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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
WEB: www.via.com.tw/jsp/en/australia/Default.jsp

Steven Turvey RMIT IT Test Lab

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USB Mobile phone Charger

Steve was looking through a catalogue the other day when he found a small USB cable that you can plug into your desktop/notebook and use it to charge your Nokia mobile phone batteries. It only costs about AU$15 and is available from Innovision

It is the perfect thing to keep at work to charge your phone, or to take on holidays. I’d much rather carry it than the bulky 240V charger and I can just plug it into my laptop when the phone needs a charge.
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20GB USB HDD

We were given a test unit of a USB HDD which is a USB connected 20Gb Hard Disk in a tiny convenient case. In a package not much bigger than a Zip disk we have nearly 10x the capacity with fantastic ease of use. Once you install the software, the unit simply plugs into the USB port and mounts itself as the next available drive letter (E:) on my system. The transfer speeds are not blistering @ 879 kbytes/sec but that still means you can transfer a CD’s worth of info in less than 13 minutes. If you could build a USB 2 version, the times would drop dramatically, and it would be a truly superb unit. Excellent for those who want to carry large files around from place to place.We also tried the Unit on an iMac, but even though it recognized that there was a disk connected, there we no drivers to enable it to read from the device. A simple USB Disk driver is probably all that is needed, but we were unable to find one.We can’t mention the distributor looking to bring this into the country, but if you are interested, feel free to drop me an email, and I’ll pass that information along. RRP looks like being about AUS$550 for 20GB, maybe less for smaller drives and possibly a no-disk option for those who already have a 2.5inch Hard Disk lying around.

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