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Testing The E-Class: 9 Pentium 4 Motherboards With The 845E Chipset

845E - Not New, But Good

The 845E is based on the Brookdale core - the very same one that launched the SDRAM platform for the Pentium 4 almost a year ago. That fall, Intel officially approved DDR support for this chipset, even though the Brookdale had already supported the faster memory from its inception. The 845G is traveling along similar lines right now. While the chipset possesses the technology to work with DDR333 memory, Intel is taking its time in validating it, prompting many motherboard manufacturers to offer the feature as an overclocking option.

The only difference between the 845E and the original 845 is in their specifications, which now permit a quad-pumped 133 MHz FSB (ends up as 533 MHz). Intel has also combined the 845E with a new Southbridge, the ICH4 (i82801DB), which supports USB 2.0, but not UltraATA/133, since Intel had never advocated that standard in the first place. Instead, they just left it at ATA/100, assuming that ATA's advent at the end of the year would suffice. After all, everyone will be switching to the new standard as quickly as possible.

Another essential change has been made on the AGP front - the chipset only permits the use of AGP-4x graphics boards with a 1.5 V voltage supply. Just about every manual makes mention of this fact; however, only Jetway sees fit to put a sticker on the motherboard warning users that violating this guideline may damage their hardware.

Ready, Set... Go! Boot Time

Until recently, very few tests considered the time a system needs to boot completely, i.e., the time that passes between the pressing of the power button and the appearance of the Windows desktop. With few exceptions, the current crop of motherboards have stepped up their pace from a few months ago. Nonetheless, components such as RAID, SCSI or network controllers stretch out this time considerably since they have to initialize and search for devices and connections. Disabling all the on-board components levels the playing field for all the motherboards. We discovered that installing the Intel Application Accelerator makes a noticeable difference, lopping ten seconds off the boot time for our test boards with Windows 2000, and four seconds for those with Windows XP.

Most of the systems in this round-up took about 30 seconds to boot Windows XP (with 256 MB RAM and an IBM DeskStar 60 GXP as well as the latest drivers). Activating the RAID, sound and network controllers added about 5-8 seconds to this. The only boards that were clearly faster were the Intel and the Abit, which needed 25 and 26 seconds, respectively.