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MSI vs. Chaintech: Tier 2 i865PE Head to Head

By: Cameron Johnson | Socket LGA 775 in Motherboards | Posted: Oct 22, 2003 4:00 am

Features of the Chaintech 9PJL Apogee


- Package and Contents



Like so many of Chaintech's products, this one features monster packaging. Measuring in at just over size of an average suitcase, Chaintech certainly go all out.


Unpacking this baby does take a bit since the contents are pretty vast. Inside you get your motherboard, standard user manual with everything you will need to know on the board and software, two IDE cables and one FDD cable, two Serial ATA data cables, two Serial ATA power cables, one Firewire backplane bracket, one USB backplane bracket and one C-Box2.


The Board - High and Low's



Like MSI, Chaintech uses one AGP slot supporting 8x and 4x transfer modes and five PCI slots for any additional devices you might want to add to the system. Chaintech adds some style to their boards with using a dark brown PCB with light blue PCI slots, light blue IDE and FDD connectors and channel A DIMM slots are also in the light blue color with the B channel DIMM slots in black. This is to identify the matched sets that end users will need to run for Dual Channel memory mode.


On the placement side of things, Chaintech could learn a thing or two from MSI. First off we have the IDE connectors which are located towards the bottom of the board. This means that very long IDE cables are needed to reach the top of most Midi tower cases. If you have a full tower case, forget this board altogether if you have drives in the upper bays. The 20pin ATX and FDD connectors are located behind the DIMM sockets, away from the CPU and front fan intakes. While not in the best place, the 4pin power connector is located better than MSI has done. Chaintech has put the connector between the Top of the CPU retention mechanism and the I/O ports. This does mean the cables are near the CPU heatsink but not draping over it.



The heart of the board is the i865PE MCH. As we stated before in the MSI features, this chipset supports DDR-400 Dual Channel memory, 800MHz FSB support and a CSA network bus. Chaintech has only used the ICH5 Southbridge. While almost identical to the ICH5-R, this version doesn't support RAID. So if you're after RAID functions, this board isn't for you. Chaintech uses a very large active cooler. The fan on the Chaintech board is slightly louder than the MSI board, making it somewhat irritating in a quiet PC.



While missing some of the features of the 865PE Neo2, Firewire isn't one of them. The VIA VT6306 PCI Firewire controller chip is used to give three Firewire ports, which are accessible via a backplane bracket.



While the ICH5 supports a 5.1 channel sound system, Chaintech has discarded this audio standard on a lot of its boards in favor of a PCI solution. We have seen in the past Chaintech has either used the CMI PCI controller or the VIA Envy 24. The 9PJL uses the CMI8738 6 channel Audio controller chip. This has proven to be a reliable PCI audio controller for a very cheap price. While we would prefer to see the Envy24, this is certainly better than the AC'97 audio.



Intel has provided a perfectly good CSA bus or even a PCI bus to support a Gigabit Ethernet controller, Chaintech hasn't bothered to give any Gigabit Ethernet support. Instead the Realtek RTL8101L 10/100 PCI controller chip is substituted. This means when Gigabit becomes mainstream in 2004, this board won't have native support.


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