Albatron PX915G Pro
- Package and Contents
Albatron offer a more value orientated overclocking motherboard. While this may sound somewhat un-appealing, don't let this put you off. Albatron have only cut down on the frilly packages, like their KX600 Pro-S motherboards, where we saw that it was a pocket rocket - let's see if the same is true here.
The PX915G Pro comes with the bare minimum, one user manual, driver CD, one Serial ATA data and power cable, one IDE/FDD cable set and an I/O plate. This is all Albatron believe you need in order to get a good I9xx system off the ground - let's hope that this is the only cost cutting that is done.
- The Motherboard
This is one of the first retail motherboards we were sent for testing. It is based on the ATX specification with a 30x30cm size, so a good sized ATX case is needed. In all its no bigger than the I875 and I865 motherboards were, so a new case isn't needed.
Expansion layout is now a new topic on what is good and what is best. Albatron has put its claim down with one PCI-E x16 slot for graphics, two PCI-E x1 slots for add-in cards such as RAID controllers, and various other devise that should soon hit the market and three PCI slots are also included.
The PX915G Pro uses DDR memory rather than the newer DDR-2 in order to reduce the costs of upgrading to a new LGA775 system. The slots are colour coded purple for Channel A and green for Channel B, supporting a maximum of 4GB of memory.
The placement of the power connectors has a good and a bad side. The 24 pin power connector is located behind the DIMM slots along with the FDD connector and single IDE connector. The 4 pin connector is placed between the Northbridge heatsink and the I/O panel, which we have come to find quite an annoyance with routing cables for good air flow.
Albatron uses a 4 phase power unit in order to accommodate the new Prescott processors. 3 phase units while they can provide just enough stability at default voltages, overclocking needs extra, and the 4 phase should clean up the power supply to the CPU.
Albatron PX915G Pro uses Intel's latest I915G MCH and 82801FB ICH. These are the latest in Intel's arsenal to push the Pentium 4 processor to the next level. The I915G MCH supports both DDR and DDR-2 DRAM modules. Albatron has only added support for DDR modules, so DDR-2 technology will not work here. The Northbridge also supports the PCI Express x16 lane, which is used to allow next generation video controllers.
Albatron has also added the support for the Intel GMA900 onboard graphics controller. This controller is somewhat limited in power for hardcore gamers; however, it is more than acceptable for workstations with light to moderate DX9 graphics needs. Using the UMA system, it draws up to 128MB of system memory for the graphics processor, however, its uses Intel's Dynamic Video Memory Technology or DVMT. This technology makes the graphics card start off using only around 16MB of the system memory. This is all Windows XP will require for basic tasks and when more memory is needed, the MCH diverts more of the system memory to the graphics controller. When the memory is no longer needed, it is then diverted back for system use which makes using onboard graphics slightly more appealing as the memory isn't permanently diverted, only when it is needed. The MCH on the PX915G Pro is passively cooled. However, we do believe that this should be actively cooled, as the I9xx series chipsets generate more heat than previous Intel chipsets. When under full load the MCH gets quite hot.
The Southbridge on this motherboard is simply the ICH6. This chipset supports most of the full fledged features with some limitations. First off there is no Serial ATA RAID function. The Serial ATA ports only function in a base mode, just like standard IDE ports do, so if you are thinking of two drives in a Matrix array, this motherboard is not the answer.
Intel High Definition Audio is supported and provides up to 8 channels of excellent audio quality, without taxing the CPU as much as traditional AC'97 audio systems tend to do. Like the MCH, the ICH tends to run hotter on this generation than previous ICH systems, so Albatron have passively cooled this as well. Passive cooling on the ICH6 is more than adequate as the ICH to the touch was only slightly warm when under full load. Albatron uses the Realtek RTL850 8 channel audio codec for its onboard sound system.
While having no Serial ATA RAID support, Albatron has added an ITE controller chip that supports a Dual Channel IDE controller. While you may not recognise this chip, it is the same one that Gigabyte uses on its motherboards, only it is named GigaRAID. This chip provides basic IDE RAID systems, more than adequate for the audience this motherboard will be targeting. And it is good to see Albatron are offering at least some form of RAID for users.
The PX915G Pro has two LAN controllers onboard - one Marvell Gigabit MV8001 PCI and one VIA VT6105 LAN on module. The major disappointment of this system is both LAN chips occupy the PCI bus... Marvell, Intel and Broadcom have PCI Express LAN controllers; Albatron has chosen to use the cheaper PCI option which will not offer as good performance.
Albatron has re-designed its BIOS to reflect a more overclocker friendly motherboards. In fact, it is almost identical in design to the ASUS BIOS, with some layout changes of course. Under the advanced menu tab, the Frequency/Voltage control menu holds all the overclocking settings for the Albatron motherboard.
First off with the divider locks Albatron has put in PCI and PCI Express divider locks, however, during tests, if these dividers were set to 100MHz for PCI Express and 33MHz for PCI, when the BIOS was saved and the system reset, the motherboard would refuse to post - and if even one setting was chosen, the same problem would occur. While the locks are there, you won't be able to use them at this stage - hopefully a BIOS update will fix these problems in the near future.
FSB adjustments can be made from 200MHz up to 350MHz in 1MHz increments. In tests with the options we managed to hit 240MHz FSB, however, Serial ATA drives refused to be detected, as the Serial ATA bus was overclocked too high.
DDR voltage can be adjusted up to a +3v max of default (default is detected at 2.6v). This means that a 2.9v Vdimm voltage is supported and since the motherboard uses DDR memory, it is quite enough for the I915 series chipset at the moment.
NB voltage is the voltage supplied to the MCH. Albatron gives you the option to run the Northbridge at up to +0.3v above default which is 1.9v total. This is what allows you to overcome the 10% overclocking barrier, but without divider locks, it's like overclocking an Intel 440BX type motherboard all over again.
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