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Chaintech 9EJS1 ZENITH 845PE: zenith: n. - the highest point; peak; acme: the zenith of someone's achievements. Will the Chaintech 9EJS1 ZENITH be just that? We'll be investigating that today.
 
 
Date: February 7, 2003
Manufacturer:
Written By:

Integrated Peripherals

The days where onboard sound is considered extravagant are long gone. Nowadays, it's not unusual to find enough onboard peripherals to send PCI-based peripheral manufacturers screaming into the night.


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The ICH4 Southbridge is obviously present, since it's a big part of the i845E/G/PE/GE chipset. You have support for 6 USB2.0 connections, LAN, 6 channel sound, and ATA100. It's important to understand that the LAN and sound need physical components to output, and in this case we have the Realtek RTL 8100B Ethernet controller for networking, and CMedia 8738 for sound.

As with all 845 based motherboards, the Northbridge is a flipchip design, much like the Coppermine P3s of yesteryear. The Northbridge is in charge of higher level functions, such as the 533FSB support, AGP4x, and DDR333.


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Although we were quite happy with the networking controller, as it's proven to be quite reliable in the past, I had hoped for a GigaBit LAN controller instead. I was especially pleased with the CMedia controller though, as it has always been one of my favorites. Personally, I find the output quality slightly better than the Realtek ALC650. It is a Full-duplex controller, offering support for 32 Voice 3D positional audio, MS Direct3D sound, Sound3D, Aureal A3D and Creative EAX APIs.


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A shortcoming of the ICH4 is the lack of ATA133 support, but this is compensated with the inclusion of the Promise PDC20276 IDE RAID controller. You can use this as an extra two IDE controllers, or as many power users do, setup a RAID array. Both RAID 0/1 are supported.


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The VIA VT 6306 IEEE 1394 controller handles the FireWire chores. Although USB2.0 is more versatile, multimedia authors prefer FireWire, and if you're the lucky owner of an iPod, you can plug it right in to transfer MP3s and recharge your unit.

The Extras

Chaintech packs a lot of features into the 9EJS1 ZENITH, but those extras aren't exclusive to just the motherboard.


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There are round cables included, matching the Chaintech colours. Although I'm not a big fan of round cables, there doesn't seem to be in degradation in hard drive performance, but I would have liked standard, flat IDE cables. I prefer flat cables because I find them easier to fold, and hide, but I know some of you disagree, so to each their own.


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There are a few PCI back plates included to expand the motherboard functionality. There is a IEEE 1394 (FireWire) back plate, and a S/PDIF back plate.


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The real star of the extras though, is the CBox2. This box is similar to most multi-function panels, as it moves many of the connections, normally on the back, to the front. It'll fit in a 5.25" external bay, and will provide you with four USB2.0 connections, one IEEE 1394, as well as allowing you to plug in your mic and headphone. It also has a diagnostic LED to help you troubleshoot possible problems with the board, much like how Epox boards do.


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Finally, for those of you into trinkets, Chaintech throws in a case badge, and a keychain.

Software

Since packaging is everything it seems, the included software is encased in a four disc CD box. It you tend to lose your CDs because of the paper sleeves that usually comes with motherboards, you'll appreciate the extra thought Chaintech put into this.


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There is a nice software suite included with the ZENITH. As expected, you get a driver CD, but you are better off chasing down drivers on the 'Net as the CD drivers are out of date.

You get their Apogee Oveclocking software, which allows for Windows based overclocking and system monitoring. Although I prefer using the BIOS for overclocking, beginners can try out the software to get a feel for OC'ing.

For the anti-M$ types, Thiz Linux 6.0 is included, as well as an office suite so you can start composing those hate messages to the Windows development team.

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