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Abit LG-81 is an i945G on steroids

Review Thinning of the skin
Sun Oct 09 2005, 17:14
THE INTEL 945G is gaining some popularity among the vendors and users alike - after all, it is the first Intel chipset with truly decent integrated 3-D graphics, inclusive of DX9 compatibility, and the added benefits of Intel's "Stable Image" driver programme are not lost in the eyes of corporate bureaucrats.

Not to mention the fact that the employees still can't play Half-Life 2 on it in SXGA resolution decently enough to waste their working hours.

Intel does have a line of good 945G boards, with DDR2-800 support, Firewire and other goodies, but, as usual, flexible BIOS-level overclocking is not there - unless you count the meagre 4% 'burn-in' mode available. So, we must look to the island of Taiwan for some good 3rd-party 945G-based boards with overclockability.

alt='abit_thing'

Abit LG-80 and 81 are the orange-coloured, 945G-based MicroATX-sized offerings (LG-81, which we tested, lack Firewire), and they do differ quite a bit from the reference Intel 945GTP board I have.

Firstly, only two DIMM slots in there - not exactly a minus, as a low-end user with such board might never go beyond 1 GB, plus it gets somewhat simpler tracing for memory overclocking. Otherwise, the features are the basic MicroATX 945G setup - one PCI-E 16X graphics slot, one PCI slot and two PCE-E 1x I/O slots, with 4 SATA2 ports, On board 7.1 channel Intel Audio, Gigabit Ethernet PCI-E controller plus of course the Abit SoftMenu.

BIOS setup-wise, LG-81 has decent overclocking flexibility, both on the FSB and voltage side. Unfortunately, changing the multiplier on the 3.73 GHz Intel Pentium 4 EE didn't really work, so it was assuming all Intel CPUs inserted had a fixed multiplier. We tried it with 2.8 GHz dual-core Pentium D as well at 800 MHz FSB. Unlike the Intel 945G boards, the Abit entry did not support DDR2-800 memory in the BIOS. Using the the old Corsair HydroCool 200, we pushed the Pentium D to 3.04 GHz and FSB866 to run - reliably over quite a few nights, rendering 3D.

Performance
I tested the LG-81 using both Intel generic heat sink / fan combo, as well as Corsair HydroCool 2 water cooling system. Both benchmarks - 3DMark05 v120 and Sandra 2005 SP1 - were run on both the single-core and dual-core setups, with both Corsair and Crucial DDR2-667 memories. In the case of P4-3733, we tried both HT and non-HT CPU settings (HT could have an impact on the thread that does the CPU-bound vertex shader for integrated graphics), as well as the ATI X600 as well as integrated GMA950 graphics to see the effects on the benchmarks - here are the results.

CPU P4-3733 P4-3733 P4-3733HT PD-3043
RAM DDR2-533 DDR2-533 DDR2-533 DDR2-433
Latency cl3228 cl3228 cl3228 cl3226
Graphics ATI integrated integrated integrated
Sandra2005
CPU INT MIPS 9983 9925 11013 16533
CPU FP Mflops 4618 4612 7755 7544
MM INT it/s 21087 21087 26836 34401
MM FP it/s 24883 24888 35609 40653
MEM INT MB/s 6223 6002 6024 4956
MEM FP MB/s 6225 6004 6016 4968
3DMark05
Default 2187 692 701 616
SXGA 1603 517 520 461
CPU 5042 4258 4451 4129

Well, quite a few surprises! I thought that having the second core which could dedicate itself to the vertex shader job would substantially improve the graphics scores despite 20% lower CPU clock & memory bandwidth. Well, there was some benefit to dual-core operation, but not enough to offset the clock difference. By the way, I tried to run PCMark05 as well, but it failed to complete on both CPUs.

Overall, a nice board with just about right functionality for midrange PC setup - basic overclocking is there, a good combination of slots, all that in MicroATX size. Yes, the graphics still can't catch up to even the cheapest add-on card, but it is OK for office and limited 3-D (i.e. simple 3 year old games) use. When you outgrow it, well there is always a PCI-E 16X slot there, and by that time the RV515, RV530 or their Nvidia equivalents may just turn even cheaper, just in time for a good upgrade without wiping the wallet clean. µ

 

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