Best Buys: Chipsets: Intel 875P performance versus Intel 865PE performance

In the June print issue of PC World Magazine (on page 98) we looked at Intel’s new high-end Desktop platform for the Pentium 4 CPU, which is the Intel 875P chipset. This platform supports all the latest PC technologies, including AGP 8X, Serial ATA, dual channel memory architecture for PC3200 DDR SDRAM, Gigabit networking, 6 channel audio and an 800MHz front side bus speed for the latest Pentium 4 chips.

The Intel 865PE chipset, which will be released as Intel’s offering in the lower end of the market, also contains these features and will be available with on-board Intel Extreme graphics solutions in some models. We did a direct comparison of 875P and 865PE chipset-based systems and the results are shown in the table linked from this page.

In the high-end configurations featuring the new 800MHz FSB Pentium 4 CPU, with striped RAID hard drives and dual channel PC3200 memory, the 875P chipset based motherboard from Intel performed expectedly faster than the 865PE chipset based MSI motherboard -- but not significantly.

In tests conducted with the older 533MHz front side bus-equipped chips, the playing field was level and the 865PE chipset-based motherboard proved to keep pace very nicely.

The 875P chipset did provide better graphics performance throughout all tests.

The advice? Wait until boards featuring the 865PE chipset are released before splurging on a new board or computer system as the features and performance are almost identical to the level of Intel’s high-end 875-based offerings. It is particularly the board to go after if you will be using a CPU with a 533MHz FSB.

The 865PE chipset-based board we looked at was from MSI and its characteristics are excellent for enthusiasts who want top notch features and dazzling aesthetics. A review of this board follows.

MSI 865PE Neo2

MSI’s traditional red circuit board offers a striking backdrop for the colourful components that make up this motherboard, which include 4 dual channel DIMM slots, an AGP 8X slot and Serial ATA ports in addition to parallel ATA RAID functionality. All panel connections and pin headers are colour-coded as well, and the fan on the 865PE chipset itself has a tri-colour flashing light setup which threatens to render Christmas lights useless around the festive season.

Indeed, these lights flash hysterically in a number of different patterns and while many users who have a case with a windowed side panel will appreciate them I personally found them to be slightly distracting and a little over the top. Kudos to MSI, however, for implementing such a feature and it shows how much thought actually goes into the aesthetics of a motherboard these days, in addition to simply colouring the main ports of a motherboard for easy identification and installation.

While the MSI design team has been busy with their colour palettes, the MSI R&D team has also been active devising utilities that make performance monitoring and optimising even more efficient. This board contains a feature called CoreCell, which is a hardware chip that diagnoses system temperature and adjusts power consumption and fan speeds accordingly. This feature also aids enthusiasts with overclocking pursuits. Adjustments to the system can be made in real-time via the supplied software interface for this chip, from which you can set temperature alarms and adjust the power and fan speed settings for optimum performance or for optimum quietness.

The board’s layout is very clean and colourful and each connector and port is readily identifiable. There are 5 PCI slots for expansion and the AGP slot is located in a position where installing a large graphics card will not impede any of the memory slots.

Plenty of drive expansion is offered via 4 Serial ATA ports that can be used in RAID configurations and there is also one Parallel ATA RAID port. Cables for Serial ATA drives are provided in abundance, with 4 data cables and 2 power cables. The board also has a wealth of USB 2.0 ports available on its rear panel and there is one internal pin header for front-loading ports. There is also 3 internal pin headers for Firewire connectivity.

Installation went without a hitch and stability during our evaluation was excellent. If you’re in the market for a feature rich and well performing Pentium 4 motherboard, look into the 865PE Neo2, as the value-added features and design certainly make it a worthwhile proposition.

Price: $TBA
Vendor: MSI
Phone: (02) 9748 0070
URL: www.msicomputer.com.au

To view the complete table of results, click here

AMD Opteron

For information on AMD’s new Opteron chips, please visit http://pcworld.idg.com.au/index.php?id=291744131

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Elias Plastiras
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