ABIT BD7II-RAID i845E Motherboard Review
The coming of Intel's Pentium4 Northwood B processors were generally greeted with enthusiasm from within the hardware community. The massive quad-pumped Front Side Bus (FSB) saw a leap from the incumbent 400MHz (quad-pumped) to 533MHz or 133FSB QDR.
A growing number of present day applications thrive on pure memory bandwidth, the more you can deliver of it, the more they can use. A multitude of benchmarks have shown that the 533MHz P4 is in some cases incrementally faster than the 400MHz Northwood A, and in some cases significantly faster when running the memory-intensive applications.
An increase of a CPU's FSB can only be successfully sustained if you already have a number of motherboards capable of handling the faster speed. It may sound trivial, but accommodating a processor with a 33% faster FSB than its immediate predecessor usually requires a little chipset tinkering.
In recent weeks we've seen SiS, VIA and Intel themselves launch updated chipsets that officially support this newer variant of the P4 processor. The 400MHz Intel i845D (DDR RAM) chipset has now been superceded by two DDR chipsets with official 533MHz support, namely the i845E and i845G respectively, and the i850E for RAMBUS-powered 'boards. The i845G is Intel's answer for a growing call to provide a motherboard with integrated video.
ABIT, in the AMD ranks at least, usually wait a short while before launching their version of a new chipset. The time between chipset launch and their motherboard launch is usually spent refining and tweaking their particular 'boards for maximum performance. The downside of this approach is that the vast majority of consumers are keen to embrace new technology quickly, so waiting a while can hinder sales.
ABIT's approach for the Pentium4 appears to be exactly the opposite. The successor to today's motherboard for review, the i845D BD7, was one of the first Intel DDR motherboards available. The ABIT IT7 i845E MAX was also one of the very first i845E motherboards to hit the retail market.
The motherboard for review today, the ABIT BD7II-RAID, is essentially an updated version of the i845D chipset-powered BD7, the naming gives the game away. With it being based on the i845E chipset, it already natively supports USB2.0 from its southbridge. Let's now see what else ABIT have introduced to this motherboard, and just how well it stacks up against the strong competition, headed by its own stablemate, the formidable ABIT IT7 MAX.
An in-depth look at the specifications should give us some idea, so let's go there first.