IntroductionIt's often said that time waits for no man, this adage is perhaps most pertinent in the computing industry, as what is considered cutting-edge today, is invariably old news in just a few months.
It seems as if just a few short months have passed since SiS (Silicon Integrated Systems) launched their competitive SiS645 Pentium4 DDR chipset to critical acclaim. SiS showed that there could be more than one performance chipset for the P4. Indeed, in some benchmarks, SiS645-based motherboards, when run with their preferred DDR333 memory, matched or even toppled RAMBUS as the performance solution. It was all the more impressive considering that supposedly inferior DDR SDRAM was being used.
In the interim months, SiS have managed to recruit all the major first-tier motherboard manufacturers into producing full retail 'boards. We've repeatedly shown that the SiS645 is the performance DDR chipset when run with DDR333 memory. The performance, coupled with the low street price, has made it into an extremely viable proposition for anyone considering a reliable base for a P4 machine.
Intel themselves have not stood still in the months since the Northwood, the newest iteration of Pentium 4s, was announced. Our benchmarking suite at Hexus has repeatedly highlighted the importance of memory bandwidth for the P4. Intel, rather wisely, have decided that it is now time to move the P4 from the present 400MHz FSB (100FSB QDR) to 533MHz (133FSB QDR). The extra bandwidth afforded to the processor should translate into meaningful performance gains for today's bandwidth-hungry real-world applications.
The P4 has now been released with the faster FSB option. It stands to reason that a move to a faster FSB cannot be successfully made without having motherboards that natively support the increased speed. Therefore, it comes as no surprise to use that SiS were one of the first to have a chipset ready. Unlike VIA, SiS' recent licensing agreement with Intel ensures that no legal impediment can cloud production of their 533FSB P4 chipsets.
The SiS645DX differs from the incumbent SiS645 chipset by offering official 533FSB support via the use of appropriate FSB:PCI dividers. The Southbridge (961B) has seen a slight upgrade with the inclusion of ATA133 support. It's rumoured that the memory controller has been further optimised for the 645DX, we'll naturally put this assertion to the test.
We've recently seen the first production model of the revised I845E chipset, with official 533FSB support, in the form of the ABIT IT7. It appeared to take a larger step by making provision for 6 onboard USB2.0 ports. Still, any improvement to SiS' already excellent chipset is most welcome.
Today we're casting our reviewing eye over a full retail model of the 533FSB compatible SiS645DX chipset. MSI (Micro-Star International), a premier first-tier motherboard manufacturer, have always been quick to embrace change. Therefore, it comes as no real surprise to us that they were able to ship us a retail model so soon after a chipset revision had been announced.
Let's investigate MSI's offering in a little more detail, onto the detailed specifications.