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Episode II: Attack of the Chipsets - Intel 845E and 845G for 533 MHz FSB and DDR-SDRAM

Conclusion: I845G Jay - I845E Nay

With the 845E and 845G chipsets, Intel has put two solid platforms for the Pentium 4 processor in its portfolio and has caught up with its competitors once more.

Clearly, i845G has its attractions. Its DDR333 support makes it pretty much as fast as VIA's "semi-legal" P4X333 chipset and motherboard makers don't have to fear lawsuits for using i845G. Compared to i850E running the officially supported PC800 RDRAM, it makes a very good figure as well. Only i850E with PC1066 RDRAM is still able to outscore Intel's latest and greatest DDR-chipset fore Pentium 4.

Unfortunately however, the full-blown DDR333 support comes at a cost. First, you have to pay for an integrated graphics solution that you might not need or want. This reminds us of the initial situation at the release of Intel's 815 chipset. Second, Intel is not able or willing to support this feature by now. Instead, we were given the information that chipset testing and DDR333 validation has not yet been finished. Different from our initial thoughts, this new chipset generation does only support DDR266.

It is hard to accept that the new i845E does not come with the DDR333 support of i845G. The only advantage of i845E over its predecessor i845D is the inclusion of the Pentium 4 'B' 533 MHz FSB. The new 'ICH4' south bridge will most certainly work with any i845 chipset, so it's not really a major advantage of the new 845 chipsets.

For people who want to go Pentium 4 'B', we recommend the following scenarios:

  • If you want top notch performance, consider i850E motherboards with officially unsupported PC1066 RDRAM and 'not validated' ICH4 south bridge. It will offer you the fastest Pentium 4 solution, USB 2.0 support, and maybe even Gigabit Ethernet. It lacks ATA133, as Intel does not support this standard.
  • The question whether to take 845E or G can be answered by comparing prices. Both perform pretty much the same, while 845E is less expensive. In exchange, only 845G will get you an ideal platform for overclocking.
  • If you look for good performance at a fair price, it's currently VIA's P4X333 or an overclocked 845G with DDR333. The first is not supported by the big motherboard makers, as VIA is still without a P4-bus license and the lawsuit between Intel and VIA remains. Technically, P4X333 offers ATA133 as well as AGP8x support, while i845G has its integrated graphics and the better PCI-performance. Please know that any DDR333 support offered by 845G motherboards is not officially validated by Intel, but still can be seen as one of the best tuning features ever thanks to the fact that it will be introduced soon.

For the time being, we don't see a reason to recommend i845E until Intel equips it with DDR333 support.