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Intel 915P Shootout : AOpen i915Pa-E
By Zachary Chan
Category : Mainboard
Published by Vijay Anand on Wednesday, 26th January, 2005

AOpen i915Pa-E

At a glance, the i915Pa-E has an identical layout to the higher-end i915Pa-EFRII. However, there are some subtle changes to design. You can easily differentiate the two boards by looking at the PCI slots. While the former had a light orange hue, the i915Pa-E has generic white PCI slots. There is a slight movement with the SATA connectors as well, from a 2x2 matrix to have four connectors lined up in a row. Not necessarily beneficial in any way, but it does look cleaner. The i915Pa-E also retains the excellent documentation and manuals that came with the i915Pa-EFRII. If anything, AOpen has this area down pat.

Expansion slots remain the same as the i915Pa-EFRII, except for different color combinations.

Four native SATA connectors. However, the board no longer supports RAID arrays using the plain ICH6 SouthBridge.

User guide and manuals are richly detailed.

Gone are the additional features such as FireWire and extra RAID controller. The most notable change is that AOpen dropped support for the premium DDR2, favoring DDR only support instead. The ICH6R SouthBridge has also been replaced with the regular ICH6, which means that the i915Pa-E no longer supports RAID arrays or Intel's Matrix Storage Technology. What we have is a basic 915P Express based motherboard just ripe for the low end segment. It will also be interesting to see the performance differential between similar boards of the same manufacturer.

Four DIMM slots, but the i915Pa-E only supports DDR memory type. ATX and IDE connectors are ideally located below.

The board comes with all the basic functions that the Intel 915P Express offers, including the four native SATA controllers, eight USB 2.0 ports and of course Azalia High Definition Audio. The i915Pa-E uses the same HD CODEC as before, a Realtek ALC880 and provides full 8-channel surround audio ports from the rear panel.

Realtek ALC880 8-channel HD Audio CODEC.

A favorable aspect of the i915Pa-E is that it retains the PCI Express based Gigabit LAN solution. For some reason, AOpen decided not to use the Broadcom chip and settled instead a Marvell Alaska 88E8053 chip. An advantage of the Marvell controllers is support for a cable testing technology called Virtual Cable Tester (VCT), a network cable fault diagnostics utility.

AOpen uses a Marvell Gigabit LAN chip for the i915Pa-E and what's more good is that it is based on the PCI Express bus.

Rear panel of the AOpen i915Pa-E.

The following overclocking options are available for the AOpen i915Pa-E:-

  • FSB Settings: 100MHz to 400MHz
  • PCI Speed: 33.33MHz, 66.36MHz, 40.00MHz
  • RAM Frequency: DDR333, DDR400, DDR533
  • CPU Voltage Settings: 0.8375-1.600V (in 0.0125V steps)
  • Memory Voltage Settings: 2.60-2.95V (in 0.05V steps)
  • Chipset Voltage Settings: 1.500-1.575V (in 0.025V steps)
  • Multiplier Selection: Yes (unlocked CPUs only)

    The Bad

    Since the board uses the same design, it comes as little wonder that the i915Pa-E shares the same flaws as the i915Pa-EFRII. The PCIe x16 slot still does not have a graphic card latch mechanism and there are still no S/PDIF connectors provided. AOpen also dropped one of the SATA data and power cables, leaving only one left in the package. Not only that, the additional USB 2.0 and Game Port bracket has also been removed from the packaging. Certainly, providing a better comprehensive bundle will not affect product cost as much.

    Again, the PCIe x16 slot is lacking a card-lock mechanism.

    Another feature that made it's way into the i915Pa-EFRII and is missing from the i915Pa-E is AOpen's DieHard BIOS. The DieHard BIOS function is promoted as a security and backup feature, as such we feel that it should be available in every AOpen motherboard, instead of just a select few. An example of such practice is ABIT and their ĀµGuru chip, which is now found on all newer ABIT motherboards regardless of market placement. Overclocking options are the same as well, with both BIOS sharing similar characteristics. While PCI bus lock is available, PCIe bus locking capabilities are still missing. As with the i915Pa-EFRII, it hampered our overclocking tests with the AOpen i915Pa-E.

    Next, we have the AOpen i915Pa-PLF. With both i915Pa-EFRII and i915Pa-E boards consisting of the high-end and low-end spectrum. How will the last AOpen board be segmented?

    Tested & Certified Components
    Graphics Card MSI RX600XT-TD128
    Memory 2 x 512MB Kingston DDR-400
    Power Supply Unit AcBel 400W (API4PC01)
    Cooler CoolerMaster CI5-9HDPA-01
    Hard Disk Maxtor DiamondMax 10 200GB SATA
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