Manufacturer: MSI Web Site
Pricing: $110 (845 Ultra), $123 (845 Ultra-AR), $140 (845 Ultra-ARU)
The introduction of the i845D chipset created a whole new segment for the Pentium 4 and helped pave the way for a new high-performance, mass market DDR platform. Since the i845D is an Intel chipset, there are none of the legal issues surrounding the VIA P4X266/A or the issue of finding a name brand board featuring the SiS645. Vendor acceptance of the i845D came fast and furious, with all of the mainstream manufacturers offering up at least one product, with many creating a virtual product line out of the new chipset.
One of these is MSI, which has taken the i845D bull by the horns and introduced three distinct products. The main reason for the separate products is quite clearing a function of the i845D chipset itself. Stability, performance or compatibility is not an issue, but the i845D's feature set may be a bit old school to some. With only USB 1.1 and ATA-100 support, some vendors may have found it difficult to promote their new products against the impressive VIA and SIS competition.
The natural progression is to add new hardware and peripherals to bring up the i845D slack. The inclusion of 3rd-party USB 2.0, ATA-133 and ATA-133 RAID hardware abounds in the current marketplace, as many companies look to combine the benefits of the i845D with some new high-end additions. This is exactly where MSI is headed with their line of 845 Ultra motherboards, and we're taking a close look to see how the current motherboard price-performance leader tackles the i845D.