Hardware enthusiasts are magnetically drawn to powerful hardware. And with most components, there is little question as to the reining champion. Naturally, a 3.06GHz Pentium 4 outperforms the 2.53GHz variant. Similarly, a RADEON 9700 Pro will obviously outpace the less-expensive RADEON 9500. It gets a little trickier with motherboards, though. To begin with, performance between chipsets can differ tremendously. Then, depending on the engineering prowess of the motherboard manufacturer, a particular board may be faster or slower than a competing product based on the same chipset. Finally, there are a host of features that can optionally be integrated into a motherboard design, giving the board inherent value. As you can see, choosing the right board for your next PC is no easy matter.
Certain Pentium 4 chipsets are held in higher esteem than others by the enthusiast community. The E7205 “Granite Bay” is respected for its dual-channel DDR memory support. Though old, the i850E is still often regarded as the fastest Pentium 4 platform and SiS’ 648 has been lauded for exceptional performance at an attractive price, though we’ve seen some compatibility problems with the RADEON 9700 Pro. Intel’s i845PE is probably the most reasonable chipset, as it offers an ideal blend of performance, reliability, and value. In comparison, Intel’s i845GE chipset is a black sheep. Chipsets that sport integrated graphics are rarely taken seriously by gamers, if only because of the poor performance associated with the onboard 3D engine.
So, in light of the crowded Pentium 4 chipset market, why would a manufacturer opt to design a motherboard with a performance-oriented BIOS and a multitude of other features, and then center it on the i845GE chipset? An excellent question, to be sure…
Introducing the AX4GE Max
AOpen may not be a powerhouse in North America, but it still consistently manufactures impressive motherboards. Back in 2000, Brandon gave the AOpen AX34 Pro II FiringSquad’s Editors Choice award, and more recently, Alan recognized AOpen’s dedication to enthusiasts with the AX4B-533 Tube motherboard. The AX4GE Max is one of the company’s more recent offerings to showcase Intel’s i845GE chipset, among other features.
AOpen AX4GE Max Motherboard
Back panel of the motherboard
AOpen also manufacturers an i845PE-based AX4PE Max, but for some reason, has decided not to market that board in the Americas even though it would appear to be a more ideal platform. Call it a cruel joke if you like, but it should be some consolation that the AX4GE Max looks to be every bit as capable as its 845PE cousin.