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Supermicro’s P4STA Pentium 4 Mainboard

Supermicro is a supplier of computer hardware from quad server systems to basic desktop solutions. Founded in 1993, SM has already passed through an impressive growth over the last few years with their Server/Desktop innovations. SM was actually the first corporation that brought dual Pentium Pro mainboards back in the early days. We are looking at their new i850 P4TSA board for the Pentium 4.

The board
  • Intel 850/ICH2
  • Socket 423
  • 4 x RIMM sockets
    max. 2GB (PC-600 or PC800 RDRAM)
  • Intel Pentium 4 processor (Supports 400MHz system data bus)
  • 1 AGP slot (Supports 1.5V AGP 4x)
    5 PCI slots
    1 CNR slot


200$ + USD

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The i850 Chipset

Intel's latest 850 chipset was designed specifically for the Pentium 4. The i850 has very little differences over its expensive and high-end brother the 840E chip. The 850 like the 840 is using a dual-Rambus channel memory architecture, of course this requires that you install the RIMM modules in pairs of two. If you already have some knowledge with the dual Rambus channel on the 840 you already know that this technique helps the latency issues to be lessened and at the same time doubles the bandwidth of the memory. Continuing with some other similar features to the 840, the 850 shares the same hub architecture (ICH2), meaning that the 850 chip offers pretty much what the 840 has to offer in features. The 850 of course includes AGPX4 support and the standard features that Intel's ICH2 hub has to offer, this includes ATA/100 support, an additional USB hub resulting in a total of four USB ports, the implantation of the AC97 audio and 10/100Mpbs LAN. What differs most is the capability of handling Intel's latest Processor.

The main difference between the 840 and 850 is the support of the new bus to the processor. The difference between the Pentium 4 AGTL+ bus and the Pentium III AGTL+ bus is that the Pentium 4 uses a 100MHz quad pumped bus, resulting in 400MHz compared to the 100/133MHz bus the Pentium III uses. Another important point to mention is that the 850 chip does not support dual processors (SMP) compared to the 840 that can fully take advantage of two Pentium III CPU's. At this specific moment, this really does not matter because the Pentium 4 is a single (unit) processor. This will change once the new Pentium 4 (.13) is released later this year.

The Pentium 4 it self is already an expensive piece, not forgetting the Rambus memory that is priced twice the price of normal SDRAM memory, so will the 850 motherboards be another limitation for the average user in getting one? You bet. 850 motherboards are starting in the 200$ Range. The i850 Chip (MCH - ICH2) is retailing for almost twice the price of the 815E (EP) chip for the Pentium III.

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