Intel 945P Motherboards: Going from Hopeless to Enthusiasticby Gary Key on November 15, 2005 12:02 AM EST
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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.
"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."
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.