Intel's Strike Force At A Glance: 19 Motherboards With The 845 Chipset For DDR Everybody wanted it, now it's finally here: a Pentium 4 chipsetfrom Intel that offers high performance and does not requireexpensive Rambus memory (RDRAM). 'DDR' has been a fabulouscatchword for AMD's Athlon, so why shouldn't this work out forIntel's sweetheart, too? DDR (Double Data Rate) SDRAM offers twicethe bandwidth of PC133 SDRAM, serving the Pentium 4's 400 MHzquad-pumped bus better than the latter ever could. The overallperformance has now reached a very good level and everybody shouldbe happy, but why aren't we? Perfect things are very rare in life, and it's not any differenthere. Intel did not arbitrarily choose RDRAM to be the main memory,since the current type (PC800 standard) works at exactly the sameclock speed as the P4's memory bus: 400 MHz (100 MHz quad-pumpedfor the CPU, 400 MHz double-pumped in case of the memory). Thisfits perfectly because data can be transferred at every clockcycle. |
Switching to DDR memory brings along some asynchronism, asit is clocked at 133 MHz (double pumped). Basically, DDR memory, with its bandwidth of 2.1 GB/s (also calledPC2100), works faster than RDRAM at its 1.6 GB/s. However, inmodern systems RDRAM is only used in dual or multiple channelconfigurations. In case of the Pentium 4 with 850 chipset, two RIMmodules have to be used in order to get two channels - resulting ina bandwidth increase to 3.2 GB/s. Unfortunately, RDRAM cannot beoverclocked very well, which is a huge factor for speed demons andperformance enthusiasts.
DDR SDRAM is still slightly cheaper andmore flexible. As a matter of fact, the 845 chipset does not have any realdisadvantage - actually, quite the contrary. This platform is fast,affordable and very sophisticated. It even seems to be ready forthe future (since Intel does not plan to replace the Socket mPGA478within the next several months), and could remain the prevailingplatform for another year - at least as long as the P4 Northwood isthe favorite product in Intel's portfolio. You can be fairly surethat CPUs running at 3 GHz or even more will run perfectly intoday's motherboards.
We decided to delay this review several times in order to collectas many motherbords as possible. 19 boards arrived at the lab, mostof them in colorful boxes, dressed in fancy PCB optics and gussiedup in enthusiastic promises. We tested the boards to see which onesare able to live up to expectations.
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