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ABIT IC7 Motherboard: We take a look at ABIT's budget Canterwood solution. It's missing a few frills, but it does offer the other things that are important… performance, overclocking and stability.
 
 
Date: June 16, 2003
Manufacturer:
Written By:
Price:

The Intel 875P/ICH5, aka the Canterwood, was the chipset combo Pentium 4 followers had been waiting for. It not only improved on previous Intel DDR solutions, but its performance meant that enthusiasts no longer had to look at the i850E RDRAM boards as the mecca of P4 performance. With support for advanced features like Hyper-Threading, SATA, AGP8x, Dual Channel memory, and support for 800FSB P4s, the chipset is certainly built with performance and future-proofing in mind.

If there is one knock against the Canterwood, it's the price. Performance doesn't come cheap, and although many will pay for it, not everyone can. The Intel 865 addresses the price issue, though the performance is a little lower than the Intel 875. ABIT did come up with an answer though, and have released a lower priced Canterwood (when compared to their flagship IC7-G Max2 Advance) called the IC7, which is what we'll be reviewing today. It doesn't offer all the hardware features of the more expensive "G", but it does match the performance of its more expensive brother.

Specifications

Processor
- Supports Intel® Pentium® 4 Socket 478 processors with 800/533MHz FSB only (400MHz FSB not supported)
- Supports Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology

Chipset
- Intel® 875P / ICH5 RAID
- Supports Dual Channel DDR 400 with ECC function
- Supports Advanced Configuration and Power Management Interface (ACPI)

Memory
- Four 184-pin DIMM sockets
- Supports 4 DIMM Single/Dual Channel DDR 400 memory.(Max. 4GB)
- Supports configurable ECC function

AGP
- Accelerated Graphics Port connector supports AGP PRO 8X/4X (0.8V/1.5V)

Serial ATA RAID
- On board 2 channels Serial ATA 150MB/s data transfer rate
- Supports RAID 0

Audio
- 6-Channel AC 97 CODEC on board
- Professional digital audio interface supports 24-bit S/P DIF optical In/Out

Media XP (Optional)
- Supports card reader function for Memory Stick™, Secure Digital™ and Type I/II CompactFlash™
- Supports Wireless Remote Control and S/PDIF Out / Mic In / Headphone Out / USB 2.0 / IEEE 1394

IEEE 1394
- Supports IEEE 1394a at 100/200/400 Mb/s transfer rate

System BIOS
- SoftMenu™ Technology to set CPU parameters

Internal I/O Connectors
- 1 x AGP PRO, 5 x PCI slots, 1 x IrDA
- 1 x Floppy Port supports up to 2.88MB
- 2 x Ultra DMA 33/66/100 Connectors
- 2 x Serial ATA 150 Connectors for SATA RAID 0
- 2 x USB 2.0 headers, 2 x IEEE 1394a header
- 1 x CD-IN, 1 x AUX-IN

Back Panel I/O
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard, 1 x PS/2 mouse, 1 x Printer Port, 1 x COM port
- 1 x S/PDIF Out connector, 1 x S/PDIF In connector
- Audio connectors (Front Speaker, Line-in, Mic-in, Center/Sub, Surround Speaker)
- 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x IEEE 1394a
- 2 x USB 2.0

Miscellaneous
- ATX form factor
- Hardware monitoring - Including Fan speeds, Voltages, System environment temperature

An impressive list for sure. For those of you familiar with the IC7-G Max2, you'll notice a lot of similarities, but items such as Gigabit LAN, as well as Silicon Image's SATA RAID. That may bother those of you who want a fully featured board, but in that case, you can pick that version up for about 70$ more.

Packaging and Contents

The IC7 ships in a matte black box, which looks pretty nice, but it isn't nearly as impressive as the internal packaging. This is worth a mention because rather than just piling all the extras on top of the motherboard, everything is placed in separate boxes that actually show some logic to it.

The motherboard rests on the bottom of the package, but on the left, you have a fold-out type box that stores items like the manual, CD media, and a motherboard layout sheet. Basically, ABIT places everything needed to configure the motherboard here.

On the right, we have a standard box that stores the IDE cables (round ones also), a SATA cable, SATA power adapter, and the custom I/O back panel. In this scenario, all the hardware related items to setup are here. Missing is a Parallel-to-Serial converter. It's a shame none was included, but understandably, costs are kept down by its exclusion.

Intel 875P Brief

Before getting into the IC7 itself, we'll talk briefly about the brains behind the Canterwood's brawn. You can grab the specifications from Intel's site, but in short, one of the big features is support for 800FSB CPUs. As enthusiasts know, the Front Side Bus is what really determines the overall system performance. In other words, when you're overclocking, 18x133 (2.4GHz) will not be as fast as 12x200 (2.4GHz). Performance will actually be pretty close though, but Hyper-Threading isn't something that is present in older 2.4GHz P4s, but is so in the P4 "C" CPUs.

The other notable feature of the 875P is Dual Channel DDR400. Your PC3200 ram can now run full bore, and in Dual Channel mode. As we've seen with the nForce 2, this technology can add a significant boost to system performance. Ideally, you'll want to run matched pairs to get the most out of it.

In conjunction with the Intel 875P is the introduction of the ICH5 Southbridge. Some of the supported features are USB2.0, SATA, 10/100 LAN, Intel's Communication Streaming Architecture, and six-channel audio. There are two items that will be of most interest though, and that's Soft SATA RAID support (present only in the ICH5R) and Hyper-Threading. The Integrated Intel RAID Technology is interesting because board manufacturers no longer need to add a 3rd party RAID controller. This should save money (for manufacturer and consumer), and PCB real estate.

We've gone over Hyper-Threading before, but in no small words, it's a free performance boost (well, technically not free, since you have to buy a HT enabled CPU) over older, comparably clocked P4s by optimizing a system's ability to multitask. With proper software and OS support, it enables a single processor to run two separate threads of software simultaneously.

Next Page - The Board


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