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Big Business: 18 P4 boards In Price / Performance Face-Off

Biostar P4TPE8

Board Revision: 2.0

BIOS Version: May 22, 2003

Biostar offers the undecided or price-conscious customer a board with the 845PE chipset. According to the specs, it supports only DDR266, but Biostar has made as good of use of the chipset's capabilities as did Abit, and offers DDR333 in the BIOS as well (Fuzzy333 in the manual). However, the performance is not overwhelmingly great; the P4TPE8 actually comes out ahead of the boards with VIA's P4X400 in performance. On the other hand, the BIOS offers some decent overclocking options, including the possibility of raising the CPU and DDR voltage.

The standard ATX board leaves an impression because of its compact dimensions and its lack of a network controller. This is an option, but is not included, which is a shame. On the other hand, the sound system is available, as well as four USB-2.0 slots that lead out. Two other ports are also available, as is a CNR slot.

We like the color-coding of the connector panel. This prevents things from being confused. Because of the slim layout, there is not much room between the floppy/IDE connectors and the PCI slots. If the latter is crowded, arranging the cables can become an issue. On the other hand, the placement of the two power supply connections directly alongside each other is a plus.

Biostar does not provide much in its package: In addition to the IDE and floppy cables, the package only contains the obligatory ATX panel, a driver CD; and Norton Anti-Virus 2003, Ghost 2003, and Personal Firewall 2003 CDs.

In terms of price, Biostar is below the average. If a network controller were provided at this price, Biostar would meet our expectations admirably.

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Chaintech 9VJL3

Board Revision: 1.0

BIOS Version: 2.0 (June 18, 2003)

Chaintech also sent us a board whose features are within reasonable parameters. The 9VJL3 works with the VIA P4X400 and has five PCI slots, AGP including card lock, two available and four additional USB 2.0 ports, a sound system based on a C-Media codec, and a network controller from VIA.

Two DIMM sockets are usually plenty, and Chaintech does not anticipate any need for additional features in the low-cost segment. No faults could be found with the front audio connector or the infrared port. This board earns points with its price, because it is one of the three cheapest offers in this comparison.

The performance is in the lower mid-range, which is still a good grade at this price. However, don't hope for an abundance of features. The package contains only the necessary set of cables (IDE and floppy), a skimpy manual, and a driver CD.

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