Two competing Pentium 4-based motherboards go head to head this month in the Test Centre.
This latest Pentium 4 motherboard supports all socket 478-based processors, including the latest and fastest 533MHz front side bus-equipped chips, and runs Intel's 845E chipset. Six PCI slots and an AGP Pro slot are available for expansion, and the board will accept up to 2GB of PC2100 DDR SDRAM via three DIMM slots. Six-channel digital audio is built into the motherboard and a supplied bracket-mounted module provides a composite S/PDIF connection.
Connectivity options are abundant, with USB 1.1, USB 2.0 and IEEE-1394 (FireWire) ports provided in the box, which can be hooked up through bracket-mounted modules on the rear of a PC case. The use of these bracket-mounted modules for connectivity and audio will render at least a couple of your PCI slots unusable, which is unavoidable and not really a problem because you will be negating the need to purchase separate add-in cards for these capabilities.
Although most Pentium 4 motherboards require a special power supply, this board can utilise your current ATX power supply. ASUS's EZ Plug technology only requires a standard four-pin 12V connector to supplement the power requirements of the processor.
All these features combine to make this package an attractive proposition. Its performance was slightly below that of the Gigabyte board, but for tinkerers, the board can be overclocked easily through the BIOS, which allows the system bus frequency to be manipulated in 1MHz increments. Thermal and voltage monitoring functions are also provided.
Gigabyte's board is also based on Intel's 845E chipset and can house all 478-pin versions of the Pentium 4 processor, including 533MHz front side bus models. It is very similar to the ASUS board in functionality, shipping with USB 2.0, IEEE-1394 (FireWire) and IDE RAID (ATA133), and it has capabilities for Memory Stick, Secure Digital and Smart Media card reader connections.
Its performance just beat the ASUS over the line in all our tests. The board is expandable via six PCI slots, an AGP slot and three DIMM slots (for up to 2GB of PC2100 DDR SDRAM). Digital audio capabilities as well as 10/100 LAN are present.
Gigabyte's Dual BIOS technology, which keeps a redundant copy of your BIOS, is implemented to keep your system safe in case a flash update goes wrong, while the Qflash utility built into the BIOS lets you update the BIOS without having to first load up an operating system. In addition, this BIOS allows you to boot from a USB device as well as the IDE ports, which is a boon for those with external USB hard drives. The board can be kept up to date easily via the @BIOS utility, whose purpose is to help you locate and install the most recent BIOS incarnation for your board.
Enthusiasts will appreciate the EasyTune4 Windows-based overclocking utility, with which you can manipulate bus speeds in 1MHz increments as well as monitor your CPU's temperature, voltage settings and fan speeds.
In brief: ASUS P4B533-E.
All up, a great board that is the perfect backbone for a well performing, fully featured system.
Phone: (02) 9742 3288.
This is a great board for the enthusiast who wants to get the most from their system.
Phone: (03) 9561 6166.