release of the i865 Springdale and i875 Canterwood chipsets from Intel, the
final stake has been driven into Rambus' coffin. It seems that even the almighty
Intel can buckle under pressure from consumers eventually!
For Intel anyway, 2002 was the year of the i845 chipsets.
The chip maker released a total of eight variants on
the original SDRAM supporting i845 chipset. Those iterations
include the bandwidth-starving i845, the i845D
which allowed the Pentium 4 to use
DDR memory, the i845E/G which introduced the 533 MHz FSB, and the i845PE/GE which
brought DDR333 support to the table. Lesser known i845's included the i845GL and
i845GV which were both low cost P4 chipsets with integrated 'Intel Extreme'
As great and reliable as the
i845D and onward were, they could never quench the Pentium 4 processors' (not
even a 400 MHz model!) thirst for memory bandwidth. In fact, it could be
said that the changes to the i845 series were more of an evolutionary path, but late last
year when Intel released the E7205 (Granite Bay) chipset the revolution started.
E7205 was officially a workstation chipset, Intel had finally offered up a dual channel DDR based chipset that could provide the
Pentium 4 with sufficient bandwidth! The seeds were sown, and it was only a matter of
time before Intel would bring dual channel DDR to the masses.
|Intel's i865 Sprindale dual channel DDR chipet.
In April of this year Intel released the i875P 'Canterwood' chipset which officially replaced
the i850E as the top of the line desktop northbridge. Chipzilla said
"bu-by" to RDRAM in the high-end Pentium 4 desktop world, but interestingly enough released
nothing new for mainstream desktop computers to work with. The i845PE would have to last out a little
while longer until i865 Springdale was ready.
The release of the Intel i865 'Springdale' chipset comes today, and Intel has released
no fewer than three flavours (i865P/G/PE) to choose from.
Sprindale we are examining in this review offers a whole new world of features
for the average user to revel in. First and foremost on that list is Dual
Channel DDR, but let's not forget natively supported Serial ATA
via the ICH5 southbridge (RAID 0 via the
ICH5R only) as well.
Armed with Intel's i865PE northbridge and ICH5R southbridge, the AOpen AX4SPE Max offers a formidable
set of features that should make this review rather interesting... so pay close attention as
Ships with the following:
- IDE ATA66/100 Cable
- IDE ATA33 Cable
- FDD Cable
- 2x Serial ATA Cable
- Serial ATA HDD Power Cable
- Driver CD
- Serial ATA Floppy Driver
- User Manual
- I/O Back Plate
Optical Audio Bracket
USB/Game Port Bracket
IEEE 1394 Bracket|
The AOpen AX4SPE Max supports any 'Northwood' 400/533/800 MHz FSB
based Pentium 4 processor and can hold up to a maximum of 4GB of paired
PC1600/2100/2700/3200 DDR RAM. This is a dual channel DDR board, so for the best
performance results it is recommended that the blue 184-pin DDR sockets be
populated with identical DDR modules first, and then the same thing done with
the black DDR sockets.
The ATX-sized board includes four Serial ATA ports,
two of which support Serial ATA RAID 0 & 1, and RAID 0 thanks to the Silicon
Image SataLink and ICH5R (FW82801ER) southbridge respectively. Additionally, we
find six onboard USB 2.0 ports (two on a riser), two IEEE 1394 Firewire ports,
5.1 audio, Gigabit LAN, dual BIOS's and no less than three fan headers to choose
We usually do not comment on software bundles, but
AOpen deserves a pat on the back for including Norton Antivirus 2003
with this motherboard. AOpen have been using
a black coloured PCB for their motherboards the last little while, and I must say
it looks pretty nice. The general layout of the board is also pretty good too; the
main ATX power connector is in a great location just to the right of the DDR DIMM
slots and the two IDE connectors are located just under the four DIMM's.
It's nice that AOpen places most of the
connectors on the bottom of the motherboard (Serial ATA, IEEE 1394, game port,
etc), because once the three brackets which are included in the box are
connected up there are a lot of wires floating around. With these wires kept to
the base of the motherboard they are much less likely to get in the way of other
Despite all the integrated peripherals,
the AX4SPE Max still includes an amazing six PCI slots! That should be
plenty if you're looking to upgrade your system further. An 1.5V 8X AGP socket
is also included.
AOpen place a fairly large passive heatsink on the i865PE Northbridge,
and during our testing it seemed to handle the job of cooling the i865PE well. The ATX 12V Auxiliary connector is
situated adjacent to the CPU socket, but we understand that's the best way to get stable
voltages to the processor.
While the ICH5R southbridge includes two
Serial ATA channels as well as RAID 0, AOpen has gone out of their way to
include another two Serial ATA channels (thanks to the Silicon Image controller)
which can be used in RAID 0 and 1.
The board is fairly well labeled, but could use a
bit more identification around the front panel connectors - as it is you'll have to reference
the the quick start guide AOpen include to connect the wires up properly. I dislike the position
of the CMOS battery as it is standing up on its edge near the bottom
corner of the motherboard. It makes an easy target for getting clipped off by overzealous users.