FIC VC15 Intel i845 DDR motherboard review

It’s strange thinking of Intel as an underdog, but as many of you know, AMD has been filling many hardware enthusiast boxes as of late due to an excellent performance/price ratio. With the Pentium 4 “Northwood” release and the surplus of DDR chipsets now available for these chips, Intel is now finding its way back into many gaming rigs. The Northwood’s on-chip 512k L2 cache has made the chip more competitive, and the 0.13 micron process yields unbelievable overclocking potential. Now that the Pentium 4 is finding a place in many hearts, motherboard makers are releasing a plethora of new offerings, with three different yet attractive chipsets and three different RAM options: RDRAM, DDR RAM, and SDRAM.

RDRAM (Rambus) is the fastest memory option available, yet i850 chipset motherboards that support it are a bit pricey. Also, Intel will probably abandon Rambus in the future, which makes its future uncertain. The SDRAM solution is very cost effective, yet offers poor performance. This leaves the door wide open for DDR SDRAM, which seems to be the most popular configuration in the hardware world nowadays.

The VIA chipsets offer excellent performance, yet the future is a bit uncertain due to legality issues. The SiS offering seems to be a very fast performing chipset, and is by far the most affordable, but some people are still weary of their stability. Intel’s 845 chipset to some is the next BX, offering unsurpassed stability at a reasonable price. With so many different choices in chipsets, types of ram, and different brands, picking out a motherboard for your Pentium 4 is no easy task.

The FIC VC15 i845 DDR Motherboard offers the well known stability of Intel’s i845 chipset, DDR SDRAM support, at a price comparable to the SiS offering. So if you are in the market for an i845 chipset equipped motherboard at an unbeatable price, the VC15 could make your difficult choice a simple one.

Installation and First Impressions

Included in the yellow box with a geeky computer looking cartoon dude on the front is the mainboard, 1-floppy cable, 1 ATA 66/100 Hard drive cable, and 1 ATA 33 Cable for your CD-ROM. Also in the box I stumbled upon the user’s manual, a driver disc, and CD Plus software package. Other than the CD Plus software, these are pretty much standard offerings, but the software is definitely a plus. The chipset is cooled by a fairly large aluminum cooler, but no fan.

Like other FIC products I’ve reviewed in the past, the VC15 installed without a flaw. There are 2 jumper settings on the board, 1 clears CMOS and the other is a FSB select which can be set at either 100MHz or 133MHz. There are a couple of things I would have liked to see, and one of those is to include an AGP card holding mechanism, which can be found on a lot of today’s boards. This is not really a big deal, but this could avoid your card from being inadvertently unplugged from the mainboard, which could damage the card. Believe me, when you are messing around with different hardware in different systems, accidents do happen, and video cards don’t come cheap!

The motherboard does NOT provide protection against using a 3.3 volt AGP card (the only warning is a yellow sticker on the AGP slot when new, but this needs to be removed to install your card), so if you do, the chipset can be damaged. Many i845 boards on the market have some kind of protection, which is a simply a bit of insurance just in case you screw up. I did find an extra USB connector on the board, but an additional connector was not included in the initial package.

Other than that, everything went pretty smooth, and the manual offered a good step by step installation procedure. After checking the jumper settings, I installed Windows XP. The included driver disk didn’t have to be used during installation due to the fact that Windows XP found everything and installed it correctly, which makes the installation process effortless.

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