ABIT SI7-G R658 Motherboard - RDRAM return to Pentium 4

In the Pentium 3 and early Pentium 4 days RDRAM by the Rambus Company was greeted with heavy skepticism and in the end, criticized by many generally for its high asking price and high latency times. Intel now refuses to touch RDRAM with a ten foot pole but SiS on the other hand has decided to give it ago with their new R658 chipset for the Pentium 4. Does RDRAM deserve a second chance? Read on as Cameron "Sov" Johnson endeavors to give us an answer!
| Apr 28, 2003 at 11:00 pm CDT
Rating: 85%Manufacturer: ABIT

ABIT SI7-G R658 - Introduction

IntroductionABIT has been amongst the most cutting edge of PC technology since the Intel Pentium 2 was introduced. ABIT was the first company to successfully obtain 100MHz FSB out of an Intel 440LX chipset, whose maximum bus speeds was officially only 66MHz.ABIT was also the first to successfully claim 133MHz FSB out of a BX classed chipset, whose maximum FSB was officially 100MHz. In fact, ABIT has laid claim to many feats of PC overclocking and compatibility revolutions. Amongst the famous is the BH6, the first Socket 370 Dual CPU motherboard based on the 440BX chipset to allow Dual Celeron operations. ABIT were also the first to include ATA-66 support on their motherboards by adding Highpoint controllers, which later allowed for ABIT to support the first onboard IDE RAID controllers.The Intel Pentium 4 has given ABIT new grounds and again they were the first to successfully get 533FSB out of the I850 chipset using RDRAM on the TH7 and the first to get 800MHz FSB out of I845PE with the IT7 Max2 Rev 2 and BH7. Now ABIT is the first manufacturer to support Dual Channel RDRAM 1200 using the new SiS R658 chipset.Today we take a close look at the SI7-G, ABIT's latest edition to its motherboard line.

ABIT SI7-G R658 - Specifications

Specifications of the SI7-GCPUSupports 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 ~ 3.06GHz+ mPGA 478 Northwood (533FSB)Supports Intel Celeron 1.7GHz ~ 2/4Ghz mPGA 478 (400FSB)ChipsetSiS R658 AGPsetSiS R658 NorthbridgeSiS 963SouthbridgeMUTiLO Interconnect @ 1.0GB/sBus Frequency100/133MHz Internal400/533MHz ExternalNetburst Micro ArchitectureExpansion Slots1 AGP 4x, 8x5 PCIExpansion Ports1 PS2 Keyboard Port1 PS2 Mouse Port6 USB 2.0 Ports (2 rear accessible, 4 via expansion bracket)2 Firewire Ports (via expansion bracket)2 Serial Ports 1 Parallel Port5 Stereo Audio Ports 1 RJ-45 Ethernet PortSpecial FeaturesBIOS overclocking control of FSB, voltages.Onboard Boradcom Gigabit NetworkingFirewireSilicone Image SATA RAID

ABIT SI7-G R658 - Features

Features of the SI7-GPackage and Layout
ABIT's packaging now, like the past, has been simple yet eye catching. Using a blue, white and black package for its Intel motherboard identification package is ABIT's new design, where red is for AMD Athlon XP motherboards. Inside the package, ABIT doesn't disappoint. First you have your board, User Manual, Driver CD, Black IDE cables, two Serial ATA Cables, Serillel Adapter, Power Splitter Cable, Floppy Drivers for Windows XP installation of Serial ATA controller and 32bit CRIMM module.Board, Layout and Gripes
The SI7G is a very large ATX motherboard that requires plenty of space within the case to accommodate this baby with comfort. ABIT has more or less followed SIS's reference design that requires the components to be separated from the Northbridge to keep good clear signals to the RDRAM channels. Expansion wise, ABIT uses a single AGP slot that supports AGP 8x and 4x cards only, no AGP 2x cards on this board. Five PCI slots are included for sound systems, extra RAID controllers and any other PCI devices that you will want to put onto the board. Since this board has most of the major features built in, you don't need the full six PCI slots as usual.One major surprise is the orientation of the CPU socket. We have seen chipsets being placed on a 45 degree angle, but the CPU socket itself? This is a first. SiS specifies the CPU socket to be rotated in order to reduce signal trace wires and improve integrity, especially when overclocking. While being angled, we found no problems mounting heatsinks or water blocks to the board; no heat increase was indicated either, so no major problems what-so-ever.Normally we see for RDRAM boards at least four RIMM sockets. ABIT has decided to reduce the number of RIMM sockets needed by using the new 32bit RIMM sockets. Normal RIMM sockets count 186 pins; the new 32bit socket uses 232. This basically puts two RIMM's together and reduces the amount of RIMM modules you will need. The board supports up to 2GB PC1200 RDRAM.Location of the power connectors has been pretty well thought out. ABIT has placed the 20 pin ATX Connector behind the two RIMM sockets. This keeps the cables away from the CPU socket and thus the heatsink is unobstructed. Unfortunately the 4 pin connector is placed between the CPU and the I/O panel, requiring the 4 pin wires to drape around the heatsink. This can reduce cooling, and is something we would like to see changed, as a lot of manufacturers do this to same money.

ABIT SI7-G R658 - Features Continued

Features ContinuedR658 - First Retail Application
While many have abandoned Rambus in favour of Dual Channel DDR SDRAM, SiS has kept its options opened to the rather unpopular memory technology. Rambus was left in the lurch on the PC front with its RDRAM memory technology after Intel moved away from the I850(E) chipset and embraced the DDR SDRAM I845 series, RDRAM was virtually left without a supporter. Once Intel's intentions towards RDRAM were made clear, Rambus moved on to find another possibility for their RDRAM systems. Rambus quickly negotiated with SiS to produce a RDRAM chipset that would support PC800, PC1066 and even PC1200 RDRAM modules. SiS just recently at Computex 2002 showed off the designs for their RDRAM support. The R658 is the first chipset to support RDRAM with PC1200 memory support. SiS also adds the AGP 8x transfer rate to this chipset, allowing for the latest ATI Radeon and nVidia GeForce video cards to operate at their full capacity. The R658 supports both 400/533MHz FSB and unofficial support for 800MHz FSB.To give the R658 the best compatibility, the 963 Southbridge has been included in the package. The 963 Southbridge is no stranger to us, first seen with the 648 chipset solutions, it adds six USB 2.0 ports, two ATA-133 IDE ports, AC'97 Audio, 10/100 Ethernet and two IEEE1394a Firewire ports all on the one Southbridge. SiS has yet to introduce the 964 and 965 Southbridge's with Serial ATA, but as you will soon see ABIT solves this problem for us.The Northbridge is cooled with a Crystal Orb like heatsink and fan combo. This has been used on other ABIT boards such as the AT7 Max and the NF7 series motherboards. This has proven to cool quite effectively.Gigabit Ethernet
While using the onboard SiS900 Ethernet that is supplied with the 963 Southbridge, ABIT prefers to take Ethernet to the next level. Gigabit Ethernet has become the new standard for hardcore LAN addicts. Most new LAN events are now upgrading for the Gigabit users and if you want the best in speed in the venue you need something like this.ABIT has put the Broadcom Gigabit Ethernet controller onboard. Tied directly into the PCI bus you get 1GB/s across the network with compatible switches.Serial ATA RAID Included
As stated above, SiS does not currently have a Southbridge solution that supports native Serial ATA.For just about any new motherboard to keep up with the currant and future demands, Serial ATA is a must. ABIT have in the past relied on Highpoint IDE controller with the Marvel Parallel to Serial ATA converter chips to do its serial ATA needs. With tests showing that the Marvel converters slow down the Serial ATA transfers, ABIT has abandoned the converting methods supplied by marvel and gone with the Silicon Image 3112A Serial ATA controller chip to provide its SATA needs.Unlike the Highpoint or Promise, Silicon Image is a dedicated Serial ATA controller; it generates Serial ATA signals rather than converting Parallel to Serial. Another feature is the ability to use this chip as a RAID system. This chip can either work in RAID 0, RAID 1 or 0+1 to allow for the best performance and/or redundancy.BIOS and OverclockingLike all of ABIT's true bread of overclocker's motherboards, the SI7-G uses a standard Award BIOS with the famous Softmenu III overclocking system. This was first introduced back in the Socket 7 CPU days to allow jumperless configuration of the CPU, it has now become an overclocker's delight and somewhat of a standard among most manufacturers.Under the Softmenu Subsystem within the BIOS you can change just about every critical system for overclocking the system successfully. Setting the CPU parameters to User Defined allows you to change many options. First you have your CPU Front Side Bus which can be adjusted from 100MHz up to 250MHz in 1MHz increments.Memory dividers can be changed for PC800/1066/1200 - These dividers are available and let you know what speed your memory is running at depending on the divider selected and FSB the system is running at.CPU voltage can be adjusted from 1.5v up to 1.85v. This allows for the most overclocking out of your Northwood and Willamette processors.RDRAM voltage can be adjusted from 2.5v up to 2.9v. This allows for better stability of the RDRAM at higher bus speeds. RDRAM is very sensitive to bus noise. Adding extra voltage helps when overclocking the memory above PC1200 specs.Finally, APG voltage can be adjusted from 1.5v up to 1.8v. This is more than enough since the AGP/PCI dividers can be locked to 66/33MHz, respectively.

ABIT SI7-G R658 - Benchmarks - Test System and SiSoft Sandra 2003

BenchmarksTest SystemProcessor: Intel Pentium 4 3.06GHz (533MHz FSB) (Supplied by Spectrum Communications)Memory: 2x 256MB PC1200 Samsung (Supplied by Spectrum Communications)Hard Disk: Western Digital WD80 7200RPM (Supplied by Techbuy)Graphics Card: ATI Radeon 9700 Pro (Supplied by ATI)Software Used: SiSoft Sandra 2003, Sysmark 2002, 3DMark03, PCMark2002, Vulpine GLMark 1.1, Quake 3 Arena, Star Trek Voyager, Jedi Knight II, Comanche 4, Aquanox and UT 2003SiSoft Sandra 2003SiSoft Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) 2001 is a synthetic windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
The SI7-G in the synthetic test is able to take out the I845PE boards; however it isn't able to take out the SiS 655 or the I875P.

ABIT SI7-G R658 - Benchmarks - System Productivity

Real World System ProductivitySysmark 2002Sysmark2002 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.
In Office applications, the SI7-G is able to win out against the I845PE. However, in the Internet Content Creation that relies on lower latency memory, the RDRAM with its higher latency falls behind all the competitors.

ABIT SI7-G R658 - Benchmarks - Synthetic 3D and PC

Synthetic 3D and PC3DMark033DMark03 is the latest instalment in the popular 3DMark series. By combining DirectX 9 support with completely new graphics (including the GeForce FX and ATI Radeon 9800), it continues to provide benchmark results that empower you to make informed hardware assessments.
RDRAM's higher latency plays a large part in the loss to the I845PE system.PCMark2002PCMark2002 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.
PC Mark shows the SI7-G does put out enough raw bandwidth to keep up.Vulpine GLMark 1.1pVulpine GL mark is a Windows based OpenGL API designed to stress the OpenGL systems of a 3D Accelerator. Patch 1.1p adds in support for ATI Radeon 9800's fast 256bit memory interface optimisations and early support for the nVidia Geforce FX.
Vulpine is more 3D based than memory based, so there isn't much in them.

ABIT SI7-G R658 - Benchmarks - OpenGL

Real World OpenGLQuake 3 ArenaQuake 3 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 3 Arena might be old but still a fantastic benchmark to test 3D and memory. Quake 3 relies on bandwidth rather than latency.Star Trek VoyagerStar Trek Voyager is a real-world OpenGL benchmark. Based on the Quake 3 Arena engine, this game is a OpenGL master utilising 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.
Voyager, other than Quake 3, relies on latency of the memory as well, we see the SI7-G fall behind quite a bit due to the extremely high latency of RDRAM.Jedi Knight IIJedi 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.
Jedi Knight also depends a bit more on the latency, so the SI7-G doesn't fair as well here either.

ABIT SI7-G R658 - Benchmarks - Direct3D

Real World Direct3DComanche 4Comanche 4 is a helicopter flying game using the DirectX 8.1 graphics interface. It is used to test the memory and 3D sub systems of a motherboard and video processor. Any weaknesses will show up on this baby.
Comanche 4 is more bandwidth intense; the SI7-G performs much better here.AquanoxAquanox is the latest instalment of our benchmark software. 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 the weakness of RDRAM.UT 2003Unreal Tournament 2003 continues the success that Unreal Tournament generated as an online game and benchmark. UT2003 pulls all of its weight on to the 3D and Memory subsystems, pushing graphics reality to the maximum is its game, and you need some serious power to pull this one off
Finally UT 2003 also shows the disadvantages high latency of RDRAM has on real world applications.

ABIT SI7-G R658 - Conclusion

ConclusionRDRAM has been around since the Pentium 3 CPU, it wasn't popular then, its presence is being more felt now due to reduced costs, and the fact Rambus has a lot to loose now that the giant of the PC world, Intel, has left RDRAM on the side of the IT highway.SiS however, has nothing to loose with supporting both RDRAM and DDR SDRAM solutions, as it can use the best of both worlds. We can also expect to see AMD Athlon XP chipsets and Athlon 64 systems supporting RDRAM from SiS in the near future.ABIT has always done the best it can to provide overclocking solutions as with up-to-date technology, the SI7-G is a great adoption of the R658. Performance of the SiS RDRAM based system is far above anything that Intel was able to produce with the i850(E) and its support for AGP 8x as well as Firewire, Serial ATA, ATA-133 and USB 2.0 makes a great impression. For an RDRAM based board, overclocking was beyond fantastic, 800MHz FSB CPU's ran without a single problem, in fact performance was fantastic with 1200 RDRAM and 800MHz FSB. While not being able to match the I875P Canterwood but ABIT's SI7-G is still a great candidate for the value end of the 800MHz FSB section.For those who still want RDRAM for their Pentium 4 processors will want this board as it is the best of the RDRAM boards available anywhere at the moment.- ProsFastStableGreat OverclockingSerial ATAFirewire- ConsRDRAM still costs more than DDR SDRAMRating: 8.5 out of 10

Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:25 pm CDT

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