The Next 'BX': 13 Motherboards For Pentium 4 With Intel's 845 Chipset and Socket mPGA478


The question of whether or not to buy an i845 motherboard for SDRAM shouldn't be an issue for most users. Brookdale is a chipset best suited to the OEM market, and for making Pentium 4 systems suitable for low-cost PCs. This forms the basis for our conclusion.

Two motherboards attracted our attention with their innovative security features: the MSI 845 Pro 2 and Soyo's P4ISR. Both products use an external piece of hardware (MSI: USB Flash module; Soyo: Chip card) to act as a type of lock, protecting the system against unauthorized use. Both solutions work fine and are useful. The SmartKey easily fits into your pocket, while Soyo's MightyBold card can be accomodated between your credit cards.

There are only very small performance differences between the motherboards we tested, and considering the tremendous gap to i850 and RDRAM (we added the test results of such a system for your reference), you might have no preference. All motherboards basically ran stably and stuck to the specified 100 MHz. My personal favorites were ABit's BL7, AOpen AX4BS Pro and Gigabyte's 8IDXH, as they all come with a wide range of features. ABit offers Soft Menu III plus hardware debug system, AOpen has a similarly good BIOS and the best user's manual/ installation instructions in the bunch, and Gigabyte even uses a PCI sound chip rather than AC97 sound.

None of the boards in this test gave cause for worry, so we can basically assert good work from all companies. We can assume that motherboards with i845 and DDR support run as smoothly as the SDRAM versions, but we have to also assume that price conscious buyers are still going to opt for SDRAM over DDR, irrespective of performance. Again, this is of great importance to the OEM, and corporate market where the extra performance may not warrant the extra price. Performance isn't as much of an issue, obviously, when considering i845 products with SDRAM, as we have stated previously.