Motherboard – VIA P4XB-RA

While we were testing the 2.4GHz P4, this little number from VIA arrived, and given it features the VIA Apollo P4X266A chipset, arguably a direct competitor to the Intel 845 chipset, we felt it would be interesting to compare it to the D845BG.

Admittedly the VIA motherboard has a couple of extra features, notably the integrated Promise IDE RAID controller but to be fair we did not include this in the performance tests. Obviously to kit the VIA up with multiple RAID drives would grant it a marked advantage in the hard drive performance stakes.

Other than being slightly deeper the P4XB is around the same footprint as the Intel and displays comparable care in design and workmanship. All internal connectors are sensibly located and the board boasts three DIMM slots, one more than the Intel, AGP 4x slot, five PCI slots, one less than the Intel, and a CNR connector of which the Intel has none. The P4BX’s memory ceiling is claimed to be 3GB while Intel’s is 2GB, both feature ATA 100 and USB 1.1 although Intel does have versions of its D845 motherboard with the much faster USB 2.0.

Where the P4BX does have an enormous advantage of the Intel D845BG is in BIOS tweaking. Intel do not really want you playing around and overclocking the CPU and memory, but as far as VIA are concerned it is all threre to be tinkered with.

Ok the P4XB’s advantages of RAID and overclocking aside how does the vanilla system perform when compared to the identically configured D845BG. The quick answer is pretty much on par. Overall performance in Winstone for example is within 2% with the P4XB 98% of the Intel’s score in Content Creation Winstone. In 3Dmark 2001 it’s a photo finish with the P4XB just 0.2% behind the D845BG. As far as compatibility is concerned we did not experience any problems but then given this was not an exhaustive comparison the compatibility testing carried out was rather limited.

It would however be fair to say that the VIA P4BX motherboard would be a viable alternative to the plethora of I845 boards on the market for your corporate workstation.

Product: VIA P4BX-RA
Price: $320
Distributor: VIA Technologies Inc
Phone: 03 9766 8566

Steven Turvey RMIT IT Test Lab

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