"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise."

This line as spoken in F. Scott Fitzgerald's pithy and self-reflecting essay, "The Crack-Up", should remind us in these times of increasing polarization to realize while heatedly debating other's opposing viewpoints that one should maintain dignity and respect for that viewpoint and the person expressing it.

Those of us who follow the computer industry fully realize the effects of polarization as we read, view, discuss, and openly debate, in sometimes-heated fashion, the merits of each manufacturer's products. This typically leads into discussions regarding Intel versus AMD, NVIDIA versus ATI, Linux versus Windows, Asus versus Gigabyte, PC versus Mac, and so forth until at times our opinions are so one-sided that we fail to recognize the merits of the other product or more importantly, the ability to respect another's opinion.

I have to be honest with you in regards to this article and the products that we are reviewing today. As a devoted computer enthusiast, I fully admit the thought of reviewing the boards included in this article did not excite me, not because of the manufacturers involved, but rather due to the Intel 945 chipset. It has certainly sold in the hundreds of thousands from the likes of Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and others, but unless someone was standing on the street corner praising the virtues of this chipset would you really care about it.

I mean, here we have a chipset that is an excellent follow up to the Intel 915, offers the latest technology, provides very good performance for the dollar, is available in a myriad of configurations, and simply does what it is asked to do without question or issue, but is it enough to change an opinion? It certainly changed our opinion, but probably not for the reasons that one might believe.

Today, we are reviewing the Epox 5LDA+GLI, Foxconn 945P7AA-8EKRS2, and Asus P5LD2 Deluxe based on the Intel 945P chipset. All three manufacturers took a slightly different approach to utilizing this chipset with, at times, similar results.

The chart above lists the standard feature set available to manufacturers using the Intel 82945P chipset. Asus chose to augment this feature set with additional SATA II capabilities via the Silicon Image 3132 chipset, additional IDE capabilities via the ITE 8211F chipset, and Firewire 1394a support via the TI TSB43AB22 chipset. Foxconn chose to augment this feature set with additional IDE capabilities via the ITE 8211F chipset, an additional Gigabit LAN port via the Broadcom 8CM5788KF8 PCI chipset, and Firewire 1394a support via the TI TSB43AB22 chipset. Epox took a minimalist approach and augmented this feature set with Firewire 1394a support from VIA with the VT6307 chipset.

One of the main design features that Asus and Epox engineered into their boards is an additional physical PCI Express x16 slot that runs in PCI Express x4 mode, which enables Intel's Graphic Link Interface (GLI). The first PCI Express x16 slot will continue to operate in full x16 mode while the second PCI Express x16 slot operates in full x4 mode. This allows two PCI Express video cards to be installed allowing quad display capability, and based upon driver support, theoretical performance near the NVIDIA x8SLI design. This additional PCI Express x4 slot runs off the 82081GR (ICH7R) chipset and reduces the available amount of PCI Express x1 slots. Asus took this configuration one step further and offers a BIOS switch which allows the PCI Express x4 slot to run in either x4 or x1 mode. If the user chooses x4 mode, then the single PCI Express x1 slot is disabled.

Let's see what these boards are capable of and if one's opinion can be changed.

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  • Houdani - Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - link

    My approach is not backwards in the least. It's mainstream. And I do support the status quo because it's not broken. Your argument is that you want to see how sound affects gameplay ... period. For that, you should go read soundcard reviews.

    If you are arguing that CardB will suffer more than CardA due to the sound solution, then clearly I've missed something significant!
    Reply
  • yacoub - Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - link

    quote:

    Your argument is that you want to see how sound affects gameplay ... period

    No, not "period". At all. I want to see real world tests of GPUs so I can see how ALL expected impacts during gaming affect the latest and greatests GPUs, especially in light of conclusions in many reviews pointing out that "buy the best GPU you can afford" is the answer for gamers and GPUs are the most expensive piece of equipment in most cases since $200 CPUs can are enough for most cases.

    It's necessary to know if, in light of the real world impacts like sound processing, that X800XL that looks like it can push enough fps in the GPU-exclusive testing done on it, actually falls beneath a playable threshhold in your machine at the games/resolutions/graphical settings the review showed to be fine. A 15fps difference is clearly HUGE (especially when most cards reviewed are pushing 30-50fps in most tests) and can EASILY push a seemingly sufficient card into the slideshow/stuttering realm of "holy crap that review screwed me big time. I should have sacrificed the extra $50 to jump up to CardB". If anything these dick-waving reviews are HARMFUL to actual consumers concerned with upgrading their gaming rigs as opposed to techies simply interested in reading about the latest GPU, because many of them don't even mention that sound is off and why that can have a big impact on the actual gaming performance of the card. They might waste time and money on an upgrade because the review data was worthless compared to how it actually performed in their system.

    Food for thought.
    Reply
  • MadAd - Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - link

    This is a mobo review and OB sound is on mobos so it has a place being tested here, not on GFX cards.

    In the context of current reviews, you want a change to the established way of doing things so that some finite aspect of sound card performance can be included, thats your opinion and fair enough you can have it. However rather than argue that the (perfectly good for most) system should be changed, instead why dont you ask the AT reviewers for a comparitive system review including sound?

    If its worthwhile doing im sure one of the reviewers would agree, perhaps a few other readers would back you up if they think it would make a difference however I'm in the 'keep the status quo' camp so am biassed thinking its really not worth the time when it can be predicted from seperate reviews.
    Reply
  • yacoub - Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - link

    Here's a vague comparison: Measuring automobile horsepower at the crank instead of the wheels - it ignores drivetrain loss and isn't as accurate a measurement. This is why the industry recently mandated a revised rating system. Yes, most cars will now market a must lower (but more accurate) number for their horsepower rating.

    The GPU review industry needs to start doing the same thing. Give more accurate numbers so the consumer is better infomred and can actually use the reviews to make a solid purchase decision. After all, that's what reviews started out to do years ago - help consumers understand the features of new hardware AND how they actually performed playing the games people played, so people could decide what the best upgrade strategy would be for their system based on worthwhile data.
    Reply
  • TheInvincibleMustard - Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - link

    I saw that graph with min/max/average framerates! Woohoo! Convince others to implement that as well, especially in video card reviews (*cough*7800 GTX 512*cough*) :D

    It's a shame that the Foxconn only goes up to 1.9v, as everything else about the board seems really decent ... is there word from Foxconn that this might be possible to fix in a future BIOS upgrade, or is it a hardware-specific issue?

    -TIM
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - link

    quote:

    It's a shame that the Foxconn only goes up to 1.9v, as everything else about the board seems really decent ... is there word from Foxconn that this might be possible to fix in a future BIOS upgrade, or is it a hardware-specific issue?


    The board is very solid, has an excellent price point, and we are hoping Foxconn will implement further changes in their bios in the near future. I will update the article if we receive a new one.
    Reply
  • Furen - Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - link

    You know you don't have to throw a long quote at the beginning of each article, right? I mean, it seems a bit excessive... like you're trying too hard to link the article to the grand scope of human life. We all appreciate an article's technical merits (this is a tech site, after all) but reading a piece of philosophy or literature at the heading kind of grows old after one or two times (dare I say, it reminds me of Omid at THG and his latin-infused writings so many years ago). I'm not complaining about the article, by the way, maybe I'm just being anal... Reply
  • Kensei - Friday, November 18, 2005 - link

    I'm way late to this party but here goes anyway. I couldn't disagree more. It makes for much more interesting reading and the linkages to literature are a very minor part of each article. As I've said before, Gary is an extremely talented writer and others should be learning from his example. I strongly feel that people with strong technical interests need to spend time in other pursuits to make them more well rounded persons. I could write a book on the people I've met who possess great technical knowledge but it does them little good because they lack the interpersonal and communication skills to convey it to any other carbon-based life form.

    So dust off that copy of Jane Austin's Pride & Predjudice in your sister's room and see how the other half lives..... OK.... just go see the movie.

    Kensei

    Reply
  • Gary Key - Saturday, November 19, 2005 - link

    quote:

    So dust off that copy of Jane Austin's Pride & Predjudice in your sister's room and see how the other half lives..... OK.... just go see the movie.


    I appreciate your comments and you made my evening. My sister was named after Elizabeth although she acts more like Mr. Darcy in real life. I might just pull out the 1996 BBC rendition (reminds me of my Rendition Verite based Reactor 3D card I found recently) and view it over the holidays. :) :) :) :)
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - link

    quote:

    I'm not complaining about the article, by the way, maybe I'm just being anal...


    I appreciate the feedback. I flip flop at times about the quotes myself but figured it would provide a difference in the article besides starting out with same, "Intel introduces the 945P, a chipset that is very good, and is in three boards today....", syndrome. However, I can see your point where it can grow old after a few times also so maybe we should mix it up at various times. ;->
    Reply

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