Abit IS7-G 19th July 2003
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Abit have always been renowned for their features that cater to the enthusiast and with many Springdale board manufacturers offering Canterwood performance by tweaking the Performance Acceleration Technology (PAT) Abit have gone further and optimized the boards in their IS7-G range for gamers. They claim a 17% boost in some games so we were determined to see if we could get better than Canterwood performance for a Springdale price.
The first thing we noticed about the box is that it was deeper than normal. This is to cram in all the extras you could ever need and even S-ATA power convertors (we prefer our S-ATA drives to have Molex power connectors - take note Seagate).
This seems fairly comprehensive so lets take a look at the board itself:
We have a reasonably good layout even if there is a row of capacitors too close to the CPU - we didn't have any problems with the 3 coolers we tried. The Northbridge fan can be controlled in the BIOS if it gets too noisy. All 4 DIMM sockets are coloured blue which may confuse some people when they try to get their memory put in to enable Dual Channel mode although it is quite clear how to do so in the manual which incidentally is very well written with clear diagrams.
The limitations of the current ICH5R Southbridge means that only two RAID drives are supported. Because this board has 4 S-ATA connectors Abit thoughtfully attached a Promise RAID controller to the other two so 4 S-ATA drives are supported in RAID configuration.
We find the usual connectors here including the onboard gigabit LAN connector using Intel's design and CSA. Four USB 2.0 connectors should be enough with another 4 available through the header (supplied). Optical digital outputs are a nice touch for those with the right speaker setup.
Here are the manufacturer's specifications:
Here's a summary of the test system:
The memory used was DDR400 Corsair memory rated at 2-2-2-6. For comparison we'll use Intel's D875PBZ reference Canterwood board and an SIS655 board.
This clearly shows the 800MHz FSB and that Hyper-Threading is supported.
Let's start with the synthetic benchmarks.
This test is largely dominated by the CPU bus and so the higher FSB makes no difference here.
Now the full might of having a synchronized 800MHz FSB is apparent dwarfing the other P4 platform. The lack of PAT seems to hurt the IS7-G somewhat.
The IS7-G seems to be the equal of the D875PBZ.
Now the IS7-G is in the lead thanks to some clever optimizing from Abit.
This is a series of tests and is more comprehensive than any of the Sandra benchmarks.
And in comparison to other machines:
The most notable thing is the very high memory score as expected but how does this translate into practical use?
We repeated this several times as we just couldn't believe this score. It is absolutely astounding on a Ti4400 graphics card and wouldn't look out of place on a Radeon 9700 Pro.
The IS7-G beats Intel's Canterwood flagship and shows how important an 800MHz FSB is.
Now for some real world benchmarks starting with UT2003 Flyby.
The IS7-G is just as fast as the Canterwoods.
The same results are repeated here with a leading position at the highest resolutions. It's interesting to see that all the systems are CPU limited at lower resolutions differently (i.e. some platforms are more efficient). This is also the case with the bandwidth limitation at the highest resolution. Until Doom 3 is released we just don't have any games that can really stress today's systems.
Let's turn to an area where we know that fast CPUs will make a difference - Audio and Video encoding. This is becoming more and more popular and is very computationally intensive with long processing times (relatively speaking that is, this field is not for those that complain about how long their Outlook Express takes to load).
For consistency we will use Jet Li's The One as our test matter. It is not interlaced and contains a mixture of action types and is not too long. There will be three tests all using Divx 5.02. Audio will be encoded separately. I will try and keep my commentary to a minimum as all configuration information is shown in the images below.
and here are the results
All the latest boards are in excess of 100 frames per second
AviSynth and VirtualDub
No serious Divx encoder uses Xmpeg alone and it's just used by the media for benchmarking purposes so let's get serious. We ripped our source material to hard disk and created a DVD2AVI project file using forced film (it was 99% film). Loading this into Gordian Knot we first saved an .avs file with no changes at all (720x480) and no filters of any sort. This was loaded into VirtualDub with the following CODEC parameters :
After encoding we got these results:
The IS7-G nudges into the lead in a test that is bandwidth intensive and should have gone to the Canterwoods.
This is all good stuff but how about a real-world test? To simulate a realistic test we added a neutral bicubic resize filter in the .avs file and used the following CODEC parameters (including two popular Pro settings) which are designed to total 700MB (when the audio is muxed in):
Which resulted in the following.
The addition of computationally heavy filters put less emphasis on the memory bandwidth and more on raw CPU speed, changing the situation dramatically. The IS7-G is comfortably ahead now and seems to have a huge second pass lead. Since the second pass relies on a motion vector file to avoid re-doing some calculations we can only assume that optimizations are in place to make the most of this kind of operation.
What about audio? We took the AC3 track from the above sample material and used HeadAC3he to convert it into Vorbis format so our final muxed file could have Ogg containment. There isn't space here to go into the advantages of Ogg Vorbis over MP3 and AVI so let's just say that Vorbis sounds about the same as MP3 for half the file size or twice as good for the same file size (that is subjective though).
Since it is more meaningful to show throughput than time taken (which depends on the length of the source) we display the results thus:
This is another test that only uses a single processor and is CPU intensive. The IS7-G slips behind here for some reason.
When everything is taken into consideration the IS7-G is just as good as a Canterwood board despite Intel's protestations at Springdale chipsets being PAT optimized. There was no hint of any instability and over-clocking options were superb. The extras provided put some other manufacturers to shame and the quality of the manual is second to none. Why pay considerably more for a Canterwood board that performs identically? Well done Abit, you've earned our Gold Award for service to enthusiasts everywhere.
We would like to thank Abit for the review sample IS7-G Motherboard.
We would also like to thank MICROSOFT UK for the review sample Windows XP Pro and their technical assistance.
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