FIC VC19 Advanced Intel i845e motherboard review

With the release of the ďNorthwoodĒ core Pentium 4, Intelís flagship chip gained more on-chip L2 cache, which is one of the contributing factors for improved performance over its predecessor. As clock speeds increased, memory bandwidth became more of a bottleneck than ever before. Recognizing this along with a savvy hunger of faster performance, Intel announced a faster memory bus for the Pentium 4. Previous Northwoodís ran on a 100MHz (DDR quad pumped = 400MHz) front side bus. With Intelís increase, the front side bus of newer Northwood chips will now run at 133MHz (DDR quad pumped = 533MHz).

Intelís switch to a DDR support platform (i845D) increased the Pentium 4ís popularity due to the cheaper costs associated with memory and performance was almost on par with RAMBUS. While many motherboard manufactures offer i845D boards with bus settings higher than 100MHz, the chipset did not officially support it. Intelís release of the updated chipset followed the bus speed increase, which is dubbed the i845E.

The i845E chipset is virtually the same as the previous version with the exception of support for Intelís new 533MHz front side bus, and USB 2.0. On a side note, Intel released the i845G at the same time, which is the same chipset with on-board graphics.

Getting to our business; about five months ago I reviewed the FIC VC15 which is equipped with Intelís i845D chipset. I didnít expect performance to differ radically between the VC15 and the new VC19, but there are a few new additions to the board that make it well worth a look. With that said, letís take a closer look at the VC19.

Installation and First Impressions

After reviewing so many motherboards over the years, the first thing I do is give the board a real good look. I look for the obvious things, like placement of certain connectors, chipset cooling, labeling, and overall quality of the product. For the most part, FIC makes a good solid product, but usually lacks the little extras that stick out; opting for more of a no-frills approach (the boards are usually very reasonably priced).

With this particular board, I did notice a few things that I really liked. The first thing is the CMOS battery holder. I have never seen one like this, and now that I have, I want them all to be similar. Changing the CMOS battery on this board is the easiest Iíve ever seen. As you can see from the picture, the chip sits vertically, and is removed by simply pushing back the retaining clip. Nice stuff. Something else I noticed was the AGP locking mechanism. It slides freely and feels very slick, and is real easy to use. These may be little things, but to me these show that the manufacturer is going for the extra mile in order to make a good product even better.

Some of the features on the VC19 are optional, so all of them donít have the exact same setup. There is also a RAID equipped model dubbed the VC19 Advance (which is the model I received). Some other optional features include on-board LAN and a 5.1 channel audio controller.

Installation was a breeze, while the manual offers a good step-by-step procedure. There are only a couple of jumpers on the board, which I left in the default positions. Windows XP installed without a hitch, as expected. FIC did include a driver disk, but Windows XP found all my hardware without even using the disc, which is definitely a time saver for computer system builders.


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