Introduction

Not too long ago, we looked at the new Intel Tualatin processor, which is essentially the 0.13 micron version of the good old Pentium III processors.  With the way Intel is pricing the desktop Tualatin, it’s clear that this new Pentium III is aimed primarily at the mobile sector – at least in its current form. By the end of this year, the Pentium III will be all but completely phased out, and the 0.13 micron technology used in the Tualatin destined for the next generation Celeron and Pentium 4 processors.

Clearly, the Pentium 4 is Intel’s flagship CPU for the desktop market, even though it’s initial performance at 1.5 GHz was not too good compared to the older Pentium III 1GHz and Athlon 1.2GHz.  Intel never too concerned, however, since the whole idea behind the Pentium 4 is that its new architecture allows them to crank up the clock speed to 2GHz and beyond, something that the Pentium III could never do.  As the clock speed increased to 1.7, then 1.8, and finally 2.0 GHz, the Pentium 4 looked better and better.

Nevertheless, a CPU is nothing without a good supporting chipset. Until recently, the only option was Intel’s own i850, which used relatively expensive RDRAM memory. Just a few weeks ago, VIA introduced the second option, the P4X266, which brings along DDR SDRAM technology.  There’s been much debate surrounding VIA’s access to the Pentium 4 bus, but rest assured, the P4X266 will see the light of day quite soon.  Intel also has the i845 chipset, codename Brookdale, on deck and ready to go. Although the i845 actually has the logic to support DDR SDRAM, the initial release will only support PC133 SDR SDRAM.  There’s been much debate over the reasons behind this, but we’ll try to stay out of that for now. 

Taking a look at our P4X266 Review, we can see that the i850 platform is still the highest performing option of the three we just discussed, although it is also the most expensive.  With that in mind, we decided it was about time we did an i850 motherboard roundup.  The candidates we’ve assembled are the ABIT TH7, ASUS P4T, DFI WT70-EC, ECS P4ITA, EpoX EP-4T2A, Gigabyte GA-8TX, Intel D850GB, MSI i850 Pro2, and Supermicro P4STA.  Unlike some other roundups we’ve done in the past, we noticed quite a few differences between the contendors, although choosing a winner was still very difficult. 

Notes about the Intel 850

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