When paired with a dedicated AGP video card, the i845G provides a good, high-performance base for Pentium 4 DDR buyers. Gaming speed is high, business performance is top-notch, and the new ICH4 Southbridge provides the i845G with both enhanced performance and a forward-looking feature set. The integrated video portion is a bit more problematic, as it supplies the basic speed needed for many games, but is unlikely to woo the performance crowd away from NVIDIA and ATI.
Since the i845G integrated video isn't exactly going to set the 3D world on fire, the two most important components are 2D Windows image quality and basic 3D performance. On the 2D side, the i845G supplies excellent image quality up to 1024x768, but moving higher to 1280x1024 results in a noticeable loss in text quality, and 1600x1200 is virtually unbearable. The vast majority of users will likely be at 1024x768x32 and be quite happy, but don't go in with illusions of using the i845G as a high-end graphics solution for a 19" or 21" monitor.
Expectations of 3D gaming performance may have been muted by our benchmarking results, but actual real-world testing proved quite satisfactory. This is highly dependant on resolution, and Quake 3 at 1024x768 or Unreal Tournament and Return to Castle Wolfenstein at 800x600 actually play quite well. We spent a few hours actually playing 3D games on the i845G, and even ran through entire Assault selection in UT without missing a beat. The i845G could easily fit the bill as a second gaming/network box and with a fast P4, it can handle the current crop of 3D shooters at 800x600 or 1024x768. Although we could not test the entire spectrum of 3D games, we did not find any game or image compatibility problems in the selection we did load.
It is still a bit tough to peg an estimated street price for an i845G motherboard, but there are currently a few new models available online. These are from manufacturers such as MSI, Soltek, EPoX, DFI and even ASUS, and all are in the $100-$120 range. More feature-rich boards with all the integrated fixings are more expensive, but this seems to be the range for a standard i845G motherboard. This is a pretty good value both for home or business buyers, as well as budget-minded gamers who may want to buy (and overclock) an inexpensive Pentium 4 1.6A or 1.8A and then upgrade the video at a later date. True performance users will definitely want dedicated video and will end up paying a bit extra for the integrated features of the i845G.
* Please note that online prices are taken at the time of review and are not intended to reflect long-term trends.
The Intel 845G chipset is a nice release from Intel, but we can't help but think that with a few minor improvements, it could have been a lot better. The absence of firm DDR333 support is one such omission, and would have helped Intel match the specifications of the SiS 645DX and VIA P4X333. As it stands now, the i845G is a great choice for mid-range business systems and its integrated graphics are suitable for entry-level home PCs or secondary net boxes. High performance users are definitely in a bind, and may be forced to choose between the comfort of an Intel chipset and the high-end DDR performance offered by the alternatives.