Asus P4G8X Deluxe
For tiden er E7205-brikkesettet den raskeste løsningen fra Intel for Pentium 4-plattformen. Vi har tidligere sett på et E7205-basert hovedkort fra AOpen, og nå kikker vi på et tilsvarende kort fra ASUS. Er ASUS P4G8X Deluxe noe å satse på?
Intel introduserte E7205-brikkesettet på slutten av fjoråret, som en erstattning for i850E-brikkesettet. E7205, eller "Granite Bay" som det tidligere var kjent som, markedsføres mot arbeidsstasjoner og "high-end" delen av markedet. Løsninger basert på dette brikkesettet, f.eks. tidligere testede AOpen AX4R Plus, er ikke spesielt rimelige, men tilbyr da også for tiden markedets beste ytelse for Pentium 4. Dog kun marginalt raskere enn langt rimeligere i845PE-basert løsninger. I disse tider er også SiS 655-baserte hovedkort på vei inn på markedet, som ifølge tidlige tester er enda et hakk vassere enn E7205 når det gjelder ytelse. SiS 655 brikkesettet tilbyr b.la. støtte for dobbeltkanal DDR400 minne, mens E7205 til forskjell "bare" støtter dobbeltkanal DDR266 minne.
ASUS P4G8X Deluxe er et av de dyreste hovedkortene på markedet, så lenge vi snakker om singel-CPU løsninger for Pentium 4. Kortet er spekket med funksjonalitet, men tilbyr det nok til å leve opp til den stive prisen? Vi har tatt kortet under lupen.
Takk til ASUS som sendte oss P4G8X Deluxe til test.
Les mer om kortet hos ASUS.
Vi gjør oppmerksom på at minnemoduler bør installeres i par på dette kortet, slik at man kan dra nytte av den doble minnebussen. Det er absolutt å anbefale at man benytter helt identiske minnemoduler.
Kortet har ellers innebygget funksjonalitet som:
Serial ATA kontroller
Lydkrets fra Realtek
En brikke fra Broadcom sørger for GigaBit Ethernet nettverkstøtte - bra! Realteks ALC650 brikke står for lydproduksjonen. Denne fungerer forsåvidt greit, men vi kunne godt tenke oss å se en litt mer "up to date" brikke her, f.eks. ADI 1980-brikken, som vi bl.a. finner på ASUS P4PE.
Vi finner tre tilkoplinger for vifter på dette kortet, hvorav en er beregnet på CPU-kjøleren. Begge de to tilkoplingene (for f.eks. kabinettvifter) er plassert "foran" på kortet, altså på motsatt side av portene på kortet. Vi hadde gjerne sett at iallfall en av disse tilkoplingene var på samme side av kortet som portene, da det vanlige er å ha en kabinettvifte i bakkant av kabinettet. I dette tilfellet må man strekke kabelen til viften i bakkant unødvendig langt.
P4G8X har samme type Award-BIOS som P4PE. Det vil si at man har gode muligheter for å stille inn parametre som FSB, spenninger, minneinnstillinger osv. Kort oppsummert gir BIOS-en følgende muligheter:
Vi kommer tilbake til overklokkingsegenskapene senere i testen.
Nedenfor følger noen skjermbilder fra
Konfigurasjon for test av ASUS P4G8X Deluxe
512 MB Corsair Twinx DDR400 SDRAM (2 x 256)
512 MB PC1066 RDRAM (2x256)
ABIT GeForce4 Ti4200-8x 128 MB (275/550)
45 GB IBM 7200 rpm ATA100
Windows XP Professional SP-1
SiSoft Sandra 2003
Unreal Tournament 2003
Intel Application Accelerator v2.3
Intel Chipset Utility 4.30.1006
NVIDIA Detonator 41.09
Testmetodikk: Slik tester vi
PS: Sjekk ut vår benchmark-guide for mer informasjon og nedlastning av testprogramvare.
Hovedkortet ble testet med minneinnstillingene 2-2-2-5, med et par Twinx-moduler fra Corsair. Vi har sammenlignet ytelsen med tidligere testede AX4R Plus fra AOpen, P4PE fra ASUS, et i850E-basert hovedkort fra Intel, samt DFI NB78-HC basert på i845PE-brikkesettet.
La oss først slå fast hvilken FSB-frekvens hovedkortet
virkelig opererer med når FSB er satt til 133 MHz. Som vi ser av bildet
nedenfor "overklokker" hovedkortet FSB-frekvensen såvidt, til 134.66 MHz. Dermed
får en prosessor som i utgangspunktet skal operere på 2800 MHz, 28 MHz ekstra å
rutte med. Det kan være nok til å krype såvidt foran konkurrenter som opererer
med "ekte" 133 MHz FSB. Vi er ikke særlig tilhengere av slik "juksing" med den
relle FSB-frekvensen, uten at det får noen konsekvenser for stabilteten.
De to E7205-baserte kortene kommer meget godt ut når det gjelder teoretisk minnebåndbredde i SiSoft Sandra. Det samme gjør i850E, mens de to i845PE-baserte kortene må se seg distansert.
I Wstream er i850E kongen på haugen, etterfulgt av de to jevngode E7205-baserte kortene.
I 3DMark2001 kommer ASUS P4G8X best ut av samtlige kort i 640x480. I 1024x768 legges det et større press på skjermkortet, og forskjellen mellom de ulike brikkesettene blir mindre. Likevel scorer P4G8X f.eks. 500 poeng mer enn i845PE-baserte DFI NB78 i 1024x768.
Ingen enorme forskjeller mellom de ulike hovedkortene i 3D-renderingmotoren Cinema4D, men dette ASUS-kortet er tydelig helt i tetsjiktet. I shading-testen kryper kortet sågar såvidt vekk fra de andre.
Heller ikke i Kribibench er det store forskjeller mellom de ulike kortene/brikkesettene. Vi legger likevel merke til at ASUS P4G8X er i teten i begge deltestene.
I Cipher-testen i Sciencemark 2.0 skiller det heller ikke mye mellom de ulike kortene. I Molekylar Dynamics-testen kommer derimot P4G8X såvidt best ut, såvidt foran de to i845PE-baserte kortene.
P4G8X havner "midt på treet" i Comanche 4-testen, men forskjellene mellom de ulike hovedkortene er ikke større enn 3-4 FPS på det meste.
Ytelsen i UT2003 er upåklagelig. Jevnt over kommer ASUS P4G8X best ut her, tett etterfulgt av det E7205-baserte AOpen AX4R Plus.
"Bots"-testen drar langt mer CPU-kraft og skjermkortet spiller en mindre rolle enn i den forrige "flyby"-testen. Også her utmerker P4G8X seg, og kommer best ut i alle testene, såvidt foran AOpens E7205-baserte kort.
Generelt sett er i845PE-baserte kort betydelig mer overklokkingsvillige enn hovedkort basert på E7205-brikkesettet. Vi hadde likevel ingen problemer med å overklokke FSB til 152 MHz (3192 MHz CPU) som er maksimalt av hva vår Pentium 4 2.8 GHz testprosessor klarer å operere helt stabilt på.
For overklokkere vil nok et hovedkort basert
på i845PE-brikkesettet være bedre egnet. Disse har gjerne en minnemultiplikator
1,33x, som tilsvarer DDR355-minnehastighet ved 133 MHz FSB, eller DDR400 ved 150
MHz FSB (f.eks.
Dessuten har tester vist at i845PE-brikkesettet gjerne er langt mer villig med
tanke på FSB-overklokking enn E7205-brikkesettet. Sist men ikke minst er
i845PE-baserte løsninger betydelig rimeligere, noe som ikke er uvesentlig for
den gjennomsnittlige overklokkers slunke lommebok.
Ved 152 MHz FSB nærmer minnebåndbredden seg 3.7 GB/s i følge minnetesten i SiSoft Sandra.
Resultatet økte med omlag 500 poeng i 3DMark2001SE, 640x480. Merk at ytelsesøkningen blir mindre jo mer man øker oppløsningen.
Det er ingen tvil om at ASUS P4G8X Deluxe er en svært solid løsning. Kortet er stabilt som fjell, yter meget godt og kommer med en imponerende bundle. Med en utmerket layout og god innebygget funksjonalitet som Gigabit LAN og Serial ATA, skal det mye til for å matche dette kortet.
Spørsmålet er om det er verdt å bruke opp mot 2000 kroner på et slikt hovedkort. Ønsker du det beste på markedet akkurat nå og har råd til å betale for deg, er vi ikke i tvil om at P4G8X er et godt valg. Eksempelvis kan kortet være et godt alternativ for kraftige arbeidsstasjoner, i miljøer hvor overklokking og "tweaking" og "tuning" ikke er spesielt aktuelt. Ønsker man en stabil og rask løsning uten noe "mikkmakk", er ASUS P4G8X Deluxe per dags dato et særdeles godt valg.
Kan du vente litt, er hovedkort basert på i865PE ("Springdale") og i875P ("Canterwood") rett rundt hjørnet. Disse brikkesettene tilbyr noe essensielt som ikke E7205 gjør, nemlig støtte for 800 FSB (200 MHz QDR). Intel vil lansere Pentium 4 "Northwood" med 800 FSB i løpet av våren, og etterfølgeren med "Prescott"-kjerne vil også få 800 FSB.
+ Ytelse i toppklassen
ASUS P4G8X Deluxe får terningkast (-)
we introduce the latest p4 motherboard offering from Asus, along with the latest
chipset from Intel. This would be the Asus P4G8X with Intel's Granite Bay
chipset, supporting Pentium 4 with 478 pins. Asus have a strong reputation for
making good solid boards, for the mainstream market. The P4G8X is practically
the top of the range motherboard, awarded the 'deluxe' title from Asus, only
being eclipsed by the 'gold' model which features a software bundle. This board
is absolutely laden with features as we shall find out shortly...
The Intel Granite Bay chipset is entirely new, and provides support for Dual DDR as well as support for Hyperthreading, which is available on the 3.06GHz P4 and upwards. Hyperthreading is a new technology for the Pentium 4 range, which allows the cpu to process 2 threads at once - effectively like having 2 cpus! This means that when you run 2 programs at the same time, the cpu is always 100% utilised, rather than waiting for one to finish before the other can start.
In addition to Hyperthreading, this chipset enables Dual channel DDR usage - effectively doubling the bandwidth available to the P4 FSB and provides a big boost for DDR supporters. As explained in this article, P4s require more memory bandwidth than can be supplied by ddr ram at DDR266 speeds in single channel configuration. Dual DDR266 should theoreticaly provide as much bandwidth as RDRAM 1066, but as we shall see, suffers from latency issues.
In addition to the above, Intel have added support for AGP 8x, which doubles the bandwidth available to graphics cards, although makes very little difference with the cards currently available on the market.
Let's take a look at the features available on this board from Asus.
There is quite a considerable gain in memory bandwidth by moving to dual channel DDR. This is because the Pentium 4 requires such large bandwidth, and can utilise all bandwidth that is provided.
There is an interesting decrease in floating point power (MFLOPS) on the dual channel system.
In conclusion, Asus have produced yet another great motherboard for the current socket 478 Pentium 4. This board is packed with features, such as onboard LAN, USB2, Serial ATA, 6 channel sound, and performs as highly as any other board on the market that I have seen.
What seems to be a let-down is the performance of Dual Channel DDR (DCDDR) - it was marketed as the solution to all the bandwidth problems of single channel DDR, and a viable alternative to RDRAM. Although we don't have a review of an RDRAM board available, the marginal performance increase of DCDDR over single channel DDR is so slim, there is no way that it storms RDRAM out of the way.
It seems to me that DCDDR does very well with synthetic benchmarks, but fails to perform in real world situations. This is most likely due to a latency issue and the problem of synchronising memory access from 2 memory banks.
The real disappointment of DCDDR solutions is the price! This board retails for almost twice as much as one based upon the Intel i845E/PE chipset (single channel), and offers a only a small performance increase. That said, if money is no object, there is a performance gain to be had, and so feel free to lighten your wallet!
Having dissected the Asus P4G8X using the Granite Bay chipset, it just leaves me to say that this is certainly a step in the right direction. Intel are soon to launch the Springdale and Canterwood chipsets, which will offer asynchronous Dual Channel DDR (DDR333/400) in the quest for ever more bandwidth. It will be interesting to see how they compare with the latest offering from SiS, their 655 chipset already makes use of Dual DDR with DDR333 support.
To sum up : Good board, lots of features, marginal performance increase over single channel, high price.
We have heard a little about the latest Intel chipset, E7205 or Granite Bay, here at Hexus over the past couple of months. We were able to review development samples from MSI and DFI, both less well know manufacturers. Today we take a close look at one of the first full production Granite Bay motherboards to hit the high street the Asus P4G8X Deluxe. Asus are a giant in the world of motherboards so hopefully we will see this Intel chipset utilised fully.
The Granite Bay chipset is designed for use in high end workstations, computers where data needs to be transferred around the system as quickly as possible. This is particularly vital if you are working with CAD or 3D modelling. Although the Granite Bay chipset has some features that will improve performance it is probably only aimed at the high end market because the production costs are high. If and when production costs reduce the benefits offered by Granite Bay will prove useful in computers used for any task including computer gaming.
The major benefits of Granite Bay:
- Dual DDR memory – enabling a theoretical memory bandwidth of 4.2 Gigabits per second. In simple terms twice as fast as equivalent single DDR chipsets!
- Enables Hyper-threading (if you have a P4 3.06 or above)
- Supports 8xAGP
When we reviewed the DFI NB80-EA motherboard we found that its performance was just shy of the Asus P4T with its 4200 rambus memory. Lets see it the latest Asus can better the performance of the DFI.
In the Box
The P4 processor is so willing to be overclocked that we could not resist seeing how far we could push the performance of the Asus P4G8X motherboard. On paper its potential for a good overclock was high; the main reservation in our minds was caused by memories of how badly the Asus P4T Rambus motherboard coped with increased FSB and voltage. Would this board be similarly restricted?
We had already found that the Granite Bay chipset has the potential to overclock well from our review of the DFI NB80. The Asus P4G has the additional benefit of adjustable voltage and because of this we were not disappointed.
We were able to push the P4G right up to a FSB of 185Mhz using a vcore of 1.85v, pushing our humble P4 2.66 processor to the dizzy heights of 3700Mhz. This performance was only possible with aid of the Vapochil cooling system and was not very stable. Reducing the FSB to 180Mhz gave us a very stable system and still pushed the P4 2.66 to 3600Mhz. The best we were able to achieve from the DFI motherboard was 172Mhz FSB and remain stable. Even air cooled the P4G is quite capable of pushing the processor to 170Mhz plus.
Although only theoretical tests the Sandra benchmarks provide a way of comparing basic performance. Rather than displaying numerous screen shots here the graphs show the resultant scores. Running the benchmark on you own machine you will be able to compare our results with your own system and the Sandra provided benchmarks for other equipment.
Asus have created a real winner with the P4G8X motherboard. The issues surrounding the P4T and its ability to run at high front side bus speeds are but a distant memory because the P4G8X copes extremely well with what ever you throw at it.
As ever the board is of the highest quality and the Deluxe model tested was packed with features. The only feature missing is IDE raid which would have made the board complete.
Most of the Asus special features are useful. The Bios’s ability to recover from over enthusiastic overclocking was excellent.
Although the board is expensive at circa £170 in the UK it still represents excellent value if you are looking for a high specification, ultra performance board for your system. Although we tested the board with expensive DDR3500 Ram, which is totally over the top, the board works equally well with DDR2100 memory which can be purchased very cheaply indeed. An Asus P4G8X with a pair of matching 256MB DDR2100 sticks should cost in the region of £250, compared to the P4T with 512MB 4200 Rimms at circa £230 or the Abit IT7 MaxII with 512MB DDR3500 ram at circa £300.
Bios control of the Asus P4G8X is excellent with a multitude of adjustments available. 400FSB capability is a bit over the top, but the vcore and vdimm adjustments are perfect for overclocking enthusiasts.
In summary the Asus P4G8X Deluxe is a wonderful motherboard which I would highly recommend. With a good Pentium 4 processor its ability to overclock is exceptional.
• Packed with features.
• Very good overclocking ability.
• Very fast.
• High quality.
• Very reliable.
• Expensive – until you add the cost of memory
• Poor availability
ASUS P4G8X Deluxe (E7205) motherboard
ASUS P4G8X Deluxe
There are two versions to the ASUS P4G8X, one which is a more feature packed Deluxe edition (which is the one reviewed here) and there's another that comes with lesser built-in peripherals. Obviously, if you need a feature packed product like the P4G8X Deluxe, you'd better prepare to spend more on the board.
Here's a list of things that you'll be getting with the motherboard :-
The technical specifications of the board is as below:-
ASUS P4G8X Deluxe
The Things We Like
There's a lot of things to like about this board. The product is feature packed and brimming with all the stuff that you need to get a powerful system up and running at an instant. ASUS have kept all their popular on-board features such as POST Reporter (speech diagnostic), MyLogo2 (customizable boot logos), EZ Plug (provides a standard Molex connector for power supplies without the 12V connector) and Q-Fan technology (smart adjustment of fan according to system temperature). New feature such as the CrashFree BIOS will eliminate the need for a second BIOS ROM as the board will let you restore the BIOS from a floppy disk if the codes and data are corrupted for some reason.
On the P4G8X Deluxe, you'll find a Broadcom BCM5702 Gigabit Ethernet controller. Gigabit Ethernet is fast becoming a mainstream networking solution and will be a standard feature in most motherboards very soon. Of course, if you'd prefer something less powerful, you can go for the bare version and get a Fast Ethernet solution (also from Broadcom).
Also, there's an IEEE-1394 Firewire controller built on-board the P4G8X Deluxe. Supported by the Texas Instruments TSB43AB22 chip, it is a 1394a Link Layer Controller integrated with a 2-port Physical Layer (PHY). The on-board 1394 controller is a perfect companion for those who wants a high-speed interface for external storage or those into digital video editing. The package also comes with a module that gives you two choices of connectors - one based on the standard 6-pin connector and another is a mini-DV plug. ASUS also bundled the InterVideo WinCinema suite of software for this purpose. The bundling here is excellent.
Since the ICH4 supports six USB 2.0 ports, ASUS has made all of them available. Four of these ports are found at the rear I/O panel while two of them are available on-board through the given header. There's a USB 2.0 module which you can use to add another two USB ports. It's good to have the choice to add extra USB 2.0 ports although we doubt many would need all six ports.
Since the day AGP was introduced, it has gone through a couple of revisions. As much as manufacturers would like to keep the AGP standard backward compatible, the specifications do not allow them and as such, chipsets would normally not support all these different specifications. Therefore, there's a need to ensure that users do not insert the wrong AGP cards and cause damage to either the system or the card. What ASUS did was to place an AGP detection system so that it knows if you've plugged in an AGP 3.3V or 1.5V card. If you've plugged in a 3.3V card, the AGP warning LED will light up and prevent you from booting up. Certainly a very useful feature to have.
Although Serial ATA drives are not in the market yet, you'll find a Serial ATA/RAID controller on the P4G8X. Certainly giving users good upgradability, the Serial ATA/RAID is based on the Silicon Image Sil3112A controller. Supporting only two ports, you can perform either RAID 0 or 1 on two Serial ATA drives.
Audio is also built into the board using Realtek's ALC650 AC'97 codec. The ALC650 supports up to six channels of audio and is one of the more popular software codecs around. You can enable the extra channels through the audio driver and it will turn the Line Out and Mic In jacks into rear, subwoofer and center analog outputs. You'll also find an S/PDIF header that lets your record and playback digital signals.
Overclockers will find the P4G8X very attractive especially with its wide overclocking options available. The biggest surprise is that the new P4G8X Deluxe will support a system bus setting of up to 400MHz. That's really something and we've never seen system bus settings with that kind of range before. The clock generator used here is based on the ICS 950224.
Here's a summary of what overclocking options are available on the P4G8X Deluxe :-
As you can see, the ASUS P4G8X is definitely an overclocker's dream board. Lots of settings are available at your fingertips for manipulation. Perhaps this would give you the ultimate edge in overclocking the system.
With so many on-board devices, we just have to load the board up with as many PCI devices as we could. We proceeded to fill up the board with five different PCI cards (on top of what is already offered on-board) and installed the drivers for each of them. To our expectations, the board had no problem handling these PCI cards and on-board devices at the same time. There were not a single conflict and everything was installed at the first attempt. We then tested the board's stability by running a couple of benchmarks to see if it completes smoothly. Again, the P4G8X passed the stability test with flying colors.
Things We Didn't Like
There's really nothing to dislike about the board as it's very feature packed. What you dreamed of getting in a motherboard is available on the P4G8X. This is highly irregular but we just couldn't come up with anything for this section. So, I guess we'll just leave this as it is.
Results - SYSmark 2002
We tested the ASUS P4G8X Deluxe with two pieces of 256MB DDR333 Kingston memory modules. We installed a Pentium 4 2.8GHz processor on the board and loaded it up with an NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4600 AGP card. We then compared the results with the Intel 850E and Intel 845PE to see where the Granite Bay's performance stand.
In SYSmark 2002, we can see that the P4G8X is performing a tad faster than the Intel 850E. This is indeed good news as the Granite Bay is able to give you performance that's equivalent with an RDRAM-based solution.
Results - Winstone & SPECViewPerf
With Content Creation Winstone 2002, the Intel 850E is running at about the same speed as the P4G8X. You can tell that the dual channel DDR266 memory is bringing the Pentium 4 to speeds once achievable only by PC1066 RDRAM.
With SPECViewPerf, we can see that the P4G8X is running in between the 850E and 845PE. In this benchmark, you can tell that the memory bandwidth offered by the dual channel DDR266 is still not as fast as the dual channel PC1066 RDRAM. Although both offer the same theoretical bandwidth of about 4.2GB/s, the 850E is still a tad faster, as shown with this benchmark.
Similarly, Business Winstone 2001 favored the 850E while the E7205 score places it in the same league with the 845PE. This is not surprising as we know that Business Winstone 2001 is always a little more sensitive to memory bandwidth/speed.
Results - 3DMark 2001SE
We then tested 3D gaming performance with MadOnion's 3DMark 2001SE. Here's what we got :-
Gaming performance depends very much on the memory bandwidth and we can see where the P4G8X stands. Unfortunately, it is still not as fast as the 850E.
Results - Other Games
Similarly with Jedi Knight II and Unreal Tournament 2003, the performance of the P4G8X is slightly lower than the Intel 850E. Compared with the 845PE, the Granite Bay is still the best Intel DDR chipset for gaming.
The new ASUS P4G8X is indeed a very feature packed product based on Intel's latest workstation chipset known as the Granite Bay (E7205). The board is just packed with on-board features ranging from the latest Gigabit Ethernet to Serial ATA RAID. It's a dream board that comes with all the stuff you'll ever need to build a rather powerful system based on just DDR266 memory.
In terms of performance, you can expect pretty speedy performance that's comparable with the Intel 850E chipset. Although the memory bandwidth offered by the Granite Bay is about the same as the 850E, it seems that RDRAM still has the edge in performance, be it for gaming, graphics or office applications. Still, you can expect a lot of cost savings by using just plain DDR266 memory modules since the prices of DDR memory is now very affordable. Paying more for PC1066 RDRAM may no longer justify for the kind of performance you're getting. With the new Granite Bay, the 850E may soon reach the end of its useful lifespan.
For overclockers, the ASUS P4G8X Deluxe is another dream come true as it comes packed with a lot of tweaking options. A noteworthy feature is the system bus selection which allows one to overclock the board all the way to 400MHz. That's about the highest bus frequency we've ever encountered. For extreme overclockers, if you can get the system bus running at 400MHz, the processor will get quad-pumped to 1.6GHz front side bus. Now, we know that's pretty impossible but there's no harm dreaming about it, right?.
Overall, the P4G8X Deluxe is a perfect board for both the power user and extreme overclocker. It comes with just the right balance of features and on-board peripherals that helped make this board very desirable. We tried our best to find flaws with this product, but we couldn't come up with anything serious. What can we say? We're just totally speechless this time around. ASUS has done a wonderful job with this board and we cannot deny them our full five-star award. Well done, guys!
|Test System configuration|
ASUS P4G8X Review
Intel began supporting Rambus’ RDRAM technology with the release of its i820 chipset. Unfortunately, the Pentium III wasn’t able to utilize the memory bandwidth afforded by the new memory technology, resulting in mediocre performance gains. Further, RDRAM was significantly more expensive than SDRAM memory, and so the i815 chipset became the Pentium III favorite.
The Pentium 4 is able to take advantage of RDRAM, though, and as a result, the i850/i850E has enjoyed a long, successful life despite the negative stigma many hardware enthusiasts associate with RDRAM. However, the market has called out for DDR memory, and at long last Intel has been pressured to listen.
AMD, on the other hand, has used DDR memory since showcasing its 760 chipset. The Athon’s front side bus, operating at 133MHz DDR functioned ideally with PC2100 DDR RAM. But considering the resources dedicated to Rambus’ technology, Intel was a lot less enthusiastic about making the transition to DDR. Of course it inevitably happened with the i845 chipset, though the RDRAM-equipped i850E maintained a performance edge. Intel’s own i845PE isn’t even able to offer the 4.2GB per second of memory bandwidth that two channels of PC1066 memory provide.
The prospective i850E replacement comes in combining two, 64-bit channels of DDR memory. At 133MHz DDR, a dual channel solution is capable of the same theoretical 4.2GB per second that we’ve already seen from i850E, matching the processor’s own 533MHz bus. Intel has implemented such a design, hoping to maximize performance. Knowing full-well that the Pentium 4 shines its brightest on a platform with bandwidth to spare, we’ve been anticipating Intel’s E7205 Granite Bay chipset for some time. And not because we’re in a hurry to see the venerable i850E disappear, but because Granite Bay has the potential to be even faster, all the while offering AGP 8x compliance and Hyper Threading support.
Granite Bay is an expensive chipset, and as a result has been classified as workstation-only by Intel. It officially supports PC2100 DDR memory, so at first glance it doesn’t appear to be bleeding edge like competing chipsets that claim PC3200 support, but then again, it only needs enough bandwidth to match the processor’s throughput. Granite Bay can accommodate up to 4GB of memory, which contributes to its workstation-centric typecast. ASUS’ P4G8X consequently features four memory slots that are split into pairs. Technically, the board does support a single-channel DDR configuration, but in the interest of performance, you’d probably want to occupy both channels. Running a dual-channel configuration has a few stipulations, though.
First, both modules must be identical in type and size (though not necessarily brand). Double-sided x16 DDR DIMMs are not supported and neither is a three-DIMM configuration. The third module would simply be ignored in dual-channel mode. ASUS has done a good job at spacing the DIMM slots on the P4G8X so that they can be opened even with an AGP card installed, making memory upgrades straightforward.
BIOS and Overclocking
Seeing as the P4G8X isn’t being marketed as an enthusiast board, we weren’t expecting much in the way of customization within its BIOS. Nevertheless, ASUS has enabled what we’d consider to be vital BIOS functions. In the ‘Advanced’ screen, front side bus settings are available between 100MHz and an astonishing 400MHz. The PCI and AGP busses can be locked down at 33 and 66MHz respectively to avoid taxing components on an overclocked platform. A slew of voltage modifications are also selectable, including: 1.55-1.7V AGP, 2.5-2.7V DDR, and 1.55-1.975V processor voltage.
The P4G8X offers plenty of overclocking potential, to be sure. Using incremental front side bus adjustments, we managed a 153MHz front side bus effectively running at 612MHz. The result was 3.52GHz from our 3.06GHz processor operating at 1.7V. We also ran 1.7V AGP and 2.7V DDR in order to run our memory at the same CAS 1.5 setting used for our other benchmarks.
Intel Pentium 4 3.06GHz (Hyper Threading enabled)
ASUS P4G8X Deluxe E7205 Motherboard
ASUS P4PE i845PE Motherboard
ASUS P4T533-C i850E Motherboard
512MB Corsair XMS3200 CAS2 Memory
512MB Samsung PC1066 RDRAM
ATI RADEON 9700 Pro 128MB
30GB IBM Deskstar DTLA 307030 ATA-100 Hard Drive
Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1
Desktop resolution 1024x768, 32-bit color, 75Hz refresh
All power saving options were turned off, as were the Automatic Update and System Restore services. Graphics options under the ‘Performance’ tab were all disabled for maximum performance.
Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo
3D Mark 2001 Second Edition Build 330 – 32-bit color
Quake III: Arena version 1.17 ‘Demo001’ demo
Serious Sam: The Second Encounter – 32-bit color, Elephant Atrium demo
SiSoft Sandra 2003 Memory Bandwidth Benchmark
3D Mark 2001 SE
The P4G8X ran flawlessly with CAS 1.5 memory timings, so we used those for our benchmark results. The P4PE ran CAS 2.0 timings and the P4T533-C ran in RDRAM 4x mode. All relevant boards also ran in Turbo mode. Graphics apertures were set at 128MB.
3D Mark 2001 SE – Frame Rates
The P4G8X reigns in all three resolutions. At 800x600 and 1024x768, the P4T533-C takes second spot, but the P4PE claims that spot at 1280x1024. Overclocked, the “Granite Bay” board’s victory is even more pronounced, though the results don’t seem to scale with processor performance as we might expect from a platform with nearly 4.9GB per second of bandwidth.
Serious Sam SE
Quake III: Arena
This time around the P4T533-T rules the scene, at least until 1600x1200, where performance drops off enough to let the P4PE take the lead. The P4G8X is simply the lowest performing platform in the bunch. Further, at low resolutions, overclocking buys a noticeable performance gain, but that same gain shrinks and then disappears at higher resolutions.
Both DDR platforms perform nearly identically in Quake III. That is to say, at low resolutions they are both bested by the i850E platform. At 1280x1024 and above, The E7205 and i845PE boards take the lead. And again, overclocking is unable to yield a significant performance gain for the P4G8X.
Unreal Tournament 2003 Demo
The RDRAM-equipped P4T533-C again establishes presence with impressive Comanche 4 scores. As a flight simulator, the Comanche 4 demo has proven to be fairly dependant on processor performance so it is no surprise that the overclocked P4G8X running with a 3.5GHz Pentium 4 is able to post impressive numbers, even though it is consistently beaten in its stock configuration.
SiSoft Sandra 2003 Memory Bandwidth
ASUS’ P4G8X winds up with a first place finish for the first time, edging out both the i845PE and i850E platforms. Overclocking is easiest seen in the botmatch sequence, where processor performance is more heavily emphasized, as opposed to the flyby demo.
We all know that the i850E is capable of performing very well in memory bandwidth benchmarks. Sandra 2003 shows the P4T533-C transferring more than 3.3GB per second of data. In comparison, the P4PE running with PC2700 DDR memory nearly hits the 2.8GB per second mark – odd considering that the chipset is theoretically capable of 2.7GB, and theoretical numbers rarely represent real-world performance. The P4G8X peaks at 3.4GB per second of throughput. Even better, the overclocked platform demonstrated an impressive 3.7GB per second of memory bandwidth!
Completeness Let it never be said that the P4G8X Deluxe is a board that lacks features. Dual-channel DDR memory (with a 4GB ceiling), USB 2.0, IEEE 1394, Serial ATA RAID, AGP 8x, Gigabit Ethernet, and integrated audio – it’s all there. I’ll concede that you certainly pay for the robust feature set, but if you’ve got an MP3 player, digital video camera and high-speed network, you’re already on your way to utilizing a few of the board’s included features.
Performance: Expectations commonly lead to disappointment – just remember back to when you learned Santa Claus was little more than a fictitious fantasy. Considering how well the i845PE competes with Intel’s flagship i850E, we had hoped that a dual-channel solution would leave both products inhaling dust. While this isn’t the case, “Granite Bay” is still undeniably fast, and performance remains a positive characteristic of the P4G8X.
Stability: The E7205 chipset is classified by Intel as a workstation component. As such, the platform as a whole is incredibly stable, even with aggressive memory timings and an overclocked front side bus. We did experience an incompatibility with our engineering sample RADEON 9700 Pro, but our Sapphire RADEON 9700 Atlantis Pro Ultimate performed just fine.
Overclocking: The P4G8X is an impressive overclocker, even if we didn’t see phenomenal gains from our Pentium 4 running in excess of 3.5GHz. With a more flexible processor, you might even be able to wring faster front side bus settings from the board – we were admittedly limited by our 3GHz sample.
Price: Far and away, the most influential factor that will scare most enthusiasts from buying a P4G8X is its price. Though not yet widely available, we did find the Deluxe model online for around $260. The vanilla P4G8X, which doesn’t offer IEEE 1394 or Serial ATA (Gigabit LAN and audio are optional), can be had for around $230. In comparison, you can find a P4PE for right around $130!
Memory Requirements: The biggest inconvenience imposed by the P4G8X is its memory demands. It runs with a single DDR memory module, but we’d assume most folks would prefer to run both channels to maximize performance. In order to do that, you’ll need a matching pair of DDR DIMMs. Remember, they don’t need to be of the same brand.
Intel was the last chipset manufacturer to jump on the DDR memory bandwagon, yet here it is, first to market with a dual-channel DDR chipset for the Pentium 4 (we’re not counting the high-end E7501 Xeon chipset). It’d be hard to argue that the “Granite Bay” chipset isn’t fast. More specifically, the ASUS P4G8X is one of the fastest in our menagerie of motherboards. In a way, it reaffirms Intel’s commitment to DDR memory since the platform rounds out a high-end family comprised of the E7500 and E8870 server chipsets and the E7505 workstation platform.
All things considered, the ASUS P4G8X is a well-designed piece of hardware. It offers a ton of features and some of the best performance we’ve yet to see. However, it does so at a prohibitively high price point. Intel designed the chipset for a workstation audience, where 4GB of memory and a 1000Mbit Ethernet connection would be more readily appreciated. In essence, we feel like a group of Ferrari fanatics reviewing a Porsche Cayenne. In its ideal environment it probably excels. But, insofar as gaming is concerned, it merely performs on par with the chipsets that are already available and it does so for significantly more money that could be effectively repurposed.
Given the performance of the E7205 chipset, we’ll hold our breath for Springdale, Intel’s answer for the desktop Pentium 4 market, set to debut in the first half of this year. It will of course feature AGP 8x support in addition to possible 800MHz front side bus and integrated Serial ATA support. We hope it will also cost significantly less than the Granite Bay boards that we are seeing today.
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