Conclusion: Gigabyte Wins - Asus Close Behind
Overall, the test boards appeared very highly developed and displayed no problems with system behavior.
All the motherboards, except Intel and Zida, can be overclocked. You can increase at least the FSB and core voltage for all the candidates, providing a solid basis for an increase in system performance. Abit, AOpen, Asus, Biostar, Jetway, Gigabyte and MSI also permit you to modify the feed voltage for the RAM or the AGP graphics card.
Since we're on the subject of graphics cards, we'd like to remind you once again that you can only use models with a voltage requirement of 1.5 V. This mostly refers to the current crop of graphics cards for AGP 4x, whereas older AGP 2x graphics cards need a higher voltage that isn't part of the specifications of the 845E chipset. Using such a card could damage both your motherboard and the graphics card itself.
Intel has now made a name for itself in the motherboard sector as well! With boards that used to be too slow or too feature-poor, Intel's D845EBT has turned the tables on the competition. The RAID controller, high-quality sound system, network controller and FireWire add up to make this board a fantastic basis for anyone who's not really dying to overclock. It also gives customers the opportunity to get everything from one source - board, chipset and processor. If Intel were to offer this trio in carefully combined bundles, that could cause a cold, harsh wind to blow, especially in the direction of smaller manufacturers.
The editor's choice goes to Abit, for its IT7, to Asus, for its P4B-533E, and to Gigabyte, for its 8IEXP. All three boards are just bursting with features such as FireWire, ATA/133 IDE-RAID (with Abit even offering it in four channels), surround sound, network controllers and a complete set of cables. Furthermore, all three offer digital ports, making hi-fi components a snap to hook up.
Abit is the first manufacturer to strip away every single classic legacy component, from the PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports to the COM and LPT interfaces. Let's be honest - this step was long overdue! With the current levels of 533 MHz FSB and processor clock speeds of well over 2 GHz, those stone-age components had been tripping up systems every chance they could get. Admittedly, USB keyboards are a tad more expensive than PS/2 models, but these obsolete standards are already in the process of being eliminated. But those who may still need a COM port in the future can still purchase an I/O PCI card for basically a song.
Our Editor's Choice award goes to Gigabyte for its 8IEXP. This board, which includes extensive features, costs around $130, while a similar configuration with the Asus P4B-533E will cost you around $190. Both candidates offer numerous features such as FireWire, ATA/133 IDE-RAID, Surround sound, a network controller and a full set of cables. In addition, they provide digital-out for connecting hi-fi components. Intel makes a significant step forward: for just about $125, it offers an overall successful board with a solid foundation, where stability is the main focus.
Last, but not least, Gigabyte has topped the others by offering its 8IEXP a touch cheaper and furnishing it with DualBIOS to boot.