EPoX 4PEA+ - IntroductionIntroduction
The Intel Pentium 4 line has been the most evolving line that we have ever seen. It has gone through two different sockets and now over 12 different chipsets, and most of these are from Intel themselves.First off was the i850, the very first Intel Pentium 4 chipset. This required RDRAM and held the Pentium 4 back due to the markets' rejection of RDRAM back when the Pentium 3 was set to use it. Due to licensing contracts with Rambus, Intel was unable to produce DDR solutions for up to a year, leaving Intel with only one other option, PC133 SDRAM.Due to the memory bandwidth constraints of SDRAM, the Pentium 4 was a slow dinosaur compared to the AMD Athlon, and even the Pentium 3 was able to outperform the Pentium 4 in a lot of tests. Intel named this chipset the i845, and the name is still carried through into today's chipsets.When Rambus contracts were up, Intel didn't jump full force into the DDR market like VIA and SiS had done, but rather started very slowly. The i845 B step was released; simply it was the i845 with a DDR SDRAM controller installed. This allowed either DDR or SDR memory to be used on the i845 B step, truly a versatile chipset.Intel soon moved its Pentium 4 to a 533MHz FSB and this required the chipset to increase. Intel released the i850E for RDRAM based systems with 533FSB support, but this chipset also never took full flight. The i845 was given a 533FSB control option and two variations were available; the i845E, which was the i845 B step with 533FSB, and the i845G, which added Intel's Internal graphics adapter for value end boards (this controller is similar to the i815 chipset).While adding 533FSB to the E and G series, DDR-333 was still left out, only the aging DDR-266 memory was supported. With this being limited to a 2.1GB/s transfer rate, it left Intel's 533FSB P4 well behind as it required 4.2GB/s to fully perform at its best. Intel took the i845E chipset and reworked the memory controller for 333 MHz operations and again two new variations were released, the i845PE and the i845GE.EPoX, being the company they are, have taken the best Intel chipset and placed it onto one of their feature packed motherboards. Today we look at the 4PEA+ motherboard, which has been designed for the overclocking market segment.
EPoX 4PEA+ - SpecificationsSpecificationsCPU
Supports Intel Pentium 4 1.4GHz ~ 2GHz mPGA 478 CPU WillametteSupports Intel Pentium 4 2.0GHz ~ 2.4GHz mPGA 478 Northwood (400FSB)Supports Intel Pentium 4 2.2GHz ~ 2.66GHz+ mPGA 478 Northwood (533FSB)Supports Intel Celeron 1.7GHz+ mPGA 478 Willamette-128 (400FSB)Chipset
Intel i845PE with HT i82845PE Northbridgei82801DB SouthbridgeIntel Hub Architecture @ 266MB/sBus Frequency
100/133MHz Internal400/533MHz ExternalNetburst Micro ArchitectureExpansion Slots
1 AGP 4x5 PCIExpansion Ports
1 PS2 Keyboard Port1 PS2 Mouse Port6 USB 2.0 Ports (4 rear accessible, 2 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 Features
BIOS overclocking control of FSB, voltages.Onboard Realtek NetworkingFirewireHighpoint HPT372N RAIDSilicone Image SATA RAID.Magic Blue Light
EPoX 4PEA+ - FeaturesFeaturesPackage and Contents
EPoX has been shipping its high-end motherboards in fancy new packaging. This package is your standard box with a handle, so you can carry it home in style. Once you have it at your place, the fun begins. Inside the box you get your motherboard, three user manuals (one for the board, one for the Parallel ATA RAID and one for the Serial ATA Raid), rounded IDE and FDD cables for the Parallel ATA, one Serial ATA cable, I/O Faceplate, USB 2.0 and Firewire expansion brackets and Drivers CD.The Board
The board is similar in design to most of the Intel offerings from EPoX. The board comes with 1 AGP 4x slot that can take ONLY
1.5v cards, using AGP 2x cards will destroy the Northbridge and AGP card. Five PCI slots are included for all possible expansion needs. With today's boards having just about everything onboard, five PCI slots are generally enough. One thing we have come to see on EPoX boards, mostly on Intel based, is the extremely bad placement of the power connectors. Both power connectors are located between the Northbridge and the I/O ports. This means that the very large ATX power cable and the 4-pin Aux have to drape around the CPU's heatsink and fan assembly, reducing air circulation. In an overclocked PC, airflow is vital.Placement of the peripherals are well thought out. The Southbridge driven IDE ports are colored blue and located on the upper right behind the DIMM sockets, keeping the cables out of the way. The Parallel ATA IDE ports are located at the side of the Southbridge driven ports with the Floppy disk connector in front. This keeps all the very large cables in one place and well out of the way of the forward case fans. Intel i845PE; The Latest Intel Desktop Offering
Apart from the E7205 chipset (which is more for workstations that the desktop PC), the i845PE chipset is the most updated Pentium 4 chipset available from Intel. Designed with support for the new 533MHz FSB the Intel Pentium 4 runs on, this chipset also incorporates Intel's first DDR-333 memory controller as well as support for Hyper-Threading technology. Coupled with the Intel ICH4 Southbridge, you receive 6 USB 2.0 ports, AC'97 rev 2.2 5.1 Audio subsystem, ATA-100 IDE controller as well as Integrated LAN controller. On the Northbridge, EPoX has placed what they term Magic Blue. When powered up, the fan glows blue thanks to three small LED's inside the clear plastic fan housing. Very effective for case modders. Hardware LAN
While the Intel ICH4 does incorporate a LAN controller, it is only AC'97 controlled. Software driven, it requires a PHY for connection to the outside world. This system chews up a lot of CPU cycles during high network traffic. EPoX have thrown the Intel MAC out the window and elected to go with the Realtek RTL8100B PCI Ethernet Controller. This controller has popped up on many other boards and has proven to be one of the best value network controllers with very little CPU time eaten up when network traffic is high.Dual RAID
We first saw the idea for Dual RAID on the Gigabyte 8INXP. While Abit has had both Parallel IDE and Serial ATA on their Max line of boards for some time now, it has been more a conversion rather than a Dual system. Abit uses the HPT374 IDE controller chip that allows for 4 channels. They convert two of these into Serial ATA channels with the Marvel interface chip, thus being a Parallel conversion. Another downside is if you only want the Serial ATA to run and don't want the Parallel ATA to run, it's not an option on the Max boardsEPoX uses two separate chips. For the Parallel IDE we have the Highpoint HPT372N chip supporting 2 IDE channels for up to 4 IDE devices. For the Serial ATA, the Silicone Image Sil3112 PCI to SATA controller chip is used. This chip is a dedicated Serial ATA controller rather than a Parallel to Serial conversion. This chip can, in theory, handle the full 150MB/s data transfer rate, however, due to PCI constraints, 133MB/s is the theoretical max you will see.Firewire
We have criticized motherboards in the past that do not have Firewire onboard. We have come to see Firewire as one of the greatest Serial Communication standards available for the PC. It is superior to USB 2.0 in that it doesn't use anywhere near as much CPU power to run the devices off it. As well as high 400mbps transfer rates and support for daisy chains and repeater hub designs, Firewire is on the grow. EPoX have added two Firewire ports thanks to the Texas Instruments PCI to Firewire controller chip.
EPoX 4PEA+ - Benchmarks - Test Setup and SandraBenchmarksTest SystemProcessor
: Intel Pentium 4 2.4B GHz (Supplied by Spectrum CommunicationsMemory
: 2x 256MB DDR-400 Kingmax DDR SDRAM (Supplied by KingmaxVideo Card
: nVidia Ti4200 (Supplied by nVidiaHard Disk
: Western Digital WD80 (Supplied by TechbuySoftware Used
: SiSoft Sandra 2003 Pro, 3DMark2001SE, PCMark 2002, Vulpine GLMark, Quake III, Star Trek Voyager, Jedi Knight II, Max Payne, Aquanox, UT 2003, Sysmark 2002.Synthetic PC BenchmarksSiSoft Sandra 2003 Professional
SiSoft Sandra (the S
iagnostic and R
ssistant) 2003 is a synthetic Windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
CPU optimization is slightly improved over the Gigabyte E7205 and just above the other i845PE based motherboards we have on hand. Memory-wise, it falls short to the Dual Channel DDR of the E7205 but is right up with the DDR-333 range the other i845PE boards offer.
EPoX 4PEA+ - Benchmarks - System ProductivityReal-World System ProductivitySysmark 2002
Sysmark2002 incorporates the following Internet Content Creation and Office Productivity applications:Office Productivity
: Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Microsoft Access 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred v.5, WinZip 8.0, and McAfee Virus Scan 5.13.Internet Content Creation
: Adobe Photoshop 6.01, Adobe Premiere 6.0, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 7.1, Macromedia Dreamweaver 4, and Macromedia Flash 5.
While the extra CPU power was shown in Sandra, it translated to very little in the Office segment of Sysmark. Memory scores were as expected for an i845PE board.
EPoX 4PEA+ - Benchmarks - Synthetic 3D and PCSynthetic 3D and PC Applications3DMark2001 SE Build 330
3DMark2001 SE is the latest installment in 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, such as the SiS Xabre Video card.
3DMark2001SE shows that the slightly better CPU performance gives a few marks more than the rest of the i845PE range. Still falling behind the E7205 due to the lack of Dual DDR support.PCMark2002
PCMark2002 is a completely new, 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.
PCMark2002 shows an increase in the CPU performance. Memory performance is on par with i845PE based boards @ 333 MHz specifications, yet falls behind the E7205 chipset. While the E7205 only uses 266 MHz memory, it runs in Dual Channel, increasing its bandwidth from 2.1GB/s to 4.2GB/s. DDR-333 max memory output is 2.7GB/s so you can see clearly the E7205 will take the lead.Vulpine GLMark 1.1
Vulpine GLMark is a Windows based OpenGL API designed to stress the OpenGL systems of a 3D Accelerator. Patch 1.1 adds in support for ATI Radeon 9700's fast 256-bit memory interface optimizations and early support for the NVIDIA NV30 GPU.
Vulpine GLMark shows all the i845PE boards on equal ground with the E7205 just ahead of the pack.
EPoX 4PEA+ - Benchmarks - OpenGLReal-World OpenGL BenchmarksQuake III Arena
Quake 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 range of different products.
Quake III shows the extra power of the CPU gives the 4PEA a slight lead over the opposing i845PE boards.Star Trek Voyager
Star Trek Voyager is a real-world OpenGL benchmark. Based on the Quake III Arena engine, this game is an OpenGL master utilizing DirectX 8. We also apply the new Opt3D patch to allow for the use of Hardware T&L's use as well as new optimisations for AMD Athlon XP and Pentium 4 SSE2.
Considering that Star Trek Voyager is based on the Quake III engine, we expected similar results but this time we were surprised. Despite running the tests 4 times over, we still got a result of the 4PEA+ slipping to last place in this benchmark. We did many different tests and were unable to improve this result. Possibly a BIOS update might set this straight.Jedi Knight II
Jedi Knight II, Jedi Outcast is a newly released OpenGL game that many have been waiting for. It has much improved graphics over its predecessor. 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 order to enable the benchmarking mode, you have to make a shortcut to the jk2mp.exe program located in the GameData folder of Jedi Knight 2. You have to put the switch "+set sv_cheats1" (no quotes) at the end of the line in the Target Area so that it looks like this: "C:\Star Wars JK II Jedi Outcast\GameData\jk2mp.exe" +set sv_cheats 1". The demo file used is jk2ffa.
Again, we see the EPoX 4PEA+ fall to last place in Jedi Knight II. We suspect a bad AGP optimization, however, we would have expected this to show up under 3DMark2001SE.
EPoX 4PEA+ - Benchmarks - Direct3DReal-World Direct3D BenchmarksMax Payne
Max Payne is a new generation DirectX 7/8 game. This game is based on Hardware T&L advancements as well as many other features of the Intel Pentium 4 and Athlon XP.
Max Payne doesn't show any problems like Star Trek Voyager or Jedi Knight II did. In this the 4PEA+ tops the i845PE list.Aquanox
Aquanox is one of the latest installments to our benchmark suite. This game is based heavily on DirectX 8 and 8.1 advancements and is designed to stress video cards to their ultimate limit, in all the best D3D benchmark to date.
Aquanox shows a slight slip, but only down one spot from first to second for the EPoX board.UT 2003
Unreal Tournament gives EPoX the lead in the final Direct3D test.
EPoX 4PEA+ - ConclusionConclusion
The EPoX 4PEA+ has lived up to the name and quality we have come to expect from EPoX. They have strived to try and place themselves at the top of the enthusiast motherboard list with ASUS and Abit. Thus far we have seen EPoX making a valiant effort.Overclocking wise, well, the inclusion of VCore up to 1.85v, DRAM Voltage up to 2.9v (with latest BIOS update the board now goes to 3.2v), AGP voltage up to 1.9v and various tweaking options for the memory and dividers shows that this board can pull off a great level of interest in the overclockers department. As for features, it's hard to fault this board. Firewire ports are provided. USB 2.0 is standard. Dual RAID system allows for both Parallel ATA and Serial ATA drives to be used, so future drives are supported. Hyper-Threading ready means you can plug in your HT enabled CPU and go for it without any worries.Layout wise, we had only the one major gripe and that was with the placement of the ATX power connectors. This could have been well improved with some additional R&D.In all, the unit is one that can pull off some good scores and match it with just about any i845PE board that is available on the market today.- Pros
FastGreat overclockingSerial and Parallel ATA RAID on separate chipsHardware networkingFirewire ports- Cons
Some mysterious lags in some benchmarksBad ATX power connector placementsRating - 7.5/10