The market of chipsets for AMD processors is a battlefield today as the Taiwanese manufacturers are waging an all-out war against the California-headquartered NVIDIA, but it is all very calm with chipsets for Intel’s CPUs. Neither VIA Technologies nor Silicon Integrated Systems tries to challenge Intel in this field as both companies position their chipsets for Pentium processors as budget solutions.
That said, non-Intel Socket 478 chipsets nearly match the functionality of Intel products, but they usually come out with some delay and provide lower performance level. For example, Intel has long been shipping its i865 and i875 series, which include Socket 478 chipsets with a dual-channel memory controller, Hyper-Threading and the 800MHz FSB. Products from VIA and SiS with similar capabilities only start emerging now whereas Intel is already prepared to introduce its new generation of chipsets. That’s the main reason for the Taiwanese manufacturers to set low prices for their new products in a desperate attempt to get a slice of that market for themselves.
Right now, there have appeared mainboards on VIA PT880 and SiS655FX chipsets. They are very similar to i865PE-based mainboards: they offer the same basic set of functions, including even the support of the newest Prescott based Pentium 4, and come at a much lower price. We shouldn’t regard such products as obsolete, although there will hardly be faster Socket 478 processors in the future. The user who’s buying his/her computer system with Intel inside today has no other choice but to pick this or that implementation of the Socket 478 platform.
That’s why we decided to carry out a kind of competition between the i865PE and the newcomers: VIA PT880 and SiS655FX. It’s quite probable that some users don’t really need an expensive i865PE-based mainboard, but can get along nicely with a cheaper and a bit humbler one. So this review is going to give us the answer to the question: what you get and what you lose by purchasing a mainboard on an alternative chipset.
So far, the choice of mainboards on the PT880 and SiS655FX has been rather limited. In fact, there are just a couple of models on each chipset. So we took an ASUS P4S800D (SiS655FX) and a Soltek SL-PT880Pro-FGR (VIA PT880) for our tests.