Intel's 440LX chipset is now available for almost 2 weeks and one mainboard manufacturer after the other is presenting their 440LX board to the market. The most well known new feature of this new Intel chipset is the AGP (Advanced Graphics Port) support, which is supposed to revolutionize the graphic accelerator market. There are a few other important new features as well however, which are supposed to increase the performance of a Pentium II system over the performance of systems with the old 440FX chipset, which so far was the only available chipset for Pentium II processors. The most important feature besides AGP is the new memory manager, which now supports SDRAM as well. SDRAM doesn't necessarily have to increase overall system performance considerably, but particularly the AGP needs as much memory bandwidth as it can get. The current maximal peak bandwidth of SDRAM at 66 MHz system bus is about 528 MB/s, EDO RAM only offers 264 MB/s and good old FPM even only 176 MB/s peak bandwidth. This shows that it really requires SDRAM if AGP wants at least to use x1 mode (264 MB/s). The 440LX chipset is including the PIIX4 'south bridge', well known from the 430TX chipset, enabling UltraDMA mode for EIDE disks and LDCM for all the (few) people who fancy that.
In most of the LX-boards that are currently sold you'll still find the 'secret' on the chipset.
More and more LX boards are coming in and the performance picture is changing a little bit. There seem to be two groups of boards, the fast and the slow ones, each group having very similar test results, but a gap of about 1.5 Winstone points between these groups. The new Soyo SY-6KB together with MSI's MS-6111 are for now building the fast group. A special group are the two dual CPU boards from Supermicro and Tyan. These boards impress with their features rather than with raw performance. However if anyone decides to buy a special dual Pentium II board he will probably not pay that much attention to half a Winstone more or less.
For comparison reasons I ran the PCI tests on an AOpen AX6F as well, acting for all 440FX boards. You may remember that the AX6F is one of the fastest 440FX boards available.