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Asus P4T533 - Getting aquainted
Product : Asus P4T533 Socket 478 motherboard
Manufacturer : Asustek
Price : £150 (including VAT)

Motherboard manufacturers are being accused of making their products too alike their competitors in recent years. The fact of the matter is, they have to. Reference designs leave little headway and after all, there are only a number of different chipsets for a given processor. In the Pentium 4 market there is little competition for Intel. With their ongoing litigation with VIA and only SiS providing "some" competition the giant has the lion share of the market.

This is nothing new, when the first Pentium's came out Intel were known to produce good, reliable chipsets. Indeed, if you look down the line of Intel motherboards and chipsets you will find that they have almost always been reliable, if uninspiring. The Pentium 4, ever since it's launch has been a talking point for gamers and hardware enthusiasts alike. The initial poor performance, coupled with the high cost of RAMBUS RAM meant that many people were forced to go with offerings from AMD. RAMBUS, although superior to DDR is still almost double the price. In the past few days Intel have finally thrown RAMBUS off it's bandwagon, although RAMBUS have come up with one final offering to show it's technological superiority over DDR. Anothing annoying factor was that RDRAM needed to be bought in pairs, just like good 'ol SIMMS. Well, not anymore.

Asustek have a high reputation amongst hardware enthusiasts and the technologically aware public. This, their top-of-the-line model for Socket 478 processors supports a host of cutting edge features. Sporting a model name/number of P4T533 it tries to represent all that is good with Asus Pentium 4 motherboards. Does it succeed? We shall find out. The core features are :
  • 32bit RDRAM support (PC1066)
  • Intel® 850E memory controller chipset with ICH2
  • 533MHz Front Side Bus Support
  • 2 RIMM Sockets for up to 2GB memory PC1066/800 RDRAM
  • AGP Pro Slot
  • Dual Channel IDE ATA100/66/33 Support
  • Promise Ultra ATA 133 controller supporting ATA 133 RAID (0/1)
  • 4 USB 2.0 Ports (NEC), 6 PCI Slots
  • Infrared Connection
  • Wake-On-Ring, Wake-On-LAN
  • PC Health Monitoring ASIC
  • 4Mb Flash EEPROM Award™ BIOS
  • There are a number of "non-core" features that Asus have included, to make their motherboard unique from their competitors.
  • EZ Plug
  • EZ Flash
  • POST Reporter
  • MyLogo2
  • Q-Fan
  • Multi-language BIOs

  • The RDRAM shines in applications that require the extra memory bandwidth that it provides. It is important to note that PC1066 RIMMS aren't commonly available yet and only a couple of manufacturers are recommended by Asus. We were sent a stick of Samsung RAM (which is present in the list recommended) which had ECC. Whilst ECC is overkill for desktop machines, it's welcome if you are willing to pay the price premium.


    At time of publishing Kingston announced availability of 32bit RIMMs.

    An interesting inclusion is of a RIMM blanker. This is a PCB which you insert in one of the two unused RIMM sockets. It doesn't have any memory. It is fairly common to see CPU blanking plates for multi-processor motherboards, however this is the first time we've come across one for RAM. One of the advantages of 32bit RDRAM is that you don't have to use them in pairs anymore. This could explain the reason why 2 sockets are available rather than the more standard 4. Important note : you are not able to use 16bit RDRAM on this motherboard.

      

    We were a little surprised at why Asus decided to use the ICH2 rather than the newer ICH4. ICH4 would provide built in support for USB 2.0, which would cancel the requirement for the separate NEC controller. Asus have had to go to a third party for ATA 133 support, which comes in the form of a Promise PDC20276 controller. This unit supports RAID in mode 0 and 1. ATA 33/66/100 support is provided by the ICH2 controller, RAID isn't available.


    Looking at the backplane of the P4T533 from left to right, you have PS/2, 2 USB 1.1, two serial and 1 parallel, 2 USB 2.0 and audio connectors. Another 2 USB 2.0 sockets are available through the backplane connector that is supplied. Also supplied is your traditional game/joystick controller.


    On board audio capabilities have become the "norm" these days in both AMD and Intel platforms. Asus have chosen the 6 channel C-Media CMI8738 controller which supports 3D positional audio. Although most gamers ignore the onboard sound opting for a plug-in card (mainly due to CPU usage), however during our tests we found the quality of sound produced to be perfectly adequate and CPU usage was minimal.
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