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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [10.08.02]
Manufactured by: Intel

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Rambus busted for good?

It's a fairly general consensus among most PC users now that Intel needs to drop RDRAM, cut their losses, and get on with life.  I'm not sure how Rambus managed to get such a sweet deal out of Intel, convincing them that RDRAM was THE ONLY way to go for their high end chipsets, but something needed to be done.  For the most part, Rambus was much more expensive than SDRAM (things are beginning to even out only now, with recent price increases of SDRAM), and besides that, many people simply refused to support a company they viewed as morally corrupt.

When Intel released the 845 chipset, it looked like they were taking the first steps necessary to finally be rid of Rambus.  For the first time, Intel had their own DDR solution for those looking for great performance with their Pentium 4 CPU's at a low price.  With 845E, they even supported the new 533 MHz FSB of the latest Northwood CPU's. 

However SiS and VIA were always a step ahead - their latest chipsets, 648 and P4X400 respectively, both support the newest fastest DDR spec - PC2700 - and even have pseudo-support of the pseudo-DDR spec of PC3200 (DDR400).

Well it's time for Intel to catch up to VIA and SiS - they can't rely on Rambus naturally beating DDR forever.  Enter their newest DDR chipsets, with DDR333 support: 845PE and 845GE.

What's New?

There's not much else to mention about the new chipsets other than DDR333 support (which gives a peak theoretical bandwidth of 2.7 GB/s compared to 2.1 GB/s of DDR266).  The AGP bus is still only 4X, and the Hard Drive interface is still ATA/100.  VIA and SiS both offer 8X AGP and ATA/133 on their latest chipsets, but neither really give much of a performance increase unfortunately, and many people are in fact reporting problems using AGP8X.

One new thing the new chipsets do offer is official support for HyperThreading.  That's right, HyperThreading IS coming to the mainstream PC.

The 845GE adds Intel's "Extreme Graphics" integrated video to the PE, but honestly there is nothing "Extreme" about it, unless you're going to say "Extremely Crappy".  In the minor testing I performed with it, I saw MAJOR ghosting even in 1024x768.  Crank up the res to 1280x1024, and it's pretty much unusable.  The new GE does increase the clock by 66 MHz, but we're not even going to waste your time talking about it anymore.  Most boards with a GE chipset should have an AGP port as well, and when you plug a real video card in, the GE video is bypassed (and you get your 64MB of RAM back).

Note that if you attempt to use a 400 MHz FSB CPU (either P4 or Celeron) only DDR266 is available as an option.

The Boards

We got 2 boards from Intel to show off their new chipsets, and they are about as far from being similar as possible.

First we're going to talk about the PE based board, since that is the chipset you're going to be most interested in...

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