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Review of Final i815/Solano Chipset
Краткое содержание статьи: We were able to collect i815-motherboards with final silicon at Computex2000 and put them right to the test here in Taipei. Find out if Solano is indeed the new killer-chipset. Will it be able to beat BX133?

Review of Final i815/Solano Chipset

Редакция THG,  11 июня 2000
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Ugly Politics

We should not forget that nowadays not performance, but politics are actually ruling the IT world. It's not the better product that wins the market, but the one that's pushed harder. Otherwise the Rambus-stock would be at some well-deserved $5 and nobody would buy RDRAM systems. It's not exactly in Intel's interest to make i815 perform way better than their RDRAM chipsets i820/i840, even though well informed people know from BX133 how well it could perform. Intel needs i815 to offer its disgruntled chipset customers an alternative to RDRAM platforms, but the Rambus-chipsets still need to be pushed and therefore Intel could not let i815 perform significantly better than the much more expensive Rambus solutions. Basically you can say that if i815 should perform as well as or even better than BX133, there was no sensible justification for i820/i840 and RDRAM anymore at all. So Intel had to make a choice. Either i815 would be designed to perform as great as 440BX, which would completely destroy the RDRAM hype, or i815 would be deliberately slowed down, which would upset only the well-informed minority and the overclockers of this world, the other people wouldn't know about this cheesy issue and Intel could still 'prove' that Rambus is better than SDRAM. It's not too surprising that Intel went for the latter. I can tell you already now that i815/Solano will still not be able to reach BX133 performance in the majority of benchmarks, but at least it's beating all the rest, including even Intel's dual-Rambus-channel 840 chipset, in most benchmarks.

The Specs of i815/Solano

First of all, there are 'two Solanos', the i815/Solano and the i815E/Solano2. Both chipsets are using the same 'north bridge', called 'GMCH' = Graphics Memory Controller Hub. The difference lies in the 'south bridge'. The i815 is using the well-known 'ICH' = I/O Controller Hub that we already know from i810, i810E, 820 and 840. ICH supports ATA66, AC97-stuff and 2 USB ports. The i815E comes equipped with 'ICH2', which adds ATA100, 4 USB-ports and 'Advanced Communication & Network Riser' CNR-slots, which are a beefed up AC97 plus networking. The 'ICH2' can be found in new i820 and i840 boards too, which makes the name of those chipsets change to 'i820E' and 'i840E' as well.

Besides those south bridge features, the 'GMCH' supports processor front side bus clocks of 66, 100 and 133 MHz and the memory clock for the supported SDRAM can be chosen between 100 and 133 MHz as well. Therefore i815 is a platform that can host Celeron processors as well as the latest Coppermine Pentium III processors with 133 MHz FSB. At the same time you can use PC100 as well as PC133 SDRAM. You can also see that i815 does mark an improvement over ZX/BX and i810 for Celeron owners. You can run your Celeron at 66 MHz FSB, but the memory will run at 100 MHz at the same time, thus improving performance.

Most of you already know that i815/Solano includes integrated 3D graphics, which we have not tested yet. In the 3D gaming field the expectations aren't high for this integrated solution, but it's just fine for office applications. People who want to use a high-end 3D-accelerator of their choice can do that by plugging it into the AGP-slot. As soon as that is done, i815 turns its internal graphics off.
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Обсуждение в Клубе Экспертов THG Обсуждение в Клубе Экспертов THG


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