EPoX 4PCA3+ Canterwood Motherboard Review

EPoX are a smaller Taiwanese motherboard manufacturer who have been known for years for their high performing, highly overclockable AMD based motherboards. Does this trend follow over to the Intel side with their newest motherboard, the 4PCA3+ which is based on Intel's high-end Canterwood chipset? Read on as Cameron "Sov" Johnson tells us all about EPoX's newest motherboard and how it stands up to its competition.
| Aug 3, 2003 at 11:00 pm CDT
Rating: 75%Manufacturer: EPoX

EPoX Canterwood - Introduction

IntroductionIntel's release of the i875P chipset was to revolutionize the Intel Pentium 4 processors, both past and present. This it did, incorporating the first official DDR-400 Dual Channel Memory controller into the Intel Pentium 4 chipset, it gave a peak bandwidth of 6.4GB/s memory transfer. This allowed for a faster FSB of 800MHz and keeping the bandwidth between the CPU and memory running at identical speeds. Adding Serial ATA with RAID options to the Southbridge before VIA, SiS or nVidia had their designs on paper Intel took the Pentium 4 to the highest level, knocking down any chance the AMD Athlon XP 3200+ had of being a serious contender for over 3GHz operations.While the i875P was revolutionary from Intel, it's also an expensive solution. Thus came the i865 series chipset, supporting 99% of the features of the i875P, it soon became apparent the i875P would never be as popular as the i865 chipset due to its identical performance and cheaper prices. While most companies have moved away from Canterwood mass productions due to costs, EPoX has added another board to its Intel Pentium 4 portfolio. Today we take a look at their latest addition to the group, the i875P powered 4PCA3+.

EPoX Canterwood - Specifications

Specifications of the 4PCA3+CPUSupports Intel Pentium 4 2.2GHz ~ 3.06GHz mPGA 478 Northwood (533FSB)Supports Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz ~ 3.2GHz + mPGA 478 Northwood (800FSB)ChipsetIntel i875P with HT i82875P Northbridgei82801ER SouthbridgeIntel Hub Architecture @ 266MB/sBus Frequency133/200MHz Internal533/800MHz 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 Serial Ports 1 Parallel Port3 Stereo Audio Ports 1 Game Port (via expansion bracket)Special FeaturesBIOS overclocking control of FSB, voltages.Onboard Realtek NetworkingHighpoint HPT374 RAIDGigabit Ethernet

EPoX Canterwood - Features

Features of the 4PCA3+- Board and Contents
First off we'll have a look at the box. EPoX has been known for a rather plain box in the past. While being in a plain white color, the designs on the front do make it stick out on a store shelf. While the package is important to catch the buyer's eye, it's most important to back this up with a good product and good contents. EPoX includes within the box your motherboard within a static bag placed on a foam pack to protect the board and its IC circuits in transit. A user manual for the motherboard, a user manual for the RAID controller, two rounded IDE and a rounded FDD cable, four standard flat IDE cables, USB header bracket and game port header bracket.- Layout: Praises and Gripes
EPoX built the 4PCA3+ large, and for a good reason. Conforming to normal ATX standards, the width of the board jumps out to 24.5cm. EPoX are known for pretty good placement of the connectors; and the main ATX power and primary IDE connectors are located in a good spot to the right of the DIMM slots. While I'm not a fan of placing IDE channels on the lower half of the motherboard, at least EPoX places them low enough so they will not interfere with longer video cards. The famous Port 80 diagnostics card shows its face once more, and what a relief it is that EPoX has not succumbed to the temptation of removing this invaluable tool to save a few dollars. EPoX has also followed a few others on the markets in color-coding their DIMM sockets. EPoX provides two green sockets for Channel A and two black for Channel B. This let you know what DIMM slots to install your memory modules into for Dual Channel operations.- Chipset
The 4PCA3+ is fitted with a passive aluminum heatsink to cool the MCH Northbridge. Intel 82875P MCH has 1005 solder balls in Flip Chip Ball Grid Array (FCBGA) package. The 82875P Memory Controller Hub supports an 800 MHz system bus, 4GB of DDR400 SDRAM with ECC support providing memory bandwidth up to 3.2GB/s and linked to the Southbridge on Intel Hub Architecture with 266MB/s of bandwidth. It also supports Performance Acceleration Technology (PAT) that enhances chipset latencies to improve performance and provides a Communications Streaming Architecture (CSA) Interface that connects the MCH to a Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) controller. The Southbridge is Intel 82801ER (ICH5R) with 460 solder balls in Micro Ball Grid Array (MBGA) package. ICH5R integrates an Ultra ATA 100 controller that supports 2x ATA-100 ports, 2x Serial ATA host controllers for 2x 150MB/s SATA ports, one EHCI host controller, and four UHCI host controllers supporting eight external USB 2.0 ports, AC '97 digital controller that can be paired up with a 3rd CODEC like C-Media 9739A to provide 6 Channel Audio, integrated LAN controller, an ASF controller and a hub interface for communication with the MCH.- Highpoint HPT374 Quad Channel RAID Controller
Since the Southbridge incorporates two Serial ATA ports supporting RAID functions, this allows EPoX to focus more on the IDE RAID users out there as well. After all, most of us out there have IDE RAID systems, from simple 2x 20GB up to 8x 100GB HDD's. EPoX is one company that accommodates these users. The Highpoint HPT374 Quad Channel RAID controller is included. Four IDE ports are provided for up to eight IDE HDD devices. This is a fantastic IDE controller, by far the best of them all in IDE terms.- Gigabit EthernetWhile the i875P supports the new CSA Gigabit Ethernet interface, EPoX hasn't availed themselves of it. EPoX has elected to used a PCI based Boradcom Gigabit Ethernet controller. This controller has proven to be slower in Gigabit operations but identical in 100mbit tests.- OverclockingThe EPoX 4PCA3+, like its predecessors, includes all the overclocking options that EPoX are known for, but with some limitations. First off under the Frequency/Voltage control menu you will find all the overclocking options. FSB adjustments are possible from 133MHz up to 455MHz in 1MHz increments. Vcore adjustments are somewhat diminished from what we come to expect from EPoX. VCore can be adjusted from 1.1v up to 1.6v in 0.025v increments. This does limit overclocking to the extreme like Gigabyte, Asus and ABIT boards. DRAM voltage on the other hand is in abundance allowing up to 3.3v.

EPoX Canterwood - Benchmarks - Test System and Sandra

Test SystemProcessor: 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 MAX3, SysMark 2002, 3DMark03, PCMark 2002, Vulpine GLMark 1.1, Quake III Arena, Star Trek Voyager, Jedi Knight II, Comanche 4, Aquanox and UT 2003SiSoft 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.
The EPoX 4PCA3 doesn't score as well as the other boards.

EPoX Canterwood - Benchmarks - Synthetic 3D and PCMark

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.
3DMark03 shows that EPoX has a bit to make up in the beginning of the Synthetic tests.PCMark 2002PCMark 2002 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. PCMark 2002 consists of a series of tests that represent common tasks in home and office programs. PCMark 2002 also covers many additional areas outside the scope of other MadOnion.com benchmarks.
PCMark shows CPU optimizations are almost equal, however, the memory bandwidth is lacking compared to other i875P boards.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 256-bit memory interface optimizations and early support for the nVidia GeForce FX.
Vulpine doesn't show the gap as much as the other tests have to this point.

EPoX Canterwood - Benchmarks - OpenGL

Real-World OpenGLQuake 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.
Quake III in the first of our real-world tests showing that the memory hit does take a toll in the real tests.Star Trek VoyagerStar Trek Voyager is used as its engine and graphics are the same as Quake III Arena, only more dedicated towards DirectX 8 optimizations. We also apply the new DirectX 8.1 patch to allow for the use of Hardware T&L's use as well as new optimizations for AMD Athlon XP and Pentium 4 SSE2.
Voyager shows a largest gap due to a higher dependency on the memory systems than Quake III.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 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 II also shows the EPoX 4PCA3+ falling behind in terms of performance compared to other Canterwood based boards in the last of the OpenGL tests.

EPoX Canterwood - Benchmarks - Direct3D

Real-World Direct3DComanche 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.
Comanche 4 doesn't show such a large gap between the EPoX and the other two contenders.AquanoxAquanox is one of the latest installments to 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 one of the best D3D benchmarks to date.
Aquanox on the other hand shows a rather large gap.UT 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.
In the last of our tests we see EPoX falling behind again.

EPoX Canterwood - Conclusion

ConclusionEPoX has always been on the cutting edge since its daring first come KX133 boards. Since then, this smaller Taiwanese motherboard company has put out miracle after miracle. EPoX has been rated as one of, if not the best supplier of AMD Athlon boards. The 8RDA3+ series was a huge hit with hobbyists and overclockers with its impressive scores and great overclocking possibilities.While we would like to say that they have done it again, compared to some very other competitive boards out there, EPoX just seems to fall a bit behind the 8-ball with their 4PCA3+. Memory performance was below what we would have expected for the i875P board, even with PAT enabled, and it was unable to match the top contenders in the field. Overclocking options were unfortunately very slack. Only a max of 1.6v on the CPU core voltage from a company that normally pushes the envelope of overclocking boards really put a sour taste in the mouths of enthusiasts. You will be pleased to know that DIMM voltage is in abundance up to 3.3v.In all, the addition of the onboard RAID controller is slightly overkill. While very nice to have the possibility of eight IDE HDD's, honestly, who has that many in a RAID array out there in overclockers land? Rather than eight IDE we would have liked to see two more Serial ATA ports to accommodate upcoming Serial ATA drives as the more SATA ports, the better today.- ProsStableQuad Channel IDE RAIDGigabit EthernetOption for up to 3.3v for DIMM voltage- ConsNot enough CPU voltage optionSlower than most I875P boardsNo additional SATA portsRating - 7.5/10

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

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