ECS P4IBAD versus Transcend TS-ABR4
Budget i845s Do Battle!

By, Marco Chiappetta
March  28, 2002

When the Pentium 4 was initially introduced, the only motherboards available were based on the Intel i850 chipset, which required the use of relatively expensive (at the time) RDRAM.  While the performance of an i850 / Pentium 4 combo was excellent, the price was prohibitive and kept Intel's new CPU out of the hands of many users.  Intel took too long to ready an alternate chipset that used less expensive memory types, which opened the door for companies like SiS and VIA to snatch up some of the Pentium 4 chipset market.  A Pentium 4 coupled with a SiS 645 or VIA P4X266A and some quality DDR RAM proved to be competent, high performance platform, at a significantly lower cost than the i850 with RDRAM.  This scenario prompted Intel to hasten the release of their DDR enabled chipset, the i845, which is the foundation of the two motherboards we'll be looking at today.

The ECS P4IBAD and Transcend TS-ABR4 are entry level motherboards designed to bring the performance of DDR memory to the Pentium 4, without the higher cost associated of legacy RDRAM based platforms.  We ran these two boards through our usual battery of test and compared them to one another throughout.  What do you say we find out how they fared...

Specifications / Features of the ECS and Transcend i845s
Bits and Pieces

Click any Image for an Enlarged view...

ECS P4IBAD

PROCESSORS:
Socket 478 supports the Intel Pentium 4 processor

CHIPSET:
Intel 82845 & 82801BA -- Memory Controller Hub (MCH), I/O Controller Hub 2 (ICH2) & Firmware Hub (FWH)

FEATURES:
Supports 4X AGP (AGP 2.0 Specification), 1.5V only
LPC I/O: ITE 8712F
HPT372 IDE RAID Controller with UDMA133 support (optional)
AC97 Audio Codec
Compliant with AC97 2.2 specification

MEMORY:
Two 184-pin DDR DIMM sockets for 2.5V DDR SDRAM (DDR266/DDR200)
Maximum: 2GB

SYSTEM BIOS:
Award BIOS with Flash ROM in Firmware Hub (FWH)
Supports Plug and Play 1.0A, AMP 1.2, Multi Boot, DMI
Full support for ACPI revision 1.0A specification

I/O INTERFACE:
Supports Plug and Play function
PS/2 keyboard and PS/2 mouse connectors
Dual USB Ports
One - EPP/ECP mode parallel port
Two - 16550 high-speed serial I/O port
Audio Ports (Line-in, Line-out, Mic-in, CD-in and game port)
Supports 360K~2.88M Byte, 3 Mode FDDs or LS120
Support eight ATA/ATAPI devices (four optional)
Standard: Dual PCI IDE interfaces - support four IDE devices (PIO Mode 4, DMA Mode 2, Ultra DMA66/100)
Option: Two independent ATA channels for another four IDE devices (PIO Mode 4, DMA Mode 2, Ultra DMA66/100/133)
ATX Power Supply Connector

PORTS HEADERS AND OTHERS:
IrDA header
Additional two USB ports (LUSB1 or USB2)
Front Panel MIC/Line-Out header
Chassis open detector header
Smart Card Reader header
HDD LED, ACPI MSG LED, Reset Switch, Power Switch headers
CPU, Power and Case Fan headers
LAN Card Wake Up / Internal Modem Ring Wake Up headers
RTC & BATTERY
Intel I/O Controller Hub 2 (ICH2) included
256 bytes of CMOS SRAM
With CMOS SRAM hardware clear jumper

EXPANSION SLOTS:
6 PCI slots
1 AGP slot
1 CNR slot

FORM FACTOR:
ATX (304mm*244mm)
4 Layers

 

Transcend TS-ABR4

PROCESSORS:
Intel Pentium 4 socket 478 CPU

CHIPSET:
Intel 845

SYSTEM BUS:
FSB 400 MHz

SYSTEM MEMORY:
2 x 184-pin DDR SDRAM support up to 2 GB
Support 1GB DDR SDRAM at 200/266 MHz

IDE:
2 x PCI Bus Master IDE Ports, support up to 4 devices
Supports DMA mode 2, PIO mode 3/4
Ultra DMA 33/66/100

ON-BOARD AUDIO:
Built-in AC97 CODEC audio control

EXPANSION SLOTS:
1 x AGP Pro 4x slot (1.5V AGP only)
5 x PCI slots (PCI v2.2 compliant)

I/O PORTS:
1 x FDD port (3 mode, 1.2/1.44/2.88MB FDD, LS120 )
1 x PS/2 Mouse port
1 x PS/2 Keyboard port
1 x Parallel port (SPP/EPP/ECP)
2 x RS232 port(16550 Fast UART compatible)
4 x USB ports (2 by cable)
1 x Audio Line-out/Line-in/MIC-in jack
1 x Game/MIDI connector
1 x IrDA port
PC99 color coding compliant

BIOS FUNCTIONS:
ezBIOS Live update, Anti-Virus, BIOS Protect, Linear Overclocking and ezLOGO
Award BIOS with Green, APM, Plug and Play, DMI functions
Enhanced ACPI Feature

SYSTEM HARDWARE MONITOR:
System voltage, temperature & fan status monitor
2 x fan status monitors with F/W programmable fan speed
CPU overheat alarm

OTHER FEATURES:
Alarm/Modem ring on
Software power off control
PC99/PC2001 compliant
Wake on LAN
Boot-up virus warning
Suspend to RAM (STR)
Power failure resume
CPU Core voltage adjustable

FORM FACTOR:
ATX Form Factor
4 layers PCB
9.5" x 12" (24.5cm x 30.5cm)

 
THE BUNDLES:

The ECS P4IBAD and Transcend TS-ABR4 both ship with what we'd consider a minimal bundle.  Inside their boxes, you won't find multiple UDMA/100 IDE cables, supplemental USB connectors, or plates for external Digital Audio outputs.  These boards weren't brought to market to impress you with their bundles though.  With these products, it's all about cost.

    

Packaged with both boards we found User's Manuals, single UDMA/100 IDE cables, floppy cables and a CD contain all of the necessary drivers and software to get the boards up and running.  The bundles may be a far cry from what a company like Soyo is offering, but they are adequate and don't require buyers to purchase anything extra, that is unless you want to utilize the secondary USB header.

ECS, the BIOS and the Board...