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Soyo SY-P4I 845PE

SY-P4I 845PE


It is now around 18 months since Intel launched itís PC-133 SDRAM compatible i845 chipset to a somewhat muted reception. Whilst offering far less performance than itís RDRAM compatible i850 sibling, the i845 instantly became Intelís biggest selling chipset by virtue of it being paired with PC-133 SDRAM. This though was never the full solution for Intel as AMD was still comprehensively outpacing the Pentium 4 in the mainstream PC market with the Athlon and the then new DDR SDRAM memory technology. The potential of the Pentium 4 and DDR SDRAM was seen with the dubious-legality VIA P4X266 chipset and it was plain to see that this was the best way forward for the Pentium 4.

Early 2001 saw Intel release itís first DDR SDRAM compatible P4 chipset in the form of the i845D. This offered a considerable leap in performance over the original i845 and when paired with the then new ďNorthwoodĒ Pentium 4 began to move the Pentium 4 towards the high-end which it had never really occupied. The i845D was a fine chipset bringing with it some of the best levels of stability which we have ever seen from a motherboard.

Intelís chipset (or more likely CPU) roadmap though meant that the i845D was one of Intelís shortest lived mainstream desktop chipsets being replaced in seemingly a matter of weeks by the i845E. The i845Eís main feature was support for the new 533 MHz memory bus as opposed to the old 400 MHz bus on the i845D, along with the new ICH 4 controller. Again like the i845D, the i845E brought with it brilliant levels of performance and stability, but it had an achillies heel as far as the market was concerned; it only supported PC-2100 (DDR 266) SDRAM when itís main rival AMD along with VIA were quickly moving towards the new PC-2700 (DDR 333) memory standard. SiS also threatened to take the lead from Intel with their SiS 645 and later superb SiS 648 chipset series which also featured support for PC-2700, Intel had to have a PC-2700 compatible offering.

Late 2002 saw the arrival of the i845PE, with now support for the new PC-2700 (DDR 333) memory standard. At last Intel had a chipset it could match AMD, VIA and SiS in the marketing numbers stakes (actual chipset performance is always a more difficult issue), and thus the i845PE was thrust onto the market.

Being Intelís main Pentium 4 chipset means that the i845PE is present on motherboards from virtually every motherboard manufacturer in existence and so we turn to our first example which arrived at Processor Emporium for testing. The example we will be looking at is from Soyo in the form of the SY-P4I 845PE. As any reader of Processor Emporium will be aware Soyo have made some of the finest Socket A motherboards we have ever had the pleasure to review, so we waited for this high-end Intel board with some expectation.

Intel i845PE.

Like all Intel chipsets since the release of the i810 back in 1999, the i845E is based upon the Unified Hub Architecture. The i845PE MGCH (Memory and Graphics Controller Hub), contains features such as support for up to 3 GB of main system memory (whether you can fit 3 GB of memory is another matter) along with standard features such as AGP 4X.

The i845 MGCH is complimented by the new ICH 4 controller (whatever happened to ICH3?) which looks after the PCI bus, Ultra ATA 100 Hard Disk Controller and the AC-97 compatible Audio codec. The ICH 4 chip also features USB 2.0 support.


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Review Posted 12th January 2003

© Copyright, Anthony Barrett 2002/2003.