Ports1 PS2 Keyboard Port1 PS2 Mouse Port8 USB 2.0 Ports (4 rear accessible, 4 via expansion bracket)2 Firewire Ports (via expansion bracket)2 Serial Ports 1 Parallel Port5 Stereo Audio Ports 1 Game Port (via expansion bracket)Special FeaturesBIOS overclocking control of FSB, voltagesOnboard 3Com Gigabit NetworkingTexas Instruments FirewireSilicone Image SATA RAIDSpecifications of the Gigabyte 8PENXPCPUSupports Intel Pentium 4 1.4GHz ~ 2GHz mPGA 478 CPU WillametteSupports Intel Pentium 4 2.0GHz ~ 2.8GHz mPGA 478 Northwood (400FSB)Supports Intel Pentium 4 2.2GHz ~ 3.06GHz+ mPGA 478 Northwood (533FSB)Supports Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz ~ 3.2GHz mPGA 478 Northwood (800FSB)Supports Intel Celeron 1.7GHz ~ 2.8GHz mPGA 478 Northwood (400FSB)ChipsetIntel i865PE with HT i82865PE Northbridgei82801EB SouthbridgeIntel Hub Architecture @ 266MB/sBus Frequency100/133/200MHz Internal400/533/800MHz ExternalNetburst Micro ArchitectureExpansion Slots1 AGP 4x, 8x5 PCIExpansion Ports1 PS2 Keyboard Port1 PS2 Mouse Port8 USB 2.0 Ports (4 rear accessible, 4 via expansion bracket)2 Firewire Ports (via expansion bracket)2 Serial Ports 1 Parallel Port3 Stereo Audio Ports 1 Game Port (via expansion bracket)Special FeaturesBIOS overclocking control of FSB, voltagesOnboard Intel Gigabit NetworkingTexas Instruments FirewireSilicone Image SATA RAIDITE IDE RAIDDual Power System rev 2.0

Abit vs. Gigabyte - Features - Gigabyte 8PENXP

Features of the Gigabyte 8PENXPPackage and Layout
Gigabyte's latest motherboards to come for the Taiwan giant have been very colorful masterpieces. The 8PENXP is packed in a similar front lift up package to the 8KNXP that gives you all the information on the motherboard you are purchasing. Inside, Gigabyte gives a plethora of goodies including the motherboard, three user manuals (1 for the board, 1 for the Serial ATA Controller and 1 for the Parallel ATA controller), one 4-port USB bracket, one audio bracket for 5-speaker operations, one Firewire bracket, one Serial ATA to External expansion card, DPRS 2 module.Board Layout and Gripes
Gigabyte has, for the past four motherboards, used a 1 AGP slot and 5 PCI configuration. This has proven to be a winning combination and has been used on the 8PENXP, which is identical in Layout to the 8KNXP. The AGP slot supports both 4x and 8x protocols and is not backwards compatible with older 2x cards. Gigabyte has put a great deal of onboard peripherals on the 8KNXP so 5 PCI slots are all that should be needed for now and the future.One of the biggest notations of this board is the memory slots. i865 chipsets have support for only four double sided DIMM modules. This limits most boards to 4 slots, two for channel A and two for Channel B. Gigabyte has changed this, similar to how 3 DIMMs were added to i845 boards. Gigabyte manages 6 DIMMS like this; Port 0 has a single DIMM connector on it where port 1 has 2. This means that if you install a double sided DIMM into DIMM 2, DIMM 3 cannot have any memory modules inserted. The same theory exists with DIMM 5 and 6; if a double sided DIMM is in 5, 6 cannot be occupied.Power connectors and expansion sockets are located as per normal for a Gigabyte board. The 20-pin power connector is placed behind the DIMM sockets along with the FDD and HDD connectors. The 4-pin connector is between the Northbridge and the I/O panel making the 4-pin cable drape across the heatsink and fan.Another feature is the DPRS2 system. DPRS2 stands for Dual Power Retention System. Most motherboards have either a 3-phase or some now with 4-phases to power the CPU voltage regulator. DPRS2 adds an extra 3-phases to the already 3 onboard, giving a total of 6 phases. This means there is no limit to the amount of power the Gigabyte 8PENXP can deliver stably to the CPU.

Abit vs. Gigabyte - Features Continued - Gigabyte 8PENXP

Gigabyte 8PENXP Features Continued
Intel's latest addition to the Pentium 4 platform, the i865PE, has proven itself to provide just as much power as an i875P chipset can, so it's no wonder that manufacturers are using this chipset above any competitors or even Intel's own i875P chipset. With support for DDR-400 Dual Channel DDR SDRAM, AGP 8x, CSA Networking, the only thing missing is PAT and ECC support, which isn't that much help for desktops anyway.The new ICH5 is included to add eight USB 2.0 ports, AC'97 audio and two independent Serial ATA controllers. It would have been nicer to see the ICH5-R used, however, Gigabyte does make up for this with the inclusion of the Silicon Image Controller.Dual Serial ATA
While the ICH5 is included for Serial ATA, it doesn't support RAID functions like the ICH5-R does. The ever popular Silicon Image Serial ATA controller chip has been added to give two extra Serial ATA ports for RAID 0, 1 and 0+1.Parallel ATA RAID
While more companies today are building boards with Serial ATA RAID, 99% are forgetting about Parallel ATA RAID. Serial ATA is still new, so it's pretty doubtful 20% of us have a SATA drive let alone two. Most of us, however, have two or more IDE drives in RAID arrays. With new boards with Serial ATA RAID, it's almost impossible to use the IDE drives; this is unacceptable. Gigabyte, however, hasn't forgotten us. The ITE GigaRAID controller is added for two IDE ports supporting four drives in RAID 0, 1 or 0+1 modes.Firewire
While you would think that eight USB ports would be enough to keep the system going, Gigabyte has made the 8PENXP dual Serial port ready. Firewire has become a great interface for DV transfer and even networking. Gigabyte adds the Texas Instruments 3-port Firewire controller.Gigabit CSA NetworkingWith the introduction of the new i875P and i865 series chipsets, Intel added a new bus interface to the MCH. This new bus is called the Communications Streaming Architecture. This new bus runs at 266MB/s and allows for connection of the Pro 1000CT Intel network controller. This controller runs at 10,100,1000mbps for Gigabit Ethernet connections. Using the CSA bus eliminates the large amounts of Ethernet data from clogging up the PCI bus, a much better approach to the even increasing problems with the PCI restrictions.

Abit vs. Gigabyte - Features - ABIT IS7-G

Features of the IS7-GPackage and Contents
First off, we look at the ABIT IS7-G and its package and what ABIT gives you for your cash. The IS7-G is packed in a similar color coded box as the SI7-G motherboard in a white, black and blue box. This is guaranteed to stand out on the shelves with large ABIT writing in white. Within the box is where all the goodies come into play. ABIT packs a generous bundle. You receive two user manuals, one for the motherboard and another for the Silicon Image Serial ATA controller, one CD containing installation drivers, monitoring software and a few extra goodies, three floppy disks (1 for the ICH5-R Windows 2000/XP Installations if you use the Serial ATA in RAID format, 1 Floppy for the same purposes of the Silicon Image SATA controller, and 1 Floppy containing drivers for the ICH5 USB 2.0 controller). You also get a heap of cables including two IDE cables, one FDD cable (all rounded), and two Serial ATA cables at 50cm each. Four would have been better to take advantage of all the ports, but these babies are becoming more available now so it's not that big a concern. A special I/O shield is used, as ABIT doesn't follow the standard ATX port layout. Serial ATA power cables are also provided so you can hook your Serial ATA drives up to currant Power Supply Units.Board, Layout and Complaints
ABIT's layout of the IS7-G resembles something of the IC7-G, with a few slight changes. First off, the PCB is a light brown rather than a dark brown/black color. Second, the CPU socket has been rotated for better position, especially for water-cooled units and larger heatsinks. Like the IC7-G, one AGP slot is included supporting AGP 4x 1.5v or AGP 8x 0.9v cards only. 3.3v cards will not work in this board as all new chipsets are phasing out the AGP 2.0 specs.The DIMM sockets again have been color coded, two light blue for Channel A and two darker blue/purple for Channel B. This will aid in installation of memory for Dual Channel operations straight off the ball. Of late, the placement of the power connectors has been something ABIT has slacked off on. This time, however, things have slightly improved. The massive 20-pin connector is located behind the DIMM sockets well away from the CPU socket while the 4-pin connector is between the I/O ports and the Northbridge. It is well over towards the I/O ports making the cables easier to route to keep away from the Heatsink and fan.One of the interesting things was the 90 degree rotation of the IDE sockets. Normally these take up huge amounts of space, but ABIT has rotated them 90 degree and placed them on the outer edge of the board, keeping the cables flat and away from the airflow of the case. Intel's Latest Beast
The IS7-G is powered by the i865PE Northbridge giving dual channel DDR-400 memory for a peak bandwidth of 6.4GB/s. AGP 8x AGP slot and CSA networking with a max FSB of 800MHz. Unlike Gigabyte, ABIT has decided to use the ICH5R Southbridge allowing for the two Serial ATA ports to act in RAID 0 or RAID 1 functions.Silicon Image pops up again
It has been the most used Serial ATA PCI controller since the introduction of the standard first appeared. Due to its support for Serial Packets rather than converting Parallel to Serial, it has given better performance than Promise or Highpoint controllers. ABIT has also chosen to add a 2nd Serial ATA controller with two extra ports. Firewire Comes Standard
Firewire is becoming even more popular due to its fully hardware driven nature. Its use of the CPU is negligible and its support for 400mbps networking through piggyback operations makes is a great choice for home users. ABIT has included the Texas Instruments 3-port Firewire controller. ABIT supplied three ports, two by expansion brackets and one you need to source for yourself.Gigabit Ethernet but not CSA?
This was one of the most puzzling things to me; Intel added the CSA bus to allow for faster Ethernet controllers. While fully supported by the i865PE, ABIT has elected to shut down the CSA bus and use a 3Com Gigabit controller tied into the PCI bus making the PCI system slower when using Gigabit Ethernet.

Abit vs. Gigabyte - Benchmarks - Test Setup and SiSoft Sandra MAX3

Test System SetupProcessor: Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz (800MHz FSB) (Supplied by Spectrum Communications)Memory: 2x 256MB DDR-400 Kingmax (Supplied by Kingmax Australia)Hard Disk: Western Digital WD80 7200RPM (Supplied by Techbuy)Graphics Card: ATI Radeon 9700 Pro (Supplied by ATI)Software Used: SiSoft Sandra MAX 3, 3DMark03, 3DMark 2001, Comanche 4, Unreal Tournament 2003, Quake III, PCMark2002, Code Creatures and Jedi Knight 2SiSoft Sandra MAX3SiSoft Sandra (System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) MAX3 is a synthetic Windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
As you can see, Gigabyte is able to take a slight lead when it comes to all three tests. This so far shows Gigabyte has optimized the system for maximum performance under synthetic conditions. How it goes in full tests remains to be seen.

Abit vs. Gigabyte - Benchmarks - PCMark2002

PCMark2002PCMark2002 is a multipurpose benchmark suited for benchmarking all kinds of PCs, from laptops to workstations, as well as across multiple Windows operating systems. This easy-to-use benchmark makes professional strength benchmarking software available even to novice users. PCMark2002 consists of a series of tests that represent common tasks in home and office programs. PCMark2002 also covers many additional areas outside the scope of other MadOnion.com benchmarks.
Again, Gigabyte takes home the gold.

Abit vs. Gigabyte - Benchmarks - 3DMark2001 SE

3DMark2001 SE is part of the popular 3DMark series. By combining DirectX 8.1 support with completely new graphics (including the GeForce4), it continues to provide benchmark results that empower you to make informed hardware assessments. Build 330 adds support for video cards that have Vertex Shaders but no Pixel Shaders.
At 640x480, both the ABIT and Gigabyte are almost identical, but when the resolutions rise, the Gigabyte is able to take the win.

Abit vs. Gigabyte - Benchmarks - 3DMark03

3DMark033DMark03 is the latest version of the highly favored 3DMark series. By combining full DirectX9.0 support with completely new tests and graphics, 3DMark03 continues the legacy of being industry standard benchmark.
Again in 3DMark03, the same trend as in 3DMark2001 SE is shown.

Abit vs. Gigabyte - Benchmarks - Code Creatures

Code CreaturesCode Creatures is a Synthetic benchmark based on DirectX 8, which gives users the chance to see another highly involved benchmark program. Focusing on two elements, Grass and Water, video cards are stressed to the limit resulting in quite low scoring benchmarks. Users get to see a more intensive side of DirectX 8 thanks to the engine behind Code Creatures.
In the last of the synthetic tests, Gigabyte still maintains its dominance at maximum resolutions.

Abit vs. Gigabyte - Benchmarks - Comanche 4

Comanche 4Comanche 4 is a helicopter simulation using the DirectX 8.1 graphics interface. It is used to test the memory and 3D subsystems of a motherboard and video processor. Any weaknesses will show up through this intensive benchmark.
In our first real-world benchmark we see Gigabyte still able to hold its leads in 1600x1200 resolutions.

Abit vs. Gigabyte - Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 2003

Unreal Tournament 2003Unreal Tournament 2003 continues the success that Unreal Tournament generated as an online game and benchmark. UT2003 pulls all of its weight onto the 3D and memory subsystems, pushing graphics reality to the maximum is its game, and you need some serious power to gain playable scores with this game.
UT2003 shows no variation to the previous results.

Abit vs. Gigabyte - Benchmarks - Quake III Arena

Quake III ArenaQuake III Arena is a real-world OpenGL benchmark that we have been using here at TweakTown for quite a while now because it has proven itself to be one of the best gaming benchmarks around to compare a wide range of different products. Quake III is getting very old, but is still one of the best ways of testing video and PC systems for any instabilities and best performance.
Here we see ABIT able to keep up with the Gigabyte in all three resolutions.

Abit vs. Gigabyte - Benchmarks - Jedi Knight II

Jedi Knight IIJedi Knight II, Jedi Outcast is an OpenGL game that many have been playing of late. It has greatly improved graphics over its predecessor and it fully supports advanced shaders, as well as very high texture resolutions and effects. There is one demo included in the multi-player section that is good for benchmarking use.
In our final run we see Gigabyte able to take yet another win.

Abit vs. Gigabyte - Conclusions

ABIT IS7-G ConclusionsABIT, on the whole, have created a great board with only a few gripes we could really write home about. Layout and placement of connectors has been thought up a lot better than previous boards, while Firewire, Dual Serial ATA RAID options as well as the Gigabit Ethernet does make this a very tempting motherboard to purchase. However, there are a few issues that did come up.First off is overclocking. ABIT has acknowledged a BIOS problem that limits FSB speeds to 255Mhz FSB; anything over this (even with unlocked CPU's) makes the system unstable. Another issue was the removal of the CSA network controller over the PCI based 3Com Ethernet. Intel's own CSA allows for a much smoother networking experience with high bandwidth at the ready, so it was disappointing to see it left out.- ProsFastStableDual Serial ATA RAIDFirewireGigabit Ethernet4-phase power system- ConsUse of PCI Gigabit Ethernet over CSA EthernetLimited to 255FSB at present timeRating - 8/10Gigabyte 8PENXP ConclusionsGigabyte has put together a back-to-back set of boards with identical layers and features with the 8PENXP and 8KNXP. Now it's not so hard to choose value or high performance as you get it on both. Layout wise, the board was very good with only the 4-pin power connector being the major flaw. Overclocking was good with FSB speeds in excess of 300MHz being reached, and with a great selection of voltages, Gigabyte has come up with yet another great board.- ProsFastStableFirewireSerial ATA RAIDParallel IDE RAIDDPRS rev 2.0 system for 6-phase power- ConsUse of ICH5 over ICH5RRating - 9/10 and TweakTown's Editors Choice Award
Today we have concluded the Tier 1 testings with Gigabyte taking home the prizes. Stay tuned for the Tier 2 battle of EPoX vs. Albatron and Tier 3 with ECS taking on FIC.

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