Introduction

Last November Intel finally revealed the long awaited Pentium 4, but it felt more like a product preview than a real competitor to AMD Athlon. As shown in our Intel Pentium 4 review, the 1.5GHz version of the chip was easily outperformed by the 1.2GHz Athlon in most cases, not to mention that the 1.2GHz comes in at a much lower price. With the Pentium 4 not being the right choice yet for the majority of users, people will still have to stick with the Pentium III chips if they want to stick with Intel through the early part of 2001 at least.

However, since the Pentium 4 is Intel's future and what they consider their high-end processor, they don't feel the need to devote significant resources to support the Pentium III anymore, which means that the i815E chipset will remain the top choice for Pentium III users for a good while longer at least.

But the i815E chipset does not hold many advantages over the good old i440BX chipset, and is even more limited in many ways, mainly because of its 512MB memory limitation. That's why we still see quite a bit of the market being controlled by the VIA Apollo Pro133A chipset.

At the same time, VIA has begun to pick up on the DDR market with the release of the Apollo Pro266, which could be another threat to Intel's i815E chipset. Since Intel won't be able to phase out the Pentium III until Q4 at the earliest, they have to do something to stop VIA from stealing too much of the spotlight before then.

In an attempt to make the i815E chipset more competitive with VIA's solution, Intel had to work on the prices, and they did just that by taking removing the integrated i752 video from the 82815 GMCH of the i815E, which isn't exactly a hot performer anyway. That makes the 82815EP just a MCH (Memory Controller Hub) now and they call the "new" chipset i815EP, and it helps to reduce the price of the boards by a noticeable amount, which should allow them to recapture a larger share of the market.

EPoX sent us one of their i815EP samples, the EP-3SPA3, the first i815EP motherboard to make its way into the AnandTech Labs. Let's find out if EPoX has been able to make this board a solid one, while still lowering the price.

EPoX EP-3SPA3

CPU Interface
Socket-370
Chipset
Intel i815EP
Intel 82815EP MCH
Intel 82801BA ICH2
Form Factor
ATX
Bus Speeds
66 - 250 MHz (1MHz increments)
Core Voltages Supported
Auto Detect
+0.05 / +0.10 / +0.15 / +0.20 / +0.25 / +0.30 V
I/O Voltages Supported
Default (3.45V)
+0.05 / +0.10 / +0.15 / +0.20 V
AGP Voltages Supported
Default (1.5V)
+0.1 / +0.2 / +0.3 / +0.4 V
Memory Slots
3 168-pin DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots
1 AGP Slot
5 PCI Slots (4 full length)
0 ISA Slots
1 CNR Slot
On-board Audio
Analog Device AD1881A AC’97 CODEC
BIOS
Award Modular BIOS 6.00PG
The Layout

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