Two Alternatives to i865PE: ASUS P4S800D on SiS655FX and Soltek SL-PT880Pro-FGR on VIA PT880

We tested two mass mainboards (ASUS P4S800D and Soltek SL-PT880Pro-FGR) based on chipsets from VIA and SiS, which represent low-cost alternatives to the popular i865PE. Let’s find out how successful these dual-channel products from VIA and SiS are and decide if non-Intel based mainboards are really worth our attention today.

by Ilya Gavrichenkov
03/28/2004 | 07:57 AM

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.

SiS655FX, VIA PT880 and i865PE: Try to See the Difference

Historically, Intel has always been the trend-setter in the market of Pentium 4 chipsets and the situation has been usually following this scenario: Intel implements some innovations in its chipsets and then other manufacturers use them in their own products a little later. Of course, it’s not all that simple in reality, for example Intel added USB 2.0 support after VIA and SiS did, but overall this is a game of mimicking Intel’s gestures. Thus, launching its i865 and i875 chipsets about a year ago, Intel outlined the basic features of a modern Socket 478 chipset: support of the 800MHz Quad Pumped Bus, a dual-channel memory controller with support of DDR400 SDRAM, plus Hyper-Threading, SerialATA and RAID. Today you can see all this implemented in the new chipsets from VIA and SiS and the three columns in the following table often duplicate each other:

 

Intel 865PE

SiS655FX

VIA PT880

CPU

Pentium 4, Celeron

Pentium 4, Celeron

Pentium 4, Celeron

FSB frequencies

800/533/400MHz

800/533/400MHz

800/533/400MHz

Hyper-Threading technology

+

+

+

Memory channels

2

2

2

DIMM slots per channel
Maximum memory size

2 DIMM per channel
4GB

2 DIMM per channel
4GB

2 DIMM per channel
4GB

Supported memory types

DDR400/DDR333/DDR266 SDRAM

DDR400/DDR333/DDR266 SDRAM

DDR400/DDR333/DDR266 SDRAM

ECC support

-

-

+

Graphics port

AGP 8x

AGP 8x

AGP 8x

CSA port for Gigabit Ethernet

+

-

-

South Bridge

ICH5/ICH5R

SiS964

VIA VT8237

PCI Masters

6

6

6

IDE

UDMA66/100

UDMA66/100/133

UDMA66/100/133

Serial ATA ports

2 SATA150 ports

2 SATA150 ports

2 SATA150 ports

RAID support

RAID 0, 1 ? ICH5R

RAID 0, 1, JBOD

RAID 0, 1, JBOD

USB ports

8 USB 2.0 ports

8 USB 2.0 ports

8 USB 2.0 ports

LAN MAC/PNA

+

+

+

AC’97

+

+

+

Bus between the bridges

Hub Link 1.5 (266MB/sec)

MuTIOL 1G (1066MB/sec)

Ultra V-Link (1066MB/sec)

Yes, the chipsets are very similar in their external characteristics (about which the user cares most). In fact, the only significant deviation is the PT880’s supporting ECC, although this feature is unlikely to be called for in this budget solution. As for the CSA port in the i865PE, VIA and SiS were not enthusiastic at all about this Intel’s innovation and preferred to stick to the usual network controllers attached via the PCI bus. That’s reasonable since CSA is only supported by the Intel 82547 chip, a very expensive solution you seldom meet in consumer products. Moreover, Intel is going to abandon this bus in the next generation of its chipsets.

Again, other parameters of the three chipsets are identical. We can of course delve deeper into the architectural, rather than specification, differences. The chipsets use different buses for connecting the North and South Bridges. Intel’s bus provides a bandwidth of 266MB/s, while VIA and SiS employ faster solutions with a bandwidth of just over 1GB/s. These two buses differ from one another, too. SiS has a 16-bit bidirectional bus working at 533MHz frequency and VIA offers a 32-bit 266MHz bus. In spite of the obvious disparities in the characteristics of the two buses, you will hardly notice any difference in practice: the devices attached to the South Bridges work at similar speeds. There are also different memory controller implementations as well as various exclusive technologies (which mostly serve marketing purposes) for increasing bandwidths and reducing latencies. VIA boasts its DualStream64, while SiS has the HyperStreaming Engine.

But let’s turn to palpable matters, relevant for the end user. SiS655FX features the highest flexibility of the memory controller, offering numerous divisors for the memory frequency at 200MHz FSB. This allows clocking memory at the standard frequencies (266/333/400MHz) as well as higher ones like 433, 466 and 500MHz. VIA PT880 and i865PE can’t do that. However, the fastest mode for the SiS655FX is still the synchronous one, so there is not much practical sense in this abundance of memory settings. The memory controller of the SiS655FX can work with memory in two modes: using two 64-bit channels or accessing memory through a 128-bit channel. Again, the positive effect of this setting is only felt in a few specific applications.

The memory controller of the VIA PT880 chipset was promised to have certain unique features, too. Particularly, VIA Technologies mentioned support of Quad Band Memory, a technology developed by Kentron. The harsh market realities made the company give up its original plans – the support of QBM SDRAM is not mentioned in the specifications of the VIA PT880.

The overclocking capabilities of a chipset highly depend on the opportunity to asynchronously clock the FSB and AGP/PCI buses. That is, if clock rates of the peripheral buses grow up as you increase the FSB frequency, you can hardly hope for good processor overclocking. Intel chipsets have long been able to clock AGP/PCI buses independently, keeping them low when the FSB frequency grew. Chipsets from the Taiwanese competitors couldn’t boast this ability until recently. However, this situation has changed: VIA PT880 and SiS644FX can both clock the AGP/PCI asynchronously and independently of the FSB clock rate.

Anyway, even an excellent chipset needs to be implemented nicely in the particular mainboard. So let’s save our final verdict until we play a bit more with the participants of our today’s review.

ASUS P4S800D on SiS655FX

SiS655FX is represented in our tests by an ASUS P4S800D mainboard. Although this product doesn’t belong to the well-known X-series of low-cost mainboards, its price is really astonishing – you can find it in shops priced at about $80. Although it carries no additional controllers onboard, it is really a full-fledged product. Here’s the list of its specifications:

ASUS P4S800D

CPU

Intel Pentium 4/Celeron (800/533/400MHz FSB, Hyper-Threading, Socket 478)

Chipset

SiS655FX + SiS964

FSB frequencies, MHz

100-300 (with 1MHz increment)

Overclocking-friendly functions

Adjustable Vcore, Vmem and Vagp

Memory

4 DDR DIMM slots for dual-/single-channel DDR400/DDR333/DDR266 SDRAM

AGP slot

AGP 8x

Expansion slots (PCI/ACR/CNR)

5/0/0

USB 2.0 ports

8 (4 – on the back panel)

IEEE1394 ports

None

ATA-100/133

2 ATA-133 channels

Serial ATA-150

2 Serial ATA-150 channels (in the South Bridge, with RAID support)

ATA RAID support

RAID 0, 1 in the South Bridge

Integrated sound

Six-channel AC97 codec: Analog Devices AD1980

Integrated network

10/100Mbps Ethernet Realtek RTL8201BL

Additional features

ASUS WiFi slot

BIOS

AMI BIOS

Form-factor

ATX, 305mm x 245mm

ASUS P4S800D supports all Socket 478 processors, including new CPUs on the 90nm Prescott core. The three-channel CPU power unit seemingly uses feeble transistors, but we had no problems running the mainboard with a Pentium 4 3.2GHz (Prescott), although the MOSFETs would heat up considerably during work.

Like mainboards on dual-channel chipsets from Intel, ASUS P4S800D has four memory slots in two groups (two for each memory channel). You can install DDR400/333/266 SDRAM modules into them and use either single-channel or dual-channel memory access. You can also use memory at a higher clock rate than the FSB frequency, but such asynchronous modes are negative for the system performance.

The PCB of the mainboard is unified with the ASUS P4S800D-Deluxe and has empty spaces for an extra onboard RAID controller and an IEEE1394 controller. ASUS P4S800D only supports SerialATA RAID, implemented via the South Bridge (SiS964). FireWire is not supported by the mainboard at all.

Instead, ASUS P4S800D has an exclusive ASUS WiFi slot – you can optionally buy an 802.11a/b expansion card from ASUS and have inexpensive, but operational wireless network controller that can serve as a programmable access point.

ASUS P4S800D also carries five PCI slots (one of them is shared with the WiFi slot) and an AGP 8x port that only supports 1.5V graphics cards. The AGP is very close to the PCI slots, so graphics cards with a massive cooling system will block the access to the neighboring PCI.

A slightly out-dated AC’97 AD1980 codec from Analog Devices gives voice to the mainboard. The voice is sweet as the analog part of the audio tract is well-designed. Three audio jacks and a coaxial SPDIF output are located at the mainboard I/O panel. Note that you don’t receive any brackets with the mainboard for outputting other audio connectors.

Networking capabilities of the ASUS P4S800D are implemented through the South Bridge, too. The physical level controller is a Realtek RTL8201BL chip, providing a maximum bandwidth of 10/100 Mb/s. The I/O panel of the mainboard also carries four USB 2.0 ports; four more USB ports are available as onboard connectors (you receive a two-port USB bracket for the back panel of the system case). The game port and the second COM port are also implemented as onboard connectors and you don’t receive any brackets to be connected to them.

The PCB design is quite satisfactory, only the processor socket is shifted too close to the right part of the mainboard. The 12V additional power connector is placed behind the North Bridge and its power cable will hang over the processor cooler – that’s not good either. The onboard USB pins stand right before the PCI slots so you may have problems plugging their cables in if you’ve already installed PCI cards or a graphics card with a big cooling system. The North Bridge of the chipset lives without active cooling – it has just a passive heatsink on, which does not get very warm during work.

The BIOS of the P4S800D is based on the AMI microcode and thus resembles the BIOSes of the P4P800 series mainboards. However, SiS655FX chipset brought certain changes, mostly into the page where you configure the memory subsystem.

Other mainboards may envy the flexibility offered by this BIOS Setup. Moreover, all these parameters affect seriously the performance of the system and it took me quite a while to set the P4S800D up for maximum performance (you see the options I used in the tests in the screenshot). When set to “MA 1T”, the MA 1T/2T Select parameter allows increasing the performance even higher, but the system becomes unacceptably unstable in this case.

Hardware monitoring options of ASUS P4S800D allow tracking the temperatures of the CPU and the mainboard, the rotational speeds of three fans and four voltages. You receive the exclusive ASUS Probe utility with the mainboard, which monitors all those things from inside the Windows environment. The reviewed mainboard also boasts the ASUS exclusive feature called Q-Fan. This technology reduces the CPU cooler speed if the temperature inside the system case is within the acceptable range, thus reducing the noise.

The BIOS Setup of ASUS P4S800D is not rich in CPU overclocking options. Yes, you can change the FSB clock rate from 100 to 300MHz with 1MHz increment, but the control over voltages is insufficient: Vmem can be set to 2.55, 2.65, 2.75 and 2.85V; the Vagp is varied from 1.5V to 1.8V with 0.1V stepping; the Vcore can be only increased by 0.1V above the nominal value – this may be enough just for ordinary (non-extreme) overclocking as Pentium 4 processors are not very sensitive to the voltage they receive.

Thanks to the SiS655FX chipset, the frequencies of the AGP and PCI buses are locked at their normal values, 66/33MHz.

Our overclocking attempts with the ASUS P4S800D were a bit of a disappointment. The Pentium 4 2.4C processor that we used with this mainboard can speed up to 3.6GHz at 300MHz FSB, but we couldn’t repeat this result on the ASUS mainboard even reducing the memory clock rate to the minimum. It’s hard to tell certainly what was the reason, but the mainboard would lose stability at 255MHz FSB. Moreover, from 240MHz FSB on, you have to use specific memory modules as the system wouldn’t start up with some modules, irrespective of the FSB/MEM divisor, timings and the rated frequency of the modules.

So ASUS P4S800D mainboard can only be used for moderate overclocking. The basic disadvantage of this mainboard is its limited abilities in controlling the Vcore and low stability at the FSB frequency over 240-250MHz.

Soltek SL-PT880Pro-FGR on VIA PT880

The second mainboard included into this review belongs to the class of hi-end solutions, rather than to low-end ones, although it also has an alternative chipset inside. The price of the SL-PT880Pro-FGR approaches $100, suggesting a non-Intel chipset, too. Counting out this sum of money, the user gets the full set of capabilities, implemented in the VIA PT880, but also enhanced through extra controllers. Take a look at the mainboard specifications:

Soltek SL-PT880Pro-FGR

CPU

Intel Pentium 4/Celeron (800/533/400MHz FSB, Hyper-Threading, Socket 478)

Chipset

VIA PT880 + VIA VT8237

FSB frequencies, MHz

100-250 (with 1MHz increment)

Overclocking-friendly functions

Adjustable Vcore, Vmem and Vagp

Memory

4 DDR DIMM slots for dual-/single-channel DDR400/DDR333/DDR266 SDRAM

AGP slot

AGP 8x

Expansion slots (PCI/ACR/CNR)

5/0/0

USB 2.0 ports

8 (4 – on the back panel)

IEEE1394 ports

2 (1 – on the back panel) in the VIA VT6307 controller

ATA-100/133

2 ATA-100 channels (in the South Bridge)
1 ATA-133 channel (in ATA RAID controller: Promise PDC20378)

Serial ATA-150

2 Serial ATA-150 channels (in the South Bridge, with RAID support)
2 Serial ATA-150 channels (in the ATA RAID controller: Promise PDC20378)

??? RAID support

RAID 0, 1, 0+1 in Promise PDC20378
RAID 0, 1 in the South Bridge

Integrated sound

Six-channel AC97 codec: VIA VT1616

Integrated network

Gigabit Ethernet VIA VT6122

Additional features

None

BIOS

Award BIOS

Form-factor

ATX, 305mm x 244mm

As you see, SL-PT880Pro-FGR differs from ASUS P4S800D both in capabilities and exterior. The PCB of the ASUS’ board looked rather barren, while the Soltek abounds in various components and has original coloring. Well, external looks are not as important as what the product offers us at work.

First of all, Soltek claims compatibility of its mainboard with all Socket 478 processors including Prescott based CPUs. On the other hand, they make a remark that only Prescott processors with a frequency of 3GHz and lower are supported. This is evidently a safeguard measure as the CPU power unit looks quite reliable. It is three-channel and uses powerful MOSFETs, capacitors and inductance coils. After examination, we tried a Prescott 3.2GHz with this mainboard and found no problems in its work, although the PSU power unit, without any cooling, was heating up significantly.

The mainboard carries four DDR DIMM slots, grouped in twos, five PCI slots and one AGP. The AGP supports 1.5V graphics cards and the first PCI is situated very close to it, so a massive cooling system of your graphics card may block it altogether. Overall, SL-PT880Pro-FGR is an ordinary mainboard in this respect.

Thanks to the South Bridge (VT8237), used in the mainboard, there are USB 2.0 and SerialATA interfaces as well as AC’97 audio available. Particularly, four USB ports are nestled at the mainboard back panel, and four more are implemented as onboard connectors. Regrettably, you don’t receive any USB brackets for the back panel of the system case – you’ll have to buy them separately.

AC’97 audio is implemented through a six-channel VT1616 codec. This solution can’t boast any extraordinary features. Moreover, it was quite bad in our mainboard: a poor implementation of the analog tract worsens the quality of sound. The connections panel of the mainboard has three audio jacks (inputs are shared with outputs). Moreover, there is no wiring on the mainboard for the SPDIF output. Thus, the integrated audio solution of Soltek Sl-PT880Pro-FGR mainboard is just satisfactory, nothing more.

Soltek paid much attention to support of ATA devices, though. Overall, we have three Parallel ATA-133 channels and four SerialATA-150 channels. Two channels of each type are implemented in the chipset South Bridge, which also allows uniting SerialATA hard disk drives into RAID 0 and 1arrays. The rest of the channels (two SerialATA and one Parallel ATA) are attached across a highly functional Promise PDC20378 ATA RAID controller that allows building 0, 1 and 0+1 RAID arrays.

Soltek SL-PT880Pro-FGR also supports the FireWire interface through the onboard VIA VT6307 controller. One port resides on the mainboard I/O panel, and another is available as an onboard connector. Regrettably, the accessories to the mainboard don’t include a bracket with FireWire connectors for outputting this port.

Positioning their PT880-based mainboard as a high-end solution, Soltek couldn’t do without networking – it is supplied by a Gigabit Ethernet VIA VT6122 PCI-controller.

I was not very happy with the PCB design of Soltek SL-PT880Pro-FGR. First of all, I was surprised to see the extra controllers – network and ATA RAID – disabled with onboard jumpers rather than in the BIOS. Moreover, the PCB has jumpers for setting up the regular clock rate of the processor bus. In other words, Soltek mainboard brings you back to those days when all configuring was performed with jumpers rather than in the BIOS Setup.

There are even more comments on the design. Soltek mainboard is not free from the common problem of many mainboards: the installed AGP graphics card blocks DIMM slot latches. ATX power connectors are also placed carelessly. They are at the back part of the PCB and their cables hang over the CPU cooler, preventing proper ventilation. The connectors for Parallel ATA HDDs are right in front of the first PCI slots and “long” graphics cards will hinder connection of IDE-cables to them. As for the FDD connector, it is at the left edge of the PCB and the FDD cable goes through the entire case. So the engineering team from Soltek won’t receive any awards for this mainboard design.

Interestingly, the back panel of the PCB carries two COM ports, although many manufacturers abandon legacy ports altogether. Judging from the PCB layout, I guess that Soltek is planning to produce mainboards on the integrated VIA PM880 chipset replacing the second COM port for a D-Sub video output.

The mainboard BIOS is based on the microcode from Award. In fact, the Setup doesn’t offer you an abundance of settings, but everything necessary is here. There’s no magic about configuring the memory subsystem as all options are standard for VIA chipsets:

The ITE IT8705F chip is responsible for hardware monitoring, keeping track of the system and CPU temperatures as well as rotational speeds of two coolers and nine different voltages. Regrettably, Soltek doesn’t offer any hardware monitoring utilities with its mainboard that would work in Windows. On the other hand, you can use a third-party utility like the well-known Motherboard Monitor. The Soltek mainboard has no means for controlling the rotational speeds of the fans.

The overclocking capabilities of Soltek Sl-PT880Pro-FGR are rather limited because of the narrow FSB frequency range.

The main problem SL-PT880Pro-FGR poses for an overclocker is a low ceiling of the FSB frequency. This mainboard allows increasing the FSB clock rate to 250MHz only (with 1MHz increment), which is insufficient for giving a boost to some readily-overclockable Pentium 4 models.

The voltages don’t provoke any cause for criticism. The Vcore can vary from 0.8375V to 1.8V with 0.0125V increment. The Vmem can be set to 2.6, 2.7 or 2.8V, and the Vagp can vary from 1.5 to 1.8V with 0.1V increment. In fact, the mainboard might offer higher memory voltage, but it’s not that important now that we can only change the FSB frequency in a very narrow range.

The PT880 is the first chipset from VIA Technologies to be able to lock the frequencies of PCI/AGP busses and clock them asynchronously to the FSB clock rate. Thus, you shouldn’t worry about PCI and AGP devices during overclocking – they will continue working at their normal frequencies.

As for practical overclocking experience, we enjoyed neither of the reviewed mainboards. When trying to overclock a Pentium 4 2.4C (rated for the 800MHz FSB) on the Soltek board, we only achieved a FSB clock rate of 240MHz, while the i865PE chipset makes it possible to overclock this processor to 300MHz FSB. Increasing the FSB frequency further, we couldn’t make the mainboard start up whatever we did – used overclocker DDR500 memory or increased the memory divisor. Once again we should confess that mainboards on alternative chipsets are inferior to Intel’s in overclocking for some mysterious reasons.

Testbed and Methods

The main goal of our today’s testing is to estimate the performance of mainboards on alternative chipsets with a dual-channel memory controller. So we will compare the speeds of ASUS P4S800D (on SiS655FX) and Soltek SL-PT880Pro-FGR (on VIA PT880) with the performance of high-quality and widespread i865PE-based P4P800 mainboard from ASUS. This comparison will help us to form our own opinion about the quality of the alternative chipsets and see if they are any competitors to Intel’s offers in the mainstream, not only low-end, market sector.

The testbed was configured as follows:

The testbed ran under control of Windows XP SP1; the BIOSes of the mainboards were tuned for maximum performance.

Performance

Synthetic Memory Subsystem Tests

The performance of the memory controller is the basic evaluation factor for a Pentium 4-supporting chipset, which impacts the overall performance of the chipset. That’s why we run memory subsystem tests in the first hand.

To start out, we run Sciencemark 2.0 to measure the memory bandwidth and latency.

It is all clear: i865PE is superior to SiS655FX and the PT880 in the memory controller speed. Intel chipset provides higher bandwidth and lower latency.

The results of SiSoft Sandra 2004 confirm the point once again: i865PE wins this test, too. Between the two losers, the VIA chipset shows higher performance than the SiS655FX in this test.

In fact, we may stop the review right now. It is already clear that mainboards on alternative chipsets can’t outperform i865PE-based products. A comprehensive testing session will help us estimate the width of the gap, though. If the PT880 and SiS655FX are just slightly worse than the i865PE in real applications, we can forgive them.

PCMark04

The results of Futuremark PCMark04 test make up a separate section of the review as this benchmark is synthetic rather than a real test. Moreover, we used this test for checking the performance of certain subsystems of the reviewed mainboards.

All mainboards score similar performance ratings in PCMark04, although the i865PE is again a little faster. As for the chipsets from SiS and VIA, it’s hard to tell definitely which one of them is better. Depending on the set of testing algorithms, either ASUS P4S800D or Soltek SL-PT880Pro-FGR shows a higher speed.

This memory subsystem test shows about the same results as the ones we’ve seen in the previous section.

Comparison of disk subsystems of the reviewed mainboards is an interesting matter. We used a RAID array of two SerialATA drives in our testbed, so we can estimate the performance of SerialATA RAID controllers integrated into the South Bridges of the mainboards.

The results are quite exciting. The SATA controllers from SiS964 and VT8237 chips are equals, but lose to the one in the ICH5R. This may be caused by the efficient work of Intel’s Application Accelerator driver with intelligent caching functions for higher performance of the disk subsystem.

Performance in Office and Content Creation Applications

Traditionally, we’ve been using Winstone tests for checking the system performance in different types of ordinary Windows applications.

This time we only have to acknowledge that all mainboards are equals at ordinary office work or at processing digital content.

I can’t say the same about benchmarks that model multi-threading load. The i865PE-based mainboard loses the first test to the others. This test imitates work of the user in office applications, but also executes file copy operations, so the lower performance of this mainboard may be caused by the low bandwidth of the bus that links the two chipset Bridges.

Performance in 3D Games

We usually anticipate the measurements of fps rates in various popular games with results in 3DMark2001 SE and 3DMark03. That’s what we are going to do today, too.

The i865PE-based ASUS P4P800 mainboard is again faster than mainboards on the other chipsets – this should come as no surprise already. PT880 in its turn is slightly faster than SiS655FX.

It’s somewhat different in Aquamark3 as SiS655FX is perceptibly faster than PT880. Anyway, they are both far behind i865PE.

i865PE goes unrivalled again. As we saw in the synthetic tests, the memory controller of the SiS655FX works slower than the one of the PT880, but the SiS chipset outperforms the PT880 in more gaming applications. I suspect this is because of the HyperStreaming technology, whose aim is to increase the efficiency of processing streams inside the North Bridge.

Performance in Archiving and Encoding Applications

The speed of data compression algorithms largely depends on the memory controller. That’s why we see the same results as in the tests of the memory subsystem.

Nothing changes in the video encoding test. The i865PE-based ASUS P4P800 is on top, followed by the PT880-based Soltek mainboard.

Performance in 3D Modeling Tasks

There is only one surprise here. When rendering lighting through the OpenGL driver, the mainboard on the VIA chipsets suddenly shows high performance. In other tests, all three platforms are nearly equal.

Conclusion

The main thing we’ve learned in this review is the fact that you shouldn’t shun alternative dual-channel chipsets. VIA and SiS are offering quite adequate products, which don’t excel Intel’s chipsets, but don’t look hopeless losers in comparison, either. VIA PT880 and SiS655FX have about the same set of characteristics as Intel 865PE, and only slightly lose to it in performance. In most cases, you’ll see a performance difference of 1-2% comparing the alternative chipsets to the i865PE. Meanwhile, mainboards on the Taiwanese chipsets come at lower prices than i865PE/i875P-based products. Thus, the new chipsets from VIA and SiS – the PT880 and SiS655FX – may suit well for a majority of mass users.

However, there are some problems with them, mostly related to overclocking. Although VIA and SiS implemented asynchronous and FSB-independent clocking of AGP and PCI buses in their new chipsets, something prevents mainboards on these chipsets from overclocking smoothly. The overclocking results we’ve got with ASUS P4S800D and Soltek SL-PT880Pro-FGR are much lower than those shown by i865PE/875P-based mainboards.

The particular products on those chipsets, will surely find their customer. The ASUS mainboard has a limited functionality, but an appealing price, even though ASUS mainboards are traditionally costly. Soltek endowed its SL-PT880Pro-FGR with numerous characteristics, still keeping the price low, but the PCB design of this mainboard is not quite user-friendly.

Overall, both these mainboards are worth taking a look at: their highs make up completely for their lows!