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Summary: MSI Dominates, Elitegroup Underestimated

The Economical Way to a Pentium 4 System: Five Motherboards with the SiS648 Chipset
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Even before we began testing, we could have easily assumed that an 850E would be impossible to beat. What’s all the more amazing, then, is that the difference is almost zero in several of the benchmarks. The average performance of the five test candidates in 3D games was only modestly behind that of the 850E reference system.

In the benchmarks, it is mostly Elitegroup and MSI that dominate. Elitegroup has a reason to celebrate, because the board is respectably equipped and could easily be counted among the most attractive in terms of price. MSI struts its stuff and equips the 648 Max with Gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth interface, with the attitude "the sooner the better."

AOpen also offers a balanced product with good features and standard results. For minimalists, the Gigabyte board is still interesting : apart from a sound system, it does not include any additional price-enhancing components.

The SiS chipset made a brave showing, offering a lot of performance for comparatively little money (from about $100). If you look more closely at the high reliability of the SiS648 motherboard, it looks as though the manufacturers have worked more intensely with the SiS chipset. And maybe some of us should do the same !

Table Of Features

Manufacturer Aopen DFI Gigabyte MSI ECS
Model AX45-8X Max NS80-EA GA-8SG667 648Max / MS-6585 L4S8A
Chipset
Socket Socket mPGA478 Socket mPGA478 Socket mPGA478 Socket mPGA478 Socket mPGA478
Clock (CPU/Bus) 2276.33 / 133.9 2266.41 / 133.32 2277.23 / 133.95 2271.81 / 133.64
Northbridge SiS648 SiS648 SiS648 SiS648 SiS648
Southbridge SiS963 SiS963 SiS963 SiS963 SiS963
Northbridge Fan no no no no no
Form Factor ATX ATX ATX ATX ATX
Memory
Maximum RAM 3072 MB 3072 MB 3072 MB 3072 MB 3072 MB
DIMM-Sockets 3, DDR 3, DDR 3, DDR 3, DDR 3, DDR
Memory Type DDR-SDRAM, unbuffered DDR-SDRAM, unbuffered DDR-SDRAM, unbuffered DDR-SDRAM, unbuffered DDR-SDRAM, unbuffered
Memory Frequencies DDR333, DDR266 DDR333, DDR266 DDR333, DDR266 DDR333, DDR266 DDR333, DDR266
ECC-Support no no no no no
Standard Components
Size (LxH) 305 x 220 mm 305 x 220 mm 295 x 200 mm 305 x 220 mm 305 x 244 mm
PCI Slots 6x PCI 2.2, 32 Bit 6x PCI 2.2, 32 Bit 5x PCI 2.2, 32 Bit 6x PCI 2.2, 32 Bit 5x PCI 2.2, 32 Bit
AGP 3.0 / AGP 8x 3.0 / AGP 8x 3.0 / AGP 8x 3.0 / AGP 8x 3.0 / AGP 8x
AGP Card Lock yes yes yes yes yes
ACR / AMR / CNR no / no / yes no / no / no no / no / no no / no / no no / no / yes
Parallel Ports 1 1 1 1 1
Serial Ports 2 2 2 2 2
USB 2.0 internal/external 2 / 4 2 / 4 2 / 4 2 / 4 2 / 4
Fan Headers 3 2 2 2 2
IDE Controller 2x UltraATA/133 2x UltraATA/133 2x UltraATA/133 2x UltraATA/133 2x UltraATA/133
Additional Components
Piezo Speaker OnBoard no yes no no yes
Wake on LAN (WOL) no no no no no
Wake on Modem (WOM) no no no no no
IrDA-Port no no no yes no
Chassis Intrusion Detection no no no no no
Temperature Monitoring yes yes yes CPU, System CPU, System
Fan Status Monitoring yes yes yes CPU, System CPU, System
Network Controller RTL8100BL Realtek RTL8201BL RTL8100BL optional Broadcom BCM5702 RTL8100BL
IDE RAID Controller - - - - Silicon Image Sil3112S
Firewire-Controller Agere FW802A Agere FW803 - - Realtek RTL-88018
SCSI-Controller - - - - -
Sound System
Type AC97 AC97 AC97 AC97 AC97
Manufacturer / Chip Realtek ALC650 Realtek ALC650 Realtek ALC650 Realtek ALC650 C-Media CMI9739
Surround Sound 6 Channels 6 Channels 6 Channels 6 Channels 6 Channels
External Connectors Line-In, Mic, Line-Out Line-In, Mic, Line-Out Line-In, Mic, Line-Out Line-In, Mic, Line-Out Line-In, Mic, Line-Out
Internal Connectors Aux-In, CD-In Aux-In, CD-In Aux-In, CD-In Aux-In, CD-In CD-i, Aux-in
Setup
CPU Config BIOS BIOS BIOS BIOS BIOS
Selectable Multipliers 8 - 24, auto auto 10 - 24, auto auto auto
FSB Range / Increments 100 - 248 133 - 165 100 - 355 / 1 100 - 200 / 1 100 - 200 / 1
Voltage
Vcore Range / Increments 1.1 - 1.75 V / 0.025 V - - 1.1 - 1.8 V / 0.025 V -
Vram / Increments - - - 2.5 - 2.8 V / 0.1 V -
Vchipset / Increments - - - - -
Board and BIOS Details
Bios Phoenix/Award Phoenix/Award Phoenix/Award AMI Award/Phoenix
Version 0.05E - F3 1.2 -
Date Sept 16, 2002 Oct 29, 2002 Sept 9, 2002 Nov 3, 2002 Nov 5, 2002
Motherboard Revision  ?  ? 1.0 1.0 1.0
Boot Devices Floppy, LS120, HD, SCSI, CDROM/DVD, ZIP, USB-ZIP, USB-FDD, USB-CDROM, UDB-HDD, LAN Floppy, LS120, HD, SCSI, CDROM/DVD, ZIP, USB-ZIP, USB-FDD, USB-CDROM, UDB-HDD, LAN Floppy, LS120, HD, SCSI, CDROM/DVD, ZIP, USB-ZIP, USB-FDD, USB-CDROM, UDB-HDD, LAN Floppy, LS120, HD, SCSI, CDROM/DVD, ZIP, USB-ZIP, USB-FDD, USB-CDROM, UDB-HDD, LAN Floppy, LS120, HD, SCSI, CDROM/DVD, ZIP, USB-ZIP, USB-FDD, USB-CDROM, UDB-HDD, LAN
Manual Interrupt Assignment yes no yes no yes
Special Features - - - - -
Shared Interrupts  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
Clock Generator ICS 952005CF ICS 952005CF ICS 952005CF ICS 952005CS ICS 952005CF
Miscellaneous
Layout Issues flat cable connectors in front of PCI slots flat cable connectors in front of PCI slots flat cable connectors in front of PCI slots flat cable connectors in front of PCI slots -
Overclocking Options - - - - Vcore +1%, +3%, +5%
Vram : +1.6%, +3.6%, +4.8%
Shipment / Utilities
Manual / Quality Good  ? Excellent Good Comprehensive
Languages English  ? English English English
Quick Setup Guide yes  ? yes yes no
Cables 1x IDE-80, 1x IDE-40, 1x Floppy 1x IDE-80, Floppy 1x IDE-80, 1x IDE-40, Floppy 1x IDE-80, 1x Floppy 1x IDE-80, 1x Floppy
Adapters USB (2 Ports), SPDIF (coaxial and optical) USB (4x), Firewire (3x), Gameport adapter 2x USB, 1x Audio w/ SPDIF digital and coax out, Rear Speakers Out, Sub out -
Software Norton Anti Virus 2002, Adobe Acrobat Reader 5, Pro Magic 6.0, Suspend-to-HD Utility  ? Norton Internet Security 2002, Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.05, Easy Tune 4 Adobe Acrobat Reader, LiveUpdate, PC Alert, PC-cillin, MSI DVD PC-cillin Anti Virus
Miscellaneous ATX cover included - - ATX cover included -
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