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

Requirements For The Pentium 4

The only practical issue of real importance for anyone who wants to upgrade to a Pentium 4 machine is the power consumption of this CPU. Depending on the model, the CPU can easily gobble up 60 Watts! This made it neccessary to change power supply standards and to add two new connectors. So, be sure that your power supply is able to cope with a Pentium 4.

FSB Speed: Approximately 100 MHz

A factor which has been neglected for years is the true FSB speed. According to Intel's white papers, the quad-pumped CPU interface of the i845 wants to be operated at 100.0 MHz. Overclocking is interesting not just for end users, but also for the motherboard companies. This time we are not talking about running systems at 15% more FSB speed, but about a scope as little as 1 MHz. Raising the FSB speed by 0.2, 0.5 or 0.8 MHz certainly won't affect stability. But today there are only very small differences in performance among motherboards using the same chipset. With this small an increase in FSB speed, a company could dramatically enhance their chances to win motherboard roundups through the resulting performance increase.

There are several ways for us to deal with this effect. One the one hand, this measure could be considered normal. For example, in the automobile industry it's standard practice for companies to pick the best engine model to ensure that it will reach at least the performance for which it was specified, before the car magazines test it. On the other hand, we wouldn't want this habit to get out of hand, since this cannot possibly be the way manfacturers should be working.

Of course, we could pick a maximum FSB speed that we can tolerate, but then again, everyone would simply realign themselves to this speed until one manufacturer breaks it. What should we do with a motherboard that is generally good but only reaches superior performance when its FSB speed is 1.5% faster?

For the time being, our decision is to include all motherboards in our reviews, regardless of what the true FSB speed is. The exact FSB speed of each motherboard will be measured and taken into account for the final considerations. What we would like to accomplish is to convice the manufacturers to do away with overclocking. Ultimately, they are cheating the customer! A model that wins all benchmarks by running slightly overclocked is not our first choice.

In this review, most companies stick exactly to the specified 100 MHz. Epox and Chaintech run their boards slightly overclocked, while the Fujitsu-Siemems runs at less than 100 MHz. Fortunately, the clock modification affects the test results. It seems as if there were other chipset parameters with similar weight to overclocking which have not been optimized by all companies. So, there are no reasons for complaints this time.