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SiS: Not just a value manufacturer anymore
Since SiS launched its 645 chipset last year, we’ve been big fans of their DDR platforms for the Pentium 4. Not only do they support more features than other offerings on the market, they’re also incredibly inexpensive. In today’s market SiS-based Pentium 4 motherboards can easily be found for under $100. This can be good and bad. For the consumer that is looking to get the most bang from their buck, it doesn’t get much better than a motherboard based on the SiS chipset.
However, in the rush to get an inexpensive SiS-based solution on the market as quickly as possible, many motherboard manufacturers forget about producing SiS Pentium 4 motherboards for the enthusiast segment. We saw this earlier this year with the SiS 645 chipset. Soyo’s P4S DRAGON Ultra Pentium 4 motherboard was the only SiS 645 motherboard on the market with such features as 5.1 audio and an onboard IDE RAID controller.
We were afraid the situation would repeat itself again for the SiS 648 chipset when it was announced earlier this year. Fortunately for all consumers this has not happened. ASUS has stepped up to the plate and delivered a SiS 648 motherboard that is loaded with goodies.
Before we go into all the details of what makes the P4S8X so special, we’d like to provide a brief recap on the SiS 648 chipset as well as discuss what is going on with DDR 400. For those of you who don’t know, the SiS 648 chipset supports up to 3GB of memory, although in the case of DDR333 only two modules are supported. The SiS 648 chipset is the first on the market for the Pentium 4 with AGP 8X support, and also supports the latest connectivity standards, USB 2.0, Firewire, and even the fastest ATA/133 hard drives.
DDR400 memory isn’t officially supported by the chipset, but as we found with our SiS 648 reference motherboard, it definitely works. We witnessed a nice (roughly 5%) performance boost by using DDR400 memory, and while it may not sound like much it was just enough to catch up with, if not outperform a similarly equipped system with 1066MHz RDRAM.
Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to reproduce reliable DDR400 scores with any of the SiS 648 motherboards we’ve tested. We’ve used modules from TwinMOS and Corsair Microsystems with no success. SiS was originally going to release a follow up to the SiS 648 chipset (SiS 648DX) with official DDR400 support, but it looks as if those plans have been put on hold in preference to the company’s upcoming dual-channel DDR chipset. Dual-channel DDR theoretically provides more bandwidth than DDR400, so if SiS is indeed focusing their efforts on it rather than SiS 648DX, we applaud this move. Besides, as you’ll see in our test results the SiS 648 chipset is no slouch when it comes to performance with DDR333 memory.