Intel has been on a roll of late, especially in the area of desktop chipsets. It wasn't that long ago VIA was beating Intel to the punch, and steadily taking away market share. That was then and this is now, and the Intel worm has definitely turned. It really started with a renewed commitment to desktop processors, and extremely popular i845 and i845D chipset releases. Since then, Intel has solidified their lead in chipset sales, while upgrading the entire i845-based line, and even delving into dual-DDR platforms like the E7205.
The i845PE is the de facto choice for mainstream Pentium 4 desktops, and the vast majority of motherboard manufacturers offer at least one i845PE product, with some building entire lines around this single chipset. Soyo is one company that has run with the ball and produced a wide range of i845PE-based motherboards. Since we're dealing with a mainstream chipset, Soyo has toned down their board design somewhat, and also offers a more basic package compared to their fully-featured DRAGON line.
The Soyo SY-P4I motherboard exemplifies this design philosophy, and while it may not equal a DRAGON board for all-out decadence, the SY-P4I is certainly no slouch in that area. The SY-P4I includes onboard LAN, 6-channel audio, Serial ATA and IDE RAID functionality, all in a very attractive and economical package.
The i845PE is the flagship of the Intel consumer desktop line, and has the right mix of features, price and performance for this valuable segment. The i845PE supports 333 MHz PC2700 DDR, can handle both 400 and 533 MHz (and possibly 800 MHz) Pentium 4 processors, and includes integrated USB 2.0, 10/100 LAN and 6-channel audio through the ICH4 Southbridge. The only performance feature that we could categorize as "missing" from the i845PE would be AGP 8X.
While there are more powerful chipsets, such as the E7205 and i850E, which feature dual-channel memory architectures, the i845PE is one of the most stable and cost-effective solutions on the market. Its popularity is also at the top of the charts, ensuring a wide range of potential choices.
In this review we will be taking a close look at Soyo's entry into the i845PE market, the SY-P4I. This motherboard makes full use of the i845PE's integrated capabilities, while adding a few extra features of its own. It will be interesting to see if Soyo can handle a basic design like the SY-P4I as well as the company has done with their high-end DRAGON line of motherboards.