865PE/875P Motherboard Roundup June 2003 - Part 1: 20-way Shootoutby Evan Lieb on June 12, 2003 10:57 PM EST
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After many hours of testing we have decided that the best value Pentium 4 motherboard is ABIT's IS7 based on the 865PE chipset. The IS7's assortment of onboard features such as IEEE 1394 FireWire, Serial ATA RAID, 10/100 LAN, and AC'97 alone make it a great buy at just over $105. However what separates the ABIT IS7 from other motherboard's is its excellent overclocking ability and superb performance that rival the most expensive motherboards on the market, including those based on Intel's 875P chipset.
After much discussion we finally decided that the ASUS' P4P800 Deluxe is the best mid-range Pentium 4 motherboard currently available on the market. The P4P800 Deluxe comes with excellent onboard features such as Serial ATA RAID, IDE RAID, Gigabit LAN, IEEE 1394 FireWire, and AD1985 sound among other intriguing features. The ASUS P4P800 Deluxe was also the highest FSB overclocker out of all the motherboards we tested, in addition to being a great performer. At just over $140 the P4P800 Deluxe is truly a superb choice for a mid-range Pentium 4 motherboard.
There were a handful of motherboards that were very close in features and performance that deserved to be the best high-end motherboard, but in the end the Gigabyte 8KNXP stood out the most. A combination of outstanding features such as IDE RAID (ATAPI and hard disk support), Serial ATA RAID (two separate controllers), Gigabit LAN (via CSA bus), IEEE 1394 FireWire, and ALC655 audio among other features made the 8KNXP stand out quite a bit. Other high-end motherboards had very similar features, so these attributes alone were not enough to decide if the 8KNXP was the best high-end Pentium 4 motherboard we've ever tested. What really pushed the 8KNXP over the hump was its outstanding performance in stock and overclocked modes, coming in just shy of the ASUS P4P800. The addition of the DPS 2 unit and a dual BIOS was also a contributing factor. All in all Gigabyte has yet again put together a stellar high-end motherboard.
In the end however, after countless hours of testing and much debate, we finally decided to give our Editors Choice Gold Award for best overall Pentium 4 motherboard to the ABIT IS7. ABIT has put together a well performing motherboard with a wonderful array of features and overclocking potential at an incredible price point. The ABIT IS7 is living proof of ABIT's commitment to the enthusiast desktop market, and we can only hope they continue to produce more motherboards like the IS7 for years to come.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our 865PE and 875P coverage as we investigate even more motherboards based on these new chipsets. We'll also give you a preview of what type of performance you can expect from Intel's new Extreme Graphics core based on the 865G chipset.