RSS Feed

HCW Tech Blog

For the latest info on computer hardware, tech, news, video games, software tips, and Linux, check out our new improved front page: HCW Tech Blog

Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [02.06.02]
Manufactured by: Shuttle


The Chipset That Could've

If you've read our Pentium 4 2.2 GHz review, you already know that we were quite impressed with this CPU, currently Intel's top of the line product.  There were a few different reasons we chose it over the AthlonXP 2000+ (check out the last page of that review for more details).

If not for VIA's SDRAM chipset, it may have been a completely different story... Until just recently, this and the SiS 635 were the only DDR SDRAM-based chipsets to support the Pentium 4.  Intel had the ability to allow motherboard creators to use their 845 chipset with DDR, but they just chose not to, in order to push RDRAM on us.

It seemed like the harder Intel pushed RDRAM, the more users rebelled.  The main issue of course was price; RDRAM was at a time almost twice the price of similarly performing PC2100 DDR SDRAM.  However, due to crazy price increases over the last 2 months, DDR has almost caught up.  RDRAM currently goes for around $10-20 more for a 256MB chip.

There are still many reasons people will choose DDR SDRAM over RDRAM.  I'm not going to get into the many lawsuits Rambus has had (and still does) over the months, but needless to say, many people do not agree with the morals of Rambus' business practices.  There is also the issue of performance of course, but we can only get into that once we get a RDRAM platform to test.

Enter: The P4X266A chipset! This is the second revision of this SDRAM chipset.  The P4X266A chipset is actually a bit hard to find; most motherboard manufacturers tended to shy away from this chipset, because of ongoing court battles between VIA and Intel.  One of the few who are offering a P4X266A based motherboard is Shuttle.  Their AV45GT/R is a second-generation motherboard (the first generation being AV40/R, which is based on the now outdated P4X266 chipset).

Now that the lawsuits are over (VIA claims victory), we should be seeing a lot more of these boards, right in time to battle it out with Intel's recently "released" 845D DDR SDRAM chipset.  With an excellent price point, and some great features, Shuttle hopes to jump ahead of the DDR Pentium 4 motherboard crowd.

The Board

The AV45GT/R makes use of the full-ATX standard.  Unlike 845-based boards, it can support 6 channels of SDRAM, up to 3 DIMMs (845 can only manage 4 channel - 2 DIMMs).  One cool little trademark of the Shuttle boards are the rounded corners... Nothing big, but it's neat to stand out of the crowd.

As you can see, the AV45GT/R follows a pretty standard layout pattern, with the RAID IDE channels at the bottom.  It makes use of both the extra P4 power supply connections (some boards only use the one 4-pin connection).  The DIMM slots are placed a good distance away from the AGP slot, allowing for easy RAM installation, even when a video card is installed.  I am not too fussy about power connector placement, so decide for yourself based on this picture if you like it; I found it to be quite handy just above the DIMMs.  I should also note that I like the placement of the floppy adapter.  Having all IDE cables in one area (provided you aren't using RAID) is really nice, and makes for an easy, clean installation.

If I have to make one complaint about the board design, it has to be the placement of the CD and AUX headers.  They are just above the AGP slot, so you will have a cable going across the board if you use onboard sound.  This is a minor thing, however, but I would have liked to seen these headers down by the RAID IDE or something a bit more out of the way.

Next Page: (2)